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    Event featuring Grammy-nominated guitarist to benefit Delaware Wild Lands

    Grammy-nominated musician Courtney Hartman will headline the Baldcypress Bluegrass Festival in Sussex County on May 21. In addition to her solo career, Hartman is also guitarist and vocalist for the all-female group Della Mae.

    Four other bands will play sets in advance of Hartman’s performance: Kindred Spirits, Saltwater String Band, Flatland Drive and a group formed for the festival, called New & Spare Fools (featuring Mickey Justice and Todd Smith of Such Fools, Jon Simmons and Martin Wirtz of New & Used Bluegrass, and Wes Parks of No Spare Time).

    The Baldcypress Bluegrass Festival is a benefit event for Delaware Wild Lands (DWL), Delaware’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation. The festival grounds will be on the Roman Fisher Farm (24558 Cypress Road, Frankford) at the edge of the Great Cypress Swamp, the largest contiguous forest on the Delmarva Peninsula. DWL owns and manages 11,000 acres of the swamp, and 10,000 additional acres in Kent and New Castle counties.

    The festival will run from noon to 6 p.m. Tickets for adults cost $25 in advance or $30 at the gate. Children ages 5-17 pay $10. Kids younger than 5 will be admitted free of charge. Tickets can be purchased online at

    Local craft beer will be sponsored by Crooked Hammock and Dogfish. Wine will be provided by Nassau Valley Vineyards. A bevy of food trucks will offer a menu provided by: Mr. Bar-B-Que, B.K. Catering and Vinnie’s Pizza Truck, and ice cream for dessert from Vanderwende Farm Creamery. Festival activities will include games, vendors, and tours.

    More than music

    Tickets to the Baldcypress Bluegrass Festival include the opportunity jump onto a guided bus tour looping through the 11,000-acre Great Cypress Swamp. DWL is actively restoring forests, wetlands and wildlife habitat in the ecosystem. Local experts will be on hand to answer questions and explain more about the history of the swamp.

    Games and vendors will also be offered during the festival.

    Delaware Wild Lands is committed to long-term and large scale habitat restoration in the Swamp. The group has planted more than 165,000 trees there since 2011, in an effort to improve what is considered one of the most important natural resources on the Delmarva Peninsula.

    Traditional uses continue on the land, including sustainable forestry, farming and hunting.

    “Our forward-thinking management approach is reversing decades of degradation, and rehydrating hundreds of acres of wetland habitat,” representatives noted. “A plethora of wildlife and birds are now thriving in the Great Cypress Swamp, including wild turkey, redheaded woodpeckers, river otter, carpenter frogs, bald eagles, wood ducks, teal and several other species of waterfowl.”

    The Great Cypress Swamp is featured in a six-page article and photo spread in the Spring 2016 issue of DNREC’s Outdoor Delaware magazine, available online at

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    Representatives from the Bayhealth Foundation spoke before the Sussex County Council earlier this week to review plans for a new Bayhealth hospital. The new health complex would be located near Milford, off of Route 1 at the new Route 30 overpass, on the corner of Cedar Creek and Wilkins Road, on an approximately 165-acre campus.

    Michael Metzing, vice president of corporate support services for Bayhealth, said the project is a $300 million investment, with the new facility spanning 437,000 square feet, compared to the current hospital’s 250,000 square feet.

    It will include 128 private rooms, a 30-bay emergency department, six operating rooms, two procedure rooms and an interventional room. On the campus, there will also be a 70,000-square-foot outpatient center.

    “One of the things we’re most excited about is Nemours is working with us now to build a building on the campus. They want to bring the specialty clinics down to southern Delaware,” he added. “It begins to reflect Nemours’ decision to be an integral part of our community down here, and specifically furthers our vision for the campus to expand the services that we currently provide.”

    Metzing spoke about the economic impact of hospitals, noting that there are 5,654 hospitals in the United States, which employ 5.4 million people.

    “It’s about 1.8 jobs created in the economy for every hospital worker,” he said.

    An estimated 1,850 jobs will be impacted during the project, he added.

    “Many of them are construction workers directly involved in the project itself. The others are firms — firms that purchase supplies, materials, etc.,” he said. “Bayhealth is committed to sourcing 50 percent of the labor and 50 percent of the materials for this project through Delaware businesses.”

    Currently, their Milford hospital employs about 750 people, with a total payroll of approximately $66 million dollars.

    Metzing said construction workers are beginning to mobilize this week, bringing equipment on-site, with groundbreaking scheduled for May 24. It is estimated that the project will take 26 to 30 months of construction to complete, with a goal of completion in the third quarter of 2018 and actively seeing patients by the end of the first quarter of 2019.

    “It takes about four months to activate a hospital,” he noted.

    “We are on this journey to offer a new world of healthcare in southern Delaware,” said Lindsay Rhodenbaugh, president of the Bayhealth Foundation.

    Rhodenbaugh said the Bayhealth Foundation has set a goal to raise $15 million of the $300 million it will cost to complete the new health complex.

    “To date, more than $8.5 million has been raised,” he said, noting that 313 individuals, families and organizations have already made financial commitments to the project. “It will be the largest capital campaign ever enacted by Bayhealth — 32 individuals, families and organizations have made commitments of at least $25,000.”

    Rhodenbaugh said he hoped the Sussex County Council would support the project as well, with its financial support.

    “We hope this organization will stand behind what we’re doing in Milford as well.”

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    The Selbyville Police Department wants people to be informed about public safety in the town. So they’re hosting two informal events at the Selbyville Public Library to meet with adults and children.

    Cookies with a Cop is for children, on Wednesday, May 18, at 3:30 p.m. Adults may prefer Coffee with a Cop, on June 8 at 3:30 p.m.

    The events are a chance for police to answer questions — and correct any rumors.

    “Whenever we have things like this, usually it’s because there’s something that’s on social media that gets a lot of steam, or there’s something in the news that gets people chatting,” said Library Director Kelly Kline.

    Adults usually only interact with the police when something goes wrong, but Kline said, “It’s important to have a good connection with the people who protect our community.”

    At the April event, Police Chief W. Scott Collins had explained burglary statistics and reviewed a list of local scams to avoid. One resident even realized she had been duped by a seemingly reputable door-to-door energy company salesperson.

    “People can just come in and have a chat with Chief Collins,” said Kline. “It makes people feel better when they can come in and interact with their police on just a basic level.”

    The Selbyville Public Library is located at the corner of McCabe and Main streets. For more information, contact the library at (302) 436-8195 or

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    Many coastal businesses are hiring extra help for the summer season. And, for once, the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company (BBVFC) is among them.

    The BBVFC wants to hire part-time firefighters for the warmer months. They’re requesting one paid employee be present 24 hours a day, from May 1 to Sept. 30, using 25 part-time staffers.

    “Where we’re asking for help is to be able to fund more career firefighters who can also work 24/7 shifts, in order to guarantee we can respond on a timely basis to whatever emergency is in our district,” BBVFC President Stephen Lett had said previously.

    The BBVFC tested its own theory by hiring a career firefighter in the summer of 2015, which worked “very well,” Lett said.

    This is only temporary solution to get through summer, as they brainstorm a solution to the overall problem: volunteerism is dwindling.

    The Bethany fire company uses all volunteer firefighters for its 300 to 350 calls per year. But the BBVFC might have to dangle a $14 hourly rate to lure firefighters to the jobs.

    Towns will pay the fee

    The $42,824 price tag for the effort was sprung on those who will pay it (including $36,624 for payroll, $4,200 for training and $2,000 for uniforms).

    The BBVFC has proposed using the same funding mechanism as it has used for its ambulance service: a partnership between the four communities of Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island and Sea Colony.

    Currently, those four entities charge residents a mandatory $53 fee annually for BBVFC’s regular ambulance subscription (a program that is optional for citizens in the district who don’t own property in those four communities). The subscription means those households don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for emergency ambulance service, which can cost more than $700.

    The costs, by town, are based on their percentage of their collective population, averaging $5.95 per property:

    • Bethany Beach — 2,800 properties, 38.9 percent, $16,659 total

    • Sea Colony — 2,202 properties, 30.6 percent, $13,104 total

    • South Bethany — 1,390 properties, 19.3 percent, $8,265 total

    • Fenwick Island — 810 properties, 11.2 percent, $4,796 total

    (These numbers were determined by the Town of Bethany Beach, based on population data from 2008.)

    The four communities are in the process of getting town council/homeowner association approval for the new expense. They requested just a summertime effort for now, after the the BBVFC initially proposed a year-round program, which would have cost about $240,000 for fulltime staff, said South Bethany Mayor Pat Voveris.

    A shortage in volunteerism

    “Volunteerism is definitely changing,” Lett had said last autumn. “There’s still a lot of us that are active and do come out, but it’s more difficult to recruit volunteer firefighters.”

    That is a national trend.

    “Other fire companies around the country … are experiencing the same problem,” Lett said. “The problem is that there’s just not as many young people going into the fire service today and volunteering to be firefighters, because it’s a very big commitment on time.”

    Many young people have families but don’t have the time to devote to it. Many households require two incomes nowadays, so there’s little time to spare for volunteer training.

    Meanwhile, most young adults also can’t afford coastal real estate. So the beach towns are largely populated with people who might volunteer for administrative tasks or fundraisers but who won’t be sprinting into a burning building at a moment’s notice.

    Volunteers are coming from out of town. Sometimes, the BBVFC only averages three people per truck, depending on the call. A structure fire will attract more volunteers. Days are harder than nights to staff. Weekends are easiest of all. July and August are the busiest months for the resort fire company, whose fire district stretches across miles up and down the Atlantic Coast.

    The paid emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are sometimes dual-trained in firefighting, so they help.

    “We don’t always get multiple trucks out. It just depends on the time of day,” Lett said.

    “Emergency service will continue to be provided. We’re not at a point where we’re at a crisis situation,” said BBVFC Fire Chief Brian Martin. “That being said, we have identified a problem. We’ve been working on it a while. Our volunteer base has dwindled drastically over the years.”

    Nationwide, the vast majority of firefighters are volunteers, although they tend to be paid in cities, such as Philadelphia, Lett said.

    Only about half of the BBVFC’s firefighting funding comes from the State and County. The other half is voluntary contributions.

    Although they receive funding from local towns, the BBVFC is a separate organization that receives funding at the discretion of the municipalities.

    But, right now, only about 7,800 out of 10,000 homes are contributing to the firefighter service. (Another 700 private homes do chip in for ambulance service.)

    “We feel the County or State should be coming in,” Melvin Cusick, South Bethany town manager, told that town council in April. “This should not just be on the back of our four towns” when much of the fire district is in the unincorporated Sussex County, he said. “It needs to be higher than us, bigger than us.”

    Meanwhile, in the fire district next door, the Millville Volunteer Fire Company has gotten preliminary approvals to create a paid ambulance service for the towns of Ocean View and Millville.

    A tax could ensure fair payments

    “Is there a way that we can get everybody in the fire districts to participate in the funding, not just the ‘Big Four,’ and how does that affect other fire companies?” state Rep. Ron Gray (R-38th) asked.

    A fire tax could be the answer. Each fire company could have its own, by fire district.

    “We’re researching now how that tax is administered in other areas so we can make a formal proposal,” Martin said. “That is our end goal — to allow the County to do that.”

    But the Sussex County Council doesn’t have the authority to create fire districts or collect such a tax from all residents equally. The Delaware State Legislature would have to step in and grant that authority.

    That’s why they brought Gray and state Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr. into the conversation.

    “Going forward, they were hoping something could be done though the State, maybe. They were looking for funding alternatives,” Gray said.

    Years ago, Hocker and former state senator George Bunting Jr. proposed a similar program to create fire districts, similar to school districts. Citizens could even vote on finances, as they do in current school referendums. The proposal was unsuccessful at the time.

    But the climate may be right to try again.

    “Maybe other fire companies throughout the state would have a similar need,” Gray said.

    “Really, the Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association, at a county and state level, needs to be involved in the discussion, if it were to go to that,” Gray said.

    To get more input and, they hope, some support to move forward, local officials are beginning to meet with the state firefighters association and with other fire departments.

    This is still the very early stages of discussion. It’s too late in the legislative session to create and vote on a program by session’s end on June 30, Gray said.

    What about fire districts that don’t have a major volunteer problem, or the population growth seen at the coast? To pass the state legislature, any future bill would need a clause exempting places that don’t want a new fire district.

    “We really need the blessing of all the fire companies, [but] it’s going to be a need going forward,” Gray said. “It’s harder and harder with for people with two jobs to be the volunteers like they were years ago.

    “I want to help them satisfy their need for funding. You’ve got to be able to respond to fires for public-safety reasons,” Gray said. “It’s a change for the fire company. They’ve always been able to get along with volunteers.”

    With mandatory fees, could residents stop making donations?

    “That’s certainly a possibility. We certainly hope they wouldn’t,” Martin said. “We provided EMS service. ... People have been paying, and our donations have not dropped at all. We would continue to encourage people to do both.”

    But, with enough funding, fire companies might not have to rely on donations.

    “We’ve been here since 1948, and we’re very financially sound,” Lett said. “It’s just where we need some help is in funding to add more career firefighters.”

    “It’s going to take a while to get it resolved, if it’s resolved,” Cusick told South Bethany officials. “This is just a stopgap.”

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    For-profit vendors will now pay a fee for displaying their wares in the Town of Millville.

    On May 10, the Millville Town Council approved a $25 event license, per vendor, per day. This is Millville’s first peddler license of this kind, for food trucks and other vendors.

    Food trucks are still prohibited from parking in the town on a regular day. But they could participate in a special event, as could other craftspeople and vendors.

    Non-profit groups and their events, such as a fire company festival, are exempt from the fee. But a Realtor’s customer-appreciation day would require $25 permits for every for-profit vendor.

    “Food-vendor trucks is an up-and-coming [thing] these days,” Town Manager Debbie Botchie had said in April. “We find it very unfair that food trucks can come into a municipality … and sell their wares. They don’t pay” any permit or tax or income tax, she noted.

    The new fee makes up for that.

    The ordinance is just aimed at special events, not yard sales. Yard sales and nonprofit groups, such as the Girl Scouts, are exempted from the fee.

    The town council unanimously approved the measure (with Councilwoman Susan Brewer absent).

    Farmers’ market out

    The Millville Farmers’ Market will be on hiatus this summer. Road construction on Route 26 and low attendance caused the market to end several weeks early last year, in August of 2015. Organizers decided that traffic conditions won’t improve significantly this summer, either.

    They will decide later whether the market will return in 2017. In the online announcement, they thanked the public for their continued interest and enthusiasm for the weekly event.

    The market was previously hosted at town hall and the Millville fire hall, although representatives of the Millville By the Sea development have offered event grounds to the Town that could be perfect for future markets.

    Construction contract close to approval

    There was little progress with the town hall addition this month. Council members said they didn’t feel well-enough informed to approve the $1,107,871 construction contract with Harkins Contracting Company. Harkins was the winning bidder for the 210-day project.

    Council members asked about the seemingly high cost for the 4,885-square-foot building. But the specific reasoning (fill dirt, anticipated poor soil quality, concrete and other site work) is detailed in the project manual that was only referenced, not listed, in the draft contract. Discussion will continue at the May 24 workshop.

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    The Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission was set to hold a public hearing on Thursday, May 12, at 6 p.m., related to an ordinance to amend the code of Sussex County regarding signage.

    Last month, the Sussex County Council introduced an ordinance that would revise the County’s current signage regulations. The proposed amendments would prohibit animated signs, abandoned signs (more than six months), mirror signs, V-shaped signs and signs with more than two faces. It would also raise the fees associated with signage applications, to help pay for an additional staff member to work on signage within the county.

    Off-premise signs have been recommended to have their current minimum front-yard setback requirement of 25 feet raised to 40 feet. The minimum separation distance from a dwelling, church, school or public lands for an off-premise sign is currently 300 feet, while the proposed ordinance would require a minimum of 500 feet.

    The current sign ordinance also requires off-premise signs have a separation of at least 300 feet from other off-premise signs. The proposed ordinance would increase the minimum separation distance to 1,000 feet, with an additional separation distance of 50 feet from on-premises signs.

    A moratorium was placed on the acceptance of all off-premise sign applications by the County’s Planning & Zoning Office in September 2015, to give the council and staff the opportunity to revise the ordinance in its entirety.

    Following Thursday night’s public hearing before the P&Z, the item is tentatively scheduled to be back on the county council’s agenda on May 24, for a public hearing before the council.

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    In researching the 70-year history of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7234, Jerry Hardiman has discovered a theme of selflessness running though longtime members.

    The VFW was founded in 1946, primarily by World War II veterans. It was an organized effort to answer the questions, “How can we help our veterans? How can we help people in need in the community?” Hardiman said.

    “There’s a patriotism that runs through that, but it’s quiet,” he said. “This is like a commitment to the community, to the nation or country.”

    “We do it for the veterans, and we do it to help people,” said Fulton Loppatto, post commander. “It’s really highly rewarding. Every day, you feel like you’re helping someone.”

    The Ocean View VFW will honor that commitment at its 70th-anniversary celebration on Saturday, May 14, at 11 a.m. Post 7234 is located at the end of Marshy Hope Way, off Cedar Neck Road near Ocean View.

    The program will honor founding members, past leaders and more.

    There will be a re-dedication of the VFW memorial, with a wreath-laying ceremony and Honor Guard presentation. Carnations will be provided to any guest wishing to lay a memorial flower in honor of a deceased loved-one.

    Several of the original members are still living, and they’ll participate, too.

    Afterward, everyone can come together for a free barbecue lunch.

    The program includes a copy of the 1946 dedication. Commemorative pins will be available, and T-shirts will be sold.

    Post 7234 opened in May of 1946, at a time when VFWs “blossomed” just after World War II, said Loppatto. The Mason-Dixon Post opened in Selbyville, with 92 members in a one-story trailer-style building. The Ladies Auxiliary (now simply called “the Auxiliary”) formed the following year. The Post moved to its present location on picturesque Quillen Point, overlooking the Indian River Bay, in 1953.

    “I look back at some of the things I’ve inherited [as commander],” Loppatto said. “It’s really gratifying to add on to that history.”

    But he cited the hard work of everyone involved, down to the VFW’s 1,320 individual members, with an Auxiliary of more than 700 members.

    The VFW volunteers have always helped service members near and far, efforts for medical research, fire companies, school programs, with social work and much more. Money comes from dues, donations and fundraising events, such as the Saturday chicken shack, Sunday breakfast buffets, Auxiliary dinners and other events.

    That legacy extends to the early days of Post 7234. In collecting World War II stories for a commemorative newsletter (to be published later this year), Hardiman described the mindset of the volunteers.

    “What I was struck by was these people went in when they were all teenagers. They were all 17, 18, 19 years old when they joined,” said Hardiman.

    One World War II veteran was 16 when the Navy rejected him for being too young. Undaunted, he did a year on a Merchant Marine refueling ship, came home and joined the Navy at 17, serving until the war’s end.

    Another woman described life as a nurse in France, treating the influx of casualties from the Battle of the Bulge.

    “They’re all from different backgrounds and different locations … and different branches of service,” Hardiman said. “And they all joined together to [create the VFW], without regard to what their military ranks had been, low or high. … They all had this kind of common sense of duty.”

    Hardiman described a “great modesty” in the veterans, who are proud of their service but talk primarily about their units’ accomplishments.

    “But when they came back, what I was struck by was their commitment to service. They could have come home and said, ‘Well, I’ve done my bit. Now I’m just gonna concentrate on my own life.’ They could have done that. They deserved to do that.”

    Instead, he said, they came home, founded VFWs, joined volunteer fire companies, helped in the schools and much more. Volunteerism ran through their veins. There’s still a 92-year-old who works every weekend, fundraising at the VFW Post 7234 chicken shack.

    “It’s a wonderful organization,” Hardiman said. “It’s become ever more so. Fulton’s just a wonderful leader for the organization. … He’s really expanded community involvement, public involvement. Come out! You’re more than welcome.”

    “We’re looking forward to celebrating our anniversary and history, honoring those to whom we owe so much, and welcoming everyone to the Post on that special day,” Loppatto stated.

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    When fall comes, physics let pumpkins fly over field and plain.

    From Nov. 4 to 6, Sussex County will welcome back Punkin Chunkin, the classic local event and modern worldwide phenomenon celebrating modern engineering in a cornfield. The goal is to build a machine that will launch a pumpkin the farthest distance.

    “To actually see a pumpkin fly is exhilarating. You do not see that every day,” said Frank Payton, president of World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association, based in Lewes, which organizes the event.

    The prodigal Chunk is returning to the Wheatley Field in Bridgeville after a three-year hiatus over insurance concerns. During those three years, attempts to host it in Dover or move it out-of-state failed.

    The Chunkers are ready to compete on their home turf for the first time since 2013. With technology ranging from modern to medieval, the machines launching the gourds sky-high include trebuchets, catapults, centrifugal devices, air cannons and human-powered machines, with youth competitions and more.

    Punkin Chunkin is creative engineering, teamwork and passion, dressed in jeans and flannel.

    “There’s definitely a lot of excitement … and commitment,” Payton said. “We’re gonna have a full field and then some.”

    He’s looking at a lineup of more than 100 competitors — including his own 10-year-old son — many of whom have been waiting since they last signed up in 2013.

    First-time spectators may feel like they’ve been launched down the rabbit hole, surround by everything from monstrous air cannons to Boy Scout catapults.

    The current record is more than 4,600 feet, or almost .9 miles.

    “It’s just like toy store, or wanting to see what you could do to make something fly farther. There’s almost an awe about, ‘Where am I at? I’m in the middle of a field, and there’s serious machines,’” Payton mused. “It’s like, ‘Which road did I turn down?’”

    In this case, it’s Chaplain’s Chapel Road, where the Wheatley Farm has previously hosted thousands of spectators, including the stars of the “Mythbusters” television series, which ended its 14-season run earlier this year.

    Begun in 1986, Punkin Chunkin faced its greatest setback after a volunteer was paralyzed in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident during Punkin Chunkin 2011. Suddenly, Wheatley Farms and the WCPCA were in the crosshairs of a $4.5-million lawsuit.

    The lawsuit was settled, but insurance became a roadblock for the event’s organizers. The Wheatley Farm wasn’t eager to risk another lawsuit, and moving the Chunk to Dover International Speedway became a logistical challenge in 2014 and 2015.

    “We couldn’t have the event on the property because the insurance company would drop the landowner if we returned, so we started working with that insurance company,” Payton said. “Is there a policy that would make the landowner invisible [in the event of another lawsuit]?”

    Yes, that policy exists. Organizers and their insurance company created a plan that allows the Chunk to assume financial responsibility, thereby helping to shield property owners from a lawsuit.

    But that insurance will cost nearly three times what WCPCA previously paid, in addition to the regular expenses for hosting an event that attracted about 30,000 spectators in 2013.

    “People need to realize that we are a [501(c)(3)] non-profit, and all the money we make at our annual event is given back,” stated Payton.

    “Our most important need at this time is sponsorships,” Payton told the Coastal Point. “We really need to stay focused on raising funds to offset costs.”

    The WCPCA also has a long history of returning the favor. After the annual Chunk, they donate leftover funds to local non-profits — more than $1 million has been donated since 2000.

    “It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent with talking to many people,” Payton said. “Is it worth it? … It’ll be worth it when we can give a big donation to a big non-profit.”

    To improve safety, the insurance policy includes some new limitations. For instance “straddle vehicles” are forbidden on the grounds, including ATVs. Instead, Chunkin volunteers will use utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), such as miniature trucks or John Deere Gators.

    “One of the things that we’ve had to curtail is the BYOB aspect of the Chunk, where people could bring in any alcohol that they wanted,” Payton added.

    But they’re making up for that change with a Punkin Patch Beer Garden.

    “We’ll provide a multitude of different alcohols on-site,” Payton said. “We wanna try and enhance our fans’ experience.”

    Live music, a barbecue contest and other extras are being brainstormed for this November.

    Next winter, scholarships will be offered again for prospective agriculture and engineering students.

    Vendor applications are now available online, and camping pre-sales will begin in July.

    Children can enter the art contest, currently under way, for those 12 or younger. They get to imagine what a pumpkin looks like when celebrating any holiday besides Punkin Chunkin. The winner gets to shoot a pumpkin at the 2016 event.

    Details are online at Contests and giveaways are also on Facebook, under “World Championship Punkin Chunkin.”

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    Charges have been dropped — for now — in the cases of five men previously accused of embezzling more than $600,000 from American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro.

    Two weeks after Delaware Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) made the April 7 arrests and after further investigation, the Delaware Department of Justice decided to drop the charges.

    “Due to information discovered after the time of arrest that requires additional investigation, charges have been dismissed. … However, there is an active, continuing criminal investigation, so we are unable to provide additional details or comment,” DOJ officials said April 29.

    “New information came to light, and basically the case just ended up being more complex than they originally thought,” said DGE Public Information Officer Wendy Hudson. “But the case is still active.”

    The original charges were dropped “without prejudice.” That means “if these folks need to be arrested again, they could be,” said DOJ Public Information Officer Carl Kanefsky.

    Combined, the five men had been accused of stealing $641,100 from the veterans association.

    Four men each had two felony counts of theft apiece (Samuel Mauger of Millsboro, James Gallagher of Millsboro, Edward Mazewski of Millsboro and Michael Rooney of Georgetown). The fifth man, Charles Nimmericher of Millsboro, had one misdemeanor count of theft.

    A sixth suspect, David Yetman, is deceased.

    As of May 10, no new charges had been filed against anyone in the case.

    The dropping of the charges was not the result of any kind of “deal” made behind the scenes, Kanefsky said.

    “Additional information was made after the initial arrest was made. The goal is to get it right,” he said.

    More charges are likely in the future, officials noted. The criminal investigation is ongoing, so the DOJ isn’t releasing many details.

    The DGE had previously stated that Post 28 had discovered suspected thefts by six officers (past and present) that had allegedly taken place between July 2012 and January 2015, at their Oak Orchard/Riverdale location.

    An investigation began this January and concluded with the discovery that more than $600,000 had allegedly been stolen — a colossal sum to be missing from the coffers of an organization that fundraises with dinners and video gaming machines.

    The suspects “wrote and signed numerous checks out to cash, cashed the checks at local banks, and the funds were not returned to or used for American Legion Post 28 business,” stated officials with the DGE, a division of the Delaware Department of Safety & Homeland Security.

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    A former treasurer for the Millville Volunteer Fire Company (MVFC) is the focus of an inspection report conducted by the State of Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts (AOA).

    “Our inspection revealed $190,433.61 in personal transactions made by the former treasurer,” states the report, released on Tuesday, May 10. “Of this amount, over $144,000 were attributable to ATM and cash withdrawals. AOA also found MVFC accounting records were falsified to conceal the irregularities.

    “MVFC’s lack of internal controls had a critical impact on the financial management of the MVFC during the former treasurer’s tenure,” according to the report.

    The alleged embezzlement took place between 2012 and the early part of 2015, according to the report. MCpl. Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police said mid-week that there was “an ongoing investigation,” and no arrests had been made or charges filed at that time. (The Coastal Point does not name suspects or persons of interest unless charges have been filed or police are actively searching for them.)

    “The leadership of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company would like to apologize to the members of the community we serve,” began a statement from the MVFC. “This is truly a low point in our history. We would like to assure the members of our community that at no time was the delivery of emergency services affected in any way. We remain committed to providing quality fire, rescue and emergency medical services to our community.”

    The report also stated that somewhat-lax financial procedures by the MVFC allowed the alleged theft to take place over a prolonged amount of time. Officials from the MVFC agreed with that sentiment.

    “We made some mistakes,” said Bob Powell, public information officer for the fire company. “We’re taking serious steps now to make sure something like this never happens again.”

    Powell gave the Coastal Point a list of budget controls implemented by the MVFC since the incident came to light (see box on left).

    Unpaid bills

    According to Powell, MVFC officers noticed in early 2015 that some bills were not being paid in a timely fashion. They hired Velicia Melson to serve as a part-time administrative assistant in mid-March to assist the treasurer and increase internal controls and financial reporting to the general membership.

    “During this process, unauthorized/unexplained charges were discovered from our financial accounts,” said Powell.

    In May 2015, Melson met with the chairman of the MVFC’s board of directors, fire chief and president to discuss discrepancies in the books and records, according to Powell. An internal investigation followed, and within three business days, there was sufficient documentation to suspend the treasurer from the company. The AOA report said that the “former treasurer admitted to incurring personal transactions” at that meeting.

    Powell said the company then worked closely with Delaware Volunteer Firefighter officials and their accounting firm to “quantify the loss.” They then called the Fraud Hotline and began the process with the AOA, according to Powell.

    “We want to assure the community that as soon as this alleged activity was discovered, we contacted the appropriate state agencies to begin to investigate,” the MVFC said in their statement.

    The damage

    According to the AOA report, there were 19 personal purchases made by the treasurer during the time in question:

    • There were six “Auto and Marine” purchases, totaling $6,819.12 (four tires on a 2008 Toyota Solara; a lift kit, plus four new tires and rims on a 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck; a lift kit and accessories on a 2015 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck; various boat supplies; winterization of a 21-foot Sea Pro boat; and rent for a boat slip).

    • There were nine “Retail” purchases, totaling $3,982.02 (including a 28-gauge Remington 870 Wingmaster shotgun bought online; a rifle case, sweatshirt, ammunition, fishing supplies, a queen-size mattress, boxspring bedliner and frame.

    • There were four transactions to a family law office, for $7,250.

    There were also numerous instances of cash being withdrawn or taken, as detailed in the report:

    • 15 instances of getting cash back on credit card purchases, totaling $1,303.05;

    • 67 ATM withdrawals, totaling $38,880;

    • 34 cash withdrawals, totaling $105,364.47;

    • 20 checks made out to the former treasurer, totaling $25,564.95;

    • 1 “cash from deposit,” for $370;

    • 1 “Petty Cash” check for $500;

    • 2 duplicate contractor payments, totaling $400.

    The “duplicate contractor payments” were from a time when the treasurer reportedly resigned his position on July 31, 2012, because he had moved out of the MVFC’s jurisdiction. According to the report, the MVFC could not find a replacement treasurer, so they contracted with the former treasurer to perform those duties for $200 per week.

    That contract lasted until he was elected back to the treasurer’s position in January 2014. The AOA found that two duplicate checks had been made out to the treasurer, for the weeks ending Jan. 4, 2013, and Feb. 15, 2013.

    The total damage done to the company may, in fact, have been even greater than the $190,000 figure. The AOA found an additional 100 transactions, totaling $45,474.01, for which they could not determine the veracity of the purchases. All of those purchases could have had legitimate roots in the business of running the MVFC, but there was not sufficient evidence to classify them as personal or not.

    In addition, there were 10 chicken dinners held by the MVFC during the period covered in the AOA inspection. The AOA reportedly tried to trace the proceeds of the dinners to the bank deposit through revenue and expenditure reports but was unable to do so.

    “AOA could not determine if the revenues from the chicken dinners were properly deposited to an MVFC bank account,” the report stated.

    How it happened

    The MVFC did use Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner, P.A. (JUDS), a certified public accounting firm, to perform annual financial statement reviews for each of the years in question. As both Melson and AOA pointed out during the inspection process, a review is different than an audit.

    “A review provides substantially less assurance since the evaluation of internal controls and fraud risk is not required,” according to the AOA inspection.

    AOA pointed out that JUDS had made some observations and recommendations for improving the procedures the MVFC used for all three years in question:

    • In 2012, JUDS had suggested creating a due-to/-from account to track funds transferred between the fire and EMS companies, and completing a monthly reconciliation to zero the accounts. JUDS identified $17,115 in expenses not accounted for in the general ledger for 2012.

    • In 2012, 2013 and 2014, JUDS suggested that additional detail should be entered into QuickBooks, indicating what was being purchased.

    • In 2012, 2013 and 2014, JUDS suggested that a spreadsheet should be maintained to monitor grants that are required to be spent on specific items.

    • In 2012, 2013 and 2014, JUDS noted that payroll wages and taxes should be listed separately when budgeting.

    The AOA also suggested in its report that there was a “lack of internal controls” at MVFC.

    “Throughout our procedures and interviews, we found that MVFC did not have any written policies or procedures pertaining to its financial operations other than the officer position descriptions written in the By-Laws and a Budget Policy,” according to the inspection report. “… A common statement made during our interviews was that there was no clear definition of responsibilities or written job descriptions detailing the position duties and internal control procedures.”

    There was also an entry in the inspection report titled, “Falsified Accounting Records.” The AOA said that not all bills and invoices were presented to the MVFC membership for approval, including credit card transactions. The AOA identified 185 QuickBooks errors between Jan. 1, 2012, and June 30, 2015. Those transactions totaled $111,629.30.

    “Since MVFC’s QuickBooks records were unreliable, AOA used statements of all 13 bank accounts and three credit cards to identify transactions made during the period,” read the report. “While utilizing the bank statements helped to identify transactions, it is impossible to capture certain activity, such as cash received from fundraising events.”

    There is also mention in the report of a signature stamp that belonged to the then-MVFC vice president, which the treasurer had in his possession, according to the AOA inspection.

    “AOA examined 49 cancelled checks, totaling $31,364.95, payable to the former treasurer for contract payments and various reimbursements,” read the report. “Only three appeared to have the vice president’s live signature; 23 appeared to be the vice president’s signature stamp; and 23 were signed by the former treasurer. Of the 23 signed by the former treasurer, we discovered that he signed four checks before he was added back as an authorized signer.”

    Moving forward

    The AOA inspection said that MVFC officials have told them they started making changes to their internal controls in May 2015, when a new treasurer was elected. Those changes include providing the membership all invoices, including credit card statements, at their bi-monthly meetings, as well as the MVFC identifying authorized purchasers with certain vendors.

    The AOA also encouraged the MVFC to update their bylaws to indicate which positions should be authorized signers on accounts, and to ensure position duties and responsibilities are properly outlined.

    The graphic on Page 8 demonstrates all the changes the MVFC has implemented.

    “They had a job to do,” said Powell of the AOA inspection report. “And they did it. Now we have a big job to do, and we’re going to do it.”

    He said the MVFC knows it has some challenges to meet in the community, as well. When asked about the community-wide discounted ambulance program the MVFC has been in negotiations with several municipalities to implement, Powell said it had nothing to do with the embezzlement allegations.

    “Over the years, we have seen a decline on the participation in the voluntary ambulance subscribers,” he said. “Typical response for donations has been about one-third of the community. With increased call volume and increased staff, leadership proposed the idea of 100-percent participation from the community at a discounted rate. Volunteerism, in EMS situations, is not the optimum response.

    “The community-wide discount program has been in the works for several years,” he continued. “In fact, about 10-plus years ago, we attempted this process and were not successful with the communities.”

    Members of the MVFC were scheduled to meet on Tuesday, May 10, to discuss the AOA report, and to begin the process of moving forward, according to MVFC President Clark Droney.

    According to the AOA inspection report, the MVFC had 169 volunteer firefighters, nine paid emergency medical technicians and 54 auxiliary members as of June 5, 2015, when the investigation initially got going. MVFC officials said they were hoping this incident did not stain the entire company.

    “Unfortunately, the actions of one individual has reflected very poorly on our fire company,” the MVFC said in a statement. “Years of hard work and dedication by the vast majority of our members and employees to gain your trust and respect have been destroyed by one individual in a very short period of time.”

    Budget Controls Implemented by Millville Volunteer Fire Company

    • Hired a full time independent (not affiliated with MVFC) bookkeeper.

    • Administrative Officers are more involved in the financial reporting of the company.

    • QuickBooks® has been reconciled with all bank accounts. All income and expenses
    are now recorded daily within the program, with great detail. For example: vendor,
    invoice #, invoice amount, memo as to what was purchased (2 computers for
    board), budget area charged for expense.

    • Income received is recorded with the same level of detail (bank account of deposit,
    budget area to which deposit is applied (ie fund drive income), donor name, method
    of donation, check # if applicable and dollar amount.

    • All company accounts with financial institutions have two authorized signatures.

    • All company debit cards have been canceled.

    • Company credit cards have tighter controls. All receipts are maintained by the
    bookkeeper and reconciled to the statement. Credit Card statements are presented
    to membership for approval monthly with detail of each expense.

    • Implemented a company fuel account. Each driver has a specific PIN # and receipts
    are required. Fuel cards are administered by the bookkeeper at the direction of the
    Fire Chief.

    • Receipts are issued for all cash transactions. Individual remitting cash is issued a
    receipt. Once funds are turned into the Treasurer's office for deposit another receipt
    is issued.

    • Deposit slips are generated from QuickBooks program, matched with the receipt
    from the bank teller and maintained by the Treasurer. These receipts are matched
    with the bank statement monthly.

    • Implemented a Purchase order system. Department heads are approving purchases
    prior to ordering. Membership votes on all purchases over $500 prior to ordering. 
    Treasurer verifies the funds are in the budget and available prior to incurring

    • Invoices are centrally processed upon receipt. Each invoice is reviewed and
    approved by the Department head in charge of the line item. Approved bills are
    presented to membership for approval prior to remitting payment. Once approved,
    checks are issued for payment. Those checks are matched with invoices and
    signed by an authorized account holder. Records are then maintained by the

    • Reimbursement to members or department heads are reviewed by two people. 
    Under no circumstances, does the individual to be reimbursed approve an expense
    or issue a check to themselves.

    • Bank statements are reviewed by a minimum of two people monthly. All bank
    statements are reconciled with QuickBooks monthly. Those reconciliations are
    maintained in the permanent records.

    • Budget Committee and President are reviewing the Profit & Loss Statements Qtrly. 
    This review is a detailed review of all expenditures by budget line item. Each
    department head reviews and approves Transaction detail for their budget area.

    • Grants are recorded within QuickBooks for income. Each grant also has a separate
    chart of account for expenses. Expenses are recorded at the same level of detail as
    stated above.

    • We have worked closely with all banking authorities to minimize the exposure of
    theft in the company held accounts.  This area requires more improvement, we
    could internally require two signatures on all checks. The deficiency is the banking
    system will only require one signature and does not intend to change. We have
    eliminated the “cash back” transactions.

    • Annual review of financial records by a CPA. The difference is, the consultation
    meeting is attended by the budget committee chairman, administrative officer,
    treasurer and the bookkeeper. Recommendations are reviewed and analyzed for

    Areas to be improved

    • Capitalization policy - set a dollar limit on purchases to be capitalized for tax
    purposes. Currently any items over $500 is capitalized. This could be raised to
    $2,000 or some other level to minimize the fixed asset detail.

    • Retention policy - issue a company policy on record retention. Generally three to five
    years depending on the records. Personnel files should be maintained longer and in
    a locked cabinet.

    • Revise the budget policy or by law to specifically address financial reporting
    procedures to each officer.

    • Background checks for those handling finances. 

    • Increase the bonding limits for insurance coverage of those handling finances.

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    Demonstrating the same mutable nature as his namesake from the “Transformers” TV show, toys and movies, “Megatron” the harbor seal returned to his native habitat on Wednesday, May 11, a changed being from when he had first appeared on the beach in South Bethany in February.

    Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : ‘Megatron,’ a harbor seal rescued in South Bethany in February, was released back to his native habitat on Wednesday, May 11. The seal gained about 27 pounds while being treated at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : ‘Megatron,’ a harbor seal rescued in South Bethany in February, was released back to his native habitat on Wednesday, May 11. The seal gained about 27 pounds while being treated at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.Megatron — the name given to the juvenile harp seal by the staff at the National Aquarium in Baltimore — was returned to the ocean after more than two months of treatment at the aquarium’s Fells Point seal rehabilitation facility.

    Jennifer Dittmar, animal rescue manager at the aquarium, said that, when Megatron was rescued, he was “dehydrated, emaciated, and had quite a few infected skin lesions,” in addition to what she termed “a significant load of parasites,” particularly tapeworms.

    Megatron, estimated to be between 6 months and 2 years old, gained about 27 pounds and grew 15 centimeters during his stay at the facility, where he was fed herring, capelin (a small fish in the smelt family) and squid. He was also medicated with antibiotics. When he was released, he weighed 28 kilograms, or almost 62 pounds.

    When he was rescued Feb. 26 by members of the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute (MERR) in Lewes, Megatron was lethargic, and his prognosis was labeled “guarded.”

    Dittmar said that sometimes seals — most commonly harbor and gray seals, but sometimes harp seals as well — will appear on Mid-Atlantic beaches just to rest. When marine mammal rescue organizations are notified of a seal on the beach, Dittmar said, typically its body condition is evaluated and a determination is made as to whether it should return to the water or be taken to a rehabilitation facility for treatment.

    Megatron appeared quite ready for his release party on the beach at 40th Street in Ocean City, Md., on Wednesday, rolling around in his crate for several minutes while dozens of onlookers waited to see how he would react to freedom.

    Once the door to the crate was opened, the brown-and-gray seal pup immediately scooted out and headed for the water. A little more than a minute later, he dove under a wave; his head appeared a few seconds later, just beyond the breakers. Well-wishers on the beach watched for several more minutes as his head appeared a few more times, then he disappeared beneath the chilly water and the crowd dispersed.

    Dittmar said harbor seals such as Megatron travel solo, but that they often “haul out” in groups to take a rest. She said that, “ideally, he’ll head north,” and will likely spend his summer off the coast anywhere from New York to Maine.

    Megatron was tagged by the National Aquarium, “so if he ever comes ashore again, he can be traced back to us” but was not fitted with a satellite tracker, Dittmar said.

    To report a stranded seal or other marine mammal in Delaware, call the MERR Institute at (302) 228-5029. In Maryland, stranded animals can be reported to the National Aquarium’s Stranded Animal Hotline at (410) 373-0083 or the Maryland Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.

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    (Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of previews of the homes that will be on display during the 25th Annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour, to be held July 27-28, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

    This inland home’s owners had always vacationed in the Outer Banks, but when it came time to buy a vacation home, the Maryland couple started exploring beaches closer to home. Beginning in Lewes, they gradually worked their way south until they reached Bethany Beach, where one of the owners had vacationed as a child.

    There, they were drawn to the Bay Forest community because of the amenities: pools, a clubhouse, social activities and miles of walking and biking trails. They built their 3,900-square-foot pond-side home in 2008, with five bedrooms and 4.5 baths, to accommodate regular visits from their three grown children and five grandkids, adding extra touches designed to appeal to the children.

    The influence of years spent at the beach can be seen in the seaside colors, nautical features and coastal references throughout the home.

    This is just one of the homes that will be open to those who purchase tickets for the 25th Annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour. Tickets may be purchased for $30 at the South Coastal Library or through the Cottage Tour’s website at

    The Cottage Tour is sponsored by the Friends of the South Coastal Library, and proceeds directly benefit the library’s operations.

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    On April 18, Paul Wellborn, great-grandson to former Station Indian River Keeper Washington A. Vickers, donated his great-grandfather’s wallet to the Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum.

    According to museum representatives, Washington A. Vickers was born in Seaford in 1842. During the Civil War, he fought with the Confederate Army and was wounded in his left forearm at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. He evaded Union capture, and made his way to a hospital in Richmond, Va. Declared unfit for further front-line duty, Vickers was put on hospital patrol and worked as a nurse for the remainder of the war.

    After the war, they said, Vickers signed an oath of amnesty and enlisted in the United States Life-Saving Service at Hog Island, Va., in 1878. By 1883, he had risen through the ranks at Assateague Island and was promoted Keeper of Station Indian River, where he served for 24 years.

    His wife, Henrietta, and their four children lived across Rehoboth Bay in Frankford. Since Vickers, as keeper, was required to remain at the station year-round, that meant he lived apart from his family for 24 years, with only occasional visits home. During his time at Station Indian River, more than 300 lives were saved under his watch.

    In 1907, Vickers was transferred to the newly-built Bethany Beach station to serve as keeper there. Around that time, he even shaved off his iconic white beard, prompting a local newspaper to comment, “A good many of his Rehoboth friends hardly recognized him.” After a few months in his new position, however, his wife passed away. Within a few years, he was remarried to a tourist named Joanna, whom he met while she was visiting from Pittsburgh.

    In January 1915, legislation combined the Life-Saving Service with the Revenue Cutter Service, giving birth to the United States Coast Guard. On that same day, Washington Vickers retired from the service. He was 72 years old and had served 37 of the entire 44 years that the United States Life-Saving Service had been in existence.

    Washington Vickers died in 1930 and was buried in Union Cemetery in Georgetown, next to his first wife, Henrietta.

    “We wish to thank Mr. Wellborn for his generous donation, which brings us closer to knowing the man who served Station Indian River so faithfully,” museum representatives said.

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    The Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade Committee is in the process of planning its 33rd annual event and is seeking participants. The event will take place on Monday, July 4.

    The 2016 theme is “Celebrate Your Right to Vote.” The committee is looking for businesses and organizations to enter and compete for a variety of prizes.

    “Now is the time to start building, before the busy season hits,” organizers said. “Families are also encouraged to participate.”

    Guidelines can be found on the Town’s website under Activities, Fourth of July. There is no pre-registration. Floats and bikes may be entered on the day of the parade from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the registration desks: floats at Route 1 and Central Avenue; and bikes on the Christian Church grounds (bike decorating kits will be distributed while supplies last).

    The official Bethany Beach Parade T-shirts will be on sale from 9 a.m. to noon on the day of the parade, during the Seaside Craft Show on Saturday, June 4, (Booth 122), and from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the bandstand concerts leading up to July 4, beginning with Memorial Day weekend.

    The annual Firecracker 5K Run/3K Walk will be held on Sunday, June 26, at 8 a.m. at the bandstand. Online registration is now open. Entry forms will also be available at the T-shirt sales tables and in Town Hall. For details, visit

    The parade will begin at noon, at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Garfield Parkway, and take its traditional 2-mile route through town. In addition to the floats and bikes, it will feature marching bands and entertainment groups on trucks.

    New this year is the Downtowners Fancy Brigade (mummers band) from Philadelphia and the 1st Delaware Regiment Fife & Drum Corps. Organizers said there is always room for more marching bands. n order to eliminate gaps in the parade, there will be no performances in front of the viewing stand.

    The horseshoe-throwing contest will be at 2 p.m. at the southwest corner of the Christian Church grounds, and the award ceremony will take place on the bandstand at 7:15 p.m. Judging will take place before the parade begins. Bethany Beach Public Works Director Brett Warner will be the grand marshal in honor of his years of service to the Town.

    The Air National Guard Band of the Northeast will bring its concert and rock bands to the bandstand to provide the evening entertainment.

    The Parade Committee is also looking for young adults to lead the parade by carrying the banner. The volunteer opportunity can count toward community-service hours. The committee also needs volunteers for marshal positions. To volunteer or get more information, contact Events Director Julie Malewski at (302) 539-8725.

    Organizers noted that, since the success of the parade depends heavily on the availability of police, EMTs and bands, there is no rain date. For more information, visit the Town’s website at

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    After a successful Beef & Brew fundraiser last month, the Indian River High School Alumni Association will offer more scholarships to current college students. The application for the scholarship is due by Wednesday, June 1.

    The IR Pride Scholarship for Current Alumni awards $500 to four IRHS Alumni Association members (register online, free of charge) at any college level, from the associate’s degree candidate to post-doctorate student, to further their education beyond high school. Applicants can be of any age.

    “These scholarships aren’t about academics or financial aid, but about service as an alumnus of Indian River High School,” IRHS Alumni Association representatives noted. Applicants will respond to the question: “How have you contributed to make IR a better place?”

    Requirements are online at

    “The IRHSAA knows that college expenses continue, even after freshman scholarships have ended. So they created this award to support students who have committed to their college program. People are encouraged to pass the word to other IR grads to apply.”

    The nonprofit IRHSAA formed in 2012 to connect alumni, while supporting and promoting IRHS. Scholarships are funded through the community’s generosity at the annual Beef & Brew, hosted every year in April. The Indian River High School Alumni Association meets monthly and always welcomes new members. Visit the website for more information.

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    In 1936, Margaret Mitchell published her popular version of aristocratic life in the antebellum South that the Civil War essentially shattered, only to be resurrected in a different guise through true grit and determination.

    “Gone with the Wind” won the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. Two years later, Hollywood turned this story of triumph, tragedy and rebirth into a blockbuster film that has stood the test of time.

    While most Americans are at least generally familiar with “Gone with the Wind” in either book or movie format, few would recognize Ellen Douglas Bellamy’s counterpart story of lost dreams and bitter feelings generated as a result of our mid-19th-century cataclysm. Unlike Margaret Mitchell’s theme of overcoming adversity, Bellamy wrote a memoir that cast blame on those villains who caused her idyllic lifestyle in a slave-owning family to cease to exist.

    In “Back with the Tide,” which she began composing on April 26, 1937, at age 85, Bellamy disavows intent on her part to emulate “Gone with the Wind,” which was published a year earlier. She explains that she was 9 years old when “The War” erupted in 1861, “but those years are so vividly impressed on my memory I often go over them during the wakeful hours of the night.”

    Not unlike the magnificent plantation house Tara belonging to the fictional O’Hara family in “Gone with the Wind,” the Bellamys had built the finest home in Wilmington, N.C., in classic plantation architectural design.

    Bellamy’s father, John D. Bellamy, who had been a medical doctor, gave up his profession to enter the more lucrative realm of life as a planter. As Chris E. Fonvielle Jr. points out in a foreword to Bellamy’s memoir, John Bellamy owned thousands of acres of land in both North and South Carolina.

    In a perspective on her memoir, John H. Haley surmises that she wrote them for “survivors and descendants of [the antebellum planter elite] in the hopes of reconnecting them to a mythic past.” In other words, this was “a belated lament for the passing of a way of life in the antebellum South.”

    In actuality, Ellen Bellamy spent little time at the Bellamy home during the war years, because conditions in Wilmington — a prosperous port town on the Cape Fear River — deteriorated when various types of schemers and profiteers arrived to take advantage of the good fortune that abounded. To avoid the riffraff, as well as the yellow fever that broke out in 1862, the Bellamys “refugeed” at a little village called Floral College in Robeson County, about 95 miles west of Wilmington.

    Bellamy and her family were at home in Wilmington toward the end of the war when a combined Union naval and infantry attack captured Fort Fisher, which defended Wilmington, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Shortly thereafter, on Feb. 22, 1865, the city itself fell. The Union command immediately commandeered Dr. Bellamy’s fine mansion as a headquarters for its occupation forces.

    Ellen Bellamy’s memoir, which occupies a mere 40 printed pages, relates how “galling” it was to have their home taken from them by the Yankees and their “‘carryings on’ in [her] lovely house.” She was outraged that her father had to travel to Washington after the war to seek a pardon in order to regain possession of the home.

    “For what?” she questioned. “For being a Southern Gentleman, A Rebel, and a large Slave Owner!” In her mind, it was her father who was justified: “The slaves he had inherited from his father, and which he considered a sacred trust. Being a physician, he guarded their health, kept a faithful overseer to look after them … and employed a Methodist minister … to look after their spiritual welfare.”

    Far from being reconstructed, Ellen Bellamy lived out her life with residence in the mansion. On April 23, 1940, she closed her memoirs with further explanation that, “I have written this for fear some of these days this old home might be burned or pulled down to be replaced by business houses or something else.” Fortunately, that did not happen. Instead, it has become the Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design Arts.

    Ellen Douglas Bellamy survived until Jan. 30, 1943, and passed away at age 92. Janet K. Seapker edited these memoirs, which are for sale at the museum. The magnificent Bellamy home is open to the public, as is the former slave quarters to the rear of the mansion.

    Thomas J. Ryan is the author of “Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign” and “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War” (signed copies available at Bethany Beach Books and Browseabout Books in Rehoboth). Contact him at, or visit his website at

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    The Delaware State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit this week was investigating a motorcycle crash near Fenwick Island that seriously injured a Maryland man.

    The DSP said their preliminary investigation determined that the incident occurred about 10:27 p.m. on Sunday May 15, as Cody N. Becker, 23, of Manchester, Md., was driving a 2005 Honda CBR1000 motorcycle northbound on Dukes Avenue near Fenwick Island, while a 38-year-old Selbyville man was driving a 2006 Honda Ridgeline pickup truck eastbound on Lighthouse Road, approaching the intersection with Dukes Avenue.

    According to the DSP, as the Ridgeline traveled through the intersection, Becker attempted to make a left turn and struck the right-side front of truck within the intersection. Becker was ejected from the motorcycle and landed in the intersection, while the pickup truck came to a controlled stop on the shoulder of Lighthouse Road, east of the intersection.

    DSP officers reported that Becker was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash and was airlifted by Delaware State Police Aviation (Trooper 2) to Christiana Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition.

    The driver of the truck was properly restrained and uninjured in the crash, they said.

    The Collision Reconstruction Unit was continuing their investigation into the incident early this week, and no charges had been filed. Lighthouse Road and Dukes Avenue were closed for approximately three hours while the crash was investigated and cleared.

    If anyone may have witnessed the collision they are being asked to contact MCpl. K. Argo at (302) 703-3264. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, via the Internet at, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”

    The DSP also noted that, with warmer weather fast approaching, more motorcycles are back out on the road and the drivers of passenger vehicles need to be alert. Motorcycles are vehicles with the same rights and privileges as any motor vehicle on the roadway, they emphasized. Drivers of passenger vehicles, they said, should always remember to follow these steps to help keep motorcyclists safe:

    • Allow a motorcyclist the full lane width. Although it may seem as though there is enough room in a traffic lane for an automobile and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the full room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.

    • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows the motorcyclist to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.

    • Remember that motorcyclists are often hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot or missed in a quick look, due to their smaller size. Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.

    • Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle — motorcycle signals usually are not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.

    • Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to passenger vehicles pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Be aware that motorcyclists may need to change speed or adjust their position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions, such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings and grooved pavement.

    • Don’t tailgate a motorcycle. Allow more following distance — 3 or 4 seconds — when following a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

    Motorcyclists have responsibilities, too, noted the DSP, including following the rules of the road and not speeding or weaving in and out of traffic. They should be alert to other drivers and always wearing protective gear, including high-visibility outerwear.

    “Too often in a crash, the drivers of other vehicles involved say they never saw the motorcyclist and failed to respond in time. This is no excuse. Too many lives are lost for not checking twice.”

    In 2014, motorcycles were involved in 398 crashes in Delaware — 12 of them being fatal, 232 of them resulting in personal injuries and 89 causing property damage. In 2015, motorcycles were involved in 402 crashes, and 20 of them were fatal, 209 of them were personal injuries and 106 were property-damage. The remainders of the crashes for both years were a result of minor or non-reportable crashes.

    “Our message to all drivers is this: Help make this the first year in recent years when motorcycle fatalities do not increase. ‘Share the Road’ with motorcycles and ‘Look Twice.’”

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    Ocean View resident Perry J. Mitchell, 77, filed on May 13 at the Board of Elections as the Democratic nominee for the District 20 seat in the Delaware Senate, which is currently held by Gerald Hocker.

    Mitchell said Hocker is “a do-nothing senator.” Mitchell said he is running to bring jobs to Sussex County to help the local economy. “I will work on job legislation for the residents of the 20th Senate district.”

    “Hocker has not used his legislative powers to improve the local economy nor done anything to stop the rising inequality in Delaware. Too many people have not recovered from the recent recession and are living from paycheck to paycheck and are doing it rather miserably,” Mitchell said.

    “The richest 5 percent of households in Delaware have average incomes 10.5 times as large as the bottom 20 percent of households and 3.6 times as large as the middle 20 percent of households,” he noted.

    “Inequality between the richest and poorest in Delaware is striking. If elected, I will have the support of the majority party to implement my ideas to bring jobs to Sussex County and stop this rising inequality. I am asking those in the 20th District to support my campaign.”

    Mitchell is married to Jill Goodwin Mitchell, a native of Rehoboth Beach. He worked as a professor of political science at Northern Virginia Community College for more than 40 years and settled Delaware in 1996. He has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut, as well as an ABD (All But Dissertation) from Catholic University.

    Mitchell served on the Ocean View Planning & Zoning Commission and the Ocean View Town Council from 2004 to 2011. He is the owner of Perry’s Computer Repair and repairs computers in his spare time.

    Eric West is the treasurer of the Friends of Perry Mitchell Committee and can be contacted to send contributions at

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    Meghan Kelly has joined the Law Office of McDonnell & Associates P.A. and recently celebrated with a ribbon-cutting with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce. Located in the Bennett Realty building, she will focus her practice on real estate settlements, as managing attorney for the Delaware office.

    Kelly is the daughter of Pat Kelly, former Indian River High School civics teacher, life guard and basketball coach, and Mary Batten Kelly, a pharmacist. She grew up in Sussex County and is a graduate of Indian River High School and the University of Delaware, and received her juris doctorate from Duquesne School of Law.

    While in law school, Kelly interned with the Hon. Thomas M. Hardiman at the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. After finishing law school and passing the Pennsylvania and Delaware bar exams, she gained expertise working for several firms in Delaware.

    Kelly has experience representing clients in hearings and mediations, as well as in corporate law, bankruptcy, personal injury, wills and estates and general litigation. Kelly’s McDonnell & Associates office is located at 34026 Coastal Highway in Bethany Beach. For more information, visit the website at or call (302) 362-6551.

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    Beebe Healthcare recently congratulated its Nursing Excellence Award recipients and recognized May 6-12 as National Nurses Week.

    “Beebe Healthcare is proud to celebrate the role our nurses play in delivering the highest level of quality and patient experience for patients,” said Jeffrey M. Fried, president and CEO, Beebe Healthcare.

    “All of us at Beebe recognize the essential role our nurses play in our care delivery system. They are at the bedside 24 hours a day, caring for patients in their homes, working in the physician offices and other ambulatory settings, and engaging individuals through our population health efforts to help them eliminate obstacles that prevent them from becoming more involved and responsible for their own health.

    “We couldn’t do what we do each day, caring for our community, without our nurses,” he added. “Our nurses take great pride in what they do to make Beebe Healthcare the outstanding healthcare system it is today.”

    The Nurses Celebrating Nurses Committee presented the Nursing Excellence Awards on Tuesday, May 10, at Sussex Pines Country Club in Georgetown. The guest speaker was Dr. Joseph DeRanieri, executive director of orthopaedic services at Beebe Healthcare.

    DeRanieri has more than 17 years of experience as a university professor and more than 25 years of experience in healthcare finance and administration, in addition to extensive clinical experience. He is considered an industry expert in nursing, health care administration, finance and quality management. During his presentation, he shared images of nurses he met while in Egypt, India and Cambodia.

    “Nurses have a profound impact on not only their patients, but also those around them. No matter the conditions, nurses are ready to help,” said DeRanieri.

    Award recipients were chosen from 31 nominations submitted earlier this year. Each application went through a blind scoring process, with the final recipient being chosen based on the scoring.

    The 2016 Beebe Nursing Excellence Award recipients were: Tara Cooper, BSN, recipient of the Bonnie Austin Nursing Leadership Award; Pam Woods, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, recipient of the Constance Bushey Nursing Scholarship Award; Lara Kwetkauskie, RN, BSN, CEN, TCRN, recipient of the Eleanor Cordrey Nursing Excellence Award; Charlene Madanat, CRNP, FNP- BC, MSN, recipient of the Holly Rader Advanced Practice Nursing Excellence Award; Dareth Penuel, RN, GRN, CNIV, recipient of the Professional Mentor Nursing Award; and Brooke Talbot, RN, recipient of the Graduate Nurse Award.

    • The Bonnie Austin Nursing Leadership Award recognizes nurses who serve as a resource for peers, clinical team members, students and family members, who foster collaboration and encourage others to learn and develop professionally.

    According to Beebe, this year’s recipient, Tara Cooper, engages team members to work together by sharing new ideas and ways to improve processes. She was nominated by four nurses, who said her work ethic not only increases productivity, but also improves patient and employee satisfaction.

    • The Eleanor Cordrey Nursing Excellence Award recognizes nurses who exhibit excellent clinical and critical thinking skills, who show a strong commitment to the nursing profession and applies patient-family-centered care while utilizing a multidisciplinary team approach.

    Beebe representatives said this year’s recipient, Lara Kwetkauskie, shows proficiency with nursing skills and is dedicated to being in the right place at the right time. She was nominated by Julia Bayne, MSN, RN, who said Kwetkauskie is a trusted mentor and unsung hero of her department.

    • The Constance Bushey Nursing Scholarship Award recognizes nurses who demonstrate a commitment to the nursing profession and lifelong learning, who promote a nurturing and supportive learning environment for other nurses, team members and students.

    This year’s recipient, Pam Woods, clinical educator in Beebe’s Emergency Department, helped create a new review course for a trauma nurse certification. Nominator Jen Hargreaves, RN, said she also encouraged several of Beebe’s nurses to complete the certification, which they did successfully earlier this year.

    • The Holly Rader Advanced Practice Nursing Excellence Award recognizes nurses or nurse practitioners who exhibit excellent clinical skills in the holistic, patient-centered care of patients, who encourage others to strive for excellent outcomes and serves as a constant patient advocate.

    According to Beebe, this year’s recipient, Charlene Madanat, possesses the ability to think critically in a time-sensitive environment, exercise professional and clinical judgment in every situation, and keeps the patient and family at the center of each decision. Her nominator, Casey Walsh, NP, said Madanat recognizes the importance of professional collaboration, and provides continuous encouragement to other nursing professionals to pursue higher education to provide the best care to patients and families.

    • The Professional Mentor Nursing Award recognizes a nurse that serves as a role model for the nursing profession, who participates in the community, embraces the Beebe Healthcare values, and demonstrates dedication to the profession and organization.

    Beebe representatives said this year’s recipient, Dareth Penuel, sets the example of what a professional nurse should be by exhibiting not only excellent clinical skills and critical thinking, but by setting a positive tone for the clinical setting. Nominator Margaret Porter, RN, nurse manager, said Dareth is a wonderful team member who is always approachable, positive, kind, friendly, caring and helpful to others, and that Dareth is respected by all: patients, peers, work team and medical colleagues.

    • New this year, the Graduate Nurse Award recognizes a nurse who has recently passed the NCLEX exam and is employed in the nursing field, who exhibits exceptional clinical skills and leadership qualities, and is an advocate for patients and the nursing profession.

    This year’s recipient, Brooke Talbot, came to Beebe after completing her degree and is following in the footsteps of her grandmother, who also worked at Beebe. Nominator Nicole Santarelli said that, during Talbot’s residency program, she presented an evidence-based project on improving medication education for patients.

    “Her project was such an inspiration, that she was asked by the Hospital Board to make the project happen, and come back to present. For a new graduate to suggest this project, and follow through with it is quite an accomplishment, and the program is currently being used at Beebe.”

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