Richard Przywara, general manager of the Department of Special
Services, told a County Council committee that the department is
in the process of setting priorities and working out a budget
and timetable. It hopes to have a definitive plan to put before
Council and the public by September, he said.
indications are that the plan will have call for a multi-year
project second only in magnitude to upgrading and expanding the
county's sanitary sewer system.
this point, things are in a preliminary stage. Przywara told
Delaforum that reference to 74 ponds is based on inspection
reports which are performed annually. "I am working on a list of
ponds to be targeted for work. I have not yet determined which
ponds can be fixed, based on costs," he said.
worried about some of the things we're going to find" when work
commences, he told Council's special services committee on Jul.
foretaste of possible scenarios came recently when the
contractor rebuilding a county-owned pond at Old Hobson Farm
discovered that it was supported by unstable clay. That
required Council approval of an additional $70,000
emergency contract. While that amount is small, relatively
speaking, simply multiplying it by the 74 ponds found so far to
need work indicates that money potentially needed for 'extras'
far exceeds the total available for the basic jobs.
only way that can be determined, he said, is hands-on. "Let's
get into half a dozen or so of these ponds and find out," he
Delaforum previously reported, the General Assembly provided
$3.3 million in the state's capital spending budget enacted in
late June to be passed through the Department of Natural
Resources & Environmental Control to help finance stormwaer
management in New Castle County. The money is to be in the form
of reimbursement rather than to be made available up front.
asked for $10 million," Przywara said, adding that it is hoped
that state lawmakers will regard it as a 'first installment'
against the county's needs.
Councilman Jea Street put it, "$3.3 million doesn't get you 74
ponds [and they] are just a piece of a much larger problem."
Przywara said all of the state money will be used during the
current fiscal year to pay for work on selected ponds in
residential communities. The department also will have available
an unspecified amount remaining from the $17 million for
stormwater and flooding-related projects previously approved by
least we have some money to fix up ponds that are falling
apart," he said.
Longer-term, "we have to look at revenue streams that are
constant" rather than relying on tax revenue, Councilman Timothy
Momentum toward establishing one or more fee-charging surface
water management utilities on the state, county and-or municipal
levels foundered on political shoals after a statewide taskforce
appointed by Governor Ruth Ann Minner made recommendations in
that regard. The Assembly limited itself to providing $500,000
for the natural resources department to hire a consultant to
further study the idea.
stormwater utility is financed by fees calculated on the
estimated amount of drainage proportionate to the amount of
impervious surface a property has. That is comparable to the
practice in New Castle County of assessing sewer service fees
proportionate to the amount of potable water consumed.
agreed that the county's ponds problem is the result of a
generation or so of neglect, benign or otherwise, since the
1970s when the practice of requiring them as part of most
development projects began. Only recently has that begun to give
way to reliance on swales and other natural methods for
looks like we've been taught a multi-million dollar lesson,"
Councilman David Tackett said.
government's approach was to require builders to construct the
ponds and, after 75% of the development was completed, deed them
to maintenance organizations run by volunteers from the
community and financed by fees collected from property owners.
While that might look well on paper, the reality is that, in
many cases, it hasn't worked.
builders neglected to transfer ownership; in many communities,
no volunteers were willing to assume the responsibility of
running the associations; associations that were functioning had
to rely largely on voluntary payment of the fees; some
associations have hired management firms, but others did
not have anyone who actually knew what they were supposed to do
or how to do it. The result, Przywara indicated, is near chaos.
the 407 which have registered -- again, voluntarily -- county
government doesn't know how many associations there are and
which ones are defunct. The best that can be said, according to
Przywara, is that "after 18 months surveying [the situation], we
think we know where most of them (the ponds) are." The county
does not have to deal with ponds installed by Delaware
Department of Transportation in conjunction with road building.
plan the department is developing, he said, will include neither
enlarging nor redesigning ponds. Abutting property is either
designated community open space or is owned by householders,
ruling out expansion. Although there may be opportunity for some
modifications "we're going to rebuild them to the specifications
[with which] they were designed," he said.
agreed with Street that safety will necessarily be a significant
element and promised that that will be built into the plan. The
councilman pointed out that few, if any, of the ponds are fenced
or otherwise protective, especially of children. "I hope we
don't have to wait until a child drowns in one before we do
something about it," he said.