Dover's City Council, meeting Monday night, approved a plan to create a five-member advisory committee to deal with a projected multi-million dollar deficit.

Members of Dover’s City Council have agreed to create an ad hoc committee to advise them on the city’s future spending, and how to deal with a projected $7.5 million deficit over the next five years.

The committee will be made up of five people with extensive experience in business and financial matters, and membership would not be limited to city residents. Volunteers to serve on the committee would be nominated by Council President David Bonar and approved by the full council.

Members of the temporary committee, which will sunset after one year, would not be compensated for their work.

The idea for what will be known as the Financial and Operational Advisory Committee was suggested by First District Councilman James L. Hutchison Sr. during the Oct. 14 Legislative, Financial and Administration Committee meeting.

Hutchison said the goal would be to conduct a complete review of city operations and make recommendations for improving efficiency and preparing a long-range plan for city spending.

The decision, however, did not specify how many people on the committee would be council members and how many would be civilians.

Hutchison’s initial proposal called for six members, with three of those being non-council members with extensive backgrounds in financial management.

The vote, however, was not unanimous; Council members Sean Lynn and Adam Perza both voted against the idea, with Lynn saying more guidelines were needed on committee member responsibilities and Perza saying he did not think the time was right for such a committee.

Dover Park building demolition delayed

Council members tabled a decision to demolish the now vacant recreation building at Dover Park. The 6-2 vote backed up a unanimous Oct. 14 decision by the Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee to hold off on tearing down the building pending a complete review of the city’s recreation program.

Council will revisit the issue in 60 days after the recreation committee gathers public input on how to proceed.

Overall, council members recognized the need for city-sponsored recreational activities for people without easy access to the Schutte Park Recreation Area, about four miles away on the west side of town.

“I think the consensus is that we want to do something for the people on the east side, we just don’t know what to do,” Lynn said.

Dover Park, also known as White Oak Park, is in Lynn’s district.

But there also were concerns, voiced primarily by Councilwoman Beverly C. Williams, against spending money to fix up the building, particularly if there is no clear agreement on how it would be used.

Bonar said the council has a clear mandate to make sure all Dover residents have an equal chance at taking part in city recreation opportunities

“I’ve heard a lot of comments about Schutte Park and the building at White Oak Park,” he said. “I’ve seen it literally fall into a condition of demolition by neglect.

“It’s our fault,” Bonar added. “We bear the responsibility for maintaining our programs and of making decisions that they continue.”

Council has failed in that duty by not making sure recreational programs at Dover Park met the needs of the people using the park and by not ensuring the park’s recreation building was kept in good repair, Bonar said.

“We need to bear some responsibility for not doing this in the past,” he said.

Vacant home demolitions approved

In other actions, council agreed to a two-week delay in ordering the demolition of a building at 24 N. New St. The family of the former owner, the late Mary Bessie Brokenbrough, petitioned for the delay, citing the need to remove personal property.

The city’s planning staff argued for the demolition, saying the home probably is structurally unsound and has been the site of recent drug and prostitution activity.

Brokenbrough’s heirs will be asked to sign a waiver holding the city blameless if part of the building collapses while they are inside.  

Council members also approved the demolition of a home at 142 Brandywine Drive, owned by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, which came into the property through a foreclosure action.

The home has severe mold and mildew problems, precipitated mainly by water accumulation in the basement, said Realtor Ed Hammond, who is the future listing agent for the property.

Plans are in the works to again make the home habitable before the city-imposed Nov. 28 deadline, Hammond said.