Fenwick Island Scores $250K Grant For Sidewalks

FENWICK ISLAND – A Fenwick Island committee will meet next week to discuss the next step in establishing a continuous sidewalk system after receiving $250,000 in state capital funds.

Next Tuesday, the Fenwick Island Pedestrian Safety Committee will meet to discuss strategies for starting a sidewalk construction project after learning attempts to secure capital funding from the state’s bond bill proved somewhat successful.

“Representative Ron Gray was instrumental in helping us work through the bond bill,” Councilwoman Vicki Carmean, who chairs the committee, said in an interview this week. “It was not as much as we had hoped it would be, but we are definitely not disappointed.”

In recent weeks, town officials have reached out to local lobbyists, Senator Gerald Hocker and Gray – a member of the state’s Joint Committee on Capital Improvement (Bond Committee) – to add nearly $500,000 to the state’s bond bill for the first phase of a sidewalk construction project along Coastal Highway.

The attempt to secure state funding for the project followed months of discussion with the Delaware Department of Transportation.

Earlier this year, the agency presented town officials with a $10 million cost estimate to complete two miles of sidewalk along the town’s main corridor. While the town would be responsible for funding 20%, or roughly $2 million, of the project, the committee at the time agreed to pursue a town-led project in the hopes of saving money.

“We believe we can do it for less than ($2 million) on our own,” Town Manager Terry Tieman said last month. “But we also believe it is not our responsibility to fund that. That’s why we are asking for some of this to be funded in the bond bill this year.”

A preliminary report from The Kercher Group estimated construction to cost $496,266 for the first phase of the project, which includes six blocks on the west side of Coastal Highway from James to Essex streets. To that end, town officials worked with state legislators to include that level of funding in the fiscal year 2020 bond bill.

This week, however, Gov. John Carney signed into law a bond bill that included $250,000 for the Fenwick sidewalk project.

“We didn’t expect to get anything at all,” Carmean said. “We are going to meet on July 9 with the committee and make a decision on what our next step will be.”

Carmean said the funding could be enough to start the first phase of the project. But she said how the town will proceed would be discussed further next week.

“We would have to get some final numbers from The Kercher Group before we get started,” she said.

Officials have also discussed the possibility of hiring a lobbyist for the sidewalk project. Last week, for example, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to pursue hiring a lobbyist if funding was not added in the bond bill.

“If we want to hire a lobbyist to keep working on this, we will,” Carmean said. “As a citizen, and as a resident, I’m upset we have to hire a lobbyist to secure funding for this project. But apparently a lot of other towns do it.”

Regardless, Carmean said she was eager to move forward with a project.

“I am delighted with the money we got …,” she said. “We’ve been waiting 17 years for these sidewalks. We are not giving up.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.