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Rehoboth Beach considers mandatory recycling program, but equity issues arise

Submitted photo

Charging a flat rate for recycling in Rehoboth Beach is raising equity concerns.


City commissioners continue to be deadlocked over changes to the city’s recycling service, one that’s been free and voluntary since its inception.


But the city’s new contract with Blue Hen Disposal is almost doubling the annual price the city has to pay in recycling fees, and city staff want to charge residents an annual $135 fee to recoup most of that cost.


Commissioner Susan Gay remains resistant to a flat rate. She says recently she’s heard of similar issues with Lewe’s recycling program.


“The large rental properties, there’s much more contamination, there’s much more not knowing or not caring what they’re recycling,” said Gay. “And the burden that that places on their staff and the contamination.”


Contaminated recycling is the big reason Blue Hen raised their prices in the first place, to cover their liability.


Gay adds large rental properties also recycle a lot more, so charging a flat rate is unreasonable for everyone, but she did not propose an alternative system in its place.


The city is soon approaching it’s deadline to make a decision on a fee. City manager Sharon Lynn says one should be made by December.


Rehoboth Beach commissioners also debated overhauling the old beach patrol building on Baltimore Avenue.


The city is looking at potentially tearing down and completely rebuilding the beach patrol building at the end of Baltimore Avenue as it redesigns the streets adjacent to Rehoboth Avenue, 


City commissioners took a peek at a few potential designs, including one that includes courtyards that double as lookout points for lifeguards.


Beach patrol captain Jeff Giles has resisted moving the building to another street, saying Baltimore Avenue is the center of beach life in the city.


Commissioner Jay Lagree pushed back on that notion, saying this new building is being designed to last for next 50 years.


“When you talk to citizens, when you talk to residents, one of the main complaints is the fact that everybody is packed right in the middle of town,” Lagree said. “Now, if we do something about that to help spread people out — and I think that’s coming, which way is it gonna go? The center of your beach may not be Rehoboth Avenue in 10 years.”


The city is also going to have to push the remodel back to at least the end of next year. If the current designs are ones the city approves, they would need a variance from FEMA to avoid flooding requirements.


Avoiding that variance means the entire building would have to be elevated, which designers are currently working on a concept for.


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.