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Lewes, Delaware
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February 21, 1997     Cape Gazette
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February 21, 1997
 

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4 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, February 21- February 27, 1997 Rehoboth willing to subsidize park and ride for in.town businesses By Trish Vernon The City of Rehoboth Beach is willing to subsidize parking at the park and ride lot for the employ- ees of all merchants working within the city limits this summer during the hours the residential parking permit system is in effect and state officials have expressed their willingness to cooperate. While last year, DART First State, which oversees the Delaware Transit Corporation's (DTC) park and ride lot, agreed to offer discount rates of $2 rather than the usual $4 a day per car for parking, this summer, Rehoboth Beach officials hope they will en- ter into a cooperative agreement. In the scenario put forth, park and ride officials would allow those employees with the proper identi- fication to park, record how many employees took advantage of the free parking and then bill the city on either weekly or monthly basis. "Some businesses were upset when we instituted the permit sys- tem last summer because their employees used to park free in residential areas and walk to work. So we'd like to work with the state to reduce the cost of em- ployee parking during the day," City Manager Greg Ferrese told Derrick Lightfoot, DTC's new as- sistant director of state-wide sup- port services, at a meeting Feb. 18, attended by the city's Parking Advisory Committee. Ferrese requested that perhaps the $2 rate for employees charged by DTC be reduced and that the city make up the rest from rev- enue derived from the parking permit system. Last year, when the city under- took negotiations with the state on the matter, it was told that it was too difficult to tell how long a ve- hicle remained in the lot, and therefore unenforceable. DRBA purchasing Seaport shuttle service The Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) has approved a resolution to purchase Seaport Transportation's shuttle service from Dan and Joan Forbes, who have been providing tides from within the City of Lewes to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal. According to DRBA public relations officer Jim Salmon, the au- thority will purchase Seaport's shuttle business, which includes two 22-passenger shuttles, for a total one-time payment of $31,734. This shuttle service is one link of the resort transit system in which Seaport, DRBA and DART First State have participated in providing transportation between Lewes and Dewey Beach, includ- ing the ferry terminal, the outlets on Route 1 and the park and tide lot on the outskirts of Rehoboth Beach. "We also plan to run the trolleys into Lewes," Salmon said, adding that they are also purchasing two 42-passenger enclosed buses from I.G. Burton at a total cost of $274,248. With these added vehicles in their fleet the DRBA will work with DART's Delaware Resort Transit (DRT) officials in coordinating routes "and we plan to honor each other's tickets this year," Salmon noted. The additions to the fleet were approved due to the increase iin walk-on passengers, which has created a demand for additional shuttle service, the resolution states. But committee member Donald Derrickson told Lightfoot that the city wants to gauge if employees working in Rehoboth would be willing to park on the outskirts for free. "If there's still not enough in- centive to park there when it's free, we'll know it isn't worth putting up an employee parking lot," he explained. Dertickson estimated that if I00 employees parked at the lot per day, which he termed optimistic despite there being 437 businesses in town, then the city would prob- ably need to pay the state $14,000 to $16,000 to subsidize the rate. Rehoboth shouldn't have any problem coming up with the funds to subsidize park and ride lot use. The proposed fiscal year 1997-98 budget calls for a contingency fund of $110,000 to $120,000, compared to $50,000 last year. Parking permit revenues brought in approximately $250,000 in sales and fines and are expected to generate even more this coming season. The city expects $80,000 in expenditures in the parking per- mit budget. Lightfoot said he is very amenable to working with Re- hoboth Beach. "We want to be partners and good neighbors. You may ask us to do something we can't, but we want to work with everyone and if we can't do some- thing, we'll explain the reason why," Lightfoot told them upon introducing himself. (The city had previously worked with Brett Schmitt, who is leaving DART.) "I believe we have an opportu- nity to do something," Lightfoot added, noting that he must discuss financial projections with Director Nancy Shevock before agreeing to any arrangement. He told them a decision will be forthcoming in Rehoboth Beach City Manager Greg Ferrese (right) and Derrick Lightfoot, Delaware Transit Corporation's assistant director, discuss park and ride lot policies with members of Rehoboth's Parking Advisory Committee on Feb. 18. about two weeks. Lightfoot did remind them, however, that the Department of Transportation (DeIDOT) is un- dergoing "a financial squeeze which is rolling downhill. We're taking a hard look at how we do business and we need to work smarter and be more responsible." One such change for the resort transit system will be in the route structure, although nothing has yet been finalized, Lightfoot said. He noted that they are working with the Delaware River and Bay Au- thority (DRBA) to discontinue du- plication of routes (see sidebar) and at the present rate structure for the park and ride lot. Lightfoot admitted that charg- ing only $4 per vehicle all day "doesn't sit too well with me," when one car may have only a dri- ver and the next have eight people in it who will use the busses. "We need parity throughout the state and we may establish an all-day pass down here for the buses," to avoid confusion. In related matters, Derrickson brought up the city's decision not to allow busses to park and idle in front of the Boardwalk. Rather, they must pick up and let off rid- ers on the other side of the Band- stand by the fountains. This deci- sion came following numerous complaints about diesel fumes emanating from the idling busses. A partial solution may come in light of the fact that DTC is inves- tigating the pros and cons of new coaches with a roof exhaust and a catalytic converter-type device which cleans up the fumes, a move in the tight direction, city officials felt. Finally, committee members vented their displeasure with the busses carrying advertising on the outside panels for the Dover Downs slot machines. "You en- courage our visitors to leave here and take their money to Dover," Derrickson noted, with Ferrese asking if they would give local merchants a shot at the advertising space first. Lightfoot said he is willing to entertain ideas of doing business locally within the existing con- tract. Rehoboth committee continues quest to seal new cable TV franchise By Trish Vernon ence he had when he called Comcast's cus- astounded by the high cost paid to Comcast noted that they also talked about the possi- Less than stellar service, higher than av- erage rates and programming selections topped the list of complaints from Comcast Cablevision subscribers during a public hearing held in Rehoboth Beach on Feb. 13. The Rehoboth Beach Cable Television Committee, which oversees the franchise agreement the city has with the cable com- pany, chaired the meeting attended by a couple of dozen citizens, city officials and Comcast representatives. Commissioner Betty Ann Kane, who chairs the committee comprised of Bill Bahan, Richard Sargent and Doug Butner, explained that the city agreed to extend Comcast's non-exclusive franchise until no later than June 30, 1997, while discussions are held concerning whether to renew the franchise and what new stipulations they may request. Rehoboth officials also invite other cable operators to apply to provide the service Sussex towns which may band together and select a single operator to service all of the municipalities. Hearing testimony from the floor, the committee listened to Commissioner Jack Hyde relate a recent "frustrating" experi- tomer service number. "I was put on hold for a minute-and-a-half when I called cus- tomer service, but wen I called the adver- rising number, they wlere immediately ready to talk," he noted. '"However, to give the devil his due, they sadd they'd send a tech- nician over to fix thle problem and every- thing was soon worlding fine," Hyde said. Resident Charlie Pyle asked a question about the franchise flee, which is the fee to the cable company to, do business within the city, which is collected by the company and returned to the city. "Rehobeth charges 3 percent of what the company collects, al- though we're allowed to collect up to 5 per- cent of all fees," Kane explained. She went on to ask'. for input on program- ming, cautioning thatt there isn't that much that the city itself cam do in calling the shots in that department, ewen though they fielded complaints about tw,o or three stations of- .fJa,g  same ,tr.k. "Because of the location and nature of this area, we have people from Philadel- phia, D.C. and Baltimore who want to see what they see back home," Sargent noted. Hyde said he constantly hears from peo- ple with cable service elsewhere who are in eastern Sussex, which should be ad- dressed, as even though enhanced and pre- mium stations are out of their realm, Re- hoboth can negotiate on the cost of basic service. "Rehoboth has protested every raise in rates to the Fee (Federal Communications Commission which governs cable opera- tors), asking them to justify the increases. But we've never been successful," Kane said. Bahan explained that the primary purpose of the Cable TV Act of 1992, adopted five years ago, was to allow communities such as Rehoboth, which doesn't have very good access to television station signals through an antenna, to prevent companies such as Comcast from monopolizing the area. "But there aren't much in the way of teeth to the act. The only thing that controls costs is competition and now there's no comped- bility of instituting a community channel with other towns, which could provide pro- gramming about school, library, chamber of commerce and municipal activities. "It's one area where we can require this channel, but it will only work if the other towns work with us on it," Kane said. Comcast recently set up a centralized cus- tomer service center in Dover, which com- pany officials told Rehoboth would im- prove service, Bahan said, who told of a customer who recently continued to dial the number there without getting an answer. When one of the Comcast officials in the audience offered the explanation that the phone company no doubt hadn't put the call through to Comcast, Sargent replied, "Comcast's traditional response is that it's not our fault. In my business, I do my best to fix a problem, but the attitude at Comcast is one of defensiveness instead of trying to lion exr dJte:! satellite dishes," which make the problem better." seem to be decreasing in price. "But there's room to invite other providers to come in and give us proposals," Bahan said. With some municipalities telling Re- hoboth they want to join in and other mu- nicipalities seemingly very interested, Kane Sargent did, however, note that Comcast has been upgrading its system since it pur- chased the cable operation in Sussex from Storer, installing fiber optic lines to Five Points with plans to install these lines to Re- Continued on page II