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Rehoboth Beach commissioners discuss federal funds, mandatory recycling program

American Rescue Plan Funds are reaching cities which now need to figure out what to do with the extra cash.


What’s Rehoboth Beach doing with it’s $400 thousand? Putting it into repaving roads and repairing the city's pipes.


City Manager Sharon Lynn says all of the money spent is replacing what was taken out of last year’s budget because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“I think we have a process in place now where we’re addressing all of those factors and stepping back and taking money out was a cautious way for us last year during COVID to look at that and look at that funding — but putting it back is also very important,” said Lynn.


Kevin Williams from the Department of Public Works says a lot of these projects are desperately needed, such as replacing some city water meters, which he says are over five years past their twenty year lifespan.


But commissioner Susan Gay says looking at other ways to spend this money would be a good idea, since these extra funds could allow the city consider projects they haven’t had the money for, such at flood mitigation.


The federal dollars won’t be available for use until next year’s budget, so projects approved can start next summer.


Rehoboth Beach is also considering major changes to trash pickup, including a mandatory recycling program.


Residents of Rehoboth Beach currently have the option of participating in a free recycling program.  The city picks up the cost for most of the city residents participating.


But Rehoboth is now paying almost double what it did last year, and needs to recover some of those costs.


One option city commissioners are considering is making the program mandatory, and charging every resident an annual rate, regardless of whether they actually use their recycling bin or not.


Commissioner Richard Byrne says having the option to recycle will make it easier to educate those that don’t do it now.


“You know as taxpayers we all pay for things that we don’t necessarily use — the schools are a huge example of that. So it is for the greater good, its not just for an individual household,” said Byrne.


Another option is to keep the program optional, but start charging a fee, which city staff say could turn residents away to avoid the fee.


Mayor Stan Mills says he notices a lot of residents don’t do much recycling at all, and at least 350 residents don’t even have the free recycling bin offered by the city.


Both proposals stalled over concerns about pushback from residents, especially equity concerns, considering all residents, regardless of income or house size, would be charged the same.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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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