Members of Dover's city council gathered Monday for their annual meeting, which saw Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. deliver his State of the City address, and Third District Council member David L. Bonar elected council president.
The annual meeting is required by Article II, Section 9 of the Dover City Charter, and is chaired by the mayor instead of the council president.
The evening saw oaths of office administered to First District Councilman James L. Hutchison Sr., Third District Councilman Sean M. Lynn, and newly-elected at-large Councilman Timothy A. Slavin. Both Hutchison and Lynn are beginning their second consecutive terms on council.
In assuming office, Slavin broke with tradition by taking the oath attended by two homeless men from the Dover Interfaith Mission, with one, Martin "Marty" Berny, holding the Bible.
"It's my way of bringing attention to the homeless issue in Dover," Slavin explained before the session. "It's an issue we might not be able to solve, but it's one where we can show we care."
Slavin, who won the seat running unopposed, previously served on council from 2004 to 2010.
He replaces Councilman Thomas J. Leary, who had served on council since December 2007 but decided not to run for re-election this year. Council members passed a resolution thanking Leary for his years of service and awarded him several gifts, including the gavel he had used during his two years as council president.
Because they were unable to attend the annual meeting, Councilmen David L. Anderson and William F. Hare had been sworn in previously.
Bonar's nomination for the council presidency was made by First District Councilman James L. Hutchison Jr., and seconded by fellow First District Councilwoman Beverly Williams. Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. congratulated Bonar somewhat prematurely, acting before the final vote was taken. When it was, however, council unanimously approved the nomination.
Bonar's choices for several key city assignments, to include Legislative, Finance and Administration, Utility, Safety Advisory and Transportation and Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement committees, were approved unanimously and without debate.
Anderson's name was a key omission from those assignments as he is serving on active duty with the Delaware National Guard in Afghanistan and will be absent from council until April 2014.
Pay study discussed
A large portion of the evening was taken up with discussions regarding a planned examination of city workers' pay and benefits.
Lynn's Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee had discussed the subject in its April 22 meeting, directing City Manager Scott Koenig to conduct a survey of Dover city worker salaries as compared to the cities of Wilmington, Milford and Newark, as well as Kent County and the state of Delaware.
Page 2 of 3 - Lynn had objected to the scope of the study at that session, arguing it duplicated prior work and would not provide any new information. Instead he suggested a study be done that included other governments in the area, not necessarily just in Delaware. He was, however, overruled by the committee, which approved the more limited study.
Lynn again brought up the subject during the council meeting, stating he felt the matter should be returned to his committee for further work.
"My position is that we should not go forward with the comparison," he said, adding "I do not believe the scope is appropriate."
Lynn again suggested any study should be done using cities analogous to Dover for the comparisons, adding the choices of governments to be studied in Delaware were not similar enough to Dover to provide a proper contrast.
Lynn's move to send the report back to his committee was turned down, but a move to accept the report as it stood also failed as it did not receive the necessary five votes for approval. Slavin's attempt to table the measure until Hare returned on May 27 also was defeated.
"I think we have a stalemate," noted First District Councilwoman Beverly Williams as an aside.
Responding to a question from Bonar, Koenig said the city's staff could complete the study internally if it used only the five governments already agreed to, but that it would be more difficult to conduct a broader study given the staff's current workload. He acknowledged there would be "gaps" in the data, but added, "We have worked around those issues in the past."
Hutchison stated he felt the study is just one of several tools council can use to examine compensation for city workers, and that he agreed with its projected scope.
Lynn did not agree.
"You want to show them five trees," he said. "I want to show them the entire forest."
"I don't think our market is these five municipalities. I agree we need to give them the tools, but the tools are not these five."
"I think this really should go back to the committee," he concluded.
The discussion concluded with Bonar suggesting city staff members consult with the National League of Cities if they felt additional information was needed for the study.
Council ultimately accepted the April 22 committee report and its requirement for the market survey by a 6 to 1 vote, with Lynn voting no.
State of the city 'is good'
In his State of the City remarks, Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. provided a PowerPoint presentation noting accomplishments the city has made over the past 12 months.
Page 3 of 3 - The city police department responded to more complaints but also noted a decrease in the number of robberies since 2012, he said. City detectives solved 71 percent of the robberies that occurred in the city and 67 percent of all the burglaries, he said. Undercover or plainclothes officers working drug cases had seized considerable amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin as well as $129,000 in suspected drug money.
Carey also noted the opening of the new city library, increasing use of the Pitts Recreation Center, new businesses to include Grottos Pizza and Dick's Sporting Goods at the Dover Mall and new apartment complexes on Loockerman Street and Route 8. The Calpine electric generation facility will have its groundbreaking on June 25.