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Historic swing bridge move faces opposition in Lewes City Council

Randy Voith Photo

Lewes City Council discussed legal issues surrounding the moving of an old railroad bridge to a new display Monday night.


The Lewes Junction Railroad & Bridge Association has been working to move a historic swing bridge sitting over the Lewes-Rehoboth canal to a new home at the end of American Legion Rd.


But city council members pushed back at their Monday meeting to approve the agreement between the city and the association, raising concerns over ownership of the bridge.


Councilperson Andrew Williams asked if Lewes would own the bridge, and be responsible if they no longer want it in the future.


“We’re availing some land for them to place the bridge but I don’t think that it’s fair to the citizens of Lewes who aren’t interested in having a bridge to be on the hook if we decide as a city in the future to get rid of it,” he said.


Councilperson Bonnie Osler also expressed concern about ownership, and the LJRBA says they can’t yet agree on claiming ownership over the bridge, which would put more responsibility on them.


Council agreed on some changes to the agreement, telling the LJRBA as long as they keep the bridge well maintained, the city won’t decide on a whim to remove it.


The City Council also faces some ethics dilemmas after its meeting Monday night.


The Board of Ethics presented its findings on several recent complaints. One, by Bed & Breakfast owner Rick Quill, claims he’s been treated unfairly by city staff and officials.


Quill is an outspoken critic of city council, and is running for a council seat in the upcoming May election.


Board of Ethics chair Mark Harris says this kind of complaint isn’t something the board has dealt with before.


“Deep into the weeds of the Board of Ethics, the assumption is there is a complaint and there are specific people who are complained about who therefore are individually named in being, or accused of being in violation of the code of ethics,” Harris said.


Harris suggests creating a new ombudsman position to help people like Quill find where to direct complaints.


Some residents also highlighted the lack of diversity on public boards, noting an all-white city council, and allowing people to serve on multiple boards reduces opportunities to increase diversity in city government.


Both concerns will be heard by the city council during their next meeting in May.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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