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Articles on this Page
- 06/23/16--12:25: _Holts Landing summe...
- 06/23/16--13:09: _Farmers’ market sea...
- 06/23/16--13:21: _Bethany Beach ultim...
- 06/23/16--13:26: _Election committee ...
- 06/23/16--13:32: _Bethany Beach adopt...
- 06/23/16--13:35: _County chips away a...
- 06/23/16--13:38: _Get ready for the h...
- 06/24/16--07:43: _BREAKING NEWS: Six ...
- 06/29/16--08:16: _BREAKING NEWS: Poli...
- 06/30/16--08:36: _Millsboro Lions ind...
- 06/30/16--10:19: _SOUL Ministries fin...
- 06/30/16--13:20: _Park offers free sa...
- 06/30/16--13:58: _Protect the paramedics
- 06/30/16--14:05: _Bond reduction rais...
- 06/30/16--14:11: _Fly the red, white ...
- 07/01/16--07:48: _DSP targeting resou...
- 07/07/16--10:26: _Millsboro council s...
- 07/07/16--10:31: _DoJ takes no action...
- 07/07/16--10:59: _Phone scams, health...
- 07/07/16--11:02: _Worcester Prep anno...
- 06/23/16--12:25: Holts Landing summer concerts begin June 28
- 06/23/16--13:09: Farmers’ market season brings freshness to customers
- 06/23/16--13:21: Bethany Beach ultimately still at the mercy of tide and storm
- 06/23/16--13:26: Election committee criticized after voting restriction proposed
- 06/23/16--13:32: Bethany Beach adopts restrictions on private drone use
- 06/23/16--13:35: County chips away at proposed signage ordinance language
- 06/23/16--13:38: Get ready for the hot mix — Route 26 project ‘winding down’
- 06/24/16--07:43: BREAKING NEWS: Six candidate to vie for Fenwick Island council seats
- 06/29/16--08:16: BREAKING NEWS: Police seeking Millsboro man in Long Neck theft cases
- 06/30/16--08:36: Millsboro Lions induct members, install officers
- 06/30/16--10:19: SOUL Ministries finds new HOM
- 06/30/16--13:20: Park offers free sandcastle-building demo
- 06/30/16--13:58: Protect the paramedics
- 06/30/16--14:05: Bond reduction raises issues of building quality in Millville
- 06/30/16--14:11: Fly the red, white and blue with pride again this year
- 07/01/16--07:48: DSP targeting resources at addressing theft, DUI offenses
- 07/07/16--10:26: Millsboro council says no to night construction, Facebook
- 07/07/16--10:31: DoJ takes no action in Bethany surf-shop shirt situation
- 07/07/16--10:59: Phone scams, health emergencies discussed at forum
- 07/07/16--11:02: Worcester Prep announces Headmaster’s List
Imagine live music in a peaceful park setting, just as the sun sets over Indian River Bay. That’s exactly what organizers envision at three different family fun nights in Holts Landing State Park this summer.
“People want to come down there, chill out, get away from the beach — it’s the perfect place to do it,” said organizer Duncan Cornell, who said he loves the simplistic, natural setting. “It’s a quiet place to go, take your family, walk your dog.”
Guests can enjoy live music, cornhole, horseshoes and marshmallows roasted in the new fire pit. State park naturalists will also lead demonstrations of seining, crabbing and clamming.
People can bring a picnic dinner, chairs, bug spray, kayaks, fishing or crabbing gear (and their current fishing permit), and anything else, for a comfy evening on the bay.
The free events run from 6 to 9 p.m., with music at 7 p.m. This season’s concerts include:
• June 28 — LoosEndz (Christel and Paul Grandell)
• July 19 — The New Olivet String Band (Charlie Papparella, Charles Lynch and John Perdue)
• Aug. 9 — Smilin’ Drake (Drake Burd)
“There’s a wide range of things to do. So come down to the park and hang out,” Cornell said. “It’s old-school.”
In 2015, the state parks sponsored the events for Holts’ 50th anniversary. This year, the fledgling Friends of Holts Landing volunteer group took over the new tradition.
“It’s our second year. We’ve done a lot with making the trails very accessible now, very open, get some signage up, make it a little more user-friendly,” said Cornell, a member of the Friends.
“Come on out and enjoy the beauty of Holts Landing and what it has to offer,” he said.
The park is located at 26909 Holts Landing Road in Millville. Details for all Delaware State Park concerts are online at www.destateparks.com/summerconcerts. Details about Friends of Holts Landing State Park are online at www.facebook.com/friendsofholts.
In the summer months, when you see white tents popping up in parking lots early in the morning, you’d be wise to stop and take a look — and breathe deeply the scents you’ll find underneath those tents. You’ll be glad you did — and so will your stomach.
Farmers’ markets have started back up for the season, bringing the very freshest produce to locals and visitors alike. Although most local vegetables have not come into season yet, they will be arriving as the summer unfolds. In the meantime, each week brings new harvests from the fields people pass on the way to the beach.
Under those tents can be found treats ranging from specialty mushrooms to local honey; from plump, indigo blueberries to crusty, aromatic breads.
On a Sunday morning in Bethany Beach, with blueberry season at its zenith, customers lined up for containers of the ripened blue-purple orbs. Kassie Collins of Parsons’ Farm Produce cheerily bagged each container, right up until the market’s noon closing time.
Carrie Bennett of Bennett Orchards in Frankford has been involved with the Bethany Beach market since its inception 12 years ago. She said she is not surprised at the lines for fresh berries, as “It has grown each year,” Bennett said, adding that the market “seems to be a win-win situation for everybody,” from farmers to consumers to the town itself.
Bennett, vice president of the board overseeing Bethany Beach’s market, said that although the “rules” vary from market to market, it’s common for vendors to be required to grow what they sell.
“We are a producer’s market,” she said, adding that she feels that is what has made the market so successful. “It encourages growers to produce more and better produce, she said.
“They bring what they grow, and the market reflects that in its beauty and abundance,” she said. The growth of farmers’ markets reflects “a hunger on the part of the customer for fresh produce,” Bennett said.
Although the peaches at Bennett’s own orchard were devastated by a late-season freeze this past spring, marketgoers will see later in the summer a new crop the Bennetts have brought on, in part to make up for the loss of the peaches. Small, specialty melons will soon make their debut.
Bennett said the smaller melons are perfect for vacationers, because they’re easier to store and carry. The melons, she said, are a perfect example of bringing to a “coastal market,” such as Bethany Beach, produce that will fill a particular niche.
Margaret Young of Bethany Beach, who has been involved in the market’s operation for years, said, “People are constantly asking me when the market is going to open” for the summer.
The Bethany Beach market has spaces for 15 vendors, and Bennett said on the “rare occasion” that a vendor drops out of the market, the board carefully reviews applications for new vendors.
One longtime vendor is the Honey Bee Lake Apiary. Located in Frankford, the honey producers have been part of the local farmers’ market scene since 2008. The family business started producing honey and has branched out to other honey-based products, according to Carol Hudson, whose family got into the business after her son learned beekeeping at Sussex Technical High School.
Across the way, the Davidson family sells exotic mushrooms at the market. Although the mushrooms are grown in Kennett Square, Pa., family members in Delaware bring the fancy fungi to the market each week. Terry Langrehr of Wilmington said she enjoys educating folks about mushrooms as much as selling them. Langrehr added that the markets have broadened her horizons along the way.
“One of the things I’ve learned is how to cater to vegetarians,” she said, since mushrooms are a favorite food source for those who don’t eat meat.
Customers strolling among the booths — whether drawn to the heady aromas emanating from the Lavender Fields stall or the cut flowers from several vendors — seem to enjoy the process of shopping at the market as much as they do the produce they haul back to their homes or vacation spots.
Kathy Hill of Rockville, Md., said she comes to the market when she’s in town for its “great local stuff; lots of variety.” Hill said she is looking forward to getting local tomatoes and corn in the coming weeks. Mary Schafer of Lanham, Md., said on her second visit ever to the market that she was impressed by what the market had to offer, even this early in the season.
“The stuff I’ve gotten here before is really fresh,” Schafer said.
The Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market is open each Sunday during the summer months from 8 a.m. to noon.
Local farmers’ markets aplenty
• Bethany Beach Farmers’ Market
Garfield Pkwy. & Pennsylvania Ave. (PNC Bank parking lot), Bethany Beach
Sundays, 8 a.m. to noon
June 12 to Sept. 4
• Fenwick Island Farmers’ Market
1406 Coastal Hwy. (bayside at Warren’s Station), Fenwick Island
Mondays & Fridays, 8 a.m. to noon
June 17 to Sept. 2
• The Farmers’ Market at Sea Colony
Marketplace at Sea Colony Shopping Center (parking lot), Rt. 1 South, Bethany Beach
Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to noon
June 15 to Aug. 31
• Garden Shack Farmers’ Market
Garden Shack Farm, 19884 Beaver Dam Road, Lewes
Thursdays, 2 to 6 p.m.
April 7 to Nov. 17
• Georgetown Farmers’ Market
16 Mile Brewery, 413 South Bedford St., Georgetown
Wednesdays, 3 to 6 p.m.
May 25 to Aug. 21
• Historic Lewes Farmers Market
George H.P. Smith Park, DuPont & Burton Avenues, Lewes
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon (May 7 to Sept. 24) and 9 a.m. to noon (Oct. 1 to Nov. 19)
May 7 to Nov. 19
This market accepts EBT cards (SNAP benefits).
• Milton Farmers’ Market
Dogfish Head Brewery, 6 Village Center Blvd., Milton
Fridays, 3 to 6 p.m.
April 22 to Oct. 7
• Nassau Valley Vineyards Farmers’ Market
Nassau Valley Vineyards & Winery, 32165 Winery Way, Lewes
Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
May 29 to Sept. 4
• Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market
Grove Park, Rehoboth Ave. (adjacent to Lighthouse Circle), Rehoboth Beach
Tuesdays, noon to 4 p.m. (May 3 to Sept. 27) and noon to 3 p.m. (Oct. 4 to 25)
May 3 to Oct. 25
This market accepts EBT cards (SNAP benefits).
• Riverwalk Farmers’ Market
South Walnut St. at Riverwalk Park, Milford
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
May 7 to Oct. 1
• Bayside Town Center Market
(New this year)
Bayside Community, west of Fenwick Island on Route 54
Opening June 23
Every Thursday and Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Featuring local retailers, food trucks, family fun
Note: The Town of Millville will not be holding its farmers’ market this year due to continued construction on Route 26.
There’s no way around it: Bethany Beach floods. Land in the town ranges from just below sea level to as much as 10 feet above it, with much of the town coming in somewhere between sea level and just 3 feet above. The result is that, whether it’s from tidal flow from the Indian River Bay and its tributaries or from heavy rain, there’s not much the Town can do to eliminate recurring flooding, though it has certainly tried over the years.
On Saturday, June 18, the Bethany Beach Landowners Association (BBLA) held its annual meeting, and Town Manager Cliff Graviet spent a substantial portion of his time updating members on just exactly where the town stands regarding its flooding problems.
The update came as the Town decides what, if anything, it can do next to try to address the issue, in the wake of a joint study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that essentially gave the Town the same answer it’s been getting for decades: Without a major investment of funds, the status quo is about the best they can expect.
“We could spend several million dollars and take care of minimal events,” Graviet said, “But we will be flooded anyway with larger events.”
He noted that more and more of those larger events have been occurring in recent years, too.
“We’ve had complaints in the last couple years that it was working less, and we were flooded more than has been the case,” he acknowledged.
Even for “nuisance flooding,” the frequency of days with flooding is increasing over time, he said.
“We’re at or below sea level, and we’re experiencing more tidal flooding. We can’t figure out a way to combat tidal flooding. We’re no closer to solving that than when we started.”
Tidal and rainwater flooding pose trouble
Setting the scene for the local recipe for flooding, Graviet noted that the Loop Canal that runs through part of the town is a tidal body of water, which sometimes pushes large amounts of water into the town, overflowing its banks and sending water into yards and streets.
The Assawoman Canal that feeds it and runs to the south is also tidal, and the large ditch between the town’s Bethany West community and neighboring Sea Colony is partly tidal, all offering potential for adding water to any flooding event.
The bulk of the town’s development has happened since 1954, with “build-out” having been achieved by the early 1990s, Graviet said. That means the Town is dealing with a situation created many decades ago, including the impact of the manmade Assawoman and Loop canals.
Without the two canals — built for transportation, in a federal project in the case of the former and by the local community in the latter — he said, there would be 75 to 80 percent less flooding in the town.
Historically, “Drainage was driven by the developer, with no overarching plan on how to move rainwater,” he noted. The result was a number of “mega-swales” and a “patchwork quilt where developers tied into whatever was available.”
East of Route 1, drainage is now running through underground piping on Pennsylvania and N. Atlantic Avenues — an improvement over the former open swale, but Graviet emphasized that the Pennsylvania Avenue pipe needs to be replaced.
West of Route 1, drainage uses open culverts, or swales, that Graviet described as a “hodgepodge system,” and one that he said was largely neglected by the Town between the late 1980s and 2001.
The Town didn’t clean or maintain the swales, he said, and the ordinance that mandates that neighboring property owners keep swales clear was not enforced. The result, he said, was a “self-created problem” with rainwater flooding.
In 2002, a study identified tributaries being used for drainage, and the Town went to work to reestablish the swales, hiring three full-time employees charged with nothing other than doing that work.
Then, in 2006, the Town put $6 million into a plan to move rainwater “from Point A to Point B,” mostly in Bethany West, Graviet noted, adding piping to the former open swales on Pennsylvania Avenue and on Evans.
It was at that point, he said, that the Town “took a step back and decided moving rainwater wasn’t worth $5 or $6 million” when it had other areas to deal with.
So, today, the bulk of the Town’s rainfall from east of Atlantic runs into the Loop Canal. From the south, it runs to the Route 1 ditch, which then carries it to the Loop Canal. And, from the southwest, including Bethany West and Lake Bethany, rainfall, again, runs into the Loop Canal.
Graviet estimated that, in all, about 80 to 85 percent of the town’s water drains to the Loop Canal.
As a tidal body, the Loop Canal doesn’t necessarily lend itself to having a positive impact on stormwater drainage. Often, when heavy rain is coming it, tidal flooding is also pushing water from the bay into the canal.
To give perspective on the predicament the town faces regarding tidal flooding, Graviet displayed a map from 1991 that shows areas of the town that are repeatedly flooded, ranging from occasional to frequent and then extreme flooding. The map shows that the vast bulk of the town falls into one of those three categories.
Demonstrating the success of the Town’s past efforts to address rainwater flooding, Graviet noted that the “gullywasher” that had hit the area two days prior, on June 16, had drained quickly. But, he said, the open drainage system relies on the Loop Canal and tidal levels, and once the water gets there, it often has nowhere to go.
“This is quite a battle to fight,” he said. “The water is difficult to move, and there’s nowhere to take it. It’s a battle to keep the swales open for events that are not related to tidal flooding.”
In any tidal event, Graviet said, the water begins to fill areas close to the Indian River Inlet quickly. When that tidal flow enters Whites Creek, it develops more force, and perhaps counterintuitively, he said, eventually hits the Loop Canal with a force so strong that it sometimes doesn’t enter the Loop Canal itself but instead flows into the Salt Pond — which he said has created a 9- to 10-foot ditch between the Loop Canal and the Salt Pond, just from the tidal flow.
Additionally, when it runs out of room in the creeks that shoot off the bay, the water pushes over Fred Hudson Road at the north of town and into the Salt Pond, too.
Impact of proposed solutions more negative than positive
In the past, the Town has looked at the idea of placing structures — such as an inflatable “bladder dam” — into the Loop Canal to prevent the tidal flooding coming from there.
“They are used around the world,” he said, with the structures being raised at low tide to block water coming in with the tide.
While that might sound like a solution, Graviet said it doesn’t address the tidal flow from Fred Hudson Road to the Salt Pond. Moreover, he said, a bladder dam in the canal would, according to studies, increase the height of water in the Assawoman Canal during a tidal event. At that point, he said, any State interest in such a project waned, essentially taking it off the table.
The recent joint Corps study aimed to look at the problem from a larger perspective, studying the potential impact of a gate at the north part of the system and a bladder dam at Whites Creek, in a lengthy analysis of possible ways to keep tidal water out of Bethany.
The result of that data: A bladder dam at the mouth of the Loop Canal would raise the water in the Assawoman by more than a foot. Again, not a result that the state or federal officials the Town would need to help approve and fund such a project would be happy with.
Bladder dams at the north and south ends of the Assawoman Canal might seem like they could prevent flood waters from going into the Assawoman, but Graviet pointed out that, at the south end of the canal, there are no strongly vertical banks to prevent the water from just flowing out onto the land and then back into the canal on the other side.
Dredging the Salt Pond might seem like it would create more room for more water volume, but Graviet said their data showed it wouldn’t reduce the volume of water entering Bethany.
“So, we’re sort of back to where we were,” Graviet said, looking at projects that would have a “minimal impact, even on a five-year event. … “It’s not a rosy picture, but this is flooding in Bethany Beach from [the Town’s] perspective,” he concluded.
Graviet noted that, while the Corps had concluded its study before it was fully completed due to having run out of funding, the Town could, if it wished to pursue things further, task engineers with picking up where the Corps left off. But the Corps’ findings don’t suggest that would offer an easy, or inexpensive, solution — or perhaps any feasible solution at all.
Asked about the potential to install tidal gates at the inlet, Graviet stated with a chuckle, “I have not had the hubris to suggest that. They do have gates that large in Europe,” he noted before acknowledging that the tremendous speed of the water through the inlet would pose a problem for such a project.
“The cost would be astronomical. The political burden would be tremendous,” one BBLA member added.
Asked about the proposed Mews at Bethany project that requests to fill in some existing wetlands in exchange for wetlands being created west of the town, Graviet said anything that reduces the ability of the land in Bethany to absorb water just causes more problems, as does “anything that doesn’t let water move where it’s being moved today.”
Graviet confirmed that flooding does seem to be hitting Bethany harder than the neighboring towns of Rehoboth Beach or Fenwick Island.
“We pick up more damage than surrounding communities,” he said, noting that Rehoboth doesn’t back up to tidal waterways and has a higher overall elevation.
Former Mayor Jack Walsh asked Graviet whether he felt it was reasonable to consider only aiming the Town’s efforts at improving rainfall-related flooding, to prioritize its efforts, realizing that tidal flooding “is beyond our capability” to address.
Graviet said the Town had focused its resources into moving rainwater. “We can enhance runoff, but anything that overflows into the Loop pushes back into the town.” He questioned whether the Town should spend $500,000 on an underground pipe to improve stormwater runoff, if tidal waters are just going to continue to flow into the town.
Asked about the seemingly ever-increasing amount of impervious surface in the town, Graviet emphasized that the Town doesn’t let anyone cover a ditch “unless there’s a substantive reason. And if someone wants to enclose a ditch, it’s scrutinized.”
“The Planning Commission has wrestled with improving [impervious surface] for years. They haven’t come up with a resolution they felt would satisfy the home owner or the developer.”
He noted that the Town, acknowledging that it is full of water, does spray a larvacide for mosquitos and had started this summer’s spraying the prior Wednesday. “We doubled the amount of chemicals purchased this year, in case we run into a problem,” he said.
“But no matter what we do with the swales…” he began, gesturing to the map of oft-flooded areas that make up most of the town.
Beach replenishment waiting until next year
Also at the June 18 meeting of the BBLA, Graviet and BBLA President Tracy Mulligan offered a brief update on the state of the town’s beaches, which were hard hit by nor’easters over the fall and winter.
Graviet said DNREC and Philadelphia-based Corps officials had “expected the Corps to fund [replenishment in] Bethany and South Bethany, and were quite surprised when that funding wasn’t there” in the Corps budget proposal.
He said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) had gone back to the Corps, asking that money set aside for recovery from Hurricane Sandy in communities where local officials hadn’t yet been able to obtain the easements needed to do the work be reallocated for beach replenishment in Bethany. He said Carper hadn’t gotten a response to the request.
“We were hit worse than Rehoboth and Dewey,” Graviet acknowledged, but replenishment hadn’t been planned in the town this year, while it had been in Rehoboth and Dewey. “It’s planned next year, contingent on funding,” he emphasized.
He said that the State has been moving sand in Bethany to try to adapt to current conditions and has been “tremendously responsive” to the Town.
Graviet noted that what was at one time only 80 feet of beach has now increased to 320 feet, making it likely that the Town will be able to have its Fourth of July fireworks show shot from the beach again.
He acknowledged that the Town had been forced to leave its accessibility-enhancing Mobi Mats off some of the east sides of the dune crossings at the south end of town, due to the loss of sand there. And where dunes areas were lost, he said, the Town was forced to put in steps, which have to be removable for storms, with no anchors or concrete and no pilings. They just sit on the sand.
“They have a rise of 5 inches, to make them as easy to negotiate as possible,” he said, but they could not build ramps with turns, due to the support structure that would be needed.
Graviet also told property owners at the meeting to expect a survey coming to them in the coming weeks on the detailed design for the so-called “Central Park” on the former Christian Church/Neff properties at the northwest corner of Routes 1 and 26.
The initial survey in 2014 had led to development of initial plans and features, he noted, and the upcoming survey will help define exactly what will go into the park, such as earth mounding, trellises for shade, a small open pavilion suitable for a wedding or similar limited uses, as well as screening of neighboring residential property.
Information on the preliminary design concepts is available on the Town website, or the Town will mail it at citizens’ requests.
Asked about whether the park would have restrooms, he noted past opposition to structures being built in the park, but he said if the need was established, the Town might put in temporary restrooms on a seasonal basis.
Finally, Graviet addressed new speed bumps installed on Gibson, noting that the “milder” ones installed previously near the stop signs had led to virtually no falloff in the through traffic they were meant to discourage and also to people no longer stopping at the stop signs, but rather just rolling slowly through.
With two “very serious” speed bumps now installed 90 feet away, “Now, if you don’t stop, you’re going to have problems,” he said. He acknowledged some complaints about the noise the bumps generate but said the Town was looking for feedback from the neighbors, who had first raised concerns about the heavy cut-through traffic on the road but had been split about 60/40 on whether they wanted new speed bumps there.
“We’re measuring the traffic,” he said, and “We hope it will fall off to almost nothing.”
Just weeks after Fenwick Island’s Ad-hoc Election Committee recommended two changes to the Town’s voting requirements, the mayor moved to disband the committee. He ultimately agreed to wait till a review of the issue by the town attorney.
At the Friday, June 17, town council meeting, Council Member Bill Wiestling, who chairs the town’s Charter & Ordinance Committee, spoke at some length about the election committee’s report earlier in the month to the Charter & Ordinance Committee.
The election committee had requested that two changes to the Town’s charter be considered: allowing voting rights for spouses of those whose property is held in trust, and requiring that voters own property in town — meaning that full-time renters would no longer be able to vote in town elections.
“There were several errors, false statements, that were printed on this (report),” Wiestling said.
Among the errors, according to Wiestling, was the election committee’s assertion that “Some municipalities require a lease of five years or longer” in order for a resident to be allowed to vote. The election committee members had reportedly researched the issue as it applied to surrounding beach towns and included its findings in its report to the Charter & Ordinance Committee.
In fact, only one other local beach community — Dewey Beach — requires five years in a lease. All others, Wiestling pointed out, require less than a year’s residency.
In Fenwick Island, currently, all residents are allowed to vote. “Resident” as defined by the town code, is a natural-born citizen, 18 or older, who has lived in the town since the March 1 prior to election. Town elections in Fenwick Island are generally held in August. However, prior to 2015, the town had not had an election since changes to the voting regulations regarding trustee voting took effect in 2008, resulting in some confusion last summer over who was legitimately allowed to vote.
Wiestling also took issue with the election committee’s assertion that other towns restrict voting to property owners only.
“That is false. Every beach community from here to Lewes allows non-property-owners to vote,” he said.
“The ad-hoc election committee believes that these changes would make voter qualifications more equitable and in line with other municipalities,” Wiestling continued. “I do not see how that would make the Town of Fenwick Island more equitable.”
Mayor Eugene Langan also took issue with the committee’s work and suggested it be disbanded.
“If you can explain to me why you think it should exist, when you passed it on to the Charter & Ordinance Committee, I’ll listen to you,” Langan said. “I think the Ad-hoc Election Committee has done its job. You’ve turned it over to Charter & Ordinance.”
Council Member Julie Lee, chair of the election committee, admitted its work was flawed.
“We did not review as carefully as we should have,” Lee said. She said that, in actuality, “The only (voting) restrictions for leaseholders are for non-resident leaseholders. We erred. I accept full responsibility for that. I’m not denying that we made a mistake,” Lee said.
She objected to Langan’s announcement that he was disbanding the committee.
“What we wanted to do was have a discussion. The most important issue that has come to us was that issue of reinstating the rights of non-resident families,” she said, in reference to the trustee spouse voting recommendations.
“What you are telling me is you, as the mayor of this town, you’ve made this determination that the ad-hoc elections committee is no longer in existence?” Lee asked, to which Langan answered, “Yes.”
“I’m really disappointed in this committee that is trying to get something done that’s unconstitutional… denying people the right to vote,” Langan said.
Wiestling, who chairs the Charter & Ordinance Committee, suggested that, as a compromise, the election committee should be kept until the Charter & Ordinance Committee receives input from the town solicitor on the voting issues at hand.
Fenwick Island has scheduled its town council election for Aug. 6, if there are contested council seats.
In other business, Town Manager Merritt Burke announced at the meeting that he had met with Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control officials regarding the state of the town’s dune crossings — particularly because recent damage has made beach accessibility difficult in some areas. He recommended that those with disabilities use the crossing at Bayard Street for the time-being.
Police Chief William Boyden asked residents to report any incidents of rowdy behavior and the like when it happens, rather than days later.
“We’ve had quite a few calls three days after an incident happened,” Boyden said, adding that, at that point, “There’s not a lot we can do.”
Boyden also asked that, as hurricane season gets under way, property owners be aware of conditions and that, in the event of an evacuation, they abide by all regulations regarding re-entry into town. He said he understands that residents want to get back into town to check on their properties, but asked that they be patient.
The council last week also approved the first reading of an ordinance prohibiting hunting within town limits.
Lee also proposed the formation of an ad-hoc committee to review town tax rates; the measure failed, with all other members voting “nay.”
Drone hobbyists have been given official notice by the Town of Bethany Beach: Flying those increasingly popular unmanned aircraft over any property but their own is likely to get them in trouble.
On a second reading of the new Chapter 12, Article 3, of the town code, council members voted 6-0 (with Mayor Jack Gordon absent) on June 17 to regulate the use of drones within town limits, citing the proliferation of the devices and concerns about their safety and impact on privacy.
Councilwoman Rosemary Hardiman, in introducing the ordinance, said that, due to the increasing number of drones and the number of people using them, the council felt it was “important and necessary to be proactive in this area,” leading the Town to limit flying of the craft by hobby and recreational users to only over their own property or over another property with the permission of the owner.
The law prohibits flying an unmanned aircraft:
• directly over any person who is not involved in its operation, without their permission;
• over property that the operator does not own, without the property owner’s consent (and subject to any restrictions the owner places on its operation when they do permit it);
• at an altitude higher than 400 feet above ground level;
• outside the visual line of sight of the operator, using their natural vision (no binoculars, first-person goggles or magnifying devices);
• in a manner that interferes with, or fails to give way to, any manned aircraft;
• between dusk and dawn;
• whenever weather conditions impair the operator’s ability to operate the craft safely;
• over any outdoor assembly, place of worship, police station, public right-of-way, beach, boardwalk, boardwalk plaza, waterway, public thoroughfare or land zoned MORE (Municipal, Open space, Recreational & Educational);
• within 50 feet of the Town’s water plant or within 25 feet of a public right-of-way or facility, or (in an increase from the 25 feet in the initial proposal) within 100 feet of any electric distribution facility or of any overhead wire, cable, conveyor or similar equipment;
• for the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless expressly permitted by law;
• while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs;
• that is equipped with a firearm or other weapon;
• with intent to use the aircraft or anything attached to it to cause harm to persons or property;
• in a reckless or careless manner; or
• in violation of any federal or state law.
The law allows for the commercial use of drones, provided those and other rules are followed, and provided the operator obtains permission from the Town for each day’s use. That permit will require proof of FAA registration for the craft and a specific identifier for it, as well as FAA Certificates of Waiver (COA).
The Bethany ordinance does not prohibit use by those authorized by the FAA to operate in national airspace from operating in the town, nor would it prohibit any legal use by law-enforcement or government.
The law allows the Town to seize any drone found to have violated those restrictions and to assess daily storage fees until the disposition of any charges.
The council added before last Friday’s vote a set of fines for violations of the ordinance, assessing fines of $50 to $100 for a first offense, $100 to $500 for a second offense and up to $1,000 for a third offense.
They also changed the hearing period for a violation from seven calendar days to seven business days, citing how busy thing are in the town during the summer.
Councilman Jerry Morris asked how the Town would make visitors aware of the new restrictions. Town Manager Cliff Graviet said that, in addition to anticipated media coverage, the Town would initially approach violators with a warning.
“This is not a significant problem for us,” he said. “Generally, what we see is people flying over very populated areas, and those are the kinds of people who would probably want to come at the ordinance as commercial operators.”
Hardiman suggested the Town also notify local Realtors, so they can inform renters.
Vice-Mayor Lew Killmer said he found the potential safety impacts of unregulated drone use to be compelling.
“To have a 55-pound thing flying over you, and they lose power … That’s a very dangerous thing,” he said.
Resident Josh Fried, who himself is a drone hobbyist, said he applauded the council’s efforts.
“The safety is incumbent on some people who use drones incorrectly and thoughtlessly,” he said. “There are many drone hobbyists — myself included — who feel differently.”
Fried said he feels drones can be handled safely and that he agreed with the restrictions the council had put in place.
He did, however, wonder where a hobbyist like himself, who is registered with the FAA, would be allowed to use a drone and be in compliance with the law.
Hardiman referenced a recent event where drone users were able to get together and fly their craft in a state park, though Delaware’s state parks are one of the few areas of the state where flying of drones is specifically prohibited unless permission for that specific use has been granted by the State.
“That’s very different than on the beach here in the summer,” she said. “I think, in Bethany Beach, that would not be possible except over your own home.”
Graviet encouraged Fried to contact state parks officials about whether flying over remote areas of state park parking lots might be permitted, and he confirmed that the Town would not permit drones to be flown by hobbyists in the town park.
Resident Joan Thomas also said she supported the regulations and recommended the Town send emails with the information to residents who might have visitors over the summer.
Industry aims to overcome fears of new technology
While there were no objections heard publicly to the new restrictions in Bethany Beach, which are among the first in the state on the flying of drones, the new ordinance raised strong concerns from some in the industry, including Adam Lisberg, corporate communications director for North America for DJI Technology Inc., which, as the world’s largest marketer of drones, manufactures 50 to 70 percent of the drones on the market.
“FAA rules are strict,” he told the Coastal Point. “You can’t fly drones directly over people.”
Lisberg was addressing the incident that may have started the ball rolling on the regulations in Bethany Beach, in which an unknown drone was seen flying overhead at the town’s New Year’s Eve beach-ball drop.
“Safety has to come first and is our first priority,” he said.
But Lisberg said the issue the industry is dealing with now is fear.
“The larger question is fear of something new,” he said. “Drones are new technology, and most people don’t have experience with them. It’s exciting to some people who see it and get into it, and scary to others.”
Lisberg said that, over time, he believes people will see that the technology follows the path of other technologies, such as the cameras in cell phones that were once considered a major privacy concern.
“When camera phones were new, they had signs saying, ‘No phones in the locker room.’ It was a reasonable expectation wrapped in a lot of hysteria. People ended up being able to integrate it into their daily lives,” he explained.
“Twenty years ago, logging onto the Internet from home, people feared someone would get their credit card number. There’s a kernel of reasonable fear there, but by and large society adopted its standards and learned to put up with some new risks because of the incredible benefits it brings. Drones will be the same way.”
Drone manufacturers look to enhance safety
Lisberg said that drones are safe when they are used to fly safely and legally, obeying all applicable laws and regulations. DJI, he said, has been working on ways to make drones even safer.
“The industry is constantly evaluating ways to increase safety and to ensure things that need careful monitoring now can be automated,” he said, noting that DJI’s flagship consumer model already has collision avoidance, so that when it is going forward, optical sensors will tell it to slow down and eventually stop it as it approaches an object.
“It’s not impossible, but it’s harder to fly into a tree or building or other obstacle,” he said, noting that the company is also developing “geo-fencing” systems that will prevent a drone from flying outside a permitted area or into a prohibited one.
“The law says you can’t fly within 5 miles of an airport without notifying the tower. This will stop you from entering that area. There are other places where it doesn’t allow you to fly or take off … such as near a nuclear power plant,” he explained.
“This is a rapidly changing industry, and you’re seeing us and our competitors putting more safety features in drones.”
Addressing a concern some council members expressed, about mechanical failure of the craft or loss of battery power, Lisberg said, “Our drones are programmed so if they lose their signal, they simply return to home, so they go to the last place where they were when they took off. They fly at a high enough height to clear any obstacles, still using the obstacle-avoidance technology.
“The batteries beep when they’re at one-third strength, and when it’s at a critical level, it returns to the first point and lands, so it does not simply drop out of the sky,” he said.
“No technology is infallible, but this is rapidly improving technology, and when the FAA takes a look at the risks and benefits and comes down strongly in favor of drones, you need to take that informed opinion.”
“Cars kill people, but we still buy them and drive them,” he pointed out. “I think drones’ safety record is pretty impressive.”
White House, FAA aim to expand use of technology
Lisberg noted that the FAA and White House had acted on that pro-drone opinion this week, coincidentally within days of the new Bethany regulations being adopted.
“Today, the White House put out new regulations that make it easier to fly commercially for business purposes, and non-profit and government uses,” he said. “A drone pilot needs to pass an aeronautical test but not actually get a license. They need to check that the craft is airworthy before each flight. But it makes it easier for commercial use.”
In fact, Delaware Technical Community College announced last week that it is adding an aeronautics class to its fall offerings in Georgetown that would prepare a potential drone pilot for the FAA test they would need to pass to be approved for commercial drone piloting.
“For personal use,” he said, “you need to register your drone, which you can do online and pay a $5 fee. The idea there is to get an idea of how many drones are out there and how many people are using them. It gets people into the system and makes individual users make sure they are educated about their use, so they can experience all the fun stuff they have to offer, while they do it safely.”
Lisberg said the White House’s effort was intended to expand drones for new uses, producing “benefits for the whole country” and demonstrating how they can be “integrated into the nation’s airspace.”
“They strongly believe in drones and that we need to keep pushing the envelope on making this a technology people use.”
As to the council’s concerns about drones potentially violating people’s privacy, Lisberg said, “Lots of times, the first time you see a drone is over you on the beach,” he said. “But a drone on the beach isn’t seeing anything that you on the beach aren’t seeing.”
“If you look at some of photos and videos that people are able to take with drones, it opens up incredible opportunities for people to see the beauty of a place like Bethany Beach from a new perspective.”
Moreover, Lisberg argued, “There are few things people fear about a drone that aren’t already covered by an existing statute. It’s already illegal to peek through someone’s window. Unlawful surveillance is unlawful surveillance, no matter how you do it. And a drone flashing lights and making a lot of noise is not a great spying tool.
“There are municipal laws against nuisances, and those kinds of statutes are often adaptable toward drones,” he added.
“We think that, for a city or a town to try to say what kind of vehicles can fly in the national airspace, that’s really getting into the FAA’s jurisdiction,” Lisberg said. “You wouldn’t see a town passing a law regulating what kind of airplanes they fly overhead. And, from the FAA’s perspective, it’s the same thing with drones. The FAA’s primary job is to ensure the safety of aviation, for people in the air and on the ground.”
Lisberg said Bethany is “not the only town in America to come out in a knee-jerk way in response to something that’s new.” He said the drone industry is trying to “educate people about its benefits and uses, and overcome some of the hysteria that we see out there.
“We’re trying to deal with it on a federal or state level, but I do expect that, as it becomes clearer that a lot of these local ordinances are treading into FAA territory, I would not be surprised that the FAA would make clear that some of these won’t stand.”
With all five members of the Sussex County Council seated at the dais earlier this week, after last week tabling discussions related to a sign ordinance introduced in April, signage was discussed at length by the council and County staff.
Prior to that, public hearings had been held before the Planning & Zoning Commission, as well as the council, at which many voiced their concerns about the proposed ordinance, some saying it did not reflect the months of hard work put out by the working group the County had assembled on the issue.
Georgetown attorney David Hutt of Morris James Wilson Halbrook & Bayard LLP had spoken at the public hearings on behalf of Clear Channel Outdoor, Geyer Signs, Hocker Signs, Jack Lingo Realtors, J.D. Sign Company, Ocean Atlantic, Phillips Signs Inc., Premier Outdoor Media LLC, Rogers Sign Co. Inc. and Timmons Outdoor Advertising, and even presented the council with an alternate ordinance that he said was more representative of the working group’s recommendations.
Since then, County staff has provided the council with documents that outline the differences between the ordinance introduced by the council in April, the alternate ordinance recommended by Hutt and what the Planning & Zoning Commission had recommended at its May 25 meeting.
At its June 21 meeting, the council could not come to a consensus as to how long a sign must be vacant before it is considered “abandoned.” In the introduced ordinance, no length of time is stated, but signs that have been abandoned for six months are prohibited. In the alternate ordinance, a period of six months is denoted as the length of time a sign must be vacant before being considered abandoned, something with which the Planning & Zoning Commission agreed.
Early on in the discussion, Council President Michael Vincent said going back and forth between on- and off-premises signs in the discussions gets confusing.
“I totally agree, and we recognized that in the beginning,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. “They were so closely coupled together that we could not separate the off- and on- issue It’s really the crux of how complex this issue is, quite frankly.”
The council agreed that, although within the proposed ordinance they would not separate out the two, in continuing the day’s discussions, they would only focus on off-premises signs.
“The moratorium we placed on people was for off-premises signs,” said Vincent. “I’m sure there are people out there who might be wanting to put up off-premises signs; I don’t know… But they’re just waiting and waiting and waiting.
Originally passed on Sept. 15, 2015, the moratorium states that the Sussex County Council “views the placement of off-premise signs as an important public-safety issue” and believes that “the recent proliferation of off-premise signs has a detrimental effect on the safety and welfare of the citizens of Sussex County.”
The moratorium currently directs the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Office to decline applications for special-use exceptions for off-premise signs from the date of its adoption to Aug. 15. It also allowed for the moratorium to be “extended, modified or terminated at any time by a majority vote” of the council. This is the second time the moratorium has been extended.
“V signs” were also discussed, as they are prohibited under the introduced ordinance; however, the alternate ordinance, supported by P&Z, removed the prohibition.
The council was shown examples of existing V signs within the county, as well as a visual of the difference between a 45-degree angle and a 180-degree angle.
Kyle Gulbronson of AECOM said that, in researching other communities, they use “an angle of 60 percent or less, which would be slightly less than the 90 [degree angle].” County Councilman George Cole said that he would return to the topic at a later time.
The council also discussed whether a property owner should be allowed to have multiple signs on his property if it is located on more than one road. As the proposed ordinance is currently written, it limits signs to one per parcel, eliminating permission for one sign per street or road frontage. The alternate ordinance restores the allowance for one sign per parcel or road parcel, to which P&Z agreed. The council agreed to restore the allowance for one sign per parcel or road parcel.
In the introduced ordinance, there is no distinction between billboards that are greater than 200 square feet and billboards that are less than 200 square feet. The alternate ordinance sets different standards for the two in terms of side-yard setbacks, as does what currently exists in the code. P&Z recommended to go along with the alternate ordinance.
Vincent said he didn’t see anything wrong with P&Z’s recommendation; however, Cole said he did not agree.
“I support the ordinance that we introduced, because we’re spreading out some of this clutter,” said Cole.
He added he believed that, in the future, off-premises billboards should have a front-yard setback of 40 feet, no matter the size. Councilwoman Joan Deaver said she was in agreement.
“If you can’t read these things at 40 feet, versus 25 feet, you’d better get your eyes checked; you shouldn’t be driving,” added Cole.
The council eventually had three members who agreed to stick with what is the introduced ordinance.
The council also discussed Tuesday the separation distance between signs and churches, schools, dwellings and public lands. The introduced ordinance has a minimum separation distance of 500 feet, while the alternate ordinance returns the minimum separation distance to 300 feet (what currently exists in the Code), which was supported by P&Z.
Cole asked if the County should treat churches and schools differently.
Gulbronson noted to council that a lot of communities do not have a restriction placed on the separation distance and added that the county has had the 300-foot setback for 30 years.
Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson asked the council to keep in mind that the definition of “dwelling” with in the county code changed last year, to where an empty lot can now be considered a “dwelling.”
The council decided to measure the distance on a radius from the edge of the sign to the property line; however, there was no discussion as to exactly how that measurement will be made.
Prohibit on digital signs on two-lane roads fails to garner majority
During the discussions of signage on two-lane roads, Cole said he would be in favor of prohibiting all digital off-premises signs on two-lane roads throughout the county.
“I think they’re unsightly. I think they’re unnecessary… Digital signs aren’t as prevalent as everybody leads us to believe. I think on our two-lane roads in Sussex County — I’m not saying on-premises… On-premises signs, I think a small-businessman needs every opportunity he can to get to get people into his business. But when it comes to digital signs on two-lane roads, like Route 9, 24, 17 — I think we don’t need, in Sussex County, digital signs.”
“I think it’s disrespectful to put them up on a two-lane road,” added Deaver.
Councilman Rob Arlett said he didn’t believe Cole would get support from the majority of the council for that and that he believed it would be discriminatory against business owners.
“If the business owner decides to invest in a digital billboard, who am I to prevent him from doing that? ... To do a complete prohibition is a little extreme.”
“In my opinion, it shows leadership, Mr. Arlett,” responded Cole. “I think the majority of people in Sussex County would support my position of a prohibition of digital signs on two-lane roads. I think the big ire people have had in this county has been since the digital signs started popping up.”
Vincent agreed with Arlett, stating he was not comfortable with such a prohibition.
“I don’t question that people have said something to George Cole, but this is about our fifth time in this room, and I have yet to have one person from the public say anything. The public isn’t showing up, so they can’t be too upset, with 240,000 people in this county, and nobody shows up to oppose them.”
Cole did not get a majority of council to support the prohibition of off-premises digital billboards on two-lane roads. County officials told the Coastal Point they don’t currently track the number of off-premises digital signs in Sussex.
Discussions of the ordinance are scheduled to continue next Tuesday, June 28, at 10 a.m. The Sussex County Council will not meet on July 5 or 12.
This is the third and final summer of roadwork for the State Route 26 Mainline Improvement Project.
“The job is going well. It’s winding down,” said AECOM resident engineer Ken Cimino at a June 14 Construction Advisory Group meeting.
Although the road isn’t completely paved, the final configuration is there, with a center turn lane and shoulders or sidewalks.
“That’s greatly improved the flow of traffic … and should increase traffic flow, getting those left turns out of the mainline,” Cimino said.
Crews are finishing the wedge-and-level process to add layers of asphalt, and profile milling is about to begin.
In the next few weeks, workers will lay final 2 inches of hot-mix asphalt on all 4-plus miles of roadway, then paint the final striping.
Construction work will cross the Assawoman Canal, to tie the new three-lane road into the existing configuration in Bethany Beach. East of the canal, six sidewalk ramps will also be updated to be handicapped-accessible.
“Anytime you touch something, you have to update it to be ADA-compliant,” Cimino said of the roadwork there.
There are still sidewalks, driveways and intersections to pave, plus seeding work, topsoil and stormwater management plantings.
The new traffic signal at St. George’s U.M. Church in Clarksville has been slightly repositioned for better visibility, and the tree branches will be trimmed.
Moving forward, nighttime lane closures are permitted Monday nights to Friday mornings, 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., although construction activities may occur anytime.
“We’ll be on the road till September,” Cimino said.
At last report, the project completion date was Sept. 1, but project contractor George & Lynch may still request to extend that date, due to rain dates from the past few months. Weather dates are permitted, as contractors can otherwise be penalized for finishing a project late. DelDOT offers no financial incentive to finish a project early, but the builders said it’s generally best to complete a project as swiftly as possible.
Anyone with concerns is asked to contact public outreach coordinator Cimino, who is available at (302) 616-2621, or Kenneth.email@example.com or at 17 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 2, in Ocean View. The project website is at www.deldot.gov/information/projects/sr26/index.shtml. People can also sign up for weekly email updates. Road closures and travel advisories are online at www.deldot.gov/information/travel_advisory. The “DelDOT” mobile app is available for Apple or Android phones.
Construction Advisory Group meetings are open to the public and held every other month, continuing Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 10 a.m. at Bethany Beach Town Hall.
Once again, Fenwick Island has six candidates for its town council election, set this year for Aug. 6.
Voters can vote for up to three candidates from the following: Gardner Bunting (incumbent), Vicki L. Carmean, Kevin Carouge, Charles W. Hastings, Marc McFaul and Bernard “Bernie” H. Merritt Jr.
Council terms are two years.
Nominees were certified by the Board of Election and accepted by the town council on June 22. An official notice of election will be posted at town hall and online no later than 20 days prior to the election.
Council Members Diane Tingle and Bill Weistling did not file for re-election to their seats.
Voters must be registered at Town Hall to participate in municipal elections. Registration is currently open, and forms are available online or by contacting Town Hall. The deadline to register in person at Town Hall is June 30. The deadline to register by mail is July 8.
Eligible voters must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 by Election Day. They can either be a town resident; nonresident property owner on the deed as of March 1; or the designated voter for an artificial entity (only one per trust or LLC), as authorized by notarized Power of Attorney.
Owners of multiple properties still only get one vote.
Absentee voting will be permitted.
Details are available through Town Hall, online at www.fenwickisland.delaware.gov, by calling (302) 539-3011, or mailing 800 Coastal Hwy.; Fenwick Island, DE 19944.
The Delaware State Police on Wednesday asked for the public’s assistance in attempting to locate a Millsboro man wanted for various felonious crimes that were committed in the Long Neck area.
Nathan E. Lewandowski, 26 — with a last known address in Millsboro, but who police said could possibly now be homeless — is wanted for two counts of Theft of a Motor Vehicles stemming from an incident on June 27 around 11:15 a.m., in which he allegedly stole a golf cart from someone who was actively playing golf at Baywood Greens, at 32267 Clubhouse Way, Millsboro.
Police said Lewandowski allegedly drove the golf cart off the golf course, toward the parking lot, where he allegedly removed a set of vehicle keys placed in the storage compartment of the golf cart, located the victim’s truck by using the key fob, and then entered the vehicle and drove away. The truck has since been located in Camden, N.J., police noted, adding that Lewandowski may still be in that area.
Lewandowski is also wanted for Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony, Aggravated Menacing, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Burglary 2nd, four counts of Theft and Offensive Touching, from three other separate incidents in and around the Long Neck area that occurred over the course of June, according to the DSP.
If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Nathan Lewandowski, they are being asked to contact Detective R. Mills at (302) 752-3800. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, via the internet at www.delaware.crimestoppersweb.com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”
On June 14, the Millsboro Lions Club inducted new members, installed new officers and recognized several Lions for outstanding service. Joining the club were Anna Piccolo, Melissa Morales and Dr. Laurie Conti. New officers for the coming year are President David Mitchell; Secretary Mary Lee Phillips; Treasurer Bea Shockley; Directors Janet McCarty, Ted Parker, Don Ward and Everett Rust; and Tail Twister Alberta Ryan.
Recognitions given included: Ted Parker, Lion of the Year for outstanding commitment to Lions; Ted Parker, Knights of the Blind, for commitment to vision research; Mitch Rogers, Patz Fellowship for his work with vision screening of school children; Alberta Ryan, Ralph Helm Fellow for dedication and service.
The Millsboro Lions will begin meetings in the fall at Ocean Grill, Long Neck Road. They meet the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. For more information or to join, contact Mary Lee Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (302) 945-2607.
“Welcome HOM,” said a smiling Cherith Snyder to a family walking through the doors of the recently opened House of Mercy (HOM).
House of Mercy, a thrift shop, is the latest effort of Serving Others Under the Lord (SOUL) Ministries, an outreach ministry for those who are homeless or in need. Created in November 2013, SOUL has been out serving and providing necessities to the homeless, with the hope to one day open a year-round community center to be the heart of House of Mercy.
After less than three years in existence, SOUL now is one step closer to realizing their goal, after finding a 6,400-square-foot property to rent. On June 18, they opened their doors to the first phase of House of Mercy — the thrift store.
“The purpose of the thrift store is to actually fund the community center,” explained Cherith Snyder — who, along with her husband, Eric, is the driving force of the ministry. “We ask for people to donate things for the homeless, and the next thing you know, we’ve got potholders and trinkets. And I’m like, ‘They live in a tent. They don’t need a leaf platter.’
“What was happening was these things were building up, building up, building up. Then it got to the point where not only were we helping them when they were in their camps, but when they got housing, we were giving them furniture, bedding and all of those things.”
Snyder said that, after filling four storage units, a backyard shed, their home’s two-car garage, breezeway and spare room, with items trickling into their kitchen and living room, she knew it was time to take action.
At first, the plan was to have a giant yard sale to get rid of the odds and ends that couldn’t be used to help their ministry. In looking at the Selbyville property to rent for the yard sale, they realized the property would be perfect for the community center.
“In talking to the landlord, he loved our vision,” said Eric Snyder, adding that the landlord was supportive of their efforts.
On June 18, House of Mercy became a reality, with the thrift store opening for business.
“Nothing that the guys can use in their camps is being sold here,” emphasized Cherith Snyder. “All the camp gear, all the hearty blankets, the sleeping bags, the kinds of pots and pans that they like to use for their fires — all those type things we’re not selling, because it’s for the guys on the streets.”
However, those who walk into the shop can find brand-new crafts, some gently used furniture, name-brand clothing and accessories, toys and more.
“Every single thing in this room, with the exception of that tablet, has been donated. We have brand new things with the tags still on them that were donated,” she said.
“Everything in here was donated to help people. So, whether it’s selling it and getting the money to be able to help, or if it’s giving them the stuff to be able to help the guys on the streets, it’s being used.”
Most clothing in the shop costs $1.50 per item, with denim priced at $2.50. Toys and children’s books cost 25 cents each.
“People have made comments on how inexpensive items are. I’m not trying to get what it’s worth — I’m just trying to get a little bit to get by,” she added.
But not everyone will have to pay for clothing. Snyder said she has been in touch with local school nurses to distribute clothing vouchers.
“They know that if they have a child that needs something, they give them a voucher and they can come in here and pick out an outfit.”
And if there is a group of siblings in need of assistance?
“If little Johnny, he needs clothing but he also has a brother and two sisters, write that down, if you know that they need clothing or furniture or whatever. Is it a one-time thing, or do they need to pick out a couple outfits each month? We’ll work with them.”
Thrift store is first phase for community center
The plan is to build out the space in phases, with the next phase to include the House of Mercy Sanctuary, and soup kitchen and pantry.
“This is not just open to the homeless; it’s open to the community. It’s for everybody,” said Eric Snyder.
A side door in the building will be the entrance to the community center that will enter into the sanctuary, complete with an altar. House of Mercy will be an alternate church, for those who seek faith in the community.
“It’s not going to be your typical church. We’re also not going to have church on Sunday; we’re going to have it on Sunday nights,” explained Cherith Snyder.
“Here’s the thing: If you’re newly sober, you’re used to partying every single weekend. What are you going to do on a Saturday night? You’re going to sit on your hands, antsy, trying to get out the door, because that’s what you want to do.
“But you’re trying to stop drinking, because you have a problem and you know you have a problem and you’re trying to stop and change your life. Now we have something for you to do — go to church. It’s an alternative to a bad decision.”
The soup kitchen will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the food bank also providing food boxes on an emergency basis.
A computer lab for will be set up, with access to the internet, so community members may search for jobs and housing.
A laundry and shower will also be available to those who are in need of those facilities.
“If we have a place for the homeless to come hang out for the day, then it’s crime-prevention. They’re not loitering; they’re not being a nuisance. They’re not trespassing on private property, trying to find a shortcut,” added Cherith Snyder. “We can alleviate that by letting them hang out here.
“‘Take a shower — you need it. Now you have a place to do it. Hungry? Grab a bite to eat — the refrigerator’s right there. Want to watch some TV? Go ahead.’”
There will also be a gathering area with couches, tables for the soup kitchen and a landline phone. Snyder said they plan to hold AA and NA meetings multiple times a week, as well as Bible study, GED classes, job-training classes, finance and budgeting classes, and assistance with finding affordable housing.
“We have a friend of ours who used to work for the prison system and taught life skills at the prison. He got a grant for a really awesome curriculum. He’s still in possession of that curriculum because he’s the one who got the grant. So he’s going to come and teach that exact same class,” she said.
“It’s everything from money management to coping skills, communication skills. There’s a part about interviewing people, greeting people — you know, social graces.”
Medical care and mental health providers will also visit to do free screenings.
“They won’t be performing anything here, but maybe a blood pressure screening or check their blood sugars,” she said, adding, “Mental health is so undiagnosed. There are so many resources out there for mental health, but people don’t realize it’s a mental health issue.”
The Snyders hope to give everyone the chance to improve their lives by providing the right support resources.
“We show you your destination and help get you there, but we’re not going to drag you there. We’ll help walk you there,” said Cherith Snyder.
Behind the building, a small patio area will be set up, and a large community garden will be planted.
There will also be workout equipment set up for community members to use, if they so choose, which came about after they heard a story from a friend who had overcome addiction.
“A friend of ours who went through a program, and he said a craving from an addiction only lasts 90 seconds,” said Snyder. “I said, ‘Huh, that’s interesting — I’ve never thought about that.’ And he said, ‘So I decided, for 90 seconds I’m going to do something else. I’m going to do jumping jacks. Every time I want a drink, I’m going to do jumping jacks until I don’t want a drink anymore… Guess what? I lost 11 pounds.’”
The community center will help people as long as they need it, rather than putting a time limit on help, as many shelters do.
“Think of it as a wound,” said Cherith Snyder. “A papercut is going to heal pretty quick; you don’t even really need a Band-Aid. A nick with a knife in the kitchen — you’re going to need a Band-Aid and to apply a little pressure. Then, some people get their thumb caught in a table saw. It takes a whole lot more healing and mending for the table saw than it did for that papercut.”
“It’s the perfect analogy, because when you put that thumb back on, it’s not going to be the same hand. There are some guys that need to realize they won’t be the guy they were — they now need to be the guy they are,” added Eric Snyder.
Homeless outreach gets a chance to grow
Although their ultimate goal for the thrift store is to facilitate the opening of a community center, everything started with the ministry’s Thursday-night soup deliveries.
“We’re a people ministry. Wherever people are, that’s where we are,” said Eric Snyder. “That’s why on Thursday nights we drive everywhere from Seaford to Georgetown to Rehoboth to Bethany to Frankford to Millsboro.”
For the past two winters, SOUL has run a homeless shelter out of Stone House, part of the Bethany Beach Christian Church complex in downtown Bethany Beach.
The first year, it was just a shelter in the evening hours; however, last winter, those needing a sanctuary could stay all day.
“We then get to know these people on a personal level,” Cherith Snyder said of those who stay at the shelter. “You take away the grunge, you take away the smell, you take away the addiction, you take away all of these things, and these are wonderful, beautiful human beings — intelligent, talented, gifted.”
She spoke of one man who stayed at the shelter in its first year, who kept wanting to play the church’s organ. Snyder kept telling him no; however, his persistence eventually wore her down.
“He ended up being a talented player!” she said. “You just have to peel away those layers and tap into that. Lose the guilt, lose the depression, lose the guilt, lose the shame — whatever you’re dealing with.”
Snyder said SOUL plans to continue to run the Bethany shelter for as long as the Christian Church will allow and hopes the community will keep supporting their efforts.
“For the first season at the Bethany shelter, we were asking for people to donate sheets. And people were donating brand-new sheets. We weren’t expecting it. I just asked people to clean out their closets,” she said. “One woman donated five sets of sheets that I later saw at B.J.’s that were $50 a pair. She bought five of them! It was awesome!”
“We always tell everyone, ‘You can’t out-give God,’ and He’s proven that,” said Eric Snyder. “The more we give, the more we get. There was a joke we had that we needed to give away more money… We once had a thousand ears of corn that show up in our back yard, and we took them to the church, set them up in the fellowship hall and told people to grab corn.
“One of our homeless friends, who had gotten housing and started going to our church said, ‘Why didn’t you keep those?’ I said, ‘Because the more I give away, the more I get.’ The very next day, I got a thousand more ears of corn!” he said with a laugh. “So we all got together and cooked them up — the food bank ladies and us. We cut them up and froze them for the SOUL soups. Then we got another thousand ears of corn!”
“Three thousand ears of corn in a matter of days. My kids were so tired of seeing corn — it was everywhere!” added Cherith Snyder.
The thrift store also has a number of mattresses that have been donated to SOUL.
“You’re not allowed to sell used mattresses in the state of Delaware, so we give them away for free,” said Cherith Snyder matter-of-factly.
The Snyders plan to keep the thrift store open even after the community center is completed, to continue to collect supplies for the homeless they serve and gain funds to pay for their efforts.
They are currently in need of commercial kitchen equipment — a stove and dishwasher — as all of their Thursday-night soup efforts and soon-to-be soup kitchen are currently being prepared in a standard household kitchen.
“That would be a huge blessing,” said Eric Snyder.
SOUL also does food rescue, which Cherith Snyder said would benefit if and when the ministry is able to acquire a free-standing freezer.
“We’d be able to save more,” she said. “We do food rescue. So many things get thrown away. Yeah, it’s a little bit extra work, because you’ve got to cut around the bad part or whatever, but it’s still works.”
The ministry is also in need of skilled laborers to help with upcoming renovations, including electricians, carpenters, plumbers and HVAC workers.
SOUL will also pick up yard sale items that didn’t sell as donations to the thrift store. Volunteers are welcome to help in any capacity — be it working in the store, donating or helping make soup.
“You don’t have to be a part of a church; it’s a community center. Just come and help because you care about people,” said Eric Snyder.
Although they are currently renting the building, it is for sale, said Cherith Snyder. They hope that they will one day be able to purchase the property, which also houses storage units and a mechanic’s shop that would help provide additional income.
“You’re looking at our dream, because we asked a guy if we could have an indoor yard sale, because people gave us donations that weren’t within the need of the people we were serving,” said Eric Snyder. “We’re now making everything help… It’ll be fun to see where we are in a year.”
House of Mercy is located at 36674 DuPont Highway, north of Selbyville, on the southbound side. For more information on SOUL Ministries, House of Mercy and how to help, call (302) 632-4289. SOUL Ministries may also be found on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/soulministriesde.
There will be a free demonstration hosted by local sandcastle-building expert Darrell O’Connor on Tuesday, July 5, when O’Connor will be presenting a program at Delaware Seashore State Park at the South Inlet Beach Bathhouse.
The program begins at 9 a.m., and participants are being asked to bring their own buckets and shovels. After learning tips and tricks, participants can then join in the 36th Annual Sandcastle Contest at the park on Saturday, July 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The contest is free to enter, and prizes will be awarded.
For more information, contact the Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum at (302) 227-6991. For information on these or other programs at Delaware Seashore State Park, visit destateparks.com.
Annual Sandcastle Contest set for July 9
Delaware Seashore State Park is inviting the public to the 36th Annual Sandcastle Contest on July 9. Amateurs and professional builders are welcome to participate. The contest is free to enter, and prizes will be awarded. To enter, park visitors can stop by the Delaware State Parks tent, which will be located at the South Inlet Day Area on the beach. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m.
Participants have the option to enter into one of two categories; the “12-and-under” class, or the all-ages “Open” class. Contestant’s castles will be judged using four categories: originality/creativity, structural complexity, aesthetic appeal and the use of natural material. There will be no restrictions on tool and materials. Each team can have up to five people. The judging will begin at 1 p.m., and awards will be distributed thereafter.
Admission to this event is free, but park entry fees remain in effect. For more information, call the Indian River Life-Saving Station at Delaware Seashore State Park at (302) 227-6991.
State park offering ‘1-Day’ fishing day camps
While many of the state parks in Delaware have been offering weekly summer camps for many years, Delaware Seashore State Park is offering its first camp this summer. Each Wednesday until Aug. 17, park staff will be hosting a “1-Day” day camp. The camp, geared toward 7- to 11-year olds, will last until 2 p.m. and will give parents the option to drop their children off for a morning of coastal exploration.
Campers will partake in activities such as seining, fishing and crabbing, at Holts Landing State Park. The camp will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and costs $40 per child. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to make a reservation for a child, call the Indian River Life-Saving Station at (302) 227-6991.
Lantern tour of museum offered
History buffs can join Delaware Seashore State Park officials on Wednesdays through Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. and step back in time to experience the Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum just as the surfman would have at the turn of the century: by lantern light.
Interpreters in period dress will recount the daily lives, hardships and triumphs of those working for the United States Life-Saving Service. At the end of the night, participants will venture out onto the beach and hear tales of tragedy and mystery that occurred on those very beaches more than 100 years ago.
The program fee is $10 per person, and pre-registration is required. Participants should dress for the weather.
The Indian River Life-Saving Station is located on Route 1, 3.5 miles south of Dewey Beach and 1.5 miles north of the Indian River Inlet. For more information and to register, contact the Indian River Life-Saving Station at (302) 227-6991 or visit destateparks.com.
Police officers swept across Lord Baltimore Elementary School, guns raised, as teams of paramedics scuttled behind them.
Delaware’s first Rescue Task Force was training on June 28 for the horrible — and, hopefully, unlikely — day that an active shooter requires massive police and medical response.
Emergency response has changed from the days of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, when police secured a perimeter and waited for SWAT teams to lead the charge into a hot zone. Now, police officers run straight in, too.
But while police deal with the immediate danger, EMTs are best suited to treat the victims left in the dust.
So the Rescue Task Force allows medics to enter a “warm zone” (gunshots or explosives aren’t in the immediate area, but they’re very nearby) to quickly stabilize and remove the injured victims, under protection of armed police officers.
Task force partners include the Ocean View Police Department, Millville Volunteer Fire Company, Bethany Beach police, Bethany Beach VFC and South Bethany police.
This week, the main goal was to train about 100 Sussex County Emergency Medical Services workers, too.
“This has been an ongoing process. This is not a response to Orlando,” noted Glenn Marshall, SCEMS public information officer.
Local first-responders have trained together for more than a decade, preparing for catastrophic events. They recently adopted a formal Rescue Task Force program, created in Arlington, Va., to bring medical personnel into an active shooter zone.
Small communities aren’t immune from major casualty events.
But, “Because we’re small, it doesn’t take a lot to effect change,” said Chief Ken McLaughlin of the Ocean View PD. “We’re looking at what’s out there. What are the threats we need to prepare for?” A bus crash or a bomb threat?
Locals are learning best practices from other people’s experiences. Maybe the Boston Marathon didn’t have enough authentic tourniquets in 2013. Maybe medics weren’t initially allowed into the movie theater in 2012 in Aurora, Colo.
“There’s definitely an issue for a threat in our hometown,” said John Watson, EMS chief for the Millville VFC. “We have to be prepared for that.”
This week, the goal was to bring SCEMS up to speed on the Rescue Task Force based in Millville, Ocean View and Bethany Beach.
About 100 Sussex County paramedics were trained over the four days. The director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) attended, too.
“Having the paramedics come and do this with us is a huge step,” Watson said.
“It’s a simple thing, but it’s not because you’re bringing multiple agencies together … in a stressful situation,” Marshall said.
Screams and distant gunshots up the ante for everyone.
Coming from the fire station, EMTs are used to providing the most basic life support. But paramedics jump on the ambulance if advanced life support is needed. Typically, they’re also thinking about an IV line, breathing, intubation and heart monitoring. So they have a bigger transition to make into this situation’s mindset.
“This guy’s bleeding. We need to put a tourniquet on him, and we need to move,” said Watson.
“It’s all about time,” Marshall said. “It can seem rude” for a medic to throw her knee on someone’s shoulder to stabilize an artery, but “Any bit of blood we can keep in you is what’s gonna save you.”
Hemorrhaging doesn’t wait for a paramedic to arrive before degrading the human brain.
“We know we’ve got to get in there rapidly” to begin patient care, and eventually get them out to a proper surgeon, McLaughlin said.
“The police stop the killing. We stop the dying,” Watson said.
It was a learning experience for everyone, as paramedics learned to find the victims and police practiced protecting medics in a dangerous zone.
This is the time to make any mistakes, so they’ll carry those lessons forward if the sad day comes when that teamwork is needed.
It was a simple enough vote: The Millville Town Council agrees that enough roadway has been completed in Bishop’s Landing that it can release some bond money back to the developer.
But the two-minute vote on June 28 followed an hour of discussion and citizen complaints on June 14, plus subsequent meetings and walk-throughs of the neighborhood.
Dove Barrington Development LLC had requested a reduction of Bond #5040681 to $175,412.50, which equals 125 percent of the cost to complete the improvements, plus $5,000 to replace damaged concrete.
The Town regularly holds such bonds, in case a developer fails to complete certain projects. Money is released back when those roadways are completed to Town standards.
In this case, the bond was for Phase 2 of the community, but citizens had thought it was for Phase 1 and came out in full force to complain about Phase 1, which is still undergoing road repairs, said Deputy Mayor Steve Maneri.
But after seeing Beazer contractors working in Phase 1, residents mistakenly believed that was the issue at hand, said Peter Michel, the first elected resident on the pre-HOA executive board of Bishop’s Landing.
In Phase 2, everything was “just fine,” Michel said. “I made a mistake of the phases. So we had people here talking about this stuff [Phase 1], but we should have been talking about this stuff here [Phase 2] … that’s all done, and that’s done correctly.”
He apologized to the town council, code enforcement official and developer on June 28, thanking the town officials who toured the site with him and another Bishop Landing’s resident.
The initial complaints
That misunderstanding notwithstanding, the conversation that began on June 14 aired issues of concern for Bishop’s residents, who attended that night’s council meeting in large numbers, upset that the Town would return money to Dove Barrington when they had so many complaints about the quality of houses built by Beazer Homes.
Citizens suggested the homes were structurally unsound and that they had noticed issues almost upon moving in.
“Every single-family home has structural issues,” asserted resident Maureen McCollum.
But bonds like this one only cover infrastructure within the Town right-of-way (roadway), such stormwater pipes, sidewalks and asphalt.
None of it impacts the actual homes.
The Town’s role
Town Solicitor Seth Thompson explained the Town’s role in such a situation. Hypothetically, if he hired a bad roofer, he said, he wouldn’t turn to the local government; he would sue the individual roofer.
But citizens have been under the impression that the government is inspecting homes at a higher level. Some people said they felt a lack of trust in Beazer and the Town.
“Certificates-of-occupancy were issued that had no business being issued,” said McCollum, adding that her initial trust in Beazer now leaves a “bad taste” behind. “There is a trust that has been broken.”
Meanwhile, a house’s Town-issued certificate of occupancy is not a warranty. Homeowners shouldn’t just rely on the certificate of occupancy as the end-all, be-all, Thompson said.
“The Town’s role in this is fairly limited. The Town is looking to make sure infrastructure is in place,” Thompson said. “We don’t bond the house. Let’s say you have a leaky roof. The bond isn’t going to cover it. The Town’s role when it offers a certificate-of-occupancy — that’s limited as well.”
There’s a difference between meeting Town standards and meeting buyer expectations.
But homeowners shouldn’t have to go through what Bishop’s residents have endured, the citizens replied.
What should the residents do?
Mayor Robert “Bob” Gordon recommended hiring an attorney if Beazer isn’t responding to documented complaints. When the official homeowner association is turned over to residents, they can hire an attorney or any building inspector on their own.
“I’m sorry there’s so many disgruntled homeowners,” Gordon said, thanking them for their input. “In some cases, the Town, the council does not know unless somebody tells you. It’s very nice to see so many people here for a bond reduction.”
Multiple inspectors see a house before the certificate-of-occupancy is signed.
“Footer inspection, framing inspection, foundation inspection, insulation inspection, electrical inspection twice, plumbing inspection twice and a final inspection is what we do,” said Eric Evans, code-enforcement official.
The State does plumbing inspections, a third party does electric, there may be a soil engineer, a design engineer if Evans sees a problem, plus the builder’s own inspections.
So how might an imperfect house be certified, if so many Bishop’s residents have housing issues?
“It got missed,” Evans said simply. “There’s so much that you can look for, and there’s so much that you can still miss,” especially when honing in on one element, sometimes missing another.
“I’ve talked to multiple people — they’ve had multiple issues with Beazer. I know Beazer’s doing everything possible to go back and correct all the issues,” including possibly more quality control, Evans said.
Evans took exception to the idea that Beazer is building unsafe homes.
“They’re missing some structural items, but ‘unsafe’ is an unfair word,” Evans said.
But the neighborhood isn’t complete. Beazer is still building and improving Bishop’s homes, Michel added.
In Phase 1, “Especially these single-families, they found structural problems, like in my house — in the front of my house, wooden floors were separating, stuff like that,” Michel said.
But in the past year, Beazer sent a structural engineer to review homes.
“He found a bunch of stuff wrong. Now he’s gone through all these houses, single-family, and there were 72 of them. And they’re refurbishing all of them,” said Michel, describing the wooden beams added to his own house.
As a Bishop’s resident, Councilman Steve Small recused himself from the 4-0-1 bond vote..
In 67 days, 25 military veterans and their families will travel to Bethany Beach for a week of support and relaxation, thanks to the nonprofit organization Operation SEAs the Day.
The mission of Operation SEAs the Day (OSTD) is “to organize and facilitate a beach week event for our wounded soldiers and their families as a means of showing our appreciation for their service and sacrifice. It is our hope that such a community-based gesture of support will be comforting and help ease their transition back into civilian life.”
The first “very important families” (VIFs) arrived in Bethany in the fall of 2013. This year, Warrior Beach Week 2016 will run Sept. 6-11 and give 25 wounded veterans and their families the opportunity to enjoy a beach vacation.
During their week at the beach, the families will stay in homes that have been donated for their use. The families will receive gift bags stuffed with goodies that include gift certificates to local shops, towels, toys and other fun items.
In order to make OSTD the best it can possibly be, organizers invited alumni families to return the second year of the event, and in subsequent years, to serve as friendly faces to help the veterans feel more comfortable.
For the first time, this year, two alumni families are serving on the operating committee in planning Warrior Beach Week.
“I chose to serve our country because my dad had served in the Air Force also, and because of Sept. 11,” said Jason, a staff-sergeant who medically separated from the Air Force. “I was in high school at that time, and I saw what happened. It instilled that decision in me to go join the military.”
Having been deployed twice — once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan — Jason returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The biggest thing I deal with is PTSD,” he said. “It causes a lot of issues with my spouse and my family. It basically makes me less sociable, quicker to anger. I have nightmares that cause me to have disturbances in my sleep, which causes other people to have disturbances in their sleep.”
Jason and his wife, Sarita, are one of the two alumni families serving on the committee. They first came to Bethany as a VIF in 2014 and went on to serve as an alumni family last year.
“We wanted the chance to pay it forward and help other VIFs feel comfortable and enjoy themselves. We hoped we could make it as good for them as the experience was for us,” said Sarita. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk to other veterans and ask them for help than it may be to ask the host family. So we tried to make ourselves available to them.”
The couple heard about OSTD through the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes. Both actively volunteer for veterans outside of OSTD — Sarita with Operation Homefront and Jason running a local support group for veterans through their church.
“There’s lots of resources out there, and I enjoy helping other veterans to find those resources. While other veterans may not do the same thing, that’s what my experience as a veteran has been,” said Jason. “I find a resource that is something that I can use, and then I make sure that other people know about it, so they can use it and get better.”
Although the couple had experienced similar retreats in the past, they said there was something special about OSTD.
“It was a really awesome experience. We felt really welcomed by the community and very appreciated. It was just overwhelmingly wonderful,” said Sarita. “We had some expectations, because we had been on other veteran retreats. It was definitely way better than what we expected…
“I loved the spa day that first year, because, obviously, going to the spa is awesome, but it was a chance to be with other women all day and talk to them without any kids around. That was really wonderful.”
“I just enjoyed connecting with the other vets, just talking to them,” said Jason, adding, “The parade — how overwhelming the parade was, and the concert... It was just nice to be appreciated.”
Jason said that when he returned from his two deployments, the welcome home was not as moving is the patriotic motorcade to the Freeman Stage, where community members are encouraged to line the streets as the families travel to the show that night.
“For both Iraq and Afghanistan, we landed at Baltimore at BWI. There were about 20 people who said, ‘Welcome home.’ From there, we got our bags, and we moved out two days later to go back to our base,” he said. “It was small, but it was nice. It was better than I had seen other people have to deal with.”
When they served as alumni families, the couple’s information was given out to five of the VIFs to which they were assigned.
“Each alumni family had five other families they were to help guide or say, ‘Hey, if you want to go to this, this is where we’re meeting up. If you have problems, contact us and we can get you squared away,’” explained Jason.
“We were supposed to participate and attend all events, just to be available and a face in the crowd that they knew,” added Sarita.
Sarita and another alumni wife started a caregiver support group during the week.
“When we were there last year as alumni, they started the caregiver support group, and we were there every morning. It was a chance that any caregivers that wanted to come out and talk and feel supported, and to get resources… Every morning, we were there for an hour or two.”
“Normally, at that same time I was off to the side or a little bit away, talking about the veterans, making sure they were doing OK in the mornings also,” Jason added.
Sarita even went as far as to create a private online forum for the veterans and caregivers of OSTD, as a way for them to keep in touch.
“We support each other and provide resources. It’s a closed group… It’s a safe place to vent if they need, or share memories — just a way to keep the connection going,” she said.
“People can talk about resources each person is using, saying, ‘Hey, maybe you guys need to look at this,’ or, ‘If you guys are having problems, you can reach out to one of us.’ It’s basically there for us to help each other out,” added Jason.
As for resources in a broader sense, Sarita noted that not all states offer the same benefits to veterans and their families.
“Some states, you pay no property tax if you’re a 100-percent disabled veteran. There are some states that do free tuition for veterans. I wish some of that was more national, versus if you happen to live in one place or the other,” she said. “I wish there was student loan help for caregivers. There’s help for veterans, but not for caregivers.”
“So many times, the caregivers have to give up their jobs and can’t go to work because they have to take care of their veteran. It makes it really tough sometimes to actually maintain a household, when you have these huge bills you have to pay,” added Jason.
After traveling to Bethany first as a VIF, and then as an alumni family, Jason and Sarita jumped at the chance to serve on OSTD’s operating committee. Sarita also helps run the organization’s social media efforts.
“It was basically another way to pay it forward, to help the staff this time. The staff really made us feel like family, especially Richard, Becky, Chris and Annette have opened their arms to us, and we wanted to be able to help them. We already think Operation SEAs the Day is awesome, but to see what we could do to make it even better.”
This weekend, those attending the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade can keep an eye out for the Operation SEAs the Day float, as members of the organization will be participating in the parade.
Area residents and visitors can show their support of OSTD by purchasing official gear at the Sea Colony Beach Shoppe, Bethany Fine Arts, the Bethany Beach Farmers’ Market (through the end of July) and WSFS Bank in Ocean View.
Although Warrior Beach Week is still two months away, volunteers are needed now, to help support merchandise sales at the Bethany farmers’ market on Sundays during July.
Those who wish to make a contribution may also participate in the OSTD Poster Pal program, featuring poster-making stations at the Bethany farmers’ market on Sundays through the end of July, where anyone can stop by to decorate their own welcome sign for the warrior families.
The signs will be used to welcome the families when they first arrive in September, and again during the patriotic motorcade to the Freeman Stage for the Bruce in the USA concert on Friday, Sept. 9, beginning at 7 p.m. The VIFs will then have the opportunity to choose a poster at the farewell breakfast to take home, as a reminder of their time in Bethany Beach.
Through their involvement with OSTD, Jason and Sarita will have traveled to Bethany Beach six times before this September’s Warrior Beach Week.
“We love the beach; it’s beautiful. It’s terrible what the storm did to you all,” she said of the erosion caused by nor’easters over the fall and winter. “I love the little downtown area; it’s so cute and fun to walk with all the shops.”
“I love the food. I’m a really big crabcake fan. We don’t have really good quality crabcakes here,” said Jason from the couple’s home.
“Yeah, he pigs out while he’s there,” Sarita added with a laugh.
Jason and Sarita both said their experiences with OSTD have been one-of-a-kind and that they are grateful to be involved.
“I’d just like to say ‘thank you’ to everybody there — the community as a whole. It’s great what you guys are doing,” said Jason.
“It’s like having hundreds of extra grandmothers and aunts and uncles who all just welcome you and make you a part of their family,” Sarita said. “It’s a really wonderful experience.”
State police are reporting some success in addressing the most common crimes in Sussex County — burglary and theft — as well as preventing motor-vehicle accidents, according to Delaware State Police Capt. Rodney M. Layfield, commander of Troop 4 in Georgetown, who discussed local trends in crime in an update to the Sussex County Council at its June 28 meeting.
Layfield said there are 92 troopers assigned to Troop 4, and that the troop itself is unique, in that it not only has its patrol element but county-wide criminal investigative operations are based there.
He said that through a new program called SPEAR (State Police Enhanced Analytical Response), troopers are able to archive data, as well as create real-time data, and the core crimes seen in Troop 4’s coverage area are burglaries and thefts.
“Every day, we’re doing a daily report and putting it out to our troopers — what we would like them to do and where we would like them to go,” said Layfield. “We’re more direct — not just what happened, but what happened and what are we going to do about it.”
Weekly and monthly reports are given to Layfield’s executive staff, with the goal of being more proactive in targeting areas in need of additional troopers.
“For instance, troopers are regularly seen on Route 113 between Georgetown and Millsboro,” he said, noting research data helps the Troop target specific areas. “We strategically put troopers there when we’re having peak a number of accidents. Typically, 2 o’clock in the afternoon to 6 o’clock in the evening is when we’re having accidents. That’s the daily commute, people coming home. We’re putting troopers out there to be seen, to deter accidents, and we’re seeing some success in that.”
Layfield said one criminal hotspot is on Route 24, in the Oak Orchard area. Using five investigative steps, troopers are working toward reducing crime in that area, and again seeing some success, he said.
To this same point in 2015, 34 burglaries had been reported in the Oak Orchard area, said Layfield. Year-to-date in 2016, there have been 19 burglaries.
“That’s a 45 percent reduction in just burglaries alone,” he said, adding, “We have a 50 percent clearance rate for burglaries... The national average is 13.6 percent on clearances of burglaries.”
Layfield said crime is predominantly being driven by drugs.
“Specifically, our drug problem is heroin. We’re doing the best we can as law enforcement,” he said. “We are finding hard data that our perpetrators on these crimes are heroin users and abusers. Over 70 percent have a drug arrest history, and I would say pushing 90 percent have a drug problem.”
The troop is also taking a proactive approach to addressing DUIs in its coverage area. Layfield said that, last year, almost 34 percent of accidents were attributed to DUI. This year, it is currently below 14 percent.
“We’re out there proactively stopping them,” he said.
Community outreach is a big priority statewide for the DSP, an effort driven by Superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr. Layfield said there are 10 troopers throughout the county with the sole task of working on community outreach, attending community meetings, helping facilitate community watches and more.
“We’re doing what we can to do for our community,” he said.
Sign ordinance discussion continues
Also on June 28, the council revisited topics related to its proposed signage ordinance. The ordinance, introduced in April, came after months of working-group meetings, council discussions and public hearings.
Since its introduction, many have voiced concerns about the draft ordinance, some saying it did not reflect the months of hard work put out by the working group the County had assembled on the issue.
That has included Georgetown attorney David Hutt of Morris, James, Wilson, Halbrook & Bayard LLP, who spoke at the public hearings on behalf of Clear Channel Outdoor, Geyer Signs, Hocker Signs, Jack Lingo Realtors, J.D. Sign Company, Ocean Atlantic, Phillips Signs Inc., Premier Outdoor Media LLC, Rogers Sign Co. Inc. and Timmons Outdoor Advertising, and presented the council with an alternate ordinance that he said was more representative of the working group’s recommendations.
Since then, the council has been taking a step-by-step approach to address each issue — looking at what is written in the proposed ordinance, in Hutt’s alternate ordinance and what was recommended by the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Although V-signs were discussed last week, the council will continue to ponder the greatest angle to which a sign may be constructed. While Councilman George Cole said last week that he would be agreeable to 60 degrees, this week, Council President Michael Vincent asked, “What’s wrong with 90 degrees?”
The council’s concern was that the two signs would be used as one large sign for a business, rather than two separate and distinct advertisements. Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson told the council, following an inquiry by Councilman Rob Arlett, that it would be better for council to not specifically state that within the Code, as it would not only create an enforcement issue but would get into sign content as well.
The council agreed to revisit the topic at a later date.
Cole again pressed the council that off-premises electronic message centers/billboards not be permitted on two-lane roads within the county.
“We have some bad examples out there of electronic signs. I would like to put an end to it, and that would be easy to enforce,” he said.
“Hideous, hideous,” added Councilwoman Joan Deaver of the signs.
While Vincent said he understood Cole’s position and agrees that the signs shouldn’t be “out in the middle of a very rural area,” he said there are some areas in the county where such signs wouldn’t necessarily be out of place.
“I’m not sure I can go along with you,” he said, calling attention to Route 13-A and Route 404. “Those are not what I call rural roads. There’s more traffic on 404 than there is in 90 percent of this county.”
“In my mind, I think there should be a balance of sorts,” added Arlett, who went on to ask, “Why mandate this?”
“Because we can,” responded Cole.
“It doesn’t mean we should,” said Arlett.
Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson asked the council to keep in mind that billboards are only permitted on commercially-zoned property within the county. No decision was made on Cole’s recommendation.
Vincent said that, although the council is off from its regular Tuesday meetings for the next two weeks, he had directed staff to find a date for a special meeting specifically for signs, so as to, hopefully, address everything before the moratorium for off-premises sign moratorium expires on Aug. 15.
In other County news:
• Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commissioner Michael Johnson has submitted a letter to the council, announcing he will be stepping down from his seat later this summer, to focus his efforts on his business.
• P&Z Chairman Robert Wheatley was unanimously reappointed to the commission for another three-year term.
• E. Brent Workman was unanimously reappointed to his position on the Sussex County Board of Adjustment for another three-year term.
The Millsboro Town Council had to make a quick decision at their July 5 town council meeting.
With DelDOT scheduling roadwork construction on West State Street between Washington Street and Ellis Street this coming week, the government-run transportation agency was seeking approval to work at night, which they estimated could cut down construction time on the project by as much as two months.
However, with the contract stating that they would begin construction with night hours should they not receive word otherwise, the council decided to deny the request, by a vote of 5-1, without time to gather a consensus from those living in the area.
“I wouldn’t be happy with it if it was in front of my house,” said Councilman Tim Hodges, after further review found that the construction could include the use of jackhammers, bulldozers and other noise-generating machinery.
With results from a DelDOT survey unavailable at the time, the council’s concern was State Street residents not being able to sleep at night due to the noise level.
“You don’t sleep in the daytime,” said Mayor John Thoroughgood during the discussion.
Construction will now span during the day on Mondays through Saturdays, for approximately 150 calendar days.
After researching the pros and cons of a social media presence with other municipalities in the area, the council also said no this week to having a Facebook page for the Town, opting to instead make an attempt to update the Town’s website more frequently.
“Taking into account research that was done in other towns and what their results and thoughts were from having one, plus with our own experience, we decided that the Town of Millsboro was better off utilizing our website,” Hodges said, “perhaps updating it more often and gaining more control over it.”
Also at the July meeting, the council approved a one-year extension of approval for preliminary plans for the Villages and Millwood, Phase 2 of Plantation Lakes; and approved a future Blue Star memorial marker to honor veterans, as requested by the Millsboro Garden Club, which was formed in January. The site and specifics for that marker have not yet been decided, but the council will maintain the final word on where it is eventually located.
The next regularly scheduled Millsboro Town Council meeting is set for Monday, Aug. 1, at Millsboro Town Hall.
Bethany Beach Surf Shop owner Jim McGrath has a folder in his store that he says documents more than 300 instances of “confusion” between his store and another business in town.
McGrath says the folder contains evidence that the other business is selling “bootleg” T-shirts that use a logo very similar to the one on shirts he sells at the business he has owned for 36 years.
He recently contacted the Delaware Department of Justice and requested help in stopping the other business, located on the Bethany Beach boardwalk south of Garfield Parkway, from selling the look-alike shirts.
Earlier this week, he learned that, despite an investigation by the state Consumer Affairs Office, no action will be taken against the other business at this time. The Coastal Point received confirmation from Department of Justice spokesman Carl Kanefsky that an investigation did take place and that “the matter is being closed without further investigation.”
Although he is frustrated by the decision, McGrath said, “This does not surprise me one bit.” He said the owner of the other store is “clever. He knows where the loopholes are.” He said he has pursued legal action regarding the “bootleg” shirts, which show a logo similar to that of the Bethany Surf Shop with the additional words “beach” and “hut” in smaller letters — and some apparently with “Bethany” spelled incorrectly, he said — several times in recent years.
“When I see someone wearing one of his shirts, to me, that’s stealing,” he said.
McGrath said he is in a unique situation with the bootleg shirt issue, partly because, with his two Bethany Beach shops — the original one on Garfield Parkway and a newer one on Route 26 — he doesn’t have the resources of larger companies whose products are often imitated, and in addition, his prime selling season is so short that, by the time action would be taken, the season is over.
“I don’t see how he walks up and down the street” — sometimes even wearing the alleged knockoff shirts — McGrath said of the other store’s owner.
“I guess I gotta live with it,” he said of the State’s decision not to act. McGrath, however, does not plan to give up his fight against what he feels is unfair use of a logo he has built into a recognized brand over nearly four decades in business.“I’m not gonna sit back. I’m gonna do what I have to do,” he said.
Although he knows it will cost him dearly in both time and money, McGrath acknowledged that the next step in his fight might be filing a lawsuit against the other owner in civil court.
Eric Efergan, owner of the boardwalk business called Bethany Beach Hut Surf Shop, said, “I’m not copying his merchandise,” adding that his shirts are printed with “Beach Hut” as part of the logo, which he said differentiates it from the Bethany Surf Shop.
“There’s nothing to pursue,” he said, in reference to the state justice department’s decision not to take action against him. “In his eyes, he thinks it’s too close to his shop [logo]. Nothing that I carry looks like his stuff,” Efergan said.
“This guy is obsessed with my store,” he said, adding that he plans to file a lawsuit against McGrath. “He’s bad-mouthing me. I never talk bad about his store.”
Efergan said he has owned the boardwalk business for 17 years and also owns two other businesses in Bethany Beach.
Meanwhile, McGrath said that his folder full of “confusion” incidents will come in handy for any future action, he said, because under Delaware law, confusion between one business and another is one of the major criteria for seeking redress.
“We have had over seven people, just in the last week, come in to exchange or return t-shirts purchased from the retail bottom-dweller,” he said in a June 8 letter to Attorney General Matt Denn.
McGrath said that even the Bethany Beach Police Department appears to be confused about the other business, since they recently came into his shop looking for an employee of the other one. In the June 8 letter, he also cited a phone call from a woman who said she was calling about her son’s paycheck — although he apparently worked for the other business — as another example of the types of issues he deals with regularly.
“Every time somebody comes in here and they are confused, we document it,” he said.
Efforts to prevent Sussex Countians from falling victim to criminals or suffering a premature death were discussed at a recent forum that drew more than 50 people to the Millsboro Volunteer Fire Company’s fire hall.
The forum, which was jointly sponsored by State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro), state Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) and County Councilman Rob Arlett (R-5th) brought together representatives of the Delaware State Police, Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, Sussex County Paramedics, Millsboro fire company and Delmarva Power to make brief presentations and take questions from the public.
Delaware State Police Cpl. Michael Trestka, a community response officer for Troop 4 in Georgetown, said phone scams targeting seniors continue to be a problem. Two of the most popular approaches for con artists, he said, are to pose as an IRS agent demanding payment for overdue taxes; or someone claiming to be a grandchild that needs money immediately for legal expenses. The latter scam — often referred to as “the Grandparent Scam” — is the one that is “getting everyone in the county,” Trestka said.
Hocker said he had two people contact him within the last two weeks that were getting ready to send money to a phone scammer. Fortunately, he said, he was able to stop both before they made the transfer.
According to Pindrop Labs, a company that markets technology and services to reduce phone fraud, about 1 in every 2,000 calls in the U.S. involves fraud.
For those that do fall victim to phone scams, there is little hope. “I’ll tell you right now; we are not getting that money back,” Trestka said.
Collins added that the IRS does not contact citizens by phone to demand payment.
Consumer advocates note that scammers will make threats and use other tactics to pressure victims into taking hasty action. Citizens receiving such calls are advised to stay calm, ask questions, and if a scam is suspected, to simply hang up. Most importantly, they said, citizens should never provide an unsolicited caller with credit card, checking account or Social Security numbers.
The dozens of attendees at the meeting also got an overview of the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center from Director Joe Thomas. “We took roughly 111,000 911 calls last year,” he said.
Thomas told seniors they should consider retaining their landline phone, noting that after the terrorist attacks in 2001 and the earthquake that struck the Mid-Atlantic region in 2011, local cellular phone service was temporarily lost.
He added county residents can also help themselves and first-responders by taking advantage of Smart911 – a supplemental data service that allows citizens to create a profile that can be seen by emergency operators whenever they call 911.
Using the free, voluntary service, citizen profiles can be created with details about medical conditions, medications, vehicles, pets and emergency contacts. The profiles can contain information about all members of the household and can be updated anytime. For more information, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/smart911.
“This event really highlighted the great strides Sussex County has made in public safety,” Collins said. “That is not to say everything is perfect and there are not some frustrations, but we really have top-notch first-responders — especially our paramedics — who are ranked among the best in the nation.”
Jeff Cox, an education coordinator with Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, said those suffering from sudden cardiac arrest who are treated by the county’s paramedics survive at a rate significantly higher than the national average. Still, the odds of a heart attack victim living beyond the incident are improved further if a bystander can promptly perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
The problem, Cox said, is that too few people know CPR, and many are unwilling to invest the hours it takes for formal certification. In response, he said, county paramedics have changed their paradigm.
If paramedics are being sent to a football game or other event in a reserve capacity, they now also set up to teach “hands-only CPR” to the public — a technique that takes about 10 minutes to learn.
“We changed our paradigm,” Cox said. “If we’re sending paramedics to an event to stand by, they need to be teaching CPR.”
Collins said he thinks the forum delivered on its promise to inform.
“I learned some things, and I think the people who came out learned some valuable information as well,” he said.
Headmaster Dr. Barry Tull recently congratulated the students who made the Worcester Prep Term 4 Headmaster’s List for the 2015-2016 school year.
Students on the Headmaster’s List earned an average of 93 percent or above in their major subjects and had no grade lower than 76 percent in any subject. Local students named to the list included:
• Grade 6 — Alex Bunting, Selbyville; and Marshall Mumford, Bethany Beach;
• Grade 7 — Meredith Cummings, Frankford; Sophia Ludt, Selbyville; Graham McColgan, Millsboro; and Nathan Oltman, Frankford;
• Grade 8 — Rylie Carey, Dagsboro; Quinn McColgan, Millsboro; Kelly Polk, Bethany Beach; and Ayrton Pryor, Selbyville;
• Grade 9 — Jared Gabriel, Millsboro;
• Grade 10 — Eliza Chaufournier, Millsboro; Emilee Dorey, Millville;
• Grade 11 — Reid Carey, Dagsboro; Chandler Dennis, Millsboro; and Paul Townsend, Frankford; and
• Grade 12 — Bridget Brown, Selbyville; Victoria Middleton, Bethany Beach; Ryan Murphy, Ocean View; and Zachary Oltman, Frankford.
Students on the Honorable Mention List achieved an average of 89-92 percent in their major subjects and had no grade lower than 76 percent in any subject. Local students named to the Honorable Mention List included:
• Grade 6 — Hannah Brasure, Frankford; Kate Conaway, Selbyville; and Ava Nally, Ocean View;
• Grade 7 — Adison Browne, Dagsboro; Hunter Gentry, Selbyville; Abby Reynolds, Ocean View; and Sydney Stebenne, Bethany Beach;
• Grade 8 — Ty Burton, Millsboro; and Jacob Lewis, Selbyville;
• Grade 9 — Julia Godwin, Frankford; Graham Hammond, Selbyville; Aiden Mullins, Dagsboro; and Anthony Reilly, Selbyville;
• Grade 10 — Ronnie Ferrell, Selbyville;
• Grade 11 — Grant Brown, Selbyville; Macayla Costleigh, Dewey Beach; Flynn Mullins, Dagsboro; Owen Nally, Ocean View; and Thomas Polk, Bethany Beach; and
• Grade 12 — Nick Curtis, Bethany Beach; and Noah McVicker, Selbyville.
Founded in 1970, WPS is an independent pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 school, located in Berlin, Md. More than 500 students attend from Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. For more information about WPS, visit www.worcesterprep.org or call (410) 641-3575.