§ 551 Definitions.
As used in this subchapter:
(1) "Clerk of the peace" means the clerk of the peace of the county in which the suburban community is situated.
(2) "County government" means the county governing body;
(3) "Suburban community" means any unincorporated community within this State:
a. Containing at least 10 dwelling houses;
b. Whose streets aggregate a minimum of 500 linear feet of road surfacing; and
c. Which, in the opinion of the county government, is so situated as to form a unit which is reasonably and economically capable of being improved by the installation of fire hydrants and, if necessary, adequate water mains to serve such hydrants;
§ 552 Bonds; power of county government to issue; terms of; faith and credit of county pledged to payment of bonds.
(a) In order to carry out the provisions of this subchapter, the county government of any county of this State may issue bonds in an amount or amounts, and under such terms and conditions, not inconsistent with this subchapter, as may be determined by the county government.
(b) The bonds shall mature not later than 20 years after the date of the issue, shall bear interest at the most advantageous rate attainable by the county government and the income therefrom shall not be subject to state taxation. The bonds shall be issued in the form prescribed by the county government and shall be either registered bonds or bearer with coupons convertible into fully registered bonds. The bonds may, at the discretion of the county government, be made redeemable at par plus accrued interest on any interest payment date upon terms and conditions to be stated in the bonds. Debt incurred by the county government pursuant to this subchapter may be represented by uncertificated obligations of the county government which may be authorized in accordance with the same procedures applicable to bonds which are permitted to be issued under this subchapter, and the county government may determine all procedures appropriate to the establishment of a system of issuing uncertificated debt.
(c) The full faith and credit of the county is pledged to insure the payment of any bond issue, and all interest thereon, created and sold under this subchapter.
(d) The county government may raise by the levy of taxes upon all the property taxable by the county such moneys, in addition to available moneys held in the sinking fund provided for in § 578 of this title, as are needed to pay the bonds and the interest thereon as the same become due and payable.
§ 553 Petition to county government for improvements; who may petition; contents.
(a) The freeholders of a suburban community owning 50 percent or more of the front footage of property to be protected by the contemplated installation of fire hydrants and necessary water mains may present a petition to the county government.
(b) The petition shall:
(1) State that in the opinion of the signers of the petition, the suburban community would be improved by the installation of fire hydrants with adequate water mains; and
(2) Request that the county government proceed in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter to issue bonds to provide the money for the improvements.
(c) Each petition, when presented, shall have attached to it, as a part thereof, the following data:
(1) A drawing showing the street layout, placement of fire hydrants and water mains and boundaries of the area to be protected by the installation thereof;
(2) A list of the names and post-office addresses of all freeholders in the suburban community, as they appear on the records of the board of assessment of the county in which the suburban community is located, and the street frontage in feet owned by each of such freeholders;
(3) A proposal or suggested contract or contracts, including plans, specifications and estimates of cost of the contemplated improvements; and
(4) A provision for service charges, if any, to the residents of the suburban community as tentatively accepted, approved or agreed to by the petitioners and the owners or operators of the local water distribution system chosen to install the improvements or their agents.
§ 554 Determination by county government after receipt of petition.
Within 15 days after receipt by the county government of the petition provided for in § 553 of this title, the county government shall meet and determine whether the community is a suburban community within the meaning of § 551 of this title.
§ 555 Review and approval of data by county engineer.
Immediately after the determination by the county government that the community in question meets the requirements for a suburban community specified in § 551 of this title, the county government shall notify the county engineer of its determination. Upon receipt of such notice, the county engineer shall promptly review the plans and proposals submitted by the petitioners and the owner or operator of the local water distribution system chosen to install the improvements, and shall notify the county government of his or her approval or disapproval thereof.
§ 556 Election to authorize bond issue; fixing time for holding; voting list.
(a) Upon receipt of approval from the county engineer, as provided for in § 555 of this title, the county government shall fix a date for an election, at which all freeholders of the community may vote, on the question whether the county government should proceed to issue bonds in the manner hereinafter provided, in an amount sufficient to finance the cost of the improvements contemplated.
(b) The election shall be held not less than 20 days nor more than 30 days after receipt of the approval from the county engineer.
(c) The clerk of the peace shall prepare from the books and records of the board of assessment of the county in which the suburban community is situated, a list of the names and addresses of all freeholders of the suburban community. Opposite the name of each freeholder the clerk shall put the number of votes each such freeholder may cast, which shall be on the basis of 1 vote for each front foot of property owned by each freeholder to be protected by the contemplated improvement or improvements. In determining the number of votes to be cast by each freeholder as set forth above, the fractions of feet shall be disregarded. Such list, except as hereinafter provided, shall constitute the voting list for the election.
§ 557 Notice of election; contents of notice.
Not less than 12 days prior to the date fixed for the election, the clerk of the peace shall cause to be mailed to each person on the voting list, at the address appearing on the list, a printed notice of the time and place of the election. The notice shall state that the purpose of the election is to determine whether a majority of the residents of the community is in favor of the issuance of bonds by the county government to cover the cost of the improvement or improvements contemplated. The notice shall also state the total amount of the proposed bond issue and a clear and concise description of the improvements contemplated together with the estimated cost of each improvement and the total cost of all improvements.
§ 558 Place, time and manner of voting; judge of election.
The election shall be held in the county government room in the county in which the suburban community is situated, and the polls shall be open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. of the day of the election. The voting shall be by printed ballot, which shall give the voter an opportunity clearly to indicate that voter's consent or objection to the issuance of bonds for the improvements contemplated. The clerk of the peace shall act as judge of the election.
§ 559 Persons qualified to vote.
(a) The voting list theretofore prepared by the clerk of the peace shall be evidence of the right of a person to vote and the number of votes to which each freeholder is entitled, except as hereinafter provided.
(b) Any freeholder who has sold his or her property or properties in the community prior to the date of the election shall not be permitted to vote but the then-owner of the property or properties shall be entitled to vote in his or her place and stead upon furnishing the judge of election with the original or a certified copy of the deed to the property or properties, which deed shall clearly evidence that it was duly recorded.
(c) Any person claiming the right to vote at the election as an heir of any freeholder in the community who has died since the preparation of the voting list, or as trustee or guardian under the terms of the last will and testament of any such freeholder (who has died in the community since the preparation of the voting list) shall furnish the judge of election with the original or a certified copy of the will or other document evidencing that person's ownership of, or interest in, the property of any such freeholder, and shall thereupon be entitled to vote in the place and stead of such deceased freeholder.
(d) Wherever the property of such deceased freeholder in the suburban community is left to joint tenants or tenants in common, the following rules shall prevail:
(1) The vote of any 1 joint tenant or tenant in common shall be received where no other such tenant appears claiming the right to vote;
(2) Where 1 joint tenant or tenant in common votes in opposition to another, the vote shall be cancelled;
(3) A majority of the votes of any such joint tenants or tenants in common shall determine the manner in which the vote shall be cast;
(4) The vote of any life tenants shall be accepted over the person having a reversionary interest in the property in the suburban community.
§ 560 Certification of result of election; retention of ballots.
Promptly after the holding of the election, the judge of election shall tabulate the ballots and certify the results to the county government under the judge's hand and seal. The ballots shall be retained in the safekeeping of the county government for 1 year before being destroyed.
§ 561 Notification to county engineer if bond issue authorized.
If the certificate of the judge of election reveals that a majority of the votes cast at the election is in favor of the issuance of bonds by the county government to cover the cost of the improvement or improvements contemplated, the county government shall promptly so notify, in writing, the county engineer.
§ 562 Bonds; issuance of by county government; resolution authorizing issuance and fixing terms of; use of general funds in lieu of issuing bonds.
(a) If the vote of the community is in the affirmative, the county government shall promptly meet and by resolution authorize the issuance of bonds, except as hereinafter specifically provided, to defray the expenses of the improvement or improvements favored by the freeholders of the community. The resolution shall also state:
(1) The total amount of the bond issue (which shall be determined from an estimate submitted to the county government by the county engineer and the amount of the bond issue may be in the amount of the county engineer's estimate and up to 10 percent thereover);
(2) The purpose of the bond issue;
(3) The date of maturity, or that the bonds shall mature serially or be retired by lot, as the case may be; and
(4) All other terms and conditions under which the bonds are to be issued.
(b) The county government, before deciding upon the terms and conditions of the bond issue, shall seek the advice of at least 2 substantial bankers or brokers in Delaware accustomed to dealing in municipal, county or state bond issues.
(c) If the estimate or estimates from the county engineer, as hereinabove provided, after making provision for 10 percent over and above estimated costs, is or are less than $20,000, the county government may use moneys in its own general fund to defray costs of the improvements.
§ 563 Preparation, form and execution of bonds.
The county government shall direct and effect the preparation and printing of the bonds authorized by this subchapter, shall determine whether such bonds shall be registered or bearer with coupons convertible into fully registered bonds and shall prescribe the form of the bonds and, in the case of bearer bonds with coupons, the form of the coupons for the payment of interest thereto attached. The bonds shall state the conditions under which they are issued. The face amount of the bonds and, in the case of bearer bonds with coupons, the coupons thereto attached shall be payable at such place or places as shall be designated by the county government. The bonds shall be signed in the manner prescribed by the county government.
§ 564 Sale of bonds; proceeds of sale; advertising required.
(a) The county government shall negotiate the sale and delivery of the bonds. The proceeds of the sale of the bonds shall be paid into the treasury of the county government to be used for the purposes provided in this subchapter; provided, however, any excess received from the sale of the bonds beyond the cost of the project shall immediately be transferred to the special sinking fund required by § 578 of this title.
(b) The county government shall advertise the bonds for sale in at least 2 issues each of 2 newspapers, 1 of which shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Wilmington, Delaware, and 1 of which shall be published in the City of New York, inviting bids for the same, which advertisements shall state the total amount of the proposed issue, the denominations of the bonds, the place of payment of the bonds and interest, the place and date of opening the bids, and the conditions under which the bonds are to be sold. The county government may give notice of the sale of the bonds in such other manner as it may decide.
§ 565 Requirements for bidding on bonds.
The county government may require that each bid for the bonds be accompanied by a certified check in the amount of 10 percent of the bid. After the bonds are awarded or sold to the successful bidder or bidders therefor, the county government shall return to the unsuccessful bidder or bidders the certified check or checks submitted with the bid or bids.
§ 566 Rejection and acceptance of bids; opinion required.
(a) The county government may reject any and all bids, but in awarding the sale of the bonds, or any of them, they shall be sold to the person, persons, firm or corporation which, in the judgment of the county government, offers the most advantageous terms.
(b) The bonds shall not be offered for sale until the attorney for the county government has submitted the attorney's opinion in writing that the bonds have been validly authorized in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter.
§ 567 Contracts for improvements; procedure for awarding; terms.
Immediately upon consummation of the sale of the bond issue, the county government shall proceed to enter into a contract or contracts for the required improvements with the owner or operator of the local water distribution system chosen to install the improvements or the owner's or operator's agents. Such contract or contracts shall contain the provisions required by § 569 of this title and shall be substantially in accordance with the proposal or suggested contracts originally submitted by the petitioners in accordance with § 553 of this title. The contract or contracts need not be let upon a competitive bid basis. The county government may, in its discretion, request a statement of financial condition, or such other evidence of financial responsibility as it shall deem appropriate, from the owner or operator of said local water distribution system or the owner's or operator's agents.
§ 568 Payment to contractor.
The county government shall withhold 10 percent of all payments made under the terms of the contracts until final certification by the county engineer that the work has been satisfactorily completed, in compliance with the terms of the contract.
§ 569 Improvements incorporated into contractor's system; responsibility for maintenance; inspections of fire hydrants and connecting water mains; testing of fire-fighting equipment.
(a) Upon the certification by the county engineer that the improvement or improvements have been satisfactorily completed, the improvement or improvements shall be incorporated into the water system serving the community, in accordance with the terms of the contract or contracts which shall also provide that the owner or operator of the water system shall be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the improvement or improvements and that the county government shall in no way be responsible for the operation or maintenance of the improvement or improvements. The improvement or improvements shall, however, remain the property of the county and, except as otherwise provided in such contract or contracts, shall be subject to the control of the county government.
(b) Any duly organized fire company, including volunteer fire companies, may inspect and test all fire hydrants and all water mains serving such hydrants located within the area that such company already operates and shall report its findings to the State Fire Marshal, the owners or operators of the water distribution systems serving such fire hydrants and water mains and to the municipality or local government having jurisdiction over such water system. In addition thereto, a fire company shall be permitted to utilize fire hydrants designated in advance by the owners or operators of a water distribution system and within the area that such company operates for testing fire-fighting equipment. At least 24 hours prior to any inspection or test or testing of fire-fighting equipment, the water distribution system and the municipality or local government having jurisdiction over such water system shall be notified. At the request of the owners or operators and for good cause shown, the State Fire Marshal may postpone an inspection or test or testing of fire-fighting equipment for not more than 10 days.
§ 570 Assessment on real property in suburban community; time for making and basis.
(a) Not later than 30 days after the date of receipt by the county government of the final contract costs from the county engineer, but in no event later than 8 months after the sale of the bond issue, the county government shall make a special assessment or levy upon all real property of every freeholder in the suburban community which is assessable and taxable. Such assessment shall be made in such a manner that the real property of each freeholder of the community, upon the basis of all front footage within the area to be protected by the improvements, shall equitably bear its pro rata share of the costs of the improvement or improvements. In cases of irregular corner properties, the county engineer shall determine the footage in the area to be protected that shall be considered as front footage. The sum total of all assessments or levies, so made, shall equal the total amount of the final contract cost, together with all interest accruing on the full amount of the bond issue until maturity.
(b) If final contract costs are not determined within the aforementioned 8 month period, the county government shall make a temporary special assessment or levy upon the basis of the contract bid, together with all interest accruing on the full amount of the bond issue until maturity. The temporary special assessment shall be adjusted when final contract costs are known.
(c) If moneys from the general fund of the county government are used as permitted by § 562(c) of this title, the special assessment shall be determined on the basis of final contract costs plus interest. The interest rate in such case shall be the average rate of all interest on bonds issued for similar purposes during the previous calendar year. All interest collected from such special assessments shall be deposited in the special sinking fund account provided for in § 578 of this title.
(d) In making such special assessment or levy the county government shall prepare an assessment roll which shall describe each lot or parcel of real property in the suburban community in such manner that the same may be ascertained and identified and shall show the name or names of the reputed owner or owners thereof and the aggregate amount of the assessment levied upon such lot or parcel of land, and shall file such assessment roll so prepared in the office of the clerk of the county government. Before finally adopting such assessment roll, the county government shall hold a public hearing. Notice of such public hearing shall state that the assessment roll has been completed and filed in the office of the clerk of the county government where it may be examined by any person interested and, that at the time and place fixed for the public hearing, the county government will meet and hear and consider any objections which may be made to such assessment roll. Notice of the public hearing shall be published in a newspaper published within the county and having a general circulation therein, once in each of the 2 weeks immediately preceding the week in which the public hearing is to be held. After holding the public hearing the county government may change or amend the assessment roll as it deems necessary or just and may confirm and adopt the assessment roll as originally proposed or as amended or changed.
§ 571 Determination of portion of total assessment payable annually; special lien; payment.
(a) After the county government has determined the total amount of the special assessment to be levied, it shall promptly seek the advice of at least 2 responsible brokers or bankers in this State accustomed to dealing in municipal, school or county bond issues as to what proportion of his or her total assessment or levy shall be paid annually by each freeholder in the suburban community until the maturity of the bond issue, bearing in mind the terms and conditions of the particular issue, and whether all the bonds mature on the same day or are to be retired serially or by lot, as the case may be.
(b) Having determined upon such proportionate annual amount of payment as will adequately insure the payment of the principal and interest upon the bonds, the county government shall meet and, by resolution, declare the amount of the assessment or levy against the property of each freeholder a lien and fix the proportionate amount of the assessment or levy against each such property or properties to be paid annually by each freeholder.
(c) Any freeholder may at any time pay to the receiver of taxes and county treasurer of the county in which the suburban community is located, the full principal amount of the special lien placed against that freeholder's property or properties together with accrued interest thereon to the next succeeding interest date.
§ 572 Lien book; preparation and distribution.
(a) Within 30 days after the passage of the resolution referred to in § 571 of this title, the county government shall prepare books, in triplicate, containing the following information:
(1) The name of each freeholder in the suburban community;
(2) The amount of foot frontage of each freeholder abutting on the improvement or improvements so contemplated;
(3) The total amount, in dollars, of the special assessment or levy against the property of each freeholder; and
(4) The proportionate annual amount of payment, in dollars, of the special assessment or levy.
(b) The books shall be entitled "Suburban Community Lien Book," specifying the name of the suburban community.
(c) One of the books shall be retained by the county government, 1 shall be placed in the office of the prothonotary of the county in which the suburban community is situated, and another shall be placed in the office of the receiver of taxes and county treasurer in the county.
§ 573 Notice of assessment; when to be given; contents; interest on delinquent installments.
(a) Within 20 days after the completion of the triplicate books mentioned in § 572 of this title, the receiver of taxes and county treasurer shall send, by registered mail directed to each freeholder in the suburban community, a notice which shall contain the total amount, in dollars, of the special assessment or levy against the freeholder and the proportionate annual amount of the payment, in dollars, which the freeholder will be required to make until the maturity of the bond issue.
(b) The notice shall also specify that the total amount of such special assessment or levy constitutes a lien upon the property or properties of the freeholder, which lien, unless sooner paid, shall attach against the property of the freeholder until the maturity of the bond issue.
(c) The notice shall further state that if any freeholder in the suburban community does not pay to the receiver of taxes and county treasurer of the county in which the suburban community is situated the proportionate annual amount of the freeholder's special assessment or levy within 60 days from the date of the mailing of the notice, interest at 6 percent per annum will be charged upon the proportionate annual amount of the special assessment or levy beginning 60 days after mailing of the notice and continuing until the assessment is fully paid.
§ 574 Record of lien on books of board of assessment.
The county government shall direct the board of assessment for the county in which the suburban community is situated to cause the words "Special Community Lien" to be placed beside the name of each freeholder in the suburban community as the same appears on the books of the board of assessment for the county in order that persons such as prospective buyers of, or attorneys making title searches upon, the properties making inquiry at the office of the board of assessment in such county concerning county taxes may be informed that special liens exist against the properties in the suburban community.
§ 575 Receipt and disposition of assessments; bond.
(a) The receiver of taxes and county treasurer for the county in which the suburban community is situated shall receive payment of the proportionate annual amount of the special assessment or levy, and shall turn over to the county government all such moneys when received. The county government shall confer with the receiver of taxes and county treasurer and determine upon a satisfactory method for the setting up of books of account to be kept by the receiver of taxes and county treasurer concerning his or her collections of the proportionate annual amounts of the special assessment or levy.
(b) The county government may require the receiver of taxes and county treasurer to enter into a bond conditioned upon the faithful performance of his or her duties in the making of the collections of the special assessments or levies.
§ 576 Bill for annual installment of assessment; mailing.
The receiver of taxes and county treasurer shall annually, on the date of the sending of the written notice prescribed by § 573 of this title, mail to each freeholder in the suburban community a bill for the proportionate annual amount of the special assessment or levy.
48 Del. Laws, c. 331, § 24; 9 Del. C. 1953, § 576.;
§ 577 Collection of assessments in default; procedure; deficiencies.
(a) If a freeholder in the suburban community fails to pay the full amount of the freeholder's proportionate annual amount of the special assessment or levy within 1 year from the time within which it becomes payable, together with interest at 6 percent thereon, the entire amount of the special assessment or levy shall immediately become due and payable, and the receiver of taxes and county treasurer shall proceed to collect the full amount of the special assessment or levy by any legal process available to the receiver of taxes and county treasurer by statute for the collection of state, county or school taxes.
(b) If any property encumbered by the special lien provided for in this section is sold by foreclosure or execution process and the proceeds from such sale are insufficient to pay in full the amount of the special lien together with all interest and penalties thereon, then the unpaid portion of the special lien shall not be discharged by virtue of the sale.
§ 578 Special sinking fund.
The county government shall promptly deposit all funds received from the receiver of taxes and county treasurer from the collection of the special assessment or levy in a special sinking fund account, which shall be used for no other purpose than the retiring of the bonds and interest accruing thereon.
§ 579 Payment and retirement of bonds and interest.
Prior to the time of the retirement of the bonds, or any of them, or the time when interest shall become payable thereon, the county government shall make available sufficient funds in a state or national bank where the principal and interest are payable, to cover the retirement of such bonds or the payment of interest thereon.
§ 580 Cancellation of bonds.
The county government may adopt such procedure as it deems proper in cancelling the bonds when paid.