Fenwick Island Sidewalk Project Advances

FENWICK ISLAND – Officials in Fenwick Island voted this week to proceed with a sidewalk construction project.

On Thursday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to approve a $634,000 contract with Century Engineering for the first phase of a sidewalk construction project.

While the plan is to build a pathway along five bayside blocks starting at James Street, Mayor Vicki Carmean told council members this week there could be an opportunity to add a sixth block of sidewalks near Dagsboro Street.

“We’re working through that with DelDOT,” she explained. “They wanted us to fund a traffic light that complicates things, but we are definitely getting five, maybe six. I won’t go with the sixth block if it involves the town footing another $100,000 for a new traffic light. I think DelDOT needs to fund that.”

In 2019, Fenwick Island initiated the first phase of its sidewalk construction project. Instead of pursuing a state-led project – which had a cost estimate of roughly $10 million – town officials decided to handle the project themselves and worked alongside state legislators to secure bond bill funding.

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While the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) has since included the project in its Capital Transportation Plan for 2026, Fenwick Island officials have decided to use state and reserve funding to begin the first phase of construction.

While the contract estimates the project to total $634,000, Carmean told council members this week the town had only $548,000 in its accounts. To that end, she proposed applying for $100,000 in funding from Sussex County.

“I’m ready to sign the contract if council will permit it,” she said. “I also need council’s permission to request the $100,000 from Sussex County.”

While the council voted 6-0, with Councilman Richard Benn absent, to approve the contract, Councilman Bill Rymer made a motion to use additional money from the town’s federal municipal street aid fund instead.

“We’ve got $129,000 sitting in a municipal street fund that we got many moons ago, and it can be used for sidewalks,” he said. “The $100,000 from Sussex County can be used for a whole host of different things.”

After further discussion, the council voted unanimously to use funds from the town’s municipal street aid account to help fund the project. Carmean said construction is expected to start next fall.

“The sooner I get the contract signed, the better we’ll be,” she said.

The council this week also voted to fund a Phase 1B study of Little Assawoman Bay’s south channel. Rymer, chair of the town’s dredging committee, said the study will allow the town to investigate an underwater object that had been located in a recent archeological study of the bay.

“During the archeological survey work that wrapped up in January, they identified one small metallic anomaly and we need to do additional research,” he explained. “We need to hire professionals to go down, clean around the area and basically tell us what it is. Once we know what it is, we’ll then be able to work with DNREC to figure out how to resolve dealing with it.”

Rymer noted the object has been located within a proposed dredge area of the bay. While the study is expected to cost $10,000, he noted the committee was seeking an additional $5,000 for consulting fees.

“All in, the expenditure request is actually $15,000 because we’re running low on the reserve fund that was set up,” he said. “So it’s basically paying the $10,000 for this upcoming effort, and there’s also additional consulting efforts that are going to happen regarding searching for alternative sites.”

After further discussion, the council voted to merge the beach replenishment and dredge fund accounts and use $15,000 in beach replenishment funds to cover the cost of work.

“If you rename that fund so it’s beach replenishment and dredging, I think that gives you a bit of cushion …,” Carmean said. “And hopefully your committee will work on some funding sources.”

Rymer noted that the state had granted the town $350,000 for the dredging project, but that additional funding was needed.

“When we actually get into the dredging construction process, we’re going to need to come up with a lot of funding,” he said.

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.