Harrington council rehashes term limits, curfew

HARRINGTON — With a tiebreaking vote by Harrington Mayor Anthony Moyer, the city council decided to ask Delaware legislature to add term limits back to the mayor and councilmember roles.

“This is something I’ve wanted since I ran for mayor. Every office needs new blood. It’s amazing when people say, ‘yea, go for it,’ but only for the higher levels of leadership and not them,” Mayor Moyer said previously.

The vote came after little discussion during the Feb. 22 Harrington City Council meeting as the topic came up previously during several council meetings and a town hall meeting.

The council also asked the opinion of residents in an unofficial poll last year during a referendum, resulting in a 59-8 vote for term limits. Mayor Moyer is currently serving his first term in office. According to City Manager Terry Tieman, new term limits would not apply to already served terms.

As the request would change the charter of the town, the measure now needs be seen by legislators for a final decision. Term limits would be set at no more than two consecutive terms for the mayor while councilmembers will be limited to three consecutive terms, unless someone fails to file against him or her when those two terms are completed.

“The incumbent may remain in office for another term should no one else file,” Mayor Moyer read from the resolution during the council meeting.

Councilmembers Wayne Porter, Kenny Stubbs and Fonda Coleman voted against the measure.

Talks of curfew continue

Another ordinance wanted by Mayor Moyer since he ran for office in 2013 has passed through the hands of councilmembers and onto a public hearing and second reading set for March 21.

A curfew for minors 16-years- old or younger may soon be put in place.

Mayor Moyer gave the third tiebreaking vote of the evening in support of the curfew.

Mr. Porter questioned the ordinance before it was even read into the record, saying, “I don’t even think this is constitutional. I mean, how are you going to read a resolution that’s not even constitutional?”

City Solicitor William Pepper said he believed he could defend the ordinance. Police Chief Norman Barlow added that he hopes the curfew can be used as a tool to deter bad behavior.

“That said, the chief and I don’t have the statistics,” he added. “The people talking in the districts that suggest support for the curfew is there in terms of incidents.”

Citing various rights afforded to youth, he continued, “A juvenile, in general, has the same constitutional rights as adults. If there is no rational basis for imposing a curfew, then it is a violation of the constitutional right to travel. If there are incidents or crimes that, as I’ve outlined in previous correspondence, crimes committed by juveniles during the curfew hours or crimes against juveniles during curfew hours, then there would be a rational basis as far as the curfew.”

Mr. Bivans questioned the data sparking the ordinance, or lack thereof. Both the city solicitor and Police Chief Norman Barlow have said on numerous occasions that data does not exist in Harrington to support or oppose a curfew.

“We’re all in agreement that there are concerns in our own town. We do have vandalizing cars/homes. We do have that. But is it the 16-yearold doing that? Or the 25-year- old doing that,” he asked. “If I wake up in the morning and I look at my car and my car has been vandalized, I’m upset. And all I know is that somebody did it and it wasn’t me. I can’t say it was the 12-year- old down the street.”

If imposed, the curfew would mean children 16-years- old or younger would not be allowed to be out and about before 6 a.m. each morning and after 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings and 10 p.m. on all other nights barring church, school, work and parent-approved functions.

Lying about their whereabouts and reasons why they are out during curfew hours would be similar to the class A misdemeanor of perjury, according to Mr. Pepper.

Parents could be fined $25 for the first curfew offense, $50 for the second offense and $100 every time thereafter, along with $35 per hour the child remains with a police officer while waiting for a parent to arrive. Should a parent give false information regarding the whereabouts of their child(ren), it could cost them $250.

Ms. Coleman disagreed with the curfew and the fees set forth, saying some parents may not be reachable if their child is out during curfew hours because they, themselves are at the club or into other activities. She also expressed discomfort at fining parents for curfew violations in light of other things that might be occurring in the home.

Mayor Moyer said, “Are we going to wait for one of these drug peddlers that come down from Dover and Wilmington and farther up north? Are we going to be waiting for our kids to get farther and farther into the issues or are we going to start being proactive instead of reactive?

“Are we going to, like she said, wait for one of our children to pull out a gun at one of these parties and then enact the curfew? What are we going to wait on here? The issues are out there. If you don’t believe there are issues out there Fonda, I’m sorry. You need to step out of your own door.”

Mr. Porter, Mr. Stubbs and Ms. Coleman voted against the measure.

Council discusses municipal fees

Following a town hall meeting held between councilmembers and local business people, an ordinance was created to clarify and clean up some of the municipal fees relating to plan reviews, lot line adjustments and inspections.

“I do agree with people who are building single family residential homes. It is a lot of money, $700 upfront. And then the actually administration part of it is difficult. We have to set up an account for $700 and if they don’t use all that, and nine times out of 10 they haven’t been, we have to refund that back. And that messes up their books,” Ms. Tieman said. “If you’re in business by yourself, you don’t want to have to give the money out then put the money back in. I get it. So this was in response to requests. It’s extra work for us, extra work for them. We see this as a win-win for both,” she continued.

Category B administrative plan reviews for properties besides R-1 and R-2 would still have an escrow fee of $500, along with its base fee of $200. Escrow accounts would be removed, however, from Category B administrative plan reviews for R-1 and R-2 residential properties both in and out of approved subdivisions.

Reviews for R-1 and R-2 properties not in approved residential subdivisions would carry a base fee of $350 while reviews for R-1 and R-2 properties in approved subdivisions would carry a base fee of $200 as some necessary work will be done by the subdivision.

“This does resolve a lot of the issues or some of the issues that they were talking about,” Ms. Tieman said. “We debated it for many years. This eliminates escrow fees, which they were concerned about. So I would urge you to put this through and we can tackle the rest of it as we get to it.”

A public hearing for ordinances relating to the curfew and fee schedules will be held on March 21 prior to the council workshop.

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