March 18, 2020
Dear Bethany Beach Property Owners:
I hope this communication finds you all well in these interesting and trying times. I am writing to update you about how the Town is responding to the coronavirus.
First, I must tell you that the State of Delaware has been outstanding in its response to the virus. We look to the state for guidance in issues dealing with public health and they are going above and beyond in their efforts to keep us informed. As a matter of fact, the Governor has held two teleconferences with Delaware’s Mayor’s in just the last few days.
The first teleconference preceded his declaration of a State of Emergency just last week and the most recent conference followed his amended State of Emergency, closing bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms in Delaware. The main focus of the most recent teleconference followed the lead of national officials and advocated for the importance of social distancing. I can think of no other message to Town residents more important at this time, but to reiterate the importance of practicing social distancing! It is a sign of the times that just a few weeks ago most of us would have scratched our heads if asked to explain the meaning of that phrase.
The Town Council and Staff have been paying close attention to the coronavirus issue for some time and with social distancing at the top of our list on how the Town might best protect our community from the coronavirus, last week decided to temporarily stop having public meetings. As soon as practical, we will resume our meetings and will certainly notice the community when we do so.
More importantly, the Town Council and staff have focused on the Town’s long-term capability to provide the three essential services the Town provides its citizens: public safety (police), water, and sanitation in the face of a protracted emergency. Because of that we have closed the doors of Town Hall, staff is still working on site and those who can effectively telecommute are doing so. We have also adjusted the schedule and tasks of employees vital to sustaining critical services long term, to keep them healthy and minimize their exposure to the virus.
As a result, some minor public works maintenance functions or small projects dealing with our water supply system may be put off to the future. The Police Department is working from their own Pandemic Emergency plan which still allows 24 hours a day, 7 days a week coverage but tries to limit unnecessary public contact, keeping officers healthy and available for true emergencies.
That is what we are doing today, but I know that many are interested in what the Town’s plans are for the coming summer season. I can tell you that we are planning to have the best summer season ever in Bethany Beach. Our entire Bandstand schedule has been booked for the season, movies have been picked for our Monday nights, fireworks contracted for, etc., etc. All of our departments are actively looking for seasonal staff and we are proceeding as if it will be business as usual. But neither Town Council or staff thinks that will be the case this year.
I understand that many citizens are justifiably worried about the fiscal impact of a summer with limited or no tourism on the Town’s fiscal health. I can assure you that years of prudent and forward thinking budgeting has made our financial strength among the strongest of the communities on the Delmarva Peninsula. Our budgeting process closely aligns summer expenses with summer revenues collected, e.g., parking fees, rental taxes, etc. Because of that, a summer with little or no tourism would also see a significant cutback in summer staff and a corresponding decrease in summer expenses, they wouldn’t cancel each other out, but the impact would be minimized. Regardless, if the Town collected no summer revenue, our finances are strong enough it would have negligible impact on the community.
There is no way today that we can tell you what the summer will bring. I can tell you that as this situation evolves, we will evolve with it. We will work to do the best that we can for our citizens and visitors given the circumstances of the moment. This is an incredibly fluid situation and we cannot honestly give definitive answers at this time (and no one can) about what America’s summer will be like this year.
The coming weeks will tell the tale. When we know enough to make any change that would impact our summer season, we will immediately let our citizens know. We are planning for the worst, but like everyone else, hoping for the best.
I encourage all of you to visit the Town’s website at www.townofbethanybeach.com. Our homepage has all the up to date information we are receiving regarding the coronavirus.
Again, I hope we all have the best summer ever, but we are more than prepared if we don’t.
Mayor of Bethany Beach