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    A pirate ship may be coming to Millville. That’s the theme of playground equipment that Town staff are considering for the new town park.

    Millville’s two biggest projects are proceeding according to plan, as a police and municipal building goes up, and as old buildings are cleared for the future Millville Town Park.

    In 2015, Millville bought the property at 32517 Dukes Drive, a side-road connecting from Windmill Avenue to Route 26.

    Possibly within the next month, Town planners will have a public presentation to show the town council the park’s potential amenities. The council will be asked to vote on designs and equipment.

    Town Manager Debbie Botchie said she envisions a nautical-themed playground. That includes large play structures for older and younger children; a large field that leads to a pavilion stage; a walking path with exercise stations; and a “challenge course,” similar to an obstacle course, where people can actually hit a button and time themselves.

    There’s room for concerts, picnic tables, restrooms and two 50-yard-dash lanes for people to race.

    At one point, it seemed Millville By the Sea would provide parkland to the Town, but “We haven’t heard anything about that in two years, maybe,” Botchie said. “We’ve moved on.”

    Millville will have plenty of room on their 4.9 acres on Dukes Drive.

    In fact, the former residence there, as well as some asbestos and several trees, have already been removed form the property, leaving an empty field for the town’s Great Pumpkin Festival to return on Oct. 6.

    Meanwhile, town hall is shaking with the sound of progress. Construction continues on an adjacent municipal building that will serve as a Delaware State Police outpost.

    “There have been times when we rattle in here,” Botchie said, but she complimented the builders and designers, since construction is on scheduled to finish by January of 2017.

    Lacking its own police force, Millville has sought a way to encourage DSP troopers to be more visible in town and surrounding unincorporated areas.

    With a groundbreaking in June, the building currently has a ground floor of concrete bricks, as well as a second story of wooden planks.

    The two-story addition will include interview rooms, training space, a kitchenette, car-washing bays and more. It will attach to town hall via a two-story glass lobby.


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    Delawareans are doing well with recycling, and now it’s businesses’ turn to catch up. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control plans to update recycling regulations to ensure everyone’s doing their part, including businesses, nonprofits, schools and multi-family-housing neighborhoods.

    In September, DNREC hosted public workshops in the state’s three counties, including Sept. 7 at their Lewes office. About a dozen waste haulers, landlords and others reviewed and chatted about the proposed changes to Title 7 of the Natural Resources & Environmental Control Delaware Administrative Code, Chapter 1300, “Waste Management Section.”

    DNREC staff are still nailing down the language, and the purpose of the workshops was to introduce the first draft for public input. Draft regulations won’t be posted online until the public hearings are scheduled.

    The official public comments period will likely open by October or November, DNREC officials noted. Regulations could be in place by the new year.

    The goal is to ensure recyclables enter the marketplace, to be reused. They also want every residence to have access to — and the commercial sector to participate in — recycling programs that are convenient, cost-effective and statewide.

    Universal recycling came to individual Delaware residences in 2010, when the Delaware State Legislature passed SB 234. Recycling itself wasn’t required, but solid waste collectors had to provide curbside recycling for single-family houses (including delivery of a recycling bin) by 2011. Multi-family residences were to be included by 2013.

    Before that, most people hauled their own recycling to public drop-offs, sorting different materials into each bin — if they recycled at all.

    But with universal recycling, citizens were introduced to the idea of “single stream,” which means all recyclables can go in one bin, to be sorted at a waste facility.

    As of 2014, Delaware was recycling at an average rate of 42 percent (residential customers were diverting 48 percent of waste, and commercial entities, 36 percent).

    Original goals were 50 percent municipal and 72 percent total recycling rates by last year.

    “So we know we’ve got work to do,” explained Jim Short and Don Long of DNREC’s Solid & Hazardous Waste Management Section.

    But commercial waste equals half of the entire waste stream, so encouraging businesses to recycle should really make a mark.

    Delaware missed the legislation’s 2014 demand that “all commercial businesses actively participate in a comprehensive recycling program.” But the regulations gave little guidance, so DNREC is tightening things up.

    Homeowners and self-haulers aren’t legally required to recycle, though the law aimed for it to be as easy as possible.

    But one issue, Long said, was property managers of mobile home parks, who thought they didn’t have to help residents recycle, or they provided curbside trash pickup and just a single large bin for recycling.

    Clarifying the intent of the law, waste-services providers must provide multi-family neighborhoods with recycling bins or containers “so that recycling access is at least as convenient as waste disposal,” the draft states.

    The new regulations would also ensure that property managers follow these rules for their tenants’ sake. Property managers would have a right, if desired, to require tenants to participate in separating recyclable materials from regular trash.

    Getting it right

    DNREC also has some wrinkles to iron out. For instance, some people questioned the wording of a section that intends for commercial entities perform an annual review of solid waste they generate; identify recyclables being thrown out; and subsequently keep recyclables out of the solid waste stream.

    Eventually, any business not participating in a recycling program, or not doing so significantly, could be “subject to enforcement and penalties,” the draft states.

    DNREC has already issued fines and violation notices to waste haulers not following the current rules. Long said DNREC is “reactive” to complaints, such as when residents send videos of a waste hauler tossing trash and recycling into the same truck.

    “We’re not out there wanting to issue [penalties],” Long said, “but we feel there’s been plenty of time [to learn the law], and we’re willing to move forward with more enforcement, if needed.”

    Need help?

    “There needs to be more [ongoing] education on recycling,” said Jim Short. “The contamination rate of the recyclables is creeping up” — 15 percent of “recycling” collected is actually garbage. “That’s why we increased the educational requirements.”

    People aren’t just throwing questionable items (such as pizza boxes with food residue, Styrofoam and plastic bags — all of which are forbidden) into recycling bins. People are also tossing flat-out, unquestionable, garbage in recycling bins.

    So DNREC has created online “toolkits,” or guidelines for creating a recycling program in restaurants, schools, shops, hotels and more.

    Need more help? Employees from the Division of Waste & Hazardous Substances will perform a walk-through of commercial entities, helping to brainstorm container locations, size and other logistics and starting a recycling program.

    That is especially helpful before applying for a grant, so groups know exactly what to ask for. DNREC offers grant money to help people start recycling programs, purchase equipment, begin composting or educate others. (Applications for the current grant cycle are due Sept. 30.)

    Details are online at www.Recycling.Delaware.gov.

    Delaware regulations for solid waste are online at http://regulations.delaware.gov/AdminCode.

    The Division of Waste & Hazardous Substances website is at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/dwhs/Pages/default.aspx.


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    Coastal Point • Laura Walter: State and federal officials cut the ribbon on the Route 26 Mainline Improvements Project, which was designed to improve safety and traffic flow for all.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: State and federal officials cut the ribbon on the Route 26 Mainline Improvements Project, which was designed to improve safety and traffic flow for all.The orange barrels are almost gone.

    The Route 26 Mainline Improvements Project is so close to wrapping up that the dignitaries gathered on Sept. 19 to cut the ribbon for the expanded roadway.

    Rain moved the Sept. 19 ribbon-cutting off the road and into the Millville fire hall, which DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan joked was perfect for testing the drainage.

    Construction officially began in January of 2014, with an aim to improve drainage, traffic flow and safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

    But road crews had started working long before that, since utility lines were moved the preceding winter, and the surrounding side-roads had been renovated to create a smoother alternate route in the preceding years.

    Designed by Century Engineering, the project added a center turn lane and bike lanes for the entire 4.1 miles, as well as sidewalks from Millville’s Windmill Drive to the Assawoman Canal in Ocean View.

    They also created an enclosed drainage system along the flood-prone roadway. Tidewater Utilities and Sussex County also took advantage of the uprooted road to improve their own water and sewer systems.

    After a minor hiccup in road design, the original May 2016 completion date was moved to June 24, 2016. From there, the deadline was pushed back by the 104 weather days since 2014. But the contractors still hit two major milestones successfully. In early 2015, they completed two small bridge replacements ahead of schedule — work that had required actual extended road closures for parts of Route 26. Additionally, all the widening and striping was done by Memorial Day 2016, so drivers could use the final configuration, including those turn lanes and many sidewalks.

    Gov. Jack Markell thanked Delaware’s Congressional delegation, which he said had fought for “some sanity when it comes to transportation funding.” Rather than getting caught in a piecemeal funding schedule, which is troublesome for multi-year project, Delaware got dedicated funding for the whole project.

    The federal government footed about 80 percent of the approximately $57 million price tag (plus another $17 million for the Alternate Routes project, and possibly more, as some property owners waded into the court system for more compensation for property taken for the project).

    Most of the funding comes from user fees, such as gasoline taxes, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said, complimenting those with the “political courage” to support such fees.

    “I encourage you all to buy gas-guzzling SUVs so we can do more projects like these,” joked state Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr. (R-20th).

    “I’m so proud of this highway,” said state Rep. Ron Gray (R-38th), adding that he felt fortunate that the State was investing major funds on Route 26 when budgets were being slashed elsewhere.

    “People want to come to Bethany Beach. They want to come to Fenwick Island… And we have to make it possible for them to get here. By the same token, we have to work together to make it possible for them to leave, so somebody else can get here … and so people can leave, like when we have a nor’easter, like we had earlier this year.” Carper said.

    “Projects like this are really the key to rebuilding our economy,” providing jobs to construction crews and for tourism, said Mary Ridgeway, U.S. Federal Highway division administrator.

    “It’s been a long time, putting up with construction,” said Hocker, who noted that he had grown up along Route 26 when people knew every person on the road. Now, coastal Delaware is a busy tourist hub, and “We thought we were going to get this project to 25 years ago … and then they put it on hold” after the Bethany Beach leg of Route 26 was completed.

    That was the biggest mistake in this project, Hocker lamented, as the eventual land acquisition costs rivaled actual construction costs.

    The project included 3.5 miles of sidewalk, four stormwater management ponds, five traffic signals, 5.5 linear miles of pipes, 237 entrances, 250 land acquisitions and “endless coordination and outreach,” said Tom Banez, DelDOT project manager. “None of this was easy.”

    Working through the restrictions

    Nobody likes lane closures, and drivers must pay extra attention during lane shifts. But DelDOT set very strict rules about lane closures that “really led our contractor, George & Lynch, to reconstruct a roadway 800 feet at a time and manage multiple locations simultaneously,” said Sarah (Criswell) Powell, DelDOT area engineer. It might have seemed a patchwork project, but they had many requirements to meet, such as no lane closures on weekends in summer.

    DelDOT only decided to allow summertime construction at all because cutting those months would have meant prolonging the project for another couple of years.

    The construction team encountered only encountered minor surprises (such as discovering that some pre-existing underground pipes weren’t exactly where they were supposed to be, elevation-wise).

    They said they tried to be sensitive to the local businesses, down to the placement of detour signs and changing construction hours to fit restaurants’ dinner rush.

    “I was one of those businesses that really got hit by construction,” Hocker said. But when he had issues, like two entrances blocked simultaneously, Hocker spoke with project staff, and things improved. “I can tell you, today business is better than it was three years ago.”

    Talking it out

    Several years prior to the Route 26 project, Route 54 construction had been a nightmare for many involved. Public meetings were eventually added, but too late in the process for many. And the contractor never participated in those meetings.

    DelDOT sometimes learns things the hard way, Cohan admitted. So builders and engineers gave public updates at every bimonthly meeting of the Construction Advisory Group and sent out 160 total weekly emails.

    For the past three years, many people have personally thanked Ken Cimino, a project manager whose primary role was community relations.

    “This project stands out to me as a posterchild for how important it is to have a strong liaison between the project and the community,” Markell said. “And, Ken, I want to thank you particularly. … People in the community literally told me the difference in this project was having you and folks like you out and about in the community.”

    Yes, these projects are disruptive, he said. But “I think people are willing to be understanding” if they’re kept in the loop with what’s going on.”

    But nothing is perfect during road construction, and road-rage sometimes got the best of people. Out on the front lines, flagging staff directed traffic for hours at a time. They experienced everything, from people kindly delivering coffee and doughnuts, to drivers angrily calling them racist names.

    But, ultimately, traffic control’s mission is to keep drivers and construction workers safe. No major injuries were reported.

    So what’s left?

    Road construction on the mainline is basically done. Now, builders just have to tie it in to its surroundings.

    Some milling and paving will continue outside of project limits, east of the Assawoman Canal and west of Clarksville.

    Central Avenue also needs milling and paving near Windmill Drive and Cedar Drive, where temporary traffic lights had been erected during the bridge detours. (DelDOT will install a permanent traffic signal at Cedar and Central, at the Town of Ocean View’s request, but the Windmill Drive light has been removed.)

    There will also be “punch list” items to clean up the project area, including landscaping and erosion/sediment control.

    The public can expect to see various kinds of work continue until about Thanksgiving, Cimino said.


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    An Indian River School District para-educator was arrested Sept. 20 on allegations that she had engaged in sexual acts with a 17-year-old male student who was enrolled at her assigned school.

    The Georgetown Police Department arrested Nicole M. DeGirolano, 23, of Millsboro, on four counts of sexual abuse of a child by a person in a position of trust, authority or supervision.

    Although the school is in Frankford, Georgetown police have jurisdiction because “some of the alleged acts happened here in the corporate limits,” said Sgt. John “Tom” Tyndall of the GPD.

    Because the investigation is ongoing, police would not share details of when the alleged encounters may have occurred or how the allegations first came to light.

    It appears that only one student was involved, Tyndall said.

    “It seems that there’s probably no other alleged victims at this point,” Tyndall said. “Just him and her.”

    School district officials would not say if the young man is still enrolled in the IRSD.

    At the time of the alleged crime, DiGirolano was a paraprofessional educator at the G.W. Carver Center in Frankford. She worked in the Accelerating Pre-Literate English Language Learners (APELL) program, which provides specialized ELL instruction to students ages 14 to 18.

    For now, the IRSD has placed DiGirolano on unpaid leave. Further details were not shared, as it is a personnel issue.

    She was arraigned and committed to Sussex Correctional Institute in lieu of $80,000 secured bond. Tyndall said she would likely be transferred to the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle.


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    September is National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The campaign aims to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

    In Sussex County, residents have access to local resources to help them stay safe.

    A first step would be to visit the County’s website (SussexCountyDE.com), and under the “Citizens” tab is a public safety section which includes “Emergency Preparedness.”

    “When you open that page up, we have written next to ‘Red Cross emergency disaster kits,’ evacuation routes, different kinds of public safety information, if you will,” explained Sussex County Emergency Operations Director Joe Thomas. “That’s probably the best place to start, because that’s the information that’s kind of local.”

    Thomas said a good way to start to prepare for a disaster is by putting together a hurricane evacuation kit, which should include food, a first-aid kit and clothes.

    “I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a disaster kit. Although we typically talk about flooding in this county, the fact is that anything could happen at any given time,” said Thomas. “I know we don’t see a lot of them in this area, but there could be a potential for tornadoes.

    ”Out west, you see a lot of forest fires, and you see people’s homes destroyed. When they’re told to evacuate, they have to do it very quickly. Having that kit at the ready is very important, because now you don’t have to take the time to put everything together — it’s there.”

    Thomas said he recommends kits have three days’ worth of supplies.

    “FEMA, federal assistance, is typically two to three days getting to us. So if you’ve got three days of supplies, you can be self-sufficient; then, when help does arrive, you’re just transitioning from one to the other.

    “And cash. People don’t think about the need to have cash. Nine times out of 10, the power’s out, and you can’t use ATMs if the power is out. We tell people to put insurance documents in a plastic bag or something waterproof, and take those so they don’t get wet. That way, if you have to reference those materials and you can’t get back to your home, you’ve got those with you. Prescriptions, flashlight with batteries, a radio that’s powered by batteries or a hand crank.”

    If Sussex County is facing an emergency, Thomas recommended citizens visit the social media sites for the County, as well as be vigilant with local media outlets.

    “We do very robust social media posting. We will typically post on Facebook and Twitter, and that’s a continuously updated all the time. If you have Facebook or Twitter, follow that, because you’re going to get the most up-to-date information.

    “We put out a press releases to all the local media outlets when we feel there’s enough of a significant update,” he said. “During Hurricane Irene in 2011, we really hit Facebook and Twitter, and we had over 30,000 views. Then Sandy came in 2012. We — Chip Guy, the County’s communications director, the county administrator and I — we were in here coordinating it.”

    Thomas said that during Hurricane Sandy, Guy had said the County needed to up its game, and they started filming updates and posting them on YouTube, gaining tens of thousands of views.

    “That really got a good response. In fact, one of the first responses we got from the first one we did was from the governor. When he came down during the storm, he walked in and said, ‘How’s it going Joe? Hey, by the way — love the YouTube video.’

    “I said, ‘You want to do one?’ He asked if I was serious and I said, ‘Yeah, we have all the stuff over here, set up.’ So he and I did one about two or three minutes long. What I was doing was giving him an update on the weather. I was telling him what we were doing, what shelters were open, and that evacuation orders were being issued. While we’re talking, there were graphics playing on YouTube of the storm’s movement. Then the governor came on and talked. That was a big thing.”

    The County will also use the Delaware Emergency Notification System or “reverse 911” in times of emergency.

    “Whenever we issue evacuation orders or anything of any significance, we push out that information across the telephone lines, too.”

    As coastal Delaware is no stranger to storms, Thomas said reporting damage is essential in order for the County and property owners to receive federal recovery funding.

    “Once we’ve had an event that has caused some damage, we will push out across all the different venues — social media, press releases — that we need to know what’s been damaged. We’re trying to capture by a quick snapshot to see if we have enough damage for the federal government to come in and provide assistance, or do we have to look at programs at the state level or even at the county level, to try and help people out.”

    The “windshield survey” will give a rough outline of where the damage took place and what was damaged.

    “Is it structures? Is it downed power lines? That gives us the ability to see from the price-tag standpoint, if you will… FEMA, most times, in order to get individual assistance and where they’ll come in and actually sit down with the property owners and provide them with assistance — typically you have to have at least 25 damaged homes,” he explained. “And, they have to be your primary residence. That’s really one of the biggest issues in this area, because most of the time, when we have flooding on the coast, probably the majority of those homes are seasonal.

    “A lot of times we have flooding — Sandy is a prime example, there were homes in Fenwick Island down on 54, Oak Orchard, that had water in them from the flooding, but we just didn’t have enough damage to warrant federal assistance. That’s what people get frustrated with, unfortunately. And that’s where the flood insurance program comes in.”

    Sometimes, in the event of an emergency, people are urged to evacuate their homes. Evacuations are ordered by the governor. When that happens, the EOC will release a list of open shelters, as they vary in availability.

    “We have a list of established shelters throughout the county that have been labeled as shelters. Why don’t we publicize that list 365 days? We don’t open every single facility for every single event. We don’t want people showing up to a facility on a list, thinking it’s going to open as a shelter when we are not going to be using it.

    “Predominately, all these facilities are schools, and a lot of times, particularly in the summertime, when school is out of session, there are renovations going on in the building. So we may not be able to use that facility in that event.”

    Thomas said a prime example of their reasoning dates to June 2006, when the town of Seaford had flooding.

    “We had a couple of mobile home parks where we had to rescue some people out of. Every school in the Seaford School District that I could reach out and open as a shelter was either going through asbestos abatement or they were renovating their HVAC system. I literally could not use any facility in the Seaford School District. We ended up going to Woodbridge School District. That’s why we typically don’t publicize that list, because we just don’t want people showing up at the doors and being unable to get in.”

    The public can get involved

    If members of the public are looking to get involved and lend a helping hand during a disaster, Thomas recommends joining the Citizen Corps.

    “Citizen Corps is part of the federal government’s Ready.gov campaign. It was started roughly 15 years ago, after the terrorist attacks. It was a program that was trying to get the folks out in the public that want to volunteer and help us.”

    Thomas said the country has seen firsthand that, following a disaster, help starts from the ground up.

    “So let’s give these folks the training. Let’s make them part of the team, so to speak. Now they can be in those communities and, as soon as something happens, they’re there to help. That’s what is this is all about — helping the community.”

    Those who wish to join will be provided with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, which includes such knowledge as basic first-aid.

    “There’s fire extinguisher training, how to deal with certain things, like flooding, power outages; things like that. It’s training that any citizen can be a part of, but we are actually training them, certifying them, and they will become part of the team that comes together when these sorts of things happen.”

    Thomas said he will work with a community to provide training, be it over a weekend or spread out.

    “Let us know what suits you best.”

    He noted that the Sussex EOC works closely with Ocean City, Md.’s, which also has a Citizen Corps.

    “We are looking at possibly bringing our groups together and possibly working together. That way we can improve our numbers and, by working together, provide a better service.”

    For those who may face an emergency that requires a call to 911, Thomas recommends taking advantage of Smart911 — a free service offered through the County that allows individuals to create a safety profile that can be seen and used by emergency responders.

    “We haven’t had the call come in yet where that information has absolutely 100 percent saved a person’s life, but our dispatchers comment all the time that having that additional information in front of them when we get a phone call is very helpful,” said Thomas, noting that the County began using the service in September 2014.

    “You have to realize that when someone dials 911 from a cell phone, all we’re getting is the number of the phone and a GPS coordinate that’s within anywhere from 80 to 150 feet of accuracy. So, I don’t have the name on the phone and I don’t have the address.

    “Smart911 makes up for that,” he said. “When you do that safety profile, when you dial 911 from that phone number, all that information displays in front of the dispatcher.”

    Thomas said 80 percent of the EOC’s 911 calls are from cell phones, adding that he will go out and speak to communities or organizations, such as the Lions Club, about the service.

    “If anyone asks us to speak, we go out and speak to them,” he said.

    Currently, the County has roughly 2,900 safety profiles; however, Thomas said he hopes to get more residents to become users.

    “From what I’ve been told by the Smart911 folks, we are on par with the rest of the country as far as how many safety profiles there are. I really wish we would get more,” he said, adding that the County has advertised the service on Pandora and iHeartRadio.

    The service is in use in more than 40 states across the country, so if a person travels out of the county, chances are their profile travels with them.

    “If you’re traveling somewhere in an area or community that has Smart911 capabilities, and God forbid you have to call 911, that information is going to display in front of their dispatchers,” he said. “Washington, D.C., is a Smart911 community. For people for vacation here at the beach from 911 from Washington, D.C., if they have to call 911, that information travels with them. That profile will display in front of us that they entered back in the District.”

    Those who create a profile will receive an email or text message every six months reminding them to make sure their profile is up-to-date. Profiles can include specific medical information, such as allergies or a heart condition, cell phone numbers, photos of family members and even family pets. Profile-makers may also include information for first-responders, such as bedroom locations, entry and exit points, and emergency shutoffs.

    “It’s a great program,” said Thomas.

    For more information about Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/emergency-operations-center. For up-to-the-minute updates during emergencies, follow the EOC on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SussexCountyEOC) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/sussexctyde_eoc).

    For a list on items that should be in a hurricane evacuation kit, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/sites/default/files/PDFs/EVACBOOK3.pdf. Citizens can also learn how to be prepared for an emergency through the Delaware Emergency Management Agency by visiting www.preparede.org.


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    Following a revamping of the original draft ordinance to amend the Code of Sussex County related to signs, a new series of public hearings is being held by the Sussex County Council. This week members of the public who spoke at the first hearing voiced opposition to the proposed ordinance as written.

    Georgetown attorney David Hutt, of Morris James Wilson Halbrook & Bayard LLP, spoke 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.

    Hutt, who volunteered his time to the working group convened last year when county officials and stakeholders reviewed the county code, presented a red-lined version of the proposed ordinance pinpointing six areas he said he believed needed to be addressed.

    Hutt said lighting standards needed to be addressed, as the wording of the proposed ordinance could be interpreted as needing to meet both light standards — NITs and foot-candles.

    The measurement was much debated over the last several months, which is why the County chose to include both measurements. Hutt recommended solely using foot-candles as its standard of measurement, as they are much easier to measure, and therefore enforce, he said.

    The draft sections regarding setbacks and separation distances were also tweaked by Hutt.

    In the current code, off-premises signage has to be at least 25 feet from the property line, whereas in the proposed ordinance, such a sign would have to be at least 40 feet from the property line.

    “County code has a very orderly process on signs, with relation to setbacks and buildings,” said Hutt. “On-premises signs have a 5-foot frontward setback. Right behind those, you have off-premises signs, with a 25-foot front-yard setback.

    “In a CR-1, where off-premises signs can be located, buildings can begin at 60 feet… What’s being done in the second ordinance is a squeezing of the area to the point where there’s really no place to put a sign on a commercial property. That’s why the suggestion is to go back and use the orderly process that has been the standard in Sussex County, which is a 25-foot front-yard setback for off-premises signs.”

    Hutt’s red-lined version also requests the return to a 300-foot separation distance from a church, dwelling, school or public lands, as measured on a radius.

    “The difficulty with that is, if you have a large property, the sign may have no impact on the structures on that property. Imagine a church that has a 4-acre parcel and this CR-1 ground was on the south end of it and the church is on the northern end of the property, 800 feet away. Yet, in what’s proposed, because that property is used as a church, there’s an additional 150 foot setback being imposed on that property owner.”

    Hutt, who has represented property owners who wish to erect signs on their parcels, said his clients first get a site plan, which on the plan includes a 300-foot radius from each end of the sign, delineated by the surveyor.

    Once a site plan is completed, Hutt or his client will meet with the neighboring property’s owners to discuss their desire to submit an application for a sign permit.

    “Most often the response is favorable,” he said, adding that most public hearings related to sign applications lack opposition.

    During the council’s discussion when they chose to change the separation distance, there was concern surveyors would be unable to get permission to access neighboring property.

    “I can tell you I’ve never had one surveyor have any issue with measuring any distance from a building,” he stated. “In fact, most often those things are done electronically, with lasers and GPS. It doesn’t necessarily require the surveyor go on-site to measure.”

    Concerns raised

    about variance issues

    Hutt’s red-lined version also removes the prohibition against an off-premises sign being erected within 50 feet of an on-premises sign.

    “There is already a really good envelope within the current code, as it exists, for the location and placement for an off-premises sign,” he said, noting that an on-premises sign is not singly a ground sign. “You’re going to have locations on buildings where you can’t have an on-premises sign because of an existing off-premises sign. You’re creating a conflict that doesn’t exist currently and is going to lead to further complications in the code and the need for variances… which the code seeks to eliminate.”

    Giving the example of a business wanting to put up a wall sign, Hutt said, with the proposed ordinance as is, instead of going to the Planning & Zoning office to apply for a sign permit, one would have to apply for a variance.

    “Another step, another additional cost to the business owner,” said Hutt. “Again, those are the unintended consequences of trying to over-restrict the location and placement of signs.”

    Councilman Rob Arlett said off-premises signs are a business, as is a business with an on-premises sign.

    “If there’s conflict there, that owner has to make a decision as to what’s a priority to them. I’m just throwing it out there…”

    Councilman George Cole agreed, stating that business owners have to comply with other regulations, such as parking.

    Hutt said the difficultly and the difference between parking, stormwater management, et cetera, and signage is that those are decisions a property owner is making about their own property.

    “Signs is what’s on the next property. It’s not necessarily just your decision about what you’re going to do with your property… That’s why setbacks are so meaningful.”

    He also called out the part of the Sussex County code that says a dwelling can be a property with a “for sale” sign.

    “It doesn’t even have to have a billboard on it. It has a ‘for sale’ sign on it for residential purposes. That’s a ‘dwelling’ under the Sussex County Code. That means you have to be another 150 feet from a vacant property.

    “I point that out because that’s not a decision that I, as the owner of property, trying to balance stormwater, parking and signs, has to worry about what to do with my own property. That’s my neighbor pounding a ‘for sale’ sign into the ground and changing my setback for me.”

    Electronic message

    centers targeted

    by ordinance

    In the new proposed sign ordinance, a variance process does not exist for off-premises signs and Electronic Message Centers (EMCs) as on-premises signs.

    Hutt said the State of Delaware gave all of its counties the ability to enact zoning ordinances, through the State Code.

    “Recognizing zoning codes, by their very nature and definition, are imprecise and imperfect, and require constant updating and changing, the State code also requires that a municipality or a county which has been given zoning authority have a process in which a property owner whose property is being impacted can appeal the impact of that zoning to a Board of Adjustment or, in certain circumstances, to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

    “That’s simply a recognition of the fact that real property is something that is always unique. The look on Route 1 is not the look on Route 113 or the look on 13. Every one of those highways has a different set of facts and circumstances, and the properties are all configured differently.”

    Hutt’s said by taking away the variance process, the County would be making signs the most regulated part of the code.

    He noted there are a number of things a property owner can’t control when erecting a sign — whether or not the neighboring property has an EMC, where they may place an on- or off-premises sign. However, building a deck on one’s home, he said, is something that is completely controlled by the property owner, and a variance process exists for those who wish to do so.

    Hutt said that if the County chooses to adopt the Delaware Department of Transportation’s (DelDOT) sign requirements (25 feet from a road, sign body cannot be greater than 25 feet in height, and must be at least 300 feet from another sign) they would no longer have variance requests.

    Cole questioned whether DelDOT has a variance process. Hutt said they do have a variance process, which doesn’t apply to separation distances.

    Additionally, in the proposed ordinance, a sign destroyed by nature that was non-conforming would not be permitted to be rebuilt. Nor would a sign with 50 percent or more of the supporting pikes or structures located above-ground or destruction of 75 percent or more of the facing be able to be repaired or reconstructed within 12 months of the damage.

    The red-lined version provided by Hutt removes those restrictions, as the damage is beyond the control of the property owner, he argued.

    It adds, however, that those signs being replaced must comply with height and size requirements.

    He noted that a conforming sign could become non-conforming if, for instance, an off-premises sign is erected within the 50-foot required side-yard setback, or if neighboring property builds a home on their property.

    “The sideboard setback is now 150 feet from that property line, so now my sign has become non-conforming on my property.”

    He said then, if the property owner later wants to replace that sign, they would not be able to because it would then be, under the proposed ordinance, considered non-conforming. That property owner would have no recourse in that circumstance, as the County’s proposed ordinance seeks to remove the variance process for off-premises signs.

    Animated signs ‘tacky,’ according to Cole

    In the proposed ordinance, it also prohibits the conversion of non-conforming off-premises signs to EMCs. Hutt’s red-lined version removes that prohibition, too.

    Hutt also addressed the prohibition of animated signs — noting that it would eliminate the ability of business owners to use individuals who hold signs on the side of the road or the inflatable moving advertisement known as an AirDancer, often seen at car dealerships.

    “I don’t think that was the intended reach,” he said. “When you have a very broad term in a prohibited section, you take in probably more than you probably intended to take in.”

    Hutt called up Ben Phillips of Phillips Signs Inc. to explain the difference between “live” and “animation.”

    “Live means live,” said Phillips. “It’s an event that’s going on right now and somehow is being projected on that sign. It’s something that we do not agree with.”

    Animation, he said, is any movement.

    “If you want to get technical, a frame change is animation.”

    Phillips recommended that the council prohibit live streaming, scrolling and flashing (along the lines of a flashing traffic light).

    Phillips said he doesn’t understand the problem with animation on EMCs.

    “What difference does it make? No one is giving me a legitimate reason not to allow it.”

    “It’s tacky,” said Cole. “I think it’s tacky. I think it’s not appealing. I think we need to have some standards in this county. I don’t think we need Route 1 or Route 13 going through Seaford with all this going on.”

    Cole said he’s been to other jurisdictions and hasn’t seen the prevalence of signs as that in Sussex County.

    “Go to Salisbury,” said Phillips. “Your reason for not allowing it is because you don’t like it. To me that’s not a good enough reason. Show me that it’s causing public harm. Show me it’s causing accidents.”

    Arlett asked for documentation showing that animation on EMCs either is or is not a public safety concern.

    Hutt said numerous studies were shared with the County in the last proposed ordinance’s public hearing process, showing that animated signs did not have an impact on the safety of drivers.

    Temporary real estate signs were also addressed by Hutt, who said the issues noted by Realtors could be addressed by eliminating the prohibition of back-to-back signs and changing the maximum area of signs to 32 square feet.

    Hutt said the change would simply reflect the current practice.

    Realtors voice

    opposition

    Merritt Burke IV, CEO of the Sussex County Association of Realtors, spoke against the elimination of animation.

    He said SCAOR supports 32 square feet per sign, or a total of 64 square feet for an A-frame sign.

    Jason Dean of J.D. Sign Company also spoke during the hearing, stating he has yet to hear someone outside of council members complain about signs.

    “What I keep hearing from people is, ‘Who cares?’” he said. “There’s no one here from the public to complain… I’ve listened to a lot of opinions, feelings… What I haven’t heard is facts, figures and data.”

    Although it was requested that the public record be left open, as the Planning & Zoning Commission were expected to give their recommendation on Thursday, instead the County chose to leave the public record open for written comments related to the commission’s decision.

    Written comments will be accepted by the County until Friday, Sept. 30, at 4:30 p.m.

    A public hearing was previously held before the Planning & Zoning Commission on Sept. 8, at which no one spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance.

    During that meeting, Planning & Zoning Director Lawrence Lank noted that the County had received 20 emails voicing their opposition to the proposed ordinance.

    At that meeting, Hutt gave a similar presentation to the commission, presenting his red-lined version of the proposed ordinance.

    “I think what Mr. Hutt has brought up again is starting to make sense,” said Commissioner I.G. Burton III, adding that points made by others who spoke in opposition related to provisions for real estate signs had made good points as well.

    The Commission unanimously agreed to defer their recommendation to council until its next meeting, which was set for Thursday, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m.


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    The size — or, more specifically, the appearance of size — of homes in Bethany Beach is an issue that has long been discussed by the Town and many of its citizens. Large new multi-story homes built next to the town’s traditional single-story cottages and moderate-sized beach homes on pilings have been a point of contention between property owners and neighbors for years. Now, the Town is poised to do something about it.

    On Sept. 19, the Town of Bethany Beach held a public hearing on proposed changes to the Town’s building code that would incentivize building structures that reduce at least the appearance of bulk and perhaps the reality of it as well.

    Vice-Mayor Lew Killmer noted that the Town has been working on the issue since 2005, including several efforts by the Planning Commission to address housing bulk.

    The most recent of those efforts has been ongoing for three years and has also involved builders, developers and contractors in an effort to create a proposal that is practical and addresses those concerns. Killmer said constructive criticism of draft versions of the ordinance has shaped its current form.

    “The latest is a system of tradeoffs and incentives,” he noted. “There’s a fine line between letting people build the house they want to and having regard for the future,” he said, noting a desire for homes to fit in with and not negatively impact neighboring residences.

    Especially east of Route 1, Killmer said, larger houses can block light and air from neighbors.

    As proposed, the ordinance would apply to new construction or major remodeling only, and it only addresses facets of home design that are visible from the exterior, such as roof lines, wall planes and lot coverage.

    When and if approved, the ordinance would not take effect for a year, “so as to not negatively impact people who are in the process of building a home,” Killmer noted.

    Building Inspector Susan Frederick explained on Monday that the development of the draft ordinance had included studying the trends and impacts of the new, larger homes. She said the greatest impact has been in the R1 and R1B districts of the town — east of Route 1 — which have narrower lots, higher density and lower elevations, which can necessitate raising a home higher than would otherwise be needed.

    Lots in those zones average just 5,000 square feet, she noted, and the focus of the legislation was to create tradeoffs “as a positive approach to the design of future homes as a means of obtaining desirable architectural features that works to all stakeholders’ advantage.”

    Those desirable features include dormers, open porches and decks, reduction in lot coverage, steeper roof pitches (something past efforts on the issue incorporated), fewer flat planes and a greater variation in planes. Allowances for encroachment of steps and bay windows had previously been approved as incentives for such designs.

    Tradeoffs include larger third story and setback encroachments

    The Town has created a chart to explain the proposed tradeoff system, using maximum lot coverage as a key element and adjusting permitted size and features based on how much lot coverage is planned.

    Homes, regardless of lot coverage, would be required to either: (1) have a minimum of two exterior wall planes on each side (one of which must be no less than 20 percent of the total wall space), with a minimum difference of 4 feet between the planes; or (2) have a minimum two wall planes at the front elevation (one of which must be at least 40 percent of the total wall space), with a minimum difference of 4 feet between the planes.

    For homes built to the current maximum of 40 percent lot coverage, a home would be permitted no more than 2.5 stories — a half-story not being a vertical measurement, but rather the presence of a third story of the house that covers no more than 50 percent of the footprint of the floor below. The minimum roof pitch would be 5:12, and at least 2 feet total would have to be added to the existing lot setbacks on the front and/or side of an interior lot. Lot coverage of 40 percent would no longer be permitted on a corner lot.

    With the incentives, when a home covers 38 percent of a lot, it could have a partial third story (noted as a half-story-plus) that could cover a maximum of 60 percent of the floor below, also with a minimum roof pitch of 5:12. The setbacks would again be an additional 2 feet total, with corner lots having a minimum setback of 7 feet on the interior side and 15 feet on a side abutting a street.

    With 36 percent lot coverage on an interior lot, there would be a flat 7-foot side setback, plus an additional allowance for up to 5 feet of encroachment in the rear setback over no more than 40 percent of the lot width and limited to one story in height above ground level. The minimum roof pitch would be 3:12, and a third story could cover up to 75 percent of the footprint of the story below.

    At 32 percent lot coverage, the same setbacks and rear-yard encroachment would be permitted, along with the same minimum 3:12 roof pitch, but there would be no defined maximum number of stories in a home, so long as it does not exceed the existing limits on total building height. A full third story could be built.

    Overall, the ordinance would aim to increase setbacks, reduce lot coverage, discourage large walls and limit the size of third stories, as well as encourage a variety of roof lines that could include dormers, mansard and gambrel roofs, and other roof styles with multiple components, rather than a single simple roof line. Upper-story decks would be encouraged so as to create space between floors.

    Frederick noted the “canyon effect” of second and third stories that are built to the full footprint of the story or stories below, saying that the offset required in walls would help reduce that effect. She also noted wall size’s impact on apparent bulk, especially when there are large expanses of wall in the same plane.

    The incentives would aim to encourage a human scale to architectural elements, she said, as well as make comparative mass and scale between neighboring homes more appropriate.

    The ordinance offers examples of homes that could be built with each set of lot coverage maximum and incentives, depicting houses that could reach farther back into the depth of a lot, rather than spreading across its width.

    Frederick also offered up a number of existing examples of homes in the town that make use of the desirable features, including dormers, decks and complex roof lines.

    Asked whether she had confirmed that all of the examples would meet code requirements under the proposed ordinance, Frederick said she hadn’t reviewed the examples for compliance but had wanted to show people real-world examples of the tradeoff elements.

    Mayor Jack Gordon said the Town was “just trying to keep the town looking as it has been, as opposed to square houses with a maximum number of rooms. … We don’t want to make limits that are unreasonable.”

    Proposal finds support and opposition

    With a few dozen people in attendance at the Sept. 19 hearing, reaction to the proposed ordinance was mixed.

    Resident Jane Richards questioned the impact of the lot coverage incentives, stating that she felt it pushed people to build narrower houses.

    Frederick said that she didn’t anticipate that the changes would necessarily make homes that were built narrower but that they may have a bigger front yard or rear yard or porches.

    “The intent is to link lot coverage to increase the area between buildings or make steeper roofs. It will look a little different than ones that went on a different path,” she said of some homes built in the town in recent years, without the tradeoff system in place.

    Richards said she felt the legislation’s intent was “very good and very necessary,” but she also advocated for the use of trees to help address some of the concerns about newer homes.

    “Trees really create harmony. I know we have a tree ordinance, but trees soften the appearance between homes that are larger and smaller,” she said. She also suggested that larger homes be required to be set back farther on a lot, to avoid the canyon effect, and she questioned whether allowing a full third story on a lot with 32 percent lot coverage would get away from the intention of the ordinance by allowing a more “boxy” book.

    Baker Richards agreed with her on that concern and added that he felt more attention need to be paid to the front face of a building and the variations in that front plane.

    Clem Edgar said he applauded the efforts of the Planning Commission and building inspector in developing the ordinance and felt the “long-range benefit would be very significant here for the town.”

    Having built a home in the town in 2005, he said, he had checked to see whether it would comply with the new ordinance. At 35 percent lot coverage, he said, they would be restricted to 75 percent coverage for the third floor, but adding dormers to the design would have put them in compliance.

    “I don’t find it overly restrictive,” he said. “It is restrictive, but you have to have some restrictions to achieve the look we want.”

    Tracy Mulligan, emphasizing that he was not speaking on behalf of the Bethany Beach Landowners Association, of which he is president, expressed his appreciation for the work Killmer and the commissioners had done to clarify the definition of a story and eliminate color and texture elements from the proposal, as well as for Frederick’s response to questions about it.

    He said he wanted further clarification of the definition of wall plane and felt that that element should be separated from the rest of the ordinance. He said he wasn’t sure the issue could be concluded on the suggested timetable for approval in October.

    Mulligan also suggested including Realtors in a review of the ordinance and its impacts, noting the “significant investment, financially and emotional,” that people have in their homes, and the potential impact of the ordinance on home value. He recommended the Town send out additional information by mail.

    He added that he believed the R1 and R2 districts should both be included in the ordinance.

    “I don’t think it goes far enough,” he said.

    Joe Clark said he respected the process that had led to the ordinance but that he opposed it.

    “There have been some tremendous beautiful houses built in last five years, and they have increased the economic value of all properties in the town,” he said, noting that many of the newer homes have inverted floor plans that he felt could not be built under the ordinance, and that, as a result, the ordinance would diminish home values. He suggested an appraiser, not Realtors, should be consulted on the issue of impact on home values.

    Resident Nettie Props addressed the ordinance not only as a property owner in the town for 40 years but also as the designer and/or builder of eight homes.

    “I’ve learned a lot about the ownership of homes and what people want,” she said. “One of the first things they want is they want to be able to build the home they see in their brain,” rather than having that constrained by “people who don’t know much about building and what they’ll need in the future. Other people cannot do that for us,” she said. “I’m totally against this.”

    Props said her home was built “the way they were supposed to build them at the time. It doesn’t make a difference that we don’t use all the space. People should be allowed to build as they see fit. The recent houses are nice-looking,” she added. “I don’t think this is any way to start on a new path to building homes down here.”

    Dale Vorhees noted that his new house had just been completed in May but would not comply with the proposed ordinance.

    “I was in the design phase,” he said of when he learned about the proposal. “I instructed my architect to do everything he could do to achieve what the ordinance was trying to achieve.”

    Vorhees said the result was a home with seven dormers, knee walls and a shorter top plate, but that didn’t affect his objectives of having an inverted floor plan, deck and an elevator for access as the family gets older, so they can get to the floor they like to live on, as well as ocean views. “It adds value to our house and others,” he said.

    On the other hand, he said, the impacts on side setbacks, requiring wall planes to be broken up, had proven “very difficult to build. I’ve invested too much money to build an ugly house,” he said. “Height, setbacks, lot coverage — there are plenty of restrictions the Town has. To take this much further than this is an overreach and will devalue homes. I oppose it,” he added, even if the result was having to suffer negative impacts from neighboring houses.

    “If they’re going to spend a million dollars, it’s offensive to have an ordinance that would restrict them in building what want to build,” he concluded.

    Bob Highborn said that, with two large homes built across the street from him, he didn’t envy the council for the decision they will have to make. He added that he hoped the Town had had the ordinance strenuously reviewed by its legal counsel, in order to avoid ending up in court and incurring large legal costs.

    “I think you’re headed in the right direction,” he added.

    Highborn said his home had been built with two stories, to avoid flooding issues. With that vantage point, he said, if he looks out from his house to the right, “I can look out and see the house across the street and the skyline; if I look to the left, there are two beautiful homes, but all see is homes — no sky, no trees.”

    BBLA Vice President Doug Mowrey spoke on behalf of the BBLA board, noting that the issue was one garnering members’ interest, especially with concerns about larger houses having previously been voiced.

    He said the group had not reached a consensus on the proposal, but that it had advocated for its members to make an effort to understand the ordinance and had asked the Town to explain its effects “in layman’s language.”

    Gordon concluded the hearing by saying he felt the issue was an important one for the council to be working on and that they appreciated the public’s comments. He said the topic would be voted upon at a future council meeting, but no specific date was given.

    Council selects leadership for year

    Also on Sept. 19, the council held its reorganizational meeting, after canceling council elections for 2016 when only incumbents filed for re-election. Council Members Bruce Frye, Killmer, Rosemary Hardiman and Gordon were sworn in to new two-year terms.

    The council members also selected the council leadership positions for the coming year, with only one nomination for each of the mayoral, vice-mayoral and secretary/treasurer posts. Gordon will continue as the mayor for another year, as will Killmer as vice-mayor, and Councilman Chuck Peterson will continue to serve as secretary/treasurer, all on unanimous votes.

    The council also agreed to continue meeting on the third Friday of each month at 2 p.m.

    Gordon’s appointments for committee chairmanships were also approved unanimously, with committee chairpersons to submit a list of requested committee members for approval at the council’s October meeting.

    Gordon also requested an extension of the terms of Diane Boyle Fogash and John Gaughan on the Planning Commission. Both terms were expiring before October and both were granted an additional three-year term.

    Finally, the council unanimously approved both the contract for the Town’s annual street rehabilitation project and the contract for engineering oversight for that work. The council approved a $288,000 bid from past contractor Jerry’s Paving, which will incorporate $107,000 in Municipal Street Aid funding from the State. Kercher Engineering will oversee the work for $35,000.

    “Their 15 years’ of work has saved us a good bit of money on materials and costs,” Town Manager Cliff Graviet noted, saying that the firm is paid based on the time it spends on the project, which is usually between $20,000 and $30,000, but that a figure of $35,000 had been requested so as to cover any overruns.

    Gordon also took a moment to thank Graviet, the Public Works Department and the Bethany Beach Patrol’s lifeguards “for a great job” this summer.

    “A great staff makes it easy for all of us,” Graviet said.


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    The Indian River School District’s budget is not keeping up with their students’ needs, so the local Board of Education has decided to host a current-expense referendum on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

    How much will they request? The board hasn’t decided.

    They still need to get their ducks in a row, so they “can be very exacting for what every penny will be used for,” said Superintendent Susan Bunting.

    They’ll analyze costs and decide on a number at the Sept. 26 school board meeting, at 7 p.m. at Indian River High School. Monday’s meeting is just days before the official student unit count in September, which determines the state’s tax contribution to Delaware schools.

    Schools are primarily funded through State funding and local property taxes. But, while the State automatically increases its share (based on student population), the local tax rate doesn’t change until the public votes for an increase.

    Meanwhile, the IRSD’s student population has been increasing by leaps and bounds, far ahead of the State projections. Those, plus recent construction overages, have decimated the IRSD’s budget.

    So the 2017-fiscal-year budget fell to $44.88 million (a decrease of $6.87 million from last year’s $51.75 million). To tighten its belt, IRSD had to pull from its reserve fund and slash school discretionary budgets by 30 percent. Other departments lost money, too.

    “We’re trying to be prudent stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Bunting told the Coastal Point in August. “We want to be efficient, and we want to plan … and keep that reserve at a point that’s comfortable for us and taxpayers.”

    More students means less space for each, so IRSD is working with the Department of Education to potentially build new schools and classrooms. That could possibly mean another referendum in the spring of 2017, for major capital improvement (to build new schools) and current expenses (if more money is needed for continuing costs).

    In the meantime, the IRSD must convince the local community to vote to approve the upcoming increase.

    This week, the district is contacting the Delaware Department of Elections to announce the Nov. 22 referendum, which would be held at the end of that school week, since students and teachers begin Thanksgiving break on Wednesday.

    Audit on the downswing

    In the midst of such growth and increasing costs, the IRSD has been undergoing a through financial audit by the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts (AOA).

    “We’re done most of the field work, so, hopefully, we’re going to have a draft report, hopefully, within a month [or so],” said Delaware State Auditor of Accounts R. Thomas Wagner Jr. “We’ll put it together and probably allow them to respond to us before it becomes a public report.”

    Field work means collecting data, evidence and interviews. Then investigators piece it all together, he said. So far, AOA staff only interviewed current district staff.

    “We’ve put a lot of work into it, and we still have a lot of work to go,” Wagner said.

    Neither the district nor the AOA would confirm the reason for such a review, but it came immediately after IRSD’s chief financial officer, Patrick Miller, was placed on administrative leave last spring. Miller resigned soon thereafter.

    There has been no public discussion of the reasons for his departure or the audit, or if either is connected to the IRSD’s upcoming referendum.

    “We audit all the schools all the time. This is a more specific audit/investigation,” Wagner said.

    The IRSD is not the only district undergoing in-depth investigation, but Wagner declined to share which other schools are involved.

    “We like doing these things quietly [and make the announcement] when we’re done and we have a report for the public, so there’s not speculation out there,” Wagner said. “People get into wild speculations, and we try to avoid all that.”

    There are two sides to audit investigations, Wagner added: review of financial policies and procedures that may be problematic, and the potential for legal infractions, which would involve follow-up with the Attorney General’s Office.

    Look for more information in next week’s issue of the Coastal Point.


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    Bethany Beach

    • The Bethany Beach Charter & Ordinance Review Committee will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 9:30 a.m. at town hall, in the upstairs meeting room. The agenda for the meeting includes: discussion, consideration and possible vote on a proposed exterior residential lighting ordinance that attempts to reduce problems associated with residential outdoor lighting by regulating both the intensity and location of outdoor lighting; discussion of possible revisions to Chapter 530, Signs, of the town code; and discussion of the remainder of Part I the town code.

    • The Bethany Beach Town Council held a public hearing on Sept. 19 on proposed new design criteria for residential building (“bulk density”) in the R-1 and R-1B Zoning Districts. For more information on the proposal, go to http://townofbethanybeach.com/CivicMedia?VID=37.

    • The Town of Bethany Beach is asking citizens to take a survey regarding specific design elements for the proposed “Central Park,” to be completed before Sept. 30, with no more than two submitted per residence. The survey is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GCL2QB2.

    The public can view on the Town website the presentation by Oasis Design Group to the Bethany Beach Town Council, soliciting input for preliminary concept development for the features and organization of “Central Park,” at the intersection of Routes 1 and 26. The URLs for the four presentation segments are http://www.townofbethanybeach.com/mediacenter.aspx?VID=30 (and 31, 32 and 33).

    • Bethany Beach’s pay-to-park season ended Sept. 15 and will return on May 15, 2017.

    • Prohibitions on dogs on the beach and boardwalk in Bethany Beach resumed on May 15 and will end Sept. 30.

    • The regular meetings of the Bethany Beach Town Council and Planning Commission are now being broadcast, with video, over the Internet via the Town’s website at www.townofbethanybeach.com, under Live-Audio Broadcasts. Both meetings are at town hall.

    South Bethany

    • A Board of Adjustment hearing is set for Friday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m.

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Friday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.

    • The town council’s next workshop is Thursday, Oct. 27, at 2 p.m.

    • Recycling is picked up biweekly, continuing on Friday, Sept. 30.

    • Yard waste is picked up biweekly, continuing on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

    • Prohibitions on dogs on the beach ended Oct. 15 and will resume May 15, 2017.

    • The Town of South Bethany’s website is located at www.southbethany.org.

    Fenwick Island

    • The new Homegrown Harvest Festival will be Sunday, Oct. 9, from noon to 4 p.m. at Warren’s Station restaurant, featuring a beach run/walk, pumpkin patch on the beach, beer vendor, crafts and more.

    • The Fenwick Island Charter & Ordinance Committee will meet Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 9:30 a.m. The agenda includes Charter Section 9 – Voting, Code Chapter 160 – FAR, Code Chapter 160 – Fences and review of Comprehensive Plan items.

    • The Fenwick Island Planning Commission will meet Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 1 p.m.

    • The Environmental Committee will meet Thursday, Oct. 13, at 2:30 p.m.

    • The Business Development Committee will meet Thursday, Oct. 20, at 2 p.m.

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Friday, Oct. 28, at 3:30 p.m.

    • The Fenwick Island Farmers’ Market has closed for the season.

    • Recycling is collected every Friday from May to September.

    • The new Fenwick Island town website is located at www.fenwickisland.delaware.gov.

    • The Town of Fenwick Island is now on Twitter, at https://twitter.com/IslandFenwick or @IslandFenwick.

    Ocean View

    • Town offices will be closed Monday, Oct. 10, in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

    • The town council will hold its next monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m.

    • The Ocean View Planning & Zoning Commission will meet on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. at town hall.

    • The Ocean View Police Department will hold the second annual Cops & Goblins event in John West Park from 1 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 30, when families will have the opportunity to trick-or-treat in a safe environment while meeting local law enforcement officials.

    • The Town of Ocean View’s Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/townofoceanview.

    • The Ocean View town website is located at www.oceanviewde.com.

    Millsboro

    • The Town of Millsboro will hold a public hearing Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at town hall, on a proposal to amend the zoning code to include dairy distribution facilities as a principal permitted use and ice cream parlors as a related accessory use in the Urban Business (UB) district of the town. A hearing on an annexation proposal is also scheduled for that date and time, concerning property owned by Eastside Developers Inc., at 28365 DuPont Boulevard, Parcel 1-33 16.00 23.00, at 8,596 square feet of land, proposed to be annexed into the Highway Commercial (HD) district.

    • Town offices will be closed Monday, Oct. 10, in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

    • The Millsboro town website is located at www.millsboro.org.

    Millville

    • The Great Pumpkin Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m.

    • The Millville town website is located at www.millville.delaware.gov.

    Frankford

    • The town council will hold its next monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m.

    • Town offices will be closed Monday, Oct. 10, in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

    • Curbside recycling is picked up every other Tuesday, continuing Oct. 4.

    • The Town of Frankford website is located at www.frankfordde.us.

    Selbyville

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m.

    • Curbside recycling is collected every other Wednesday, continuing Oct. 12.

    • Bulk trash is collected on the first Wednesday of each month. Households may put out one bulk item, such as a television, each month.

    • The Town website is at www.TownOfSelbyville.com.

    Dagsboro

    • The Dagsboro Town Council will meet Monday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m., at Bethel United Methodist Church.

    • There will be no town council election this year. All three incumbents re-filed for their seats, with no challengers.

    • The Town can now accept credit cards payments from citizens online. Instructions are on the Town website.

    • The Town of Dagsboro website is at www.townofdagsboro.com.

    Indian River School District

    • A public referendum is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 22, to address a current expense issue. The vote will be on a proposed 49-cent increase per $100 of property tax assessment.

    • Committee meetings are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 10, at the Indian River School District Educational Complex in Selbyville: Policy at 4 p.m.; Curriculum at 5 p.m.; Buildings & Grounds at 6 p.m.; and Finance at 7:30 p.m.

    • The IRSD Board of Education will meet Monday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. at Sussex Central High School. The School Safety Committee will meet at 6 p.m. for northern schools.

    • The Indian River School District’s Special Education Task Force will host parent focus group meetings on Wednesdays, Oct. 12, at Millsboro Middle School; Nov. 30, at Selbyville Middle School; Feb. 8, 2017, at Georgetown Middle School; and March 22, 2017, at Millsboro Middle School. All of the meetings are at 6 p.m.

    • The district website is at www.irsd.net.

    Sussex County

    • The Sussex County Council will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. in council chambers at 2 The Circle, Georgetown.

    • The public will have the opportunity to offer comments and suggestions for what should be included in the Sussex County Comprehensive Plan on Wednesday, Oct. 5, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company in Millville.

    • County offices will be closed Monday, Oct. 10, in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

    • Agendas, minutes and audio, as well as live streaming of all County meetings, may be found online at www.sussexcountyde.gov.

    State of Delaware

    • There will be a meeting of the Delaware Bicycle Council on Wednesday, Oct. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Farmington/Felton Conference Rooms, DelDOT Administration Building, 800 Bay Road, Dover.

    • DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship’s Shoreline & Waterway Management Section will make a public informational presentation on Delaware’s revised beach regulations Oct. 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach.

    The Shoreline & Waterway Management Section will outline recent revisions made to the Regulations Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches (which went into effect Aug. 11). Topics to be presented include: a history of coastal storms and erosion that have impacted Delaware, and the importance of beaches and dune systems for their protective and recreational benefits; a brief history of the Beach Preservation Act and the state’s beach regulations; building line maps; 2016 revisions to the Regulations Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches, including: The Regulated Area, Substantial Damage, Substantially Improved, The Four-Step Process, Cantilevered Decks, and Temporary Structures; and new application forms for Letters of Approval and Permits.

    The presentation is designed to provide the public, local construction-industry professionals and local and county officials with information about revisions made to the regulations. Registration is required for the event, as seating is limited. Attendees may register online at http://www.eventbrite.com/o/shoreline-and-waterway-management-1138158124... or call Coleen Ponden of the Shoreline & Waterway Management Section at (302) 739-9921. If registration fills, a second presentation may be scheduled at a future date.

    • Continuing work on the Route 26 Mainline Improvements Project with an aim to complete the project this month, DelDOT has resumed daytime lane closures ahead of schedule. Closures can be expected from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m. the following morning. Motorists are being encouraged to use detour routes to avoid delays when lane closures are in place.

    Overall, the 4-mile-long project includes the reconstruction of Route 26 (Atlantic Avenue) from Clarksville to the Assawoman Canal and will widen the existing two-lane roadway to include two 11-foot travel lanes with 5-foot shoulder/bike lanes and a 12-foot wide continuous shared center left-turn lane. Construction is expected to be completed before October. George & Lynch is building the 4-plus-mile project from Assawoman Canal in Bethany Beach to St. George’s U.M. Church in Clarksville.

    Regular Route 26 project meetings have concluded. The public can get email updates from DelDOT via the project page for the Route 26 project at www.deldot.gov. For additional Route 26 project information or concerns, residents and businesses can contact Ken Cimino at (302) 616-2621, or Kenneth.cimino@aecom.com or at 17 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 2, in Ocean View.


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    The Sussex County Council deferred voting on the proposed High Tide Church Expansion of the Sussex County Unified Sanitary Sewer District near Dagsboro following two Nine Foot Road residents voicing their concerns about the expansion.

    John Ashman of the County’s engineering department said the expansion request was made by the church and PGS Properties. Allen Harim will be connecting to the system, as well as several other parcels, to retain contiguous path, said Ashman.

    “The expansion will consist of 122.65 acres more or less and will be responsible for system connection charges of $5,075 based on current rates.”

    Carmel DeGennaro, a resident of Nine Foot Road, presented the council with a petition signed by some of his neighbors, against the expansion.

    “A lot of us on Nine Foot Road cannot afford this,” he said, noting there were a lot of nonprofits located along that road. “Everybody I’ve talked to, with maybe the exception of the hatchery, does not want this, cannot afford this. Now, if they’re willing to pay for us to tie in, sure. But we can’t afford to throw out six grand off the top of our heads.”

    Leona Bush, another Nine Foot Road resident, asked if a property could be exempt from being required to hook up to the sewer expansion.

    “If the County does provide an extension and provides service to your property, then you have to commit. We can choose not to provide a service to your property and you do not have to commit and you do not get billed,” said County Engineer Hans Medlarz.

    “It is a double-edge sword,” he said. “It could be beneficial to you immediately because you do not have the expense” of maintaining a septic system. “However, if your system fails in the future, then you would have a much greater expense, because at this point you have no service to your property. We in the engineering department have no horse in this race.”

    He said the properties could be excluded from the expansion as long as a land bridge existed to make a contiguous connection to the properties across the street.


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    Last week, SafeWise — a website that provides “unbiased home security reviews, comparisons and advice that empowers consumers to make wise decisions to protect their home” — listed the town of Ocean View as the second-safest municipality in the state of Delaware.

    According to SafeWise, “We put our list of the top five safest cities in Delaware together by identifying cities with a population over 1,500 residents in 2012 and evaluating the most up-to-date FBI Crime Report statistics.

    “We then took a look at the number of violent crimes, consisting of aggravated assault, robbery, murder and forcible rape, as well as property crimes, consisting of burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson and larceny-theft. From there, we determined the chance of these crimes happening out of 1,000 people, to compensate for city population variances.

    “The FBI Crime Report is well-respected source for crime statistics, but some Delaware agencies may not have reported complete data to the FBI. If you don’t see a safe Delaware city listed below, that could be the reason why.”

    Ocean View’s ranking showed violent crimes per 1,000 at .51 and property crimes per 1,000 at 21.72. It was surpassed in safety only by Clayton.

    Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin credited the rating to a number of factors, one of which is having an outstanding staff that do their jobs well.

    “The fact that we have really good people and we solve a vast amount of crimes that occur in our community — we close out with an arrest, which sends a very strong message to the criminal element to stay away,” he said. “If you commit a crime in Ocean View, there’s a really good chance you’re going to get caught.”

    Currently, the department has nine officers, a secretary and volunteers, as well as seasonal receptionists to meet the demand for services. The Ocean View Police Department has 24-hour policing throughout town, which McLaughlin says helps deter a lot of crime from taking place within town limits.

    “And the fact that our people know and, in a lot of cases, are very, very familiar with the criminal community,” he added. “We know who all the players are because we have the luxury of working in a small community. Spending a lot of time in the same place, you get to know everybody.”

    McLaughlin added that the department has a great working relationship with the community, which makes policing that much easier.

    “We get calls every single day from our citizens, giving us information about criminal activity in the area,” he said. “All that is extremely important. You combine some good-quality people in appropriate numbers patrolling a small area, and the result is we’re able to push that criminal element out of our community.”

    Taking a proactive approach to policing is important, he said, as his officers are able to build a great relationship with businesses, property owners, visitors and more.

    “The key is unobligated time. When your police agency loses its unobligated time and becomes totally reactive — have no time to go through the school and talk to the kids, no time to patrol the community and just smile and wave with the resident out walking their dog — they can’t build those bonds with the communities, they don’t have the intimate knowledge of the community and they become totally reactive. Subsequently, crime goes up.”

    While Ocean View was ranked No. 2 in the state, it was ranked the safest community in Sussex County by SafeWise.

    “We’re happy to be one of the safest communities,” he said. “We’ve had the support to maintain appropriate staffing levels, good-quality people, and this is just a result of all that taking place. This isn’t just us doing our job. There are a lot of other factors that have to come together for an agency to have success.

    “There’s a lot of different components to making things successful. We’ve been very fortunate. We have outstanding community cooperation. We have a very knowledgeable mayor and town council. We have great community leadership here.”

    To view the rankings, visit http://www.safewise.com/blog/safest-cities-delaware/.


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    The Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission met on Sept. 22 to make a recommendation to the Sussex County Council related to a proposed signage ordinance introduced last month that would revise the County’s sign code in its entirety.

    The Commission had held a public hearing on Sept. 8 but chose to defer any action so as to have time to consider the testimony. At their Sept. 22 meeting, Commissioner Irwin G. “I.G.” Burton III presented a prepared recommendation, which adopted some changes as recommended by Georgetown attorney David Hutt of Morris James Wilson Halbrook & Bayard LLP, who had spoken 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.

    Burton had recommended the elimination of the general prohibition against animation, clarifying that that animation is permitted, with some exceptions — continuous scrolling left to right or up and down, live action or streaming video, or flashing messages.

    Burton’s motion also recommended the reduction of the front setback for off-premises signs from 40 feet to 25 feet, which he said will “allow appropriate transition” and make the ordinance consistent with the DelDOT front-yard setback as well.

    Burton also recommended allowing the erection of off-premises signs 50 feet from an on-premises sign; that Realtor signs should be increased in maximum size from 10 square feet to 32 square feet per side, and allow for signage to be arranged in a V; and the removal of a separation distance between on-premises electronic message centers (EMCs) and off-premises signs.

    “This could negatively affect the right of an on-premises business owner to advertise his or her business with an EMC,” he noted.

    In the ordinance, as currently proposed before the County, a sign destroyed by nature that was non-conforming would not be permitted to be rebuilt; nor would a sign with 50 percent or more of the supporting pikes or structures located above-ground, or destruction of 75 percent or more of the facing, be able to be repaired or reconstructed.

    Burton agreed with Hutt that non-conforming signs should be allowed to be reconstructed within a 12-month timeframe.

    The commissioners voted 3-0 to recommend Burton’s motion to the County Council, with Chairman Bob Wheatley abstaining, as he was not present for the public hearing.

    The Sussex County Council is expected to discuss the commission’s recommendations at its Oct. 4 council meeting.


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    The Indian River School District has its number.

    In a Nov. 22 current-expense referendum, the IRSD will request an additional 49 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

    If the majority of the public approves, the IRSD could add another $7.35 million to its coffers one year from now.

    The district is one of the most steadily growing districts in Delaware.

    Schools are primarily funded through state budgets and local property taxes. But, while the State automatically increases its share (based on student population), the local tax rate doesn’t change until the public votes for an increase.

    So even if IRSD gets state funding to hire another 25 teachers every year, the local funds haven’t caught up. This fall, the IRSD might not be able to afford the new staff that it’s otherwise eligible for.

    “Our growth has been phenomenal,” Bunting said in an “IRSD Spotlight” podcast. “That means we need more desks, more textbooks — more of everything, including teachers.”

    As of the Sept. 26 school board meeting, 10,490 students were enrolled in the IRSD. (That number could shrink or grow by the Sept. 30 official unit count, which the State of Delaware will use to determine funding for the 2016-2017 school year.) That’s an increase of 319 students from last year, or 3.2 percent, according to Assistant Superintendent Mark Steele. It’s also fairly in line with the past several years’ growth.

    Some of the financial review on Sept. 26 was not audible to the audience and principals assembled, as some of the discussion happened publically, but off-microphone.

    But the IRSD’s existing budget has been eaten up lately. Pots of money are being drained to help meet other needs. With more students, the IRSD is grasping for desks, textbooks and teachers.

    Meanwhile, administrators have said they are generally very pleased with their armed school safety monitors — one per school. But the IRSD is pulling the entire $1.2 million for salaries out of general local funds, which reduce project budgets elsewhere.

    More money was recently eaten up by construction expenses, with higher overruns than they even anticipated. Part of that was compliance with state transportation and natural resources. Materials got more expensive, and project delays meant IR’s construction management company stayed on the clock for longer than expected, too.

    The district has made major cuts to the budget for 2016-2017. Every school lost 30 percent in discretionary funds; district headquarters lost 50 percent; administrator trips were canceled; and cuts were made to athletic budgets, employee incentives, school board, fleets/vehicles and more.

    A look at the tax rate

    The breakdown of the additional 49 cents of tax per $100 of assessed value would be as follows:

    • Student enrollment growth — 33 cents ($4,950,000 total, for teachers, desks and supplies)

    • School safety — 10 cents ($1,500,000, for salaries and safety improvements)

    • Technology — 3 cents ($450,000)

    • Textbooks — 2 cents ($300,000)

    • Student organizations — 1 cent ($150,000 for extracurriculars).

    By requesting money in certain areas, that will free up general funds to be used at IR’s discretion, Board Member Jim Fritz said.

    Bunting said the average taxpayer would pay an extra $95.41 annually, or about 26 cents per day.

    “I think if you look at it from that perspective, it’s a very wise investment and very doable investment in children’s futures,” she said.

    Currently, the public pays $2.578 per $100 of assessed property value. Of that, $1.86 is for current expenses, only changeable by public referendum. (There is also an additional $12-per-adult capitation rate.)

    “We have the lowest tax rate in Sussex County, and even with the increases that we’re requiring, or requesting, right now, we’ll still be the lowest in Sussex County,” Bunting said.

    These are operating funds, not debt relief or tuition for special-educational programs. However, the money will free up other funds to pay for the IRSD’s other needs.

    Meanwhile, Sussex County’s property assessments are partially based on 1970s financial rates.

    What happens if the referendum fails?

    “We will be operating on an even tighter budget. We will cut budgets more than 30 percent,” Bunting said. “It’s probable that we’ll be cutting staff eventually because … we have 1,500 employees here in the district. We would need to decrease the number of employees.”

    Bunting encouraged people to ask questions and get accurate information. District staff can also go speak to community groups.

    “We want people to understand our situation,” said Bunting. “We can partner to make our educational system very successful and meet the needs of every individual.”

    Board debates the numbers

    However, the decision to pursue the referendum as proposed was not unanimous.

    Board Member W. Scott Collins (District 5, Selbyville) was absent, and “nay” votes came from Board Members Leolga Wright and Heather Statler (both of District 3, Millsboro).

    Both no-voting board members said they would have preferred a lower price, perhaps in the low-30-cent range, which financial consultants had previously suggested, Wright said.

    “My concern is that, the way the pennies were allocated,” Wright told the Coastal Point. “I thought it could have been done a better way. I thought we could focus more on the salaries of our teachers and the supplies … [that] we need at this point in time.

    “My take on current expense is ‘things that are needed now.’ While I am not against the raising of taxes for safety and … textbooks, I think at this time, we” should focus on immediate needs. “We don’t actually need textbooks at this point in time. We don’t really need technology,” especially if a second referendum is coming, Wright told the board. But the district needs about 33 cents to hire teachers and keep the lights on, she said.

    The IRSD is on track to request another referendum in the near future. With State approval, the IRSD may address the physical growth by beginning a capital improvement project to potentially build three new schools, as well as more school additions.

    “So when I see other things that are listed, … I don’t see those as immediate priorities for this school year, or perhaps the next school year,” Statler continued. “I view things from a conservative lens, so I like to see very detailed and robust plans for finances,” she said, so she wasn’t satisfied that the proposed plans were as stringent as they could have been.

    “I think it’s hard for taxpayers. We all want our students to have the best education possible,” said Statler. “I have children in the district, too, and we want all children to flourish, but I think we need approach that in a way that is [fiscally responsible].”

    But with a board majority favoring the referendum as proposed, the decision was made, and the district will move forward to advocate for its needs.

    Polls information

    More information will be posted online at www.irsd.net, or on the Facebook page “Indian River School District - Delaware.” People can also ask questions via the IRSD referendum hotline, at (302) 436-1079.

    The referendum will be Tuesday, Nov. 22, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Polling places will be East Millsboro Elementary, Georgetown Elementary, Indian River High, Long Neck Elementary, Lord Baltimore Elementary and Selbyville Middle schools. Voters must be residents of the Indian River School District, at least 18 and U.S citizens. Voters must bring proof of identification and residency.

    In other IRSD news:

    • The district’s Suicide Prevention Policy (JG.4) was approved for a first reading. State law requires school-wide suicide prevention programs, training for employees, a Suicide Prevention Coordinating Committee for each school and a no-retaliation policy for anyone reporting a student thought to be demonstrating the warning signs of suicide.

    • With a majority vote, the board agreed to re-join Delaware School Board Association (DSBA). Stating that they didn’t see it as an effective use of money (at least $13,000 annually) they had previously allowed their membership to expire. This year, the DSBA is taking steps to improve, and it offered IRSD a free year after hearing that IR was interested in rejoining, but wouldn’t be able to due to budget cuts. Board Member Jim Fritz voted against re-joining.

    • Ready for some rugby? The Delmarva Rugby Club is interested in entering into talks with the school district about starting a rugby club at the high school level. “Rugby is a cheap sport,” James Schreppler said. “It’s played on the football field in the spring season. There’s not much to it, equipment-wise, except uniforms and handful of rugby balls.”

    He said about four other Delaware high schools have a rugby program, and DRC could help with equipment and a certified coach.

    • Project Village received the STAR Level 5 award at John M. Clayton, East Millsboro and North Georgetown elementary schools. “That’s the highest rating an early childhood program can get in the state of Delaware,” Bunting said. “Our 4-year-olds are blessed to be part of that program, which serves children with economic or language challenges.”

    • The IR High School athletic field drainage project was approved for $29,270, with the low bid from Anderson Project Management LLC. Board Member Rodney Layfield abstained from the vote, and Statler voted against it.

    • The board approved an energy savings agreement with Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility. Board Member Jerry Peden Jr. voted against approving the non-binding letter of intent, which allows the school district to get professional guidance from the utility company. After this, the next letter of intent would be binding, and the IRSD could incur costs for the energy audit if it doesn’t make the proposed changes.

    • National School Lunch Week is Oct. 10 to 14, and National School Bus Safety Week is Oct. 17 to 21.

    The next IRSD Board of Education meeting is Monday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. at Sussex Central High School.


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  • 10/06/16--13:09: Agenda – October 7, 2016
  • Bethany Beach

    • The Bethany Beach Cultural & Historic Affairs Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at town hall. The agenda for the meeting includes a review of the “Heritage Trail” brochure for updates and changes, a discussion of possible docent-conducted tours, discussion of a possible future docent program, plans for the cultural evening on Oct. 18 and possible future events, an update on plans for Periers Day 2017 and a review of the CHAC mission statement and projects.

    • The Bethany Beach Non-Residential Design Review Committee will meet on Friday, Oct. 14, at 10 a.m. at town hall, to discuss and vote on an application submitted by Candy Kitchen for new signage for the existing business located at 100 Garfield Parkway in the C-1 zoning district, requesting approval of lit channel letters on a pink metal background wall sign and a lit circular sign (both signs will replace existing signs).

    • The Bethany Beach Town Council held a public hearing on Sept. 19 on proposed new design criteria for residential building (“bulk density”) in the R-1 and R-1B Zoning Districts. For more information on the proposal, go to http://townofbethanybeach.com/CivicMedia?VID=37.

    • The Town of Bethany Beach is asking citizens to take a survey regarding specific design elements for the proposed “Central Park,” to be completed before Sept. 30, with no more than two submitted per residence. The survey is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GCL2QB2.

    The public can view on the Town website the presentation by Oasis Design Group to the Bethany Beach Town Council, soliciting input for preliminary concept development for the features and organization of “Central Park,” at the intersection of Routes 1 and 26. The URLs for the four presentation segments are http://www.townofbethanybeach.com/mediacenter.aspx?VID=30 (and 31, 32 and 33).

    • Bethany Beach’s pay-to-park season ended Sept. 15 and will return on May 15, 2017.

    • Prohibitions on dogs on the beach and boardwalk in Bethany Beach ended on Sept. 30 and will resume on May 15, 2017.

    • The regular meetings of the Bethany Beach Town Council and Planning Commission are now being broadcast, with video, over the Internet via the Town’s website at www.townofbethanybeach.com, under Live-Audio Broadcasts. Both meetings are at town hall.

    South Bethany

    • The Canal Water Quality Committee will meet Friday, Oct. 7, at 10 a.m.

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Friday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.

    • The town council’s next workshop is Thursday, Oct. 27, at 3 p.m.

    • A Pot Luck Dinner and Halloween Party will be held Saturday, Oct. 29, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, sponsored by Communications & Public Relations Committee.

    • Recycling is picked up biweekly, continuing on Friday, Oct. 14.

    • Yard waste is picked up biweekly, continuing on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

    • Prohibitions on dogs on the beach will end Oct. 15 and will resume May 15, 2017.

    • The Town of South Bethany’s website is located at www.southbethany.org.

    Fenwick Island

    • The Fenwick Island Planning Commission will meet Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 2 p.m. The meeting agenda includes a review of notes from the public workshop, liaison reports and a future public workshop.

    • The Environmental Committee will meet Thursday, Oct. 13, at 2:30 p.m.

    • The Business Development Committee will meet Thursday, Oct. 20, at 2 p.m.

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Friday, Oct. 28, at 3:30 p.m.

    • The Fenwick Island Farmers’ Market has closed for the season.

    • Recycling is collected every Friday from May to September.

    • The new Fenwick Island town website is located at www.fenwickisland.delaware.gov.

    • The Town of Fenwick Island is now on Twitter, at https://twitter.com/IslandFenwick or @IslandFenwick.

    Ocean View

    • Town offices will be closed Monday, Oct. 10, in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

    • The town council will hold its next monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m.

    • The Ocean View Planning & Zoning Commission will meet on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. at town hall.

    • The Ocean View Police Department will hold the second annual Cops & Goblins event in John West Park from 1 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 30, when families will have the opportunity to trick-or-treat in a safe environment while meeting local law enforcement officials.

    • The Town of Ocean View’s Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/townofoceanview.

    • The Ocean View town website is located at www.oceanviewde.com.

    Millsboro

    • Town offices will be closed Monday, Oct. 10, in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

    • The Millsboro Town Council will hold its next regular monthly meeting on Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.

    • The Millsboro town website is located at www.millsboro.org.

    Millville

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m.

    • The town council’s next workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m.

    • The Millville town website is located at www.millville.delaware.gov.

    Frankford

    • Town offices will be closed Monday, Oct. 10, in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

    • Frankford’s Fall Festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29, beginning at 10:30 a.m., with registration at town hall for the costume contest. Lineup for judging begins at 11 a.m., with the parade to Frankford Town Park beginning at 11:30 a.m. The festival will be held from noon to 4 p.m., and includes face-painting, a hay ride, pumpkin painting and more. “Hotel Transylvania II” will play in the park at 7 p.m. following trick-or-treating. Families are being encouraged to bring chairs and blankets for the screening.

    • The Town of Frankford’s official trick-or-treating hours are between 4 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29.

    • Council will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.

    • Curbside recycling is picked up every other Tuesday, continuing Oct. 18.

    • The Town of Frankford website is located at www.frankfordde.us.

    Selbyville

    • The town council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.

    • Curbside recycling is collected every other Wednesday, continuing Oct. 12.

    • Bulk trash is collected on the first Wednesday of each month. Households may put out one bulk item, such as a television, each month.

    • The Town website is at www.TownOfSelbyville.com.

    Dagsboro

    • The Dagsboro Town Council will meet Monday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m., at Bethel United Methodist Church.

    • There will be no town council election this year. All three incumbents re-filed for their seats, with no challengers.

    • The Town can now accept credit cards payments from citizens online. Instructions are on the Town website.

    • The Town of Dagsboro website is at www.townofdagsboro.com.

    Indian River School District

    • There will be no school for students on Friday, Oct. 7, for teacher in-service. There will also be no school for students Nov. 7-11, for Election Day, Return Day and teacher in-service, and no school Nov. 23-25, for Thanksgiving.

    • The first marking period ends Friday, Nov. 4.

    • A public referendum is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 22, to address a current-expense issue. The vote will be on a proposed 49-cent increase per $100 of property tax assessment.

    • Committee meetings are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 10, at the Indian River School District Educational Complex in Selbyville: Policy at 4 p.m.; Curriculum at 5 p.m.; Buildings & Grounds at 6 p.m.; and Finance at 7:30 p.m.

    • IRSD Parent Center will host two college scholarship workshops: FAFSA Submission Workshop for Seniors on Thursday, Oct. 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Indian River High School’s computer lab and the College Scholarship Workshop & Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. at IRHS. Parents or students should register online at www.irsd.net or by calling (302) 732-1522.

    • The IRSD Board of Education will meet Monday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. at Sussex Central High School. The School Safety Committee will meet at 6 p.m. for northern schools.

    • The Indian River School District’s Special Education Task Force will host parent focus group meetings on Wednesdays, Oct. 12, at Millsboro Middle School; Nov. 30, at Selbyville Middle School; Feb. 8, 2017, at Georgetown Middle School; and March 22, 2017, at Millsboro Middle School. All of the meetings are at 6 p.m.

    • The district website is at www.irsd.net.

    Sussex County

    • The Sussex County Council will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 10 a.m. in council chambers at 2 The Circle in Georgetown.

    • Agendas, minutes and audio, as well as live streaming of all County meetings, may be found online at www.sussexcountyde.gov.

    State of Delaware

    • DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship’s Shoreline & Waterway Management Section will make a public informational presentation on Delaware’s revised beach regulations Oct. 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach.

    The Shoreline & Waterway Management Section will outline recent revisions made to the Regulations Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches (which went into effect Aug. 11). Topics to be presented include: a history of coastal storms and erosion that have impacted Delaware, and the importance of beaches and dune systems for their protective and recreational benefits; a brief history of the Beach Preservation Act and the state’s beach regulations; building line maps; 2016 revisions to the Regulations Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches, including: The Regulated Area, Substantial Damage, Substantially Improved, The Four-Step Process, Cantilevered Decks, and Temporary Structures; and new application forms for Letters of Approval and Permits.

    The presentation is designed to provide the public, local construction-industry professionals and local and county officials with information about revisions made to the regulations. Registration is required for the event, as seating is limited. Attendees may register online at http://www.eventbrite.com/o/shoreline-and-waterway-management-1138158124... or call Coleen Ponden of the Shoreline & Waterway Management Section at (302) 739-9921. If registration fills, a second presentation may be scheduled at a future date.


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    The Selbyville Public Library has been ahead of the game by inviting local police to come speak with their community. Their next public “Coffee with a Cop” event will be Friday, Oct. 7, at 5 p.m. in the Selbyville Public Library meeting room.

    This time, it’s part of a larger effort and the first National Coffee with a Cop Day.

    “I think, with the current state of community relations, anytime we can go out and interact in a positive manner is a good thing,” said Selbyville Police Chief W. Scott Collins.

    During this informal event, Selbyville police officers discuss a new topic each month. Citizens can also ask questions about any public-safety topic.

    Topics include “everything from current crime trends — whether it’s the tax hoaxes or, now, the clowns… We’re going to do holiday safety tips, now through the holiday season,” Collins said. “So we try to hit on something a little different at each one.”

    The library has previously hosted Coffee with a Cop, as well as the kid-friendly Cookies with a Cop.

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

    The goal is to increase citizens’ trust of law enforcement, to better educate people on public safety and correct any rumors or problems.

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

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


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    Some cellphones in the area may be getting a boost. The Mobilitie communications company has requested permission from the Selbyville Town Council to construct a utility pole on Dukes Street Extended. When wireless networks are overwhelmed, the network would fall back to rely on the signal repeater, or booster, located on the pole.

    “My company installs and builds infrastructure, and then we lease it out to the carrier,” such as Sprint or Verizon, said Mobilitie representative Katina Boyce on Oct. 3.

    She said people don’t like the look of today’s cell towers, which are all at maximum capacity anyway. Instead of building more towers, the privately-owned Mobilitie builds backup poles to help when regular towers are at maximum capacity.

    The pole might be 4 feet around, with some equipment in the base, or 2 feet around, with equipment on the pole. On top, the antenna is only about 2 feet wide. To avoid piles of equipment and an eyesore of a tower, only one company gets to lease the utility pole.

    Councilman Rick Duncan Sr. suggested the Selbyville Industrial Park would be a more appropriate location for the pole, partly because Mountaire tractor-trailers wouldn’t be backing up along that road. Boyce said company engineers choose spots based on coverage gaps, but she said she would pass the message to her colleagues.

    Currently, the 18-year-old public utility company has structures in or near Selbyville, but Boyce said they are working in all 50 states, including elsewhere in Delaware, in Georgetown, Millsboro and Dagsboro.

    If approved by the Town, they’d still have to do a survey for underground utility pipes or wires and obtain the appropriate permits. Mobilitie would also invite the Town or its police department to hang radio or related equipment there.

    Selbyville’s Town Code says little about such an installation, only that it’s unlawful to install poles or wires without the mayor’s and council’s permission.

    The town council seemed receptive to the idea of allowing construction. Selbyville would receive monetary compensation. The Town would write a contract, similar to a franchise agreement for cable or other utilities.

    In other Selbyville Town Council news:

    • A Victoria Forest resident said her neighbor’s water meter had started spewing water. She asked if the Town will proactively test all the other meters. The council made no promises, but Duncan promised to research the issue. Fortunately for the affected homeowner, the issue was on the Town’s side of the meter.

    • Selbyville’s getting a new website. The council agreed (with Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr. absent) to pay $100 annually for a State-created website, which would be easier for Town Hall staff to update themselves. Many local towns use the service, provided by Government Information Center, including Fenwick Island, with its new website.

    • The Halloween Parade is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. Trick-or-treating will be Monday, Oct. 31.

    The next regular Selbyville Town Council meeting will be Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.


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    Coastal Point • Susan Lyons: Dodd Street in Millsboro saw water coming up from under the street on Friday, Sept. 30.Coastal Point • Susan Lyons: Dodd Street in Millsboro saw water coming up from under the street on Friday, Sept. 30.Several days of rainfall last week caused flooding, closed schools and broke daily records.

    Sussex County Emergency Operations Director Joseph Thomas said the rainfall, which stretched from Thursday, Sept. 29, well into the weekend, caused flooding in all the usual areas, as well as in many areas where it was not expected.

    “I’ve had lots of people tell me they’ve seen water in places where they’ve never seen it before,” Thomas said.

    The first flashflood warning of many was issued at 3:13 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 28; and the last one stemming from the slow-moving weather system expired on Sunday, Oct. 2.

    Thomas explained that the four-day deluge happened because “we had a low pressure system to the west of us, and as it was spinning counter-clockwise, it was pulling tropical moisture in from the Gulf. And it was just sitting on top of us.”

    Unlike nor’easters and hurricanes, which tend to cause more severe problems along the coast, last week’s rains brought more issues to inland areas, Thomas said.

    The highest rainfall totals in the county were seen in Harbeson, where nearly 14 inches of rain had fallen as of Friday, Sept. 30, according to National Weather Service records. A single-day rainfall of 6.25 inches on Thursday, Sept. 29, in Georgetown shattered that town’s previous record of 1.35 inches.

    Millsboro and the surrounding areas saw some of the most dramatic flooding during last week’s weather system.

    “We had some of the worst problems,” Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson acknowledged. “What really impacted us with this storm was that it really taxed our sewer system,” Hudson said.

    “I can’t say enough about our wastewater employees,” Hudson added. “They worked 24/7 and kept us in compliance. We didn’t have to discharge [wastewater] into the Indian River or Tiger Branch,” he said.

    Hudson said Delaware Avenue was closed due to flooding and water was crossing Mitchell Street at one point.

    “Cupola Park, as usual, flooded,” he said.

    At the storm’s height, Hudson said, water “wasn’t far from crossing” Route 113. Despite water on several town roads, Hudson said none appear to have suffered serious damage — just some erosion around the shoulders.

    Saying that town engineers have referred to last week’s rains as “a 100-year, if not a 500-year flood,” Hudson said that Public Works Director George “Kenny” Niblett” had said “it was the worst he’s seen in 41 years.”

    As the rains piled up over the four-day period, the list of road closures in Sussex County grew as well. Route 1 closed in the area of the Indian River Inlet Bridge during several high tide cycles, due to water and sand across the road.

    Although most of the roads that experienced closures were in the greater Millsboro and Long Neck areas, many of Susssex County’s busiest intersections were affected by water in the roadway, including: Route 113 at Route 26, Route 24 at Millsboro town limits, Route 1 at Route 54, Main Street at Iron Branch Road in Dagsboro and Main Street in Dagsboro in front of the Clayton Theatre.

    In Bethany Beach, Public Works Director Brett Warner said flooding happened to “our normal suspects” — Pennsylvania Avenue, in particular. Warner said what stood out about this system was the length of time the flooding lasted.

    “We had flooding into Sunday morning,” he said.

    Another issue Warner and his crew had to deal with was wind-driven sand that covered the boardwalk and bandstand area.

    “We had 3 inches of sand on the bandstand,” he said. The beach lost 2 to 3 feet off the top, Warner said — doubly concerning when the dunes had already been compromised by earlier storms, and even more so as Hurricane Matthew was at one point forecast to hug the Atlantic coast as it moved northward at the end of this week.

    The boardwalk and the steps from the boardwalk to the beach all held through last week’s wind and rain, Warner noted.

    Mid-week Warner still had his eyes on Hurricane Matthew. All “accessories,” such as trash cans, were removed from the beach area in advance of potential effects from the hurricane.

    “I’m holding my breath,” Warner said.

    Thomas said county officials are also eyeing Hurricane Matthew’s progress, especially in the wake of last week’s torrential rains.

    “The groundwater is so saturated right now,” Thomas said.

    The main concern at this point, he said, is that tropical storm- or hurricane-force winds could bring down trees, “which could bring down power lines, which would cause power issues.”


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    Four Town of Selbyville employees were among the first on the scene of a West Church Street house fire on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

    The call came in just after 9 a.m. Police Chief Scott Collins and Cpl. John Bunting were on duty, as were Town staff members Kevin Murray and George Hudson. They ran over and found resident Delbert Baker already on the scene.

    Baker said he had been doing yardwork when he smelled and saw fire in a neighboring house. Having retired after 30 years with the Ocean City (Md.) Fire Department, he hadn’t hesitated to report the blaze then run over to the house.

    The duplex contained two-story apartments. The fire was mostly contained to the upstairs of the rear apartment, Collins said. But downstairs, in the front of the house, one family (and their dog) had no idea that the back side of the structure was in flames. Baker got them out the door.

    Fortunately for all involved, the burning room was unoccupied, although the first responders had originally believed that people were upstairs. But they couldn’t verify that, because the flames and smoke on the staircase were too thick.

    Then the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company’s first truck arrived. One fireman “grabbed the fire hose off the back of the truck, handed it to me and said, ‘Go,’” Collins said. So he aimed the hose upstairs and went to work. A passing Delaware State Police trooper jumped into the fray, too. Several other fire companies responded as well.

    “We hit it quick. That was key, because the fire was contained to one room,” Collins said.

    While no one was injured and damage to the front of the house was minimal, the fire and water damage resulted in a complete loss for the second family living in the structure, who were at work and school when the fire started in their half of the house. The Red Cross and their schools have been helping the family get back on their feet.

    “It wasn’t like it was burnt — everything was just completely soaked. We had water running out the front door,” Collins said.


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    Sussex County Council members briefly discussed the County’s proposed signage ordinance on Tuesday, Oct. 4, agreeing to review all related documents and be prepared to have a motion at the following week’s meeting.

    On Sept. 22, the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission recommended changes to the proposed ordinance, with a vote of 3-0.

    “I was disappointed with some of Planning & Zoning’s changes,” said Councilman George Cole. “I just thought we had made so much progress in some of these areas, and they just reversed back for some reason.

    “I was also concerned there were only three of them there. A debate with only three people… Sometimes they’re on the same page, but it isn’t real stimulating. It’s nice to have a debate when you have opposing views, because sometimes you do glean some good information from people who have a different opinion.”

    Council President Michael Vincent said the council had a great deal of information to consider, including a six-page letter from Georgetown Attorney David Hutt of Morris James Wilson Halbrook & Bayard LLP, who served on the sign ordinance working group. Hutt submitted the letter on Sept. 30 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, responding to the P&Z’s recommendations.

    In the letter, Hutt called attention to the commission not addressing the elimination of the ability to apply for a variance for off-premises signs and Electronic Message Centers (EMCs).

    “As Council is aware from the public hearings, there is no public record or even a request from the public or the Board of Adjustment for the prohibition of variances. To the contrary, as stated during each public comment period — there is not a current problem regarding the Board of Adjustment’s handling of signs…

    “While some council members have expressed unsupported, personal preferences on the record, not one objective, rational reason or purpose has been offered or provided to the public regarding the prohibition on variances. And variances are the only check a member of the public has on the County’s zoning process — a process which, by its nature, takes or affects a property owner’s property rights.”

    The letter states that the proposed prohibition is “arbitrary and capricious,” as signs are one of the most regulated structures in the zoning code and are often non-conforming due to the conditions on adjacent properties.

    Councilwoman Joan Deaver said she favors the prohibition of EMCs, as, she said, no one in her district is in favor of them.

    Councilman Rob Arlett noted that there has been a moratorium on the acceptance of variance applications for off-premises signs in effect since September 2015 and that he hopes the council will be able to take action next week on the proposed ordinance.

    “I am prayerful we can come to a resolution,” he said.

    Also at the Oct. 4 meeting, the council appointed County Finance Director Gina Jennings to the Task Force to Review the Financial Management Procedures of Volunteer Fire Companies, created by House Resolution 95.

    “This was a concurrent resonation that passed last year in the General Assembly… It appears to be the focus of the task force to look into the fiscal management of the state’s volunteer fire companies,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson.

    “In fact, the bill language itself says, once the task force is formed, the focus is to return to the General Assembly by Jan. 31 of 2017 with recommended changes and reforms to consider, in order to promote proper fiscal management and decrease the risk of embezzlement and misappropriation by members of volunteer fire companies.”

    Lawson said each county has a representative serving on the task force. He said Jennings’ role for the County already has her working with fire companies throughout Sussex.

    Brandy Nauman, housing coordinator and fair housing compliance officer for the County, presented the council with the Impacted Communities Study, which was required as a result of the New Horizons lawsuit.

    The County did an internal evaluation of the impacted communities listed with in the Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA), which was a part of the New Horizons settlement.

    The VCA identified 10 communities to evaluate, while the County added four additional communities — the Lucas Development, Pine Town, New Hope, West Rehoboth, Polly Branch, Dog Patch, Mount Joy, Concord, Possum Point, Coverdale Crossroads, Cedar Creek, Cool Spring, Diamond Acres and Green Top.

    Nauman said there was a geographic assessment of each community, with the scope including household demographics.

    Community Development & Housing staff knocked on 916 doors, making contact with 679 households, and 578 of them completed surveys. Nauman said there was a 63 percent response rate across the communities.

    Of those properties, 47 percent were inhabited structures, 33 percent were vacant lots and 10 percent were vacant structures. Nauman said the average gross annual income was $25,582 per household across all 14 communities.

    The data from the study will assist the County in its planning activities, including the development of its Comprehensive Plan. The data has also been incorporated into the County’s Prioritization Policy.

    Those who wish to view the study may do so on the County’s website, under the Affordable and Fair Housing Resource Center.

    Following Nauman’s presentation, Vincent thanked the staff for their hard work.

    “It’s a great job, and we’re very blessed to have you all work for us.”

    At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also revisited the High Tide Church Expansion of the Sussex County Unified Sanitary Sewer District.

    The expansion will consist of 122.65 acres more or less, with a system connection charge of $5,075, based on current rates. Last week, two residents had spoken in opposition to the expansion, stating they could not afford the connection cost.

    John Ashman of the County’s engineering department said he was directed to contact those who would be impacted by the expansion; however, he had trouble tracking everyone down.

    He did say, from those they spoke to, they did not want to be connected or have the lateral set up for possible future connection.

    If they wished to be connected in the future, the owners of the properties where the owners chose not to be connected at this time would have to return to the County individually, make the request to connect and pay the associated cost.

    The council approved the extension of the district, excluding five parcels whose owners said they did not wish to be included.


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    According to a lawsuit filed this week, local students aren’t being treated fairly — especially when it comes to the high rate of African-American students being placed in the Indian River School District’s alternative school in Frankford. The federal lawsuit was filed against the school district on Sept. 30, by the Coalition for Education Reform and two families.

    “This lawsuit seeks to put an end to a unlawful racial discrimination by Indian River SD at George Washington Carver Academy, … a punitive dumping ground for African-American students,” the lawsuit states.

    The suit alleges that the IRSD discriminates against African-American children in three ways: removing them from mainstream schools in the first place, keeping them at Carver instead of returning them to their regular schools and by their overall treatment at Carver.

    The Carver Academy is the IRSD’s alternative school, focusing on K-12 students’ academic, behavioral and personal needs, hosting between 50 and 70 children at any given time.

    But for the past five years, Carver’s student population was between 41 and 54 percent African-American. In the IRSD overall, the percentage of African-American students is less than 16 percent.

    The district “disproportionately assigned African-American students to Carver under the pretext that they are ‘troublemakers,’” the lawsuit states. It also alleges that the IRSD removes children from mainstream schools “on flimsy pretexts, segregating them at Carver on arbitrary grounds and for arbitrary periods of time, and neglecting their educational needs, including learning disabilities support. … Indian River SD does not treat Caucasian students in the same way.”

    White students made up 40 percent of Carver’s population in 2015-2016, compared to 51 percent in the overall district, according to the Delaware Department of Education. Carver had an unspecified percentage of Hispanic and other minority students, which equaled 36 percent at the district level.

    Led by the Rev. Claudia Waters and Sussex County NAACP President Jane Hovington, “The Sussex County Coalition for Education Reform is a group of concerned citizens … whose goals are dedicated to assist our school district with matters that affect the educational successes of all minority students and to help eliminate the achievement gap in underachieving students and to address other concerns,” according to its mission statement. The coalition also includes Elva D. Allen, a retired IRSD educator.

    The individual plaintiffs in the suit are the mother of one Carver student and the mother of another two Carver students, including the third plaintiff, who is now a legal adult. All children involved are African-American.

    To be placed at Carver, a student must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) — for educational needs, and also a “sufficient disciplinary record to justify removal from his or her mainstream school,” the lawsuit states.

    “In practice, however, Indian River SD special-education teams do not apply that matrix consistently or objectively … [and] does not take ‘no’ for an answer from unwilling parents or guardians” before placing students in Carver Academy.

    Placement is longer-term, but not meant to be permanent, unless the school and family decide it would be in the student’s best interest, Carver staff have previously told the Coastal Point. But the lawsuit alleges that students often remain there for months, or years, longer than intended, “based on arbitrary decisions by school officials and over the objection of the affected students’ parents or guardians.”

    The lawsuit accuses the IRSD of unequal treatment of students of different colors.

    “If T.D. [the anonymized identity of one of the students involved in the suit] was accused of misconduct and other students were involved, [the family] observed that it was always T.D. who was disciplined, not the other Caucasian students,” the lawsuit states.

    He was, according to the suit, supposed to stay at Carver for eight weeks but was kept for the entire school year, based on new disciplinary referrals against him, which were “pretextual and amounted to intimidation and bullying by school staff.”

    For instance, they said, he got a referral “merely for stating to a teacher that he was able to go to the restroom by himself and did not need an escort.”

    According to the suit, another IRHS student had good grades and no fights on her record, but at the end of ninth grade, in 2016, she was accused of having a cellphone in class. The suit states that she was sent to Carver’s short-term Character Academic & Motivational Program (“CAMP”) — originally designed as an alternative to out-of-school suspension (OSS). When one teacher did not send the schoolwork — which is common, the lawsuit states — she couldn’t prepare for final exam and did not receive a passing grade.

    Also according to the lawsuit, Caucasian students were less likely than African-American students to get sent to CAMP or OSS for the same misconduct, such as fighting or using marijuana on school grounds.

    Another student involved in the suit has spent his entire school career at Carver. Diagnosed with ADHD early on, the 11th-grader only reads at an elementary level. He was “deprived of the opportunity for a meaningful education,” as the school repeatedly denied the family’s request for transfer to a mainstream school, the lawsuit states.

    Meanwhile, “Carver does very little to control its students. The students often yell, scream, curse and walk out of classrooms,” the lawsuit stated. Staff were accused of being prejudiced, being only interested in “babysitting” or “handling” students, or being untrained or ill-equipped to manage students.

    “Indian River SD frequently misdiagnoses unwanted African-American children with an ‘Emotional Disturbance’ and transfers them on that basis,” the lawsuit states.

    Last year, less than 5 percent of special-education students in the IRSD, and Delaware at large, were classified with “Emotional Disturbance.” At Carver, that number is 40 percent. But they don’t get the services needed to address those issues, the lawsuit alleges.

    “Indeed, in October 2015 … the Delaware Department of Education informed Indian River SD that it ‘has been identified with disproportionate representation in the identification of African American/Black students with disabilities’ … [particularly] in three disability categories: ‘Emotional Disturbance,’ ‘Mild Intellectual Disability’ and ‘Learning Disability.’”

    The lawsuit boils down to five counts and alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974. The violations alleged include discrimination against students based on race, color and disability; failure to provide appropriate education supports; and violations in a state- or federally-funded program.

    In the end, “The individual plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer from lack of appropriate educational services and the resulting loss of educational and employment opportunities,” the lawsuit states.

    Ironically, they stated, Carver is located on the former site of Frankford’s once-segregated George Washington Carver School for minority children, which operated there from the 1930s to the 1960s.

    It then became home to Frankford Elementary School around 1968, then became the site for the Carver Academy in 2010. The district’s previous alternative school was the Richard Allen School, which was on the site previously occupied by Georgetown’s minority school. The administrator of the Carver school has also changed in each of the last four school years.

    The plaintiffs are represented by Baker Hostetler LLP and Elle Van Dahlgren Law LLC.

    They’re requesting that the court order appropriate injunctive relief, reward monetary damages in an amount to be determined at trial and charge the IRSD for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

    The school district and its attorney did not return calls for comment on the suit before the Coastal Point’s publication deadline on Oct. 5.


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