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  • 03/17/17--11:30: What is... Delaware?
  • “You think you know, but you have no idea.”

    While local history-hounds won’t have to phrase any answers in the form of a question, there’ll be plenty of them asked when Elkton, Md.-based storyteller Ed Okonowicz appears at the Millsboro Pubic Library for “So You Think You Know All about Delaware?” on Monday, March 20.

    The interactive “Jeopardy”/trivia-style showcase aims to stump Blue Hen natives and transplants alike, on a variety of little-known topics on the First State, ranging from historical facts and figures to legendary tales and folklore.

    And while the main objective of the night will remain focused on fun, the former University of Delaware professor and author of 24 books on such subjects is also aiming to have those who attend leave the event having learned something they may have never thought to seek out before.

    “That’s what the program’s all about. It’s supposed to be fun, entertaining and informative at the same time. Education in an interesting fashion, basically,” Okonowicz explained.

    “There’s a lot of questions back and forth and interaction. It’s interesting, because this is stuff that you really wouldn’t know automatically. You walk away saying, ‘Wow, I never knew that.’”

    Some of the interesting anecdotes ready to be detailed and discussed include the famous author who got the boot from the Deer Park Tavern in Newark when he couldn’t pay his bar tab and the famous inventor in attendance when Rehoboth Beach hosted the first ever national beauty pageant in 1880.

    Okonowicz will typically group the audience into teams of either men and women or Delaware natives and non-natives, to see who can finish with the highest score, with plenty of color commentary worked in along the way.

    The program has seen its fair share of success since Okonowicz came up with the idea now going on six years ago. And after spending most of his days writing and researching, the new form of storytelling has become just as enjoyable for him as it is for participants.

    “With this kind of storytelling, it’s immediate. You know that very minute whether something is going over or not. That’s the neat thing about the programs, is the live presentation aspect. It makes it fun for me, too.”

    After wrapping up in Millsboro on Monday, Okonowicz will be headed for Milton as the next stop on his trivia tour, where he’ll be putting on “Foodlore, Muskrats, Scrapple & More,” which he said has been one of his most popular shows to date.

    That event will take place at the Milton Historical Society on Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m., switching gears to regional food and customs along the Delmarva Peninsula, from both a historical and a personal perspective.

    “That one is a totally different program, and it’s a lot of fun,” Okonowicz said.

    As for “So You Think You Know All about Delaware,” the event is scheduled to get under way at 2 p.m. on Monday, March 20, at the Millsboro Public Library, located at 217 W. State Street in Millsboro. The event is free and open to the public, with participants welcome to just drop in without having to sign up in advance.

    For more on Okonowicz or his storytelling programs, visit his website at

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    South Bethany Treasurer Don Boteler on March 10 presented the draft budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which the town council will continue discussing over the next few months, ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on May 1.

    In the draft, the Town’s operating budget is about $2.4 million, which doesn’t include their reserve and savings accounts.

    There are actually two different proposals: the proposed budget, which includes what various Town committees have requested, with no adjustments (leaving a $68,672 deficit); and the Budget & Finance Committee’s proposal (with an $8,185 deficit). The council will debate the proposed projects and is expected to approve a final budget in April. The Town’s fiscal year runs from May 1 to April 30.

    “We’re working on taking historical data … and looking at how they behaved over the last 10 years and make some projections [which can be] a fool’s errand,” Boteler joked.

    South Bethany’s top three sources of operating revenue are property taxes, rental tax and realty transfer tax. Its top operating expenses are public safety, beach patrol, public works and general/administrative.

    The reserves currently hold about $2.4 million from various sources, including government-restricted funds, maintenance savings accounts, donations for police and more. Proposed capital projects would cost about $300,000.

    The Town must consider the upcoming police station expansion (the $232,000 is already reserved); a new audio system for the council chambers; police car repairs or replacement; new accessibility-enhancing Mobi-Mats at three dune crossings; and a replacement all-terrain vehicle.

    Because future challenges will include beach replenishment, canal water quality and flood mitigation, the council has to start planning for those likely unknowns, perhaps creating an “unassigned” reserve fund, Boteler said. Today, the Town has invested much of its cash in low-risk CDs.

    The council’s next budget workshop is set for Thursday, March 23, at 2 p.m. The draft budget is available online under “Bulletin Board” at

    Tax reassessment: Equitable, but unlikely

    The council will also set the town tax rate when the budget is approved. If nothing changes, the rate would remain $1.30 per $100 of assessed value, based on Sussex County assessments.

    However, county property hasn’t been reassessed in decades. To the benefit of property owners, the assessed values are much lower than actual market value.

    Are the Sussex County assessments really fair? asked former Town treasurer Tim Saxton. “When oceanfront property has a lower assessment than the people on the bayside, there’s something wrong with the equity of the assessment, so I challenge the Budget & Finance Department to address that.”

    Just reassessing the town could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, various people estimated, and it could be tough to get competitive bids.

    “The County should be doing something too,” Saxton said. “They’re doing the same thing we do, same thing I did as treasurer: they’re living off of building permits and transfer tax.”

    Maryland reassesses properties every three years, to keep up with modern property values.

    Every system has its winners and losers, Boteler said.

    “But at least it [would be] equitable,” Saxton said.

    In other South Bethany news:

    • The beach smoking ban is one step closer to reality. The council this week approved the second reading of Ordinance 186-17, which would on public beach ground prohibit all smoking of tobacco or related products with cigarettes, pipes, vaporizers and the like.

    Lifeguards are not expected to enforce the smoking ban, since officials said their eyes should be on the ocean. Often, other beachgoers will ask others to follow the law, or they can ask the lifeguard to radio the police to enforce the law.

    • Interviews are under way to hire a new town manager.

    • The Town is auctioning surplus items, including lifeguard stands, bicycles, office equipment, police vehicles and a motor boat. Details are online at “Bulletin Board” on Bids are due April 10.

    • In planning a future street paving project, the council has approved Kercher Engineering’s $3,000 proposal to write the contract and oversee bidding.

    • Summer activities will include yoga and bootcamp on the beach; movies on the beach on July 13 and Aug. 3; a boat parade on July 2; a rock concert by Over Time on July 3; and Sept. 9 beach party.

    • The deadline for nominations for the 2017 South Bethany Town Council election is Wednesday, April 12. Three seats are up for election, each carrying a two-year term. Applications and details are available from Town Hall by calling (302) 539-3653 or emailing

    • The town council approved the second reading of summertime Black Gum barricade (May 15 to Sept. 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with Ordinance 185-17. The new barricade hours were already enacted in summer of 2016, but this will be the first full summer of it.

    Once again, some residents suggested that only they should be allowed to enter the road from Kent Avenue, but council members have repeatedly said that South Bethany risks losing highway funding if they privatize the road. Plus, Police Chief Troy Crowson said, enforcement is harder when some people are allowed to use the road and others aren’t.

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    The Millville Town Council swore in returning Council Members Robert Gordon and Susan Brewer and newcomer Peter Michel on March 14.

    Outgoing councilman Steve Small commended Michel, telling the others, “You will enjoy him. … He suffers fools patiently. I don’t. … He has a cool head at all times. He will be a wonderful member and friend to you.”

    From their ranks, the council elected an executive board: Mayor Robert Gordon, Deputy Mayor Steven Maneri (who was absent on March 14), Treasurer Susan Brewer and Secretary Valerie Faden.

    The short March meeting also included Millville’s Resolution 17-05, setting a goal of adding 1 percent tree canopy to the town within the next decade. That can improve air quality, stormwater management, shade and wildlife shelter, besides improving Millville’s eligibility for a state tree planting and management grant.

    A muddy good time

    For his service in helping rescue a hunter and dog stuck in the muddy marshland last autumn, Maneri was the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s honoree at the Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards last month. The Town gave him a congratulatory gag gift of mud masks, moist towelettes and facial cleanser.

    “Since your mud dive, your skin looks 10 years younger, so we got this product for you, so you won’t have to take a mud dive for another 10 years,” the card read.

    Beefing up the zoning code

    With thousands of more people expected to move into the town in the next few years, Code Enforcement Officer Eric Evans has wanted a building code with more meat on its bones, especially regarding potentially dangerous buildings.

    In February, Millville joined the many towns who have adopted the International Property Maintenance Code, which is commonly used for property standards — particularly for Town Code Chapter 54 “Dangerous Buildings” and Chapter 111 “Property Maintenance.”

    The change wouldn’t give Evans any more power to enter a property that he believes to be out of compliance. He’d likely still have to show probable cause to convince a judge to issue a warrant. But it is a tool leading to the next step, Evans said.

    “We don’t have anything right now. As the town grows, you have to try to prepare for what’s ahead.”

    Because fines were changed to $99, that would prevent a property owner from appealing to a higher court.

    Maneri asked about a particular property in disrepair behind the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s station. Evans said he’s been working on that for several years, but an updated code could help.

    In January, a resident pointed out that the whole area seems to suffer from seemingly abandoned and dilapidated homes. But that’s a concern citizens must take to Sussex County Council, who have their own code-enforcement staff.

    It costs money to demolish or clean up a property (especially when asbestos is involved), which can fall on governments to pay or pursue. But Town Manager Debbie Botchie suggested that local fire companies would probably love a practice building to burn. (State regulations have limited the number of controlled burns local fire companies have been able to conduct in recent years.)

    Extension granted to townhouses

    Also this week, the town council unanimously approved a second three-year extension for the final plans of H&D, a 57-unit townhouse community at Beaver Dam and Substation roads.

    Originally approved in 2011, the subdivision got a three-year extension in 2014. Originally, developers said, the market supported such a project — but that didn’t last.

    “You can buy single-family [houses] for almost the price of townhouses. … We have no control over the economy,” developer Peter DeMarie said in February.

    The neighborhood falls under the old rules that a subdivision plan is null and void after three years, unless substantial construction has commenced. Water and sewer have been engineered on the 11-acre property, but there were no other significant improvements.

    If the request was denied, the developers would have to start from scratch with engineering and design. That could have been particularly tough because neighborhoods now require mixed styles of housing, not all one type.

    But H&D is the last development in the town moving forward under the old zoning code.

    “This development is the last of its kind in Millville, period,” Botchie said. “Our new code doesn’t allow for extensions after two years, and if the developments doesn’t have any substantial construction, that is null and void.”

    As a local, DeMarie said he is well aware of the council’s hesitation to repeatedly extend deadlines.

    “I respect this council. … I’m saying, ‘Look, guys, we’re under the gun, we’ve got a lot of money in this project,” DeMarie said. “In three years, we’re either gonna develop it or sell it.”

    The council’s next workshop, on Tuesday, March 28, at 7 p.m., has a full agenda.

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    Employee salaries continue to be the focus of the discussions of the Town of Ocean View’s draft budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

    At the town council’s monthly meeting on March 14, council members voiced their desire to ensure employees receive fair, competitive pay.

    Councilman Frank Twardzik said he was concerned that the morale of the Town’s employees is “sitting on a razor’s edge right now” due to the recent salary study and the uncertainty of what it means for their paychecks.

    Mayor Walter Curran stated that the updated salary study, which was recently reviewed by the council, does not promote step increases or longevity increases, but merit-based increases.

    “The concept is that the average employee, regardless of department, should be able to reach that midpoint by X number of years,” he said. “It’s a formula for doing that…

    “Whatever adjustments we make here, doesn’t mean that if you’ve been here for 20 years, you’ll automatically take a quantum leap.”

    Curran said that, although the council had requested the Town’s overall salaries increase by 6 percent in the 2018 budget, it does not mean that every employee will receive a pay increase.

    Twardzik said the employees are the Town’s most valuable asset and should be compensated as such.

    “I think the quality of their work speaks for themselves,” he said. “We have a law-enforcement periodical that called our police department the ‘gold standard for small police departments.’ We’re the second-safest town in the state of Delaware. My goal here is to do the right thing for the employee.”

    Twardzik said he believes the Town could find money for salary adjustments, which he said he believes should be separate from merit raises.

    “My goal is to look the employee in the eye and say, ‘This is the best we can do.’”

    “I don’t think anyone on this council wants to be a part of another empty promise to these employees,” added Councilman Tom Maly. “They’ve been loyal to us, and we need to be loyal to them.”

    The council agreed that they would like to see a 10 percent increase in all salaries reflected in the next draft budget, again noting that that does not mean all employees should expect a pay increase.

    “No matter what number that you pick, it is still going to be up to the total discretion of the department heads to fix the individual problems,” said Curran. “We absolutely don’t want anybody to believe they are going to get 10 percent across the board.”

    Town Manager Dianne Vogel informed the council that, with that 10 percent increase, she would have to find an additional $82,000.

    Vogel also noted that department heads did not fully understand how the salary study’s formula worked.

    “Nobody knew how to interpret the study until the last few days. It couldn’t be explained to anybody, because no one knew how to do it,” noted Public Works Director Charles McMullen.

    Finance Director Sandra Peck, who has previously worked in human resources, said it’s important to communicate to employees how the system works.

    “It has to be honest,” she said. “The communication is essential for any system to be successful.”

    Along with staff that always attends council meetings, four additional employees sat in on the meeting but declined to make public comment.

    “Don’t just sit back and guess. If you’re unsure of something… If you have a question, come to your department head and get the answer,” advised Curran.

    Resident Steve Cobb said he believed the employees deserved a pay increase, and if the council were to vote on the budget that evening, as drafted, he would implore them to vote against it.

    “I believe that our greatest asset is our employees,” he said. “We’ve had three salary studies over the last six years, and we’ve never really implemented what their recommendation is…

    “To me, our biggest capital is our employees and, for years, they have been promised things... and it has not come.”

    Cobb said the Town should wait to see what Gov. John Carney’s budget will be when it’s released on March 28. He also offered to help the Town in any way as it works through the process.

    A budget workshop is scheduled for March 28 at 7 p.m. The Town must adopt its 2018-fiscal-year budget by the April 11 council meeting.

    In other town news:

    • The council unanimously approved an $80,000 grant request from the Millville Volunteer Fire Company to replace outdated portable radios and purchase fire gear.

    • The council unanimously approved to change the tax status of 40 West Avenue to tax-exempt, at the request of the Ocean View Historical Society. The property was donated to the society and is the future home of the Coastal Towns Museum.

    • The Ocean View Historical Society will host an open house and dedication ceremony of the Evan-West House on Saturday, April 22, at 4:30 p.m. The plaque declaring the home’s position on the National Register of Historic Places will be unveiled, and those in attendance may also enjoy refreshments.

    • Officer First Class Brian Caselli and Officer AnnMarie Dalton of the Ocean View Police Department were recognized at the 2017 Valor Awards for their efforts during a dangerous high-speed pursuit in December 2016 that crossed state lines.

    “That was very well-deserved,” said OVPD Capt. Heath Hall.

    • The OVPD will participate in the DEA’s semi-annual Drug Takeback Day on Saturday, April 29. Community members are being invited to turn in their unused or expired medications to the police department to be safely disposed of, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

    • The council proclaimed April 2, 2017, as Sarah Lydic Day. Lydic, a student at Lord Baltimore Elementary School, will compete in the National Drive, Pitch & Putt contest finals at Augusta National Golf Club on April 2.

    “It is the goal of this community to support the citizens of our town whenever possible, recognizing the value of their efforts to enhance and expand opportunities for growth in all things,” Curran said, reading the proclamation.

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    Bethany Beach Town Council members this week found some room for compromise on the somewhat controversial idea of prohibiting tents on the town’s beaches.

    With the recommendation for that prohibition, and others, having come from the Charter & Ordinance Review Committee (CORC) last month, council members heard from a number of concerned beach users on both sides of the issue during their March 14 council workshop.

    The proposal came in the wake of a pending ordinance in Rehoboth Beach that bans tents (except “baby tents”), canopies and larger-than-standard beach umbrellas on that town’s beaches. (The Rehoboth ordinance is set for a March 17 vote.) Councilwoman Rosemary Hardiman, chairperson for CORC, said the committee had received requests to follow suit from a number of people after they heard of the Rehoboth ordinance proposal.

    Hardiman pointed to the beach as a place where “people should respect others’ rights to enjoy the beach” and said she thought that philosophy was a “better way to go about it.”

    She pointed to similar rules in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., that prohibit shade devices (umbrellas, tents and canopies) larger than 12 feet in diameter or 9 feet tall, as well as tying shade devices together or placing them within 10 feet of each other.

    In the wake of public response to the March 14 agenda item, she said she wasn’t sure the Town wanted to go down the road of a flat prohibition on tents but instead suggested a compromise: to allow tents at the very back of the beach, next to the dune.

    “Of the people I talked to, all of them objected to having tents on the beach — except one, who had [a tent]. And all except that one said they would be OK with tents at the back of the beach.”

    Hardiman said that with the town’s beach currently being narrower than its design, she felt the issue of tents wasn’t going to go away. “It’s going to get harder and harder to address,” she said, adding that she felt the issue was “not as emotional now as it would be in years to come.”

    Councilman Lew Killmer said Bethany is “known as being a family-friendly beach, and with that in mind, … my personal experience is when some of these issues are brought up there on the beach, a person can address them one-on-one.

    “Hiring people to walk along the beach” for enforcement had been proposed by CORC, he noted, and they would have to be the ones to enforce any such rules. In the past, he said, “I have taken the position of not saying, ‘No,’ but instead saying, ‘Yes, but do it in this manner.’”

    Killmer recommended the Town allow tents only along the dune, particularly as a way to better ensure the visibility of kids playing along the water. “It’s not a problem if they’re all in one location,” he said of tents, adding that getting into specifics was more risky. “We shouldn’t take the fun out of being on the beach.”

    Mayor Jack Gordon said he felt tents were “a bigger issue as our beach gets smaller. Hopefully, we can control this in some way without being burdensome,” he added, noting that he felt guide-wires for such structures are a hazard.

    Councilman Joe Healy said he favored eliminate tents on the beach but that Hardiman had proposed “a viable alternative in confining them to the back of the dune.” He added that controlling specific sizes would involve someone having to check compliance with a tape measure.

    “Without another alternative,” he added, “I would be in favor of eliminating them.”

    Councilman Jerry Morris declared, “Tents are a thing of the future. More and more, people are going to tents — not just for children, but for the elderly and people with mobility problems.” He said he felt moving any tents to the dune line was a good alternative to banning them.

    Morris said he felt the other issue to consider was people setting up early on the beach and not showing up until later, such as 1 p.m. “That’s not a right thing to do.” He also said using a bigger tent made sense, rather than trying to accommodate individual baby tents for a group with multiple children.

    “We have a fairly narrow beach,” he said. “I think the answer is to move tents back.”

    Councilman Bruce Frye said he had asked for opinions on the issue on social media, with 18 respondents being against any regulation at all and some, he said, saying “we were all beach-Nazis.” He said he favored allowing tents of a reasonable size back at the dune.

    Killmer suggested controlling the maximum size of tents by prohibiting any guide wires, but Town Manager Cliff Graviet said he didn’t think that was feasible and the Town would have to enforce a size regulation. Killmer replied that guide wires should be prohibited regardless and that the Town should also ban tying tents together. He said he favored specifying that tents could be placed against the dune in a single row, with no doubling them up in front of each other.

    Resident Dan White, who said he’s been in the town for 20 years, noted that his family has grown to include 18 people, with grandkids and in-laws, and they all go to the beach together.

    “We got a tent because you can put more people in a smaller space,” he said, agreeing that guide wires were a hazard. But he argued that tents are safer than umbrellas, which he said are more likely to go flying in the wind, and are higher and more likely to block the view up high. He also favored prohibiting tying tents together and said restricting them to the dune line would be an acceptable compromise.

    Resident Wendy O’Connor noted her interest in running for mayor on a platform of prohibiting tents.

    “The ones with tents are the ones that come at 5 a.m. and don’t show up [until much later], or do show up. … And there’s no one in the tent,” she added, saying tent users put chairs in front of their tent and “take up lots of space.” She also said she’d seen portable toilets used on the beach, including little kids using them in the open.

    “I don’t know how you broach the subject. You cannot approach people like that. It is ‘their space.’ They are very territorial.”

    O’Connor said she’d also more recently seen people take tents and spread the bottoms out at an angle, reducing the height but taking up more room on the beach.

    “I think the back is perfect for tents,” she added, lamenting also the visual impact of tents across other areas.

    “I picture the town as a beautiful little ‘umbrella beach.’”

    Salt Pond resident Andy Simolin said he opposed the use of tents — especially when placed in prime spots early in the morning but then left unattended until much later — and didn’t feel people could self-regulate without rules posted that others could point to.

    Resident Connie Webber said her large family uses a canopy, which does not have sides, and felt the Town would need to differentiate between tents and canopies, as tents obstruct the view, while a canopy, if put up correctly, do not. She said she’d need four umbrellas to accommodate her family if canopies weren’t permitted and that would take up as much or more room.

    Webber also said the ability to locate her canopy closer to the front of the beach was important.

    “I have six grandchildren. I need to be at the edge of the water. If I have to be up front, I’ll be taking up two spaces,” she said, with her spot near the water under an umbrella and her canopy confined to the back of the beach. “I want my eyes on my grandchildren when they’re on the beach.”

    Gordon said he felt the Town needed to define canopies and tents before addressing the issue with any rules.

    It’s all fun and games, until…

    Hardiman said the proposed regulations regarding the throwing of objects on the beach “didn’t come out the way it was intended. Nobody is against playing paddleball or throwing a Frisbee,” she said. Instead, she clarified, CORC had intended to address the use of hard objects, such as lacrosse balls, baseballs and footballs, during times when the lifeguards are on duty.

    The idea, she said, was to prohibit hard objects that would potentially injure somebody, with the notion that perhaps, because the beach is so narrow, they should eliminate all kinds of games in front of the boardwalk.

    The prohibition on throwing objects and playing ball-type games is at the discretion of the lifeguards now, she noted, “But the idea is we wouldn’t have to have the lifeguards deal with it” in areas in front of the boardwalk, and the Town could just prohibit playing with hard objects elsewhere on the beach.

    “We don’t want to limit fun on the beach,” Killmer stated, while agreeing that perhaps a ban on playing such games in front of the boardwalk should be considered. “I think the lifeguards do a good job now regulating that issue.”

    Morris said he agreed that the beach was supposed to be a place to have fun.

    “Eliminating games would be a hard rule to enforce,” he said, noting that areas where the beach is wider mean people can even play lacrosse without interfering with anyone else. “If we’re going to do something like this, it’s going to have to be very intensely applied.”

    “We don’t want to get to the point where people come to the beach and all they can do is sit there and bake,” he added.

    Healy said the Town could still regulate play, such as restricting it to areas beyond the boardwalk and using only soft objects, without eliminating it entirely. “Please don’t eliminate this just to eliminate it. … This is something I’ve done since I was a kid, and I don’t want that to disappear.”

    Gordon said he felt the existing rules, handled by the lifeguards, were quite successful.

    “I would leave sleeping dogs lie and let them handle it as they do now,” he said. “I would assume the lifeguards now don’t allow it in front of the boardwalk at the back of the beach because there is no back,” he added. “I would suggest we forget about the whole issue.”

    Frye agreed.

    Resident Joan Thomas said she was concerned about the impact of the proposed tent location on kids who currently play ball in that area back against the dune. Gordon said he felt the Town needed to coordinate the proposed beach regulations as a whole, to prevent problems such as that.

    A new ‘beach patrol’?

    Killmer also addressed at the March 14 workshop the CORC suggestion that the Town consider umbrellas and other property on the beach as abandoned after being left unattended for more than an hour.

    “Isn’t one hour a little too short?” he asked.

    Hardiman said she wasn’t really sure now if anything could be done to really regulate that issue.

    “I’m not sure how you regulate it unless you have someone telling people to get off the beach at 6,” Gordon said, with Graviet noting that the CORC discussion had specified only that items couldn’t be left unattended at such an hour and that if the Town was to regulate the issue, they would have to figure out how to enforce the regulation.

    “I don’t think you can control that,” Gordon said.

    “Do you set up early?” Hardiman asked Gordon.

    “Yes,” he replied, to laughter from the council and others in attendance, adding that not setting up early on the Fourth of July would leave people with no place to sit.

    “You’d have to hire people to do that,” Killmer added of enforcement. “Is this what we’re going to turn into, having a ‘beach patrol’? The lifeguards should be monitoring the water, so I think the next thing is we’d have to have a ‘beach patrol.’”

    “It’s difficult to tell some guy who drove in from Dagsboro that you can’t put your umbrella up before 10 a.m.,” Gordon added.

    Finally, Killmer suggested that the CORC suggestion to require earphones for people using audio devices on the beach be shifted to requiring that any audio devices (except beach patrol and law-enforcement radios) not be audible from 50 feet or farther away.

    “We have to be careful about taking the fun out of the beach,” he said, adding that if people play music too loud on the beach, he asks them to turn it down, and they do.

    “We’re human beings. We can talk to each other, and if it becomes an issue, we can go to somebody who can say to stop.”

    Hardiman said she felt the existing noise ordinance could really address such concerns, with wide agreement from those in attendance.

    CORC will take another swing at the proposed regulations before they’ll come back to the council for a possible vote.

    Service animals getting defined, alley could open

    Hardiman explained to the council that CORC’s recommendation for changes to town code regarding the access of service animals was to move away from the current definition of “service animal” that specifies dogs in service of blind or deaf persons, as well as law-enforcement canines, as the only service animals to receive additional access to areas such as the beach and boardwalk when dogs are otherwise prohibited.

    She said the committee favored adopting the definition directly from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which defines a service animal as a dog formally trained to perform a task for a person with disabilities. That does not include “comfort animals” that can provide reassurance and other help for people, but does include psychiatric aid dogs that are trained to do tasks such as turn on lights or check for danger for people with PTSD.

    The council could also in the near future hold a public hearing on whether to officially open a Town-controlled alley in the 200 block of Central Boulevard.

    Town Manager Cliff Graviet told the council that a property owner had asked the Town to open the unopened alley — a 10-foot strip between the property line there and the Loop Canal — to provide a pedestrian walkway for residents of four rental properties there (all owned by the same entity) to more easily make their way to Pennsylvania Avenue and the beach.

    The entrance to the alley on the eastern end is between a mini-golf course and a residence, and Graviet said the Town needed to do a survey to see if there was a viable entrance already on the other end of the alley.

    He noted that the Town charter specifies what the Town must do to open the alley — the same procedure as needed to close Maryland Avenue Extended for its use for the future town museum, including public notice to affected property owners at least 45 days in advance of a public hearing.

    If opened, the alley would connect to Route 1. Graviet said he hadn’t inquired of DelDOT what their perspective on the issue was. He said they had in the past opposed opening any new alleys onto Route 1, but this alley already technically exists, even if it isn’t officially open. Graviet said he also wasn’t sure yet how much of that would be in the Town’s right-of-way.

    Killmer noted that the request hadn’t been for the Town to provide paving for the alley or even a path, but just to open the alley officially.

    Councilman Jerry Morris noted that the initial drawing of the area appeared to only show need for the removal of a few bushes. Graviet said there are also a couple of trees, but that regardless of the actual work that would need to be done to make the alley passable, the procedure for doing so was the same.

    Council members found consensus that a council member could opt to bring the issue up at a future meeting, at which time the council could decide whether to proceed with potential resolution and public hearing that would pave the way for the issue to go up for a vote.

    Hiatus, study coming for seasonal speed humps

    Graviet proposed to the council at the March 14 workshop that the Town consider put the use of some speed-control devices, such as removable speed humps, on hiatus for the summer of 2017.

    Graviet noted that the Town uses the devices, seasonally and year-round, in a number of different locations on Gibson and Central, with mixed results. He said that, many times, residents want them installed to help keep drivers from speeding above the 25 mph limit on those roads.

    However, he said, the Town’s data has shown that drivers rarely drive above 25 mph in those areas.

    “We don’t really have speeding problems,” he said of those locations, noting that while some might prefer the speed limit in those areas was 15 mph instead of 25 mph, the Town cannot regulate the speed down further, per state law.

    To address the issue going into the future, Graviet said he wanted to try the hiatus this summer and take the time to discuss the issue with a traffic engineer. While the speed-control devices may seem harmless enough overall, Graviet said they had proven to be an annoyance to some residents living nearby, between people stopping to then drive slowly over them and the noise sometimes generated when they are driven over.

    “We want to see if there is something else we can do to reduce the speed, or at least the perception of speed,” he said.

    Killmer said he supported the proposed hiatus, though he said he felt the devices do help in some areas of the town.

    Hardiman noted that the DelDOT traffic manual lists such devices as not recommended for use to reduce traffic volume, which may be part of the reason some have asked for them in the past.

    “In this case, it did,” she added before pointing out that DelDOT’s alternative recommendation for reducing traffic volume is one-way streets. “I’d rather have someone who is an expert take a look at it.”

    Graviet added of the one-way streets that a previous recommendation from a traffic engineer had been for the Town to move to one-way streets for Atlantic and Pennsylvania Avenues, forming a large loop downtown.

    Councilman Joe Healy said he felt the seasonal devices on Collins were necessary and had a done a great job.

    Graviet emphasized that he felt that a more ideal solution for the problem would be the creation of a pedestrian pathway in that area, to move pedestrians away from the motor-vehicle traffic. He said that idea had been discussed years ago but hadn’t found council support.

    “The home owners are up to here with the noise,” he said, and were bothered by the fact that they were so close together.

    Hardiman said there is “a misconception that speed humps are the solution to everything. They may not always be the way to go. We need a way to come up with criteria for where put them in.”

    Graviet said he believed DelDOT was correct in that the speed humps often don’t help with traffic, and said that the kind of speed hump needed to bring traffic down to 15 mph “could be catastrophic in terms of driving your car over it.”

    Addressing residents of Collins Street who said they favored having the devices year-round instead of seasonally, Graviet said the devices had been put in in lieu of a sidewalk, because some residents had opposed having a sidewalk there, but that there had been those who wanted them removed in the off-season, while others had favored year-round use.

    “The majority of emails we receive are people who aren’t happy with them there,” he said of residents of Gibson and Central.

    “This room was full of people who opposed putting speed bumps on Collins,” Killmer noted of the discussion prior to their installation around seven years ago.

    Mayor Jack Gordon said he supported studying the issue and hoped that the Town will be able to resolve more problems than it causes with whatever decision is reached.

    Also on March 14, the council held a public hearing on the draft of the Town’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Town officials said the only change from a prior version of the draft was a $32,000 increase in expenses for police salaries, to keep the Town paying a competitive rate.

    The major significant change from prior years is an increase of $50 per year (to $330 total) for the Town’s trash collection — a change that officials said will sustain the service for the next five years.

    The final draft budget calls for $9.4 million in revenue, with $7.3 million in operating expenses and $1.1 million in capital expenses.

    There were no comments on the draft budget from members of the public. The budget is up for adoption at the March 17 meeting of the town council.

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    Celebrating its 10th season bringing arts to Sussex County, the Freeman Stage at Bayside is promising to continue doing just that, and in grand style, as it announced on March 15 its summer season lineup.

    Notable acts gracing the stage this summer include comedian Jay Leno (June 30), country musician Hunter Hayes (July 28), and musical acts Chicago (Aug. 1) and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (Aug. 3).

    “This is the beginning of a great season,” said Michelle Freeman, chairman and president of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, at the March 15 season reveal. “Come support the arts in Sussex County.”

    Other national acts include Tedeschi Trucks Band on June 17; Baltimore Raven’s kicker and opera singer Justin Tucker on June 18; the Stray Cat Lee Rocker on June 24; The O’Jays on July 1; Dustin Lynch & Granger Smith on July 6; Blues Travelers on July 11; The Wallflowers and Better than Ezra on July 12; Gary Clark Jr. on July 17; Michael Franti & Spearhead on July 29; Sutton Foster on July 30; Mary Chapin Carpenter on Aug. 8; and Joey Alexander Trio on Aug. 12.

    Tickets for the 10th season go on sale Monday, April 3, at 10 a.m.

    This year’s performers include three Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, a Caldecott book honoree and a two-time Tony winner and, combined, have 15 Grammy awards and more than 30 Grammy nominations; two Country Music Association awards; and three Emmy awards and 17 nominations.

    Crowd favorites who will once again grace the stage include the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the First State Ballet, Clear Space Theatre and Brown Box Theatre Company.

    “Locals Under the Lights,” where local artists have their moment in the spotlight, will also be back this summer.

    On Sept. 8, Bruce in the USA, a Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band tribute act, will return to perform, and special guests from Operation SEAs the Day — a week-long beach event for wounded military veterans and their families — will be in attendance.

    The Freeman Stage is a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation. The program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Grant support is also provided by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, the Sussex County Council and the State of Delaware.

    The Freeman Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was created in 2007, to honor Josh Freeman, who lost his life unexpectedly in 2006.

    “The Freeman Stage began as a way for me to honor my husband while also celebrating something we both love — the arts,” Freeman said.

    Freeman went on to dedicate the 10th season not only to Josh Freeman, but also to her mother- and father-in-law, Virginia and Carl Freeman.

    “My mother-in-law was an artist, a writer, a poet, a sculptor. My father-in-law was born to Jewish parents with nothing. He came to this country and built a company, and then he built a foundation really based in the philanthropic view that to whom much is given much is expected.”

    In its first season, the Stage welcomed a total of 13,000 patrons. Last year, 62,000 patrons enjoyed the arts under the stars. Over its first nine seasons, a total of 322,000 people attended shows at Freeman. (This year will also mark the debut of a new, upgraded stage.)

    Through partnerships, the Freeman Stage has been able to expose 80,000 local school-age children to the arts.

    Freeman also praised her own parents for helping expose her to the arts as a young child growing up in Wilmington, Del.

    “My dad got together a little bit of money, and I was able to attend a Saturday theater performance — every other Saturday, I think it was — at the DuPont Theater. It was a time in my life when I was going off the rails a little bit. The arts gave me hope. And the arts brought me joy. And the arts reminded me that the world was bigger than Wilmington, Del. I’d like to think some of those 80,000 children leave feeling the way I felt leaving the DuPont Theater.”

    Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson noted that on cold, windy days such as Wednesday, “We all dream of those July evenings at the Stage.”

    Lawson said the County is proud to work with the Freeman Foundation and pay for the transportation of Sussex County school children to arts shows at the Freeman Stage.

    “This is a big deal. This is huge,” he said. “It’s more than just the arts and the performances we’ve experienced here at the Stage. It’s the asset that this stage has become to this community, to this county, to this state.”

    “Thousands of Sussex County children have had their lives enriched” at the “little stage that could,” added Stephanie Cohen, a volunteer since 2008, and stage sponsor.

    Gov. John Carney visited the Stage for the first time ever on Wednesday.

    “I’ve been to just about every corner of our state… except right here. This is my first time here.”

    Carney thanked Freeman for enlivening Sussex County arts exposure.

    “Thank you for what you’re doing for our state. It’s really important, and it’s fun.”

    Although U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) could not attend the event in person, he recorded a video message that was played during the season reveal.

    “We’re really lucky to have the Freeman Stage in Delaware and Delmarva. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

    For more information on this season’s events, or to find out how to volunteer at The Freeman Stage, call (302) 436-3015 or visit

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    Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Inspirational speaker ‘Principal El’ joked around with Indian River High School students while encouraging them to be their best selves now.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Inspirational speaker ‘Principal El’ joked around with Indian River High School students while encouraging them to be their best selves now.There is something to live and aspire for, said the man from Philadelphia. You just have to be ready when that opportunity comes.

    He calls himself “Principal El,” and his mission is to motivate, invigorate and inspire students and teachers across the country. The teacher, principal and motivational speaker Salome Thomas-El brought words of wisdom (and a few laughs) to Indian River High School and Selbyville Middle School on March 2.

    “You get a blessing and use it to help others. ... It comes back to you,” he said. Doing good in one area might tip the scales toward another good opportunity, such as a job interview or scholarship.

    Similarly, “The way you treat people, that will come back to you,” said Thomas-El. “You can say what you want, you can do what you want, but the way you make people feel is what they’ll remember about you.”

    He talked about the importance of a good friend who doesn’t encourage you to do something stupid, but to do good and follow good opportunities and choices.

    Raised in the Philadelphia projects, Thomas-El was fortunate to graduate from a magnet high school and then college. One day he was guest-speaking at a Philadelphia school, where a student inspired him to become a teacher.

    “You’ve got to have faith” and trust adults who have your best interests at heart, he told the students. “I respect where you are and what you go through.”

    He encouraged them to give back to their communities as teachers, counselors or social workers.

    “I want young people to know how powerful and strong you are as leaders at a young age,” he said. “You are doing so many positive things. ... You have awesome responsibility to make sure you are there for your friends [and make the school a better place].”

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    Coastal Point • Tripp Colonell: Xiomara Weaver, Jackie Johnson and the River Café crew are ready to start the day.Coastal Point • Tripp Colonell: Xiomara Weaver, Jackie Johnson and the River Café crew are ready to start the day.It’s 8 a.m. at Indian River High School. The bells have rung. The morning announcements have been made. And the River Café is officially open for business.

    Today, on the menu: coffee, tea and complimentary homemade cupcakes with green icing, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

    Senior Josh Timmons makes his way down the school’s history-lined hallways in his official green-and-gold River Café apron, pushing his cart, without paying much attention to the cart’s one stubborn wheel, wielding the day’s orders and approaching his first stop.

    This is the final task for the River Café each Tuesday and Thursday morning — and Josh’s favorite. He greets each customer with their own personalized order, makes the sale, stamps frequent-customer cards and, of course, tops it all off with his signature Timmons’ touch — whether it be in the form of inside joke, friendly pat on the shoulder or well-timed smile.

    Josh is having a good time with the job he’s been selected for today, and it shows on the faces of the students and faculty members he happens to meet along his way. He’s particularly popular with the ladies in Mrs. Freeman’s first-period animal-science class. At the same time, he’s all business this morning. There are still orders to be delivered, after all.

    The last leg of Josh’s four-wheeled tour is saved, perhaps purposefully, for last. It’s half-way through first period, and IR head soccer coach and special-needs educator Steve Kilby is ready for his personally-labeled Thursday-morning cup of joe.

    The two know each other well, as Josh has come up through the River Soccer Club and the soccer program at IR, and their particular bond is as undeniable as it is enjoyable to everyone else in the room. Wristwatches are pointed to with wry smirks. More light-hearted jokes are traded. Soccer discussions are inevitably had, and laughs are shared and echo throughout the classroom.

    There isn’t too much longer allotted for back-and-forth banter, Josh knows. One fast move and he’s gone — off to meet the rest of his classmates and help get everything cleaned up and ready to go for the next day’s business, with just enough time to spare before the bell. Time for shop class. Time to learn.

    That is how a typical Tuesday and Thursday start off for the River Café crew, made up of students with special needs at Indian River High School — the aim being to not only learn and develop skills for both everyday life and the business world, in a real-world setting, but to be better included as part of the Indian River High School community.

    They get to plan and design the menu, collect the orders, brew the coffee and bake the goods — including, of course, the Café’s homemade hit apple fritters — then deliver them, all on their own terms.

    “I truly believe that if a student is involved in something in school, they feel connected. It makes them want to keep on going,” said Special Education Coordinator Sally Benner of the special-education philosophy at IR.

    So far, that philosophy’s proof is in the homemade apple fritters, with students already making unmistakable strides.

    “There are students that, when they first came to me, they were really shy. But with River Café, they’ve gained a lot of confidence — they go out there and deliver on their own,” said Jackie Johnson, who heads up both River Café and the school’s Intensive Learning Center.

    “I like how we put the decafs in the machine and then we have to pass it on to the next person, and they stir it and then we deliver it,” said senior Keonte Mumford of getting to work together as a team. “If you see someone struggling with something, you try to help them out, like someone else showed you.”

    While it may seem nothing too out of the ordinary, the River Café is just one of a new profusion of special-education practices at IR proving instrumental in special-needs students adjusting both in and out of the classroom, as well as in their ultimate success.

    Collectively, special-needs educators at Indian River are blazing the trail for creating more opportunities for their students, all the while shedding new light on the world of special education and working toward tearing down societal misconceptions regarding students with individual education programs (IEPs).

    They want the community to know that, just because a student may face a certain difficulty in the learning process, it doesn’t mean that they can’t set out to do exactly what they dream of doing, continually testing out new and out-of-the-box approaches until those dreams are inevitably realized. Simply put, at Indian River High School, there is always a way.

    “They may have difficulties with certain areas, but they can learn — as long as we provide the right accommodations, the right instructions and the right modifications,” Benner explained. “The good thing about Indian River High School is that the teachers work together to create a program that will work for their students. These kids are in education, and they’re just overcoming some difficulties they may have in life. They work through it. These are the kids that just don’t give up. They all have ‘can do’ attitudes.”

    “Having people that just believe in them — I think that’s huge for these kids,” added Special Education Coordinator Julene Williamson. “The whole point is just to level the playing field. I have a vision disability. I put contacts in, and it evens it out for me. These kids just need some extra things, just like everybody else in the world needs extra things.”

    ‘Spreading the word to end the word’

    The movement is gaining steam.

    Earlier this month, the Indian River School District hosted their first ever “Special Education Week” in an effort to promote and celebrate special-education programs in the district and the teachers that make it all possible.

    Students from the district were selected as “special-education ambassadors” and got the chance to participate in the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, attending conferences and learning more about different learning obstacles that some of their classmates may be facing.

    The national campaign proposed a pledge to eliminate the “R-word” as a potential catalyst in developing a more accepting attitude toward students with special needs and special education in general, while highlighting the accomplishments of some well-known public figures facing specific adversities.

    “We were learning about people with disabilities, the history of disabilities,” said IR sophomore ambassador Kaleb Harrington. “I took it as, no matter what disability you have, you can still go for what you want to go for in life.”

    “I think that’s the whole purpose of Special Education Week, is to show that we’re not embarrassed, we’re proud,” said Benner. “When people hear the term ‘special education,’ they assume a negative connotation, and it’s not. We need to show the community what special education is all about.”

    While student ambassadors for the State Transition Cadre, such as Harrington, Breanna Sassi and Destiny Van Dyke Forbes, were proud to be chosen to represent their school in the movement, acceptance at Indian River High School has never seemed to be an issue.

    “There are a lot of good kids here who do a lot of really good things,” said Williamson. “They’re accepting. They try to understand. They notice if someone is different, but they just accept it. They stick together and try to look out for each other.”

    Never was that acceptance more on the forefront than when the school hosted its first Unified basketball game in front of a packed house in between the girls’ and boys’ varsity basketball double-header against Sussex Central High School on Feb. 9.

    Unified through Unified

    While IR athletic director Todd Fuhrmann has been a longtime advocate of introducing more Unified sports at the school and throughout the Henlopen Athletic Conference, getting started with track-and-field two years ago, introducing basketball didn’t come about until he was approached by Timmons and Mumford with the suggestion last fall.

    After hearing the news, a number of varsity athletes, including Sammi Whelen, Kaylee Hall, Maggie Ford and Zion Howard, quickly jumped on board to help coach the teams, happy to make it possible for Unified athletes to suit up and get the limelight in front of the crowd, just like any other athlete at Indian River.

    “It made me feel like I was a part of something. It was really cool,” said senior David Richter, who scored a game-tying basket in the game. “It was different, because a lot of the people there playing I knew, but we never really played basketball with each other, we never really did any team activities, but we still knocked it out of the park.”

    Before putting on his jersey for the game, Richter didn’t have much in the way of green-and-gold gear. But admittedly, the experience changed his attitude toward showing his school spirit and allowed him to come to terms with what he previously perceived as his own limitations.

    “It made me realize that there’s a whole lot more to do than just going home at the end of the day,” he said. “The cool thing is, now that I’m able to do sports here, I feel like I can do other things. I have no boundaries of what I can and can’t do now.”

    Next year, Fuhrmann plans on adding flag football and developing a six-game Unified basketball season in which Indian River would compete with other teams in the Henlopen Conference, furthering the inclusion opportunities for Unified athletes and students such as Timmons, who scored his first goal for the varsity soccer team this past fall, and sophomore Patrick Callow, who competed at the Henlopen Conference championships for the swim team this past winter.

    But sports isn’t the only place where students with special needs are getting more and more involved.

    Getting involved, being included

    Wherever you look, there they are.

    No matter their potential setback, students with IEPs are getting involved and staying involved at school. They’re taking AP classes, giving speeches at pep rallies and end of season banquets, reading and discussing great American novels, including “The Great Gatsby,” earning nursing certificates, attending cooking classes to prepare for culinary careers or just being regular students. Just like the rest of their classmates.

    They’re being encouraged by social studies teachers Leona Freeman, Orlando Kelly and Jordan O’Boyle, math teachers Jenna Sinnamom and Kim Martin, science teachers Stacey Holladay and Corinne Keller, English teachers Chantelle Ashford and Sharon Breita, and even their classmates, to try new things.

    And they are.

    Thomas Dean recently landed the role as “Montague” in the drama club’s production of “Romeo & Juliet” last month and plays in the school marching band. Mumford frequents the IR airwaves as the voice of the morning announcements.

    Octavio Cuenca Maldonado has had a hearing impairment his entire life, but that didn’t stop him from getting accepted to attend Gallaudet University next fall. Richter is an active member of the JORTC and is currently working on a new single for the school’s spring concert and an eventual country music career in Nashville.

    With the right guidance and the right plan, anything that a student decides they want to do is being done. The possibilities are unending and the limits do not exist.

    The guidance doesn’t end at graduation, either. Whether it be going to college, entering the workforce or enrolling in programs such as TAPP (Transitioning & Parallel Program) and POW&R (Productive Opportunities for Work & Recreation), the special-education program at IR is making sure that their students find the path that best fits their individual needs, and the road they want to travel.

    ‘Oh, all the places they’ve gone’

    There have been countless stories of students with IEPs graduating from Indian River and going on to live the lives they want to live, but here are two:

    After being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder), Jacob Butch was struggling to adjust when he first got to Indian River for his freshman year of high school. He was looking for acceptance from his classmates, but he was also finding it hard to come by, with the social obstacles that Asperger’s was putting in his way.

    Enter IR head soccer coach Steve Kilby with an idea that he thought might help. Little did Butch know then, but Kilby’s suggestion would be the one that he needed to be able to adapt and develop along with the rest of his classmates.

    “I was having trouble. People didn’t seem to understand me very well, so I had a hard time making friends,” said Butch. “I had Mr. Kilby as a teacher. He took me under his wing my freshman year, made me a manager for the boys and girls soccer teams, and I ended up making a lot of friends that way. It helped me grow a lot.”

    Butch went on to use the soccer team as an outlet. He started doing better in his classes, better in his personal life. He went on to join the band and perform in variety shows at school, all the while embracing his new role as a manager and having people depend on him. He had finally found a way to be included. He was finally part of a team.

    “I made a lot of friends, and we consider each other like family,” Butch said of the soccer team that he continues to stay in contact with to this day, recently enjoying a reunion of sorts at “The Mixer” for IR soccer alumni held last month. “We’re always there for each other if we need it.”

    By Butch’s senior year, and after four years managing the team, Kilby had another idea. It was Butch’s birthday, and the Indians were playing Laurel. He was getting a hotdog at the concession stand when one of his teammates called him over with the news and tossed him a jersey. Jacob Butch was going in.

    “I didn’t know what was going on. They gave me a full goalie uniform and said, ‘Go warm up.’ My name was announced, and then I was running out to the goal,” he recalled.

    Former IR goalkeeper “Sam Cannon walked out with me gave me a big old hug and gave me his gloves to wear for the game and everything. That was one of my best birthdays. I’ll keep that moment cherished and treasured with me for a very long time.”

    Butch eventually went on to graduate and land two jobs in Hershey, Pa. — one delivering doughnuts in the morning and the other using his new found social skills as a McDonald’s employee in the afternoons.

    He’s currently working on a music career and toward becoming more independent by saving up for his own place — success that he’s convinced was made possible by coaches and teachers, such as Kilby, and the inclusion-oriented special-education programs at what he’s proud to call his alma mater.

    “There’s a saying that goes around, ‘If at first you don’t succeed at something, try again.’ That’s what happened with me. I learned what I needed to do. I went with the team to every single game, eventually earned my way to manager/coach,” Butch said, citing IR assistant coach Brandt Mais as his inspiration to learn the game from a coaching perspective. “IR is one of the best schools that I’ve been to. If it wasn’t for Kilby, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

    Another success story is that of Hope Pearce.

    When Hope was diagnosed with autism, her father, Rodger Pearce, was somewhat relieved. Now they knew what they were up against. They also knew that choosing the high school best suited for Hope’s individual needs would be pivotal in her future development. After considering their options, they decided to use school choice for her to attend Indian River.

    “Mrs. Benner was the first person I met. I knew right away that she cared, and she had never even met Hope before,” Rodger Pearce said of his initial tour of IR. “The teachers were very receptive to any small issue that may have come up and seeing how they can best approach things for Hope.”

    After getting the help she needed in her classes, however, Hope still needed some help in the way of making friends. She had always wanted to be invited to a birthday party, but so far, there hadn’t been any invitations sent her way.

    Once again, enter IR head soccer coach Steve Kilby. After enrolling in Kilby’s social studies class her sophomore year, she got a different kind of invitation — one that would change her life forever. Kilby wanted to know if Hope would be interested in managing the girls’ soccer team.

    “They included her as one of the girls, they wrapped her up in their arms, and she was part of the club,” Rodger Pearce said of Hope being embraced immediately by the team. “Soccer gave her a lot of confidence all around, in every aspect of her life.”

    While Hope would go on to continue managing and to be equally as accepted by the boys’ soccer team as well, it was in her junior year that Kilby had yet another idea. After noticing her softly singing the national anthem to herself in the hallway one afternoon, he asked if maybe she might like to perform the anthem before a soccer game. Live. In front of the crowd. She thought that he was joking at first, but far from it.

    After weeks of preparation, the day finally came, and Hope was justifiably nervous. It was Senior Night for the Indians. The ceremonies were over with, and the Indian River High School soccer stadium was more packed than usual, fans ready for the national anthem and the start of the game. There was Hope, standing in the middle of the field with her microphone and her iPad, standing in the spotlight all alone — until she wasn’t.

    “The girls all gathered around her — that was a life-changing moment for her, and I can’t state that enough,” said Rodger Pearce of the moment the entire girls’ soccer team surrounded Hope in support, just as she was about to perform. “It was one of those moments. They made her feel special even amongst state championship-caliber team.”

    The performance was followed by a standing ovation. High fives. Hugs. Congratulations. Even some tears.

    When she graduated last spring, Hope went on to enroll in the POW&R program and to continue working at her job at Kilwins, a specialty chocolate store in Rehoboth Beach. But her share of the spotlight has far from diminished, as she continues to flourish using the skills and confidence she developed through soccer and the special-education program at IR.

    Recently, Hope got up in front of the state senate’s Joint Finance Committee to let them know how POW&R has impacted her life and why state disability funding matters. She explained her experience working at Kilwins, and how the store’s chocolate-covered strawberries were her mother’s favorite.

    When she was finished with her speech, Hope received yet another standing ovation and personal thank-yous for sharing her story from chairmen, officials and even state senators.

    “I told her that I was going up to talk to the folks about POW&R, and she said, ‘Wow — can I talk, too?’” Rodger Pearce recalled. “I gave my spiel and just gave a quick success story. I shared her story — she was right after me — and it was all Hope, it was all her words. They were all on the edge of their seats listening to Hope.”

    It’s moments such as that one that make Rodger Pearce appreciate the teachers and students at Indian River High School, the ones who have made a difference in Hope’s life and his own, just by doing their best to become a part of it.

    “Every teacher she had had a part in where she is today, and I don’t say that lightly. It was a group effort. I called them ‘The Dream Team.’ They meant it. It wasn’t just something that they had to do because it was required,” said Pearce. “Here, Coach Kilby has got a state championship caliber team, and he’s a championship caliber coach, and he’s looking out for my daughter to be part of it. They really do care. Every single one of them.”

    The symbiosis of caring

    While success stories like the ones of Hope Pearce and Jacob Butch are reward in themselves for the special-education staff at Indian River, it’s often that their students end up doing just as much for them as they make it their mission to do themselves, when “paying it forward” comes back around full circle, often at times that can be deemed nothing short of serendipitous.

    “You have a bad day, and then you get a card from one of your students. It’s just little things like that,” said Benner of the unique bond between teachers and their students. “They end up doing just as much for us as you try to do for them.”

    “This is my first year here. When I first started, they showed me where all the classes were. They know everything. They know everybody,” added first-year English teacher Abbey Quillen. “It made me feel very welcomed.”

    Whether it’s a thoughtful card, a thank-you or something as simple as a smile, it is those kinds of everyday rewards that keep the special-education teachers at Indian River determined to try to better the lives of their students and continue the search for new opportunities that might help them along the way.

    And while the program has made strides even in just the last year, there’s still further to go. Behind the vision of Heather Statler and the Indian River school board’s new special-education task force, resources are being shared throughout the district. New strategies are being tested, tried and discovered — which ones work, which ones don’t quite as well.

    “We have so many resources in the Indian River School District that I just think that we have to share them, to not be our own self-contained unit because there’s good things going on everywhere in the district,” said Benner.

    Putting on events such as Special Education Week is just the beginning, as pioneer teachers and board members throughout the school district find themselves more determined than ever to change the culture surrounding special-needs education.

    And while only time will tell what’s next for their crusade, one thing is for certain: “The Dream Team” is all in it together, for the kids, well aware that their job will never be done and that even the little things can make a difference.

    “The teachers here are really good about going above and beyond — they all do something special for the kids,” said Williamson. “It’s the little positive things they do that mean the most. They go a lot further than they might realize.”

    It’s 8 a.m. at Indian River High School. The bells have rung. Senior Keonte Mumford has just graced the airwaves with his signature smooth D.J. stylings over the morning announcements. One fast move and he’s gone — off to join the rest of his classmates and embark on a new day.

    There’s coffee to be made. Personalized orders to be delivered. Smiles to be spread and laughs to be shared and echoed throughout classrooms. There’s new friendships to be formed, stereotypes to come crumbling down and new hurdles to be leapt over. There’s new dreams to be realized, and it all starts right now.

    The River Café is officially open for business. Who knows what will be on the menu for today?

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    Sussex County children who have suffered major a loss can now attend weekly grief counseling in Georgetown.

    With so much public interest statewide, the nonprofit Supporting Kidds recently vowed to expand its Healing Pathways Program, and the Hockessin-based group this month is beginning bereavement counseling for children ages 5 to 18 across Delaware, now including Georgetown.

    Families attend weekly 90-minute sessions over the course of six weeks. They will be able to learn positive coping tools and develop a sense of community support through discussion, art, movement and activities. The programs are led by trained volunteers.

    Typically, they are kids who have lost a sibling, parent or other caretaker.

    “The most powerful thing is sitting in a room with kids your age and realizing you’re not the only one,” said Nicole Smith, Supporting Kidds team leader. “It’s so isolating. They don’t want to tell their friend, they don’t want to bring it up. It’s isolating.”

    Kids who benefit often need help understanding the finality of death in more concrete terms. Or they may benefit from having “a social network of having kids that have experienced something similar,” Smith said.

    The children are divided into smaller age groups, with two adult facilitators. The curriculum has changed little over the years and is still designed specifically for the children’s developmental levels.

    Kids do age-appropriate activities and talk on a basic level about what’s happening. They might share stories or learn concrete terms about death (such as what a casket is). But the overall experience is interactive, with art, activities and other fun things — not just sitting around.

    “Kids need to learn how to connect their feelings to the death,” Smith said. ‘It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to be angry. And what are you doing with that?’”

    Meanwhile, a parent or guardian must also attend, for additional guidance. Adults don’t get counseling, but instead learn how to help their children better cope with grief at home.

    “As a parent, you’re trying to deal with how to handle your own grief. … You have to figure out how to get your kids to school … and you’re sad and angry,” Smith said. “It all happens at once.”

    “This unique setting makes children feel safe and teaches them that there is support and people who truly care. My daughter named it her ‘special place,’ and she has gained confidence and is not ashamed to share her feelings. Coming here was one of the best decisions I could have made,” stated the mother of a 4-year-old participant.

    Sometimes, families decide to return to the program years later, as teenagers grow and comprehend death in a new way.

    “We change over time, so something you didn’t really think about the first time around really hits you differently the second time around,” Smith said.

    The six-week program costs $50 per family member (including children and their guardians), but scholarships are available. Smith said many families pay less than that. (Call for details.)

    The group is not considered ideal if the death was very recent, perhaps within the past six months. But everyone is different, so caregivers should call Supporting Kidds to determine if their child is ready for group counseling.

    “You have to be really ready to sit in a room and talk about it. … Six months is a good general rule of thumb,” Smith said.

    The Sussex County group will meet Tuesday evenings, March 28 to May 3, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sessions are at Children & Families First’s Georgetown location at 410 South Bedford Street, Georgetown.

    Other groups meet in Dover, Hockessin and Wilmington. The expansion has been funded, in part, by the Carl M. Freeman Foundation.

    “Just call! If you’re thinking about it, call,” Smith encouraged. “We’re a very small organization. We’re very passionate about it. We would love to talk to any family that’s just struggling. [It’s] a great resource you can call and talk.”

    For details or registration on the Healing Pathways youth program, call (302) 235-5544 or email

    As a subsidiary of Children & Families First, the nonprofit is designed to support and educate grieving children, their families and their community.

    Since its founding in 1989, the Hockessin-based Supporting Kidds has counseled more than 4,200 grieving children; provided grief education workshops to 5,000 people; developed and distributed 1,500 Survival Kits to schools; and responded to more than 1,300 requests for emergency telephone support.

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    Entries sought for Jim Cresson Memorial Fund Scholarship

    Applications are currently being accepted for the Jim Cresson Memorial Fund scholarship, administered by the Greater Lewes Foundation.

    Each year, the fund provides a $1,000 scholarship to further a student’s interest in journalistic or creative writing. This award can be used for such educational expenses as tuition, room and board, textbooks or computer equipment, and is paid directly to the student.

    Cresson was a journalist for the Cape Gazette who died in a tragic accident in 2005. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved animals and who had a deep affinity with the Native Americans who reside in Delaware.

    Cresson was also a Vietnam War veteran and was known for many talents, including music and whittling. He particularly enjoyed young people, which led his friends to establish the Jim Cresson Memorial Scholarship to keep his memory alive.

    Interested Sussex County high school seniors should submit an essay of 750 to 1,000 words on one of the following topics: “My outdoor/environmental experiences in Sussex County,” “What pet animals have meant to me,” “My most memorable Sussex County characters,” “What the U.S. military means to me,” or “Sussex County Native Americans.”

    Guidelines are available from guidance counselors in Sussex County high schools. Entries can be submitted to the Jim Cresson Scholarship, c/o The Greater Lewes Foundation, P.O. Box 802, Lewes, DE 19958. The deadline is April 14. The winner will be notified by May 19.

    The winning essay will be printed in the Cape Gazette newspaper and posted online.

    Grise Scholarship applications available

    The Preceptor Omega Beta Sigma Phi Sorority Chapter will soon be granting a scholarship to a qualified high school graduate. Candidates must reside in the Indian River High School attendance area and demonstrate a commitment to the community through volunteerism.

    Applications may be obtained from Indian River High School or Sussex Technical High School or by contacting M. Orendorf at or calling (302) 537-6558. The application deadline is April 7.

    Forestry Association offers up to $4,000 in scholarships

    The Delaware Forestry Association is also offering its annual $1,000 scholarship to a student who chooses forestry or a related major at a two-year or four-year accredited college or university. Applications are due by April 1, and the winner will be notified by May 1.

    Students will be eligible for up to four years of undergraduate study, upon reapplying, meeting the requirements and being selected. All applicants must show financial need and academic merit. All applicants shall be in the upper 25 percent of their class in high school and maintain at least a 2.75 grade point average in college, based on a 4.0 scale.

    Scholarship money can be applied toward tuition, room and board, or books. The money will be sent directly to the college in which the student is enrolled.

    All applicants must submit a short essay describing their personal goals and reasons they feel they are deserving of this award. Applicants may be requested for a personal interview by the scholarship committee. The successful applicant will receive his or her award on Governor’s Day at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington.

    Application forms can be downloaded at For more information, contact Sam Topper at (302) 856-2893 or

    Lord Baltimore Lions offering scholarship opportunities

    The Lord Baltimore Lions Club announced this week that the club will again award three $1,500 scholarships to Indian River High School seniors at the annual Awards Assembly at IRHS in May 2017.

    The scholarships are being presented in memory of Ralph Helm, who was a member the Lord Baltimore Lions Club and served as district governor and a member of the Board of Directors for Lions International in 1977. The scholarships are awarded based on excellence in community service, as well as academic achievements and financial need.

    Students who are graduating seniors from Indian River High School and reside within ZIP codes 19930, 19939, 19945, 19967 or 19970, served by the Lord Baltimore Lions, are being invited to apply. Scholarship applications are available at the high school guidance office, or visit to print a copy of the complete application and instructions. Applications must be returned to Ms. Purcell in the guidance office by April 10.

    For more information on the scholarship awards, contact Lion Tom Roth, scholarship committee chair at For more information on the Lord Baltimore Lions, visit the website at or call Lion Janet at (302) 537-5175.

    AARP group offering college scholarships

    The South Coastal Delaware chapter of AARP offers two college scholarships to Indian River High School students. This year marks 10 years of the local AARP chapter’s financial support to two seniors, based on their academic achievement, community and school involvement, a written essay and challenges they have faced.

    For the essay, students must write about how they have benefited from high school, community and work activities and how college will prepare them to meet their life’s goals.

    The deadline for submitting applications, available from the IRHS guidance counselor’s office, is Tuesday, April 25.

    The local AARP chapter also provides scholarships for adult students at Delaware Technical Community College. That application process is administered by Del Tech.

    The South Coastal Chapter has given $36,000 to IRHS and Del Tech students, including the $5,000 that will be awarded this year. The chapter will sponsor its 10th annual Artisans Fair on Saturday, May 27, at Lord Baltimore Elementary School in Ocean View to raise money for the scholarship fund.

    AAUW offering scholarships to girls

    The Coastal Georgetown Branch of the American Association of University Women recently announced a scholarship opportunity for graduating senior girls planning to attend a college or university in fall of 2017 who attend Cape Henlopen, Indian River, Milford, Sussex Academy, Sussex Central or Sussex Technical high schools.

    Three scholarships of $2,000 each will be awarded. Applications are available from the school counselors. In addition, the group offers the scholarship winners a follow-up with mentors, student affiliate memberships to AAUW and networking opportunities. The deadline for applications is March 30. The awards will be announced in early May.

    IRHS Spirit Scholarship open to current students and alumni

    Indian River High School Alumni Association will offer two scholarships in 2017, to current college students and to high school seniors. Applications for both scholarships are due by Friday, March 31.

    The annual IR Pride Scholarship awards $1,000 to graduating IRHS seniors. The award will celebrate school spirit, beyond the usual academics or athletics. The IR Pride Scholarship for Current Alumni awards $500 to an Alumni Association member (register online, free of charge) at any college level, from the associate to post-doctorate student, to further their education beyond high school.

    The IRHSAA scholarships aren’t about academics or financial aid, but about service as a student or alumnus of Indian River High School. Applicants will respond to the question “How have you contributed to make IR a better place?”

    Requirements and applications are online at

    The nonprofit IRHSAA formed in 2012 to connect alumni, while supporting and promoting IRHS. With community support, they’ve given nearly $20,000 in scholarships in the past four years. Scholarships are funded through the community’s generosity at the annual Beef & Brew, this year being hosted on Saturday, April 8, at the Frankford fire hall. Tickets cost $35.

    The Indian River High School Alumni Association meets monthly and always welcomes new members. Visit the website for more information.

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    Coastal Point • Maria Counts: Officer AnnMarie Dalton looks on as OVPD mentees open gifts from the department. Dalton is one of three Ocean View officers who mentor a total of five Lord Baltimore Elementary School students.Coastal Point • Maria Counts: Officer AnnMarie Dalton looks on as OVPD mentees open gifts from the department. Dalton is one of three Ocean View officers who mentor a total of five Lord Baltimore Elementary School students.Although many kids have help and support from family and friends growing up, sometimes extra support can be key. That’s where mentoring can play a big role in a child’s life.

    The Indian River School District participates in the Creative Mentoring Program, in which 299 students are active participants.

    Lord Baltimore Elementary School Counselor Theresa O’Shields said the program really benefits young people in a positive way.

    “It is really good for them. It’s gotten them out of their shy spells. Kids who have a lot of energy, or kids who don’t have a good male or female role model,” she said. “The teachers here are good, and they’re so flexible. They know it’s important for the child’s growth. They are wonderful people here.”

    O’Shields said Lord Baltimore has many people who volunteer their time to help teachers or tutor students, but mentoring focuses on taking an interest in the individual child.

    “We like to get them when they’re involved with the kids at a younger age, so they’re able to follow them through.”

    Students can become mentees through the request of their parents, teachers or even themselves. Potential mentors must have a background check and complete a half-day training session.

    At LB alone, there are currently 30 kids in the mentoring program.

    “They don’t just work on academics. They build a relationship with the child, so they’re a constant in their life.”

    O’Shields said there are a variety of mentors who donate their time to students, from retirees to businesspeople and even members of the local police force.

    Currently, three Ocean View police officers mentor five LB students.

    “This is the first year we’ve had the Ocean View police be a part of the program. They’re here all the time, so the kids see them as a part of our school. They do check-ins a lot.

    “Sometimes they come in in uniform, but they also come in on their days off. They truly have made a commitment. They are in constant communication with the teachers. They’ve taken a really active role in this. It’s great that the kids are seeing the officers as not just ‘stopping the bad guys,’ as the kids would say, but they’re also interacting with children in a positive light, so we love it.”

    OVPD Patrolwoman AnnMarie Dalton had worked as a paraprofessional at LB prior to joining the force, and with her knowledge of the mentoring program was able to have two of her co-workers, Cpl. Rhys Bradshaw and Officer First Class Brian Caselli, join her as mentors.

    “It’s just being a good friend to them, being a good ear to listen,” said Dalton, who mentors a third-grader and a fourth-grader, “letting them know we are here for them. ‘Yes, we’re in uniform, but if you have something going on, tell us about it. We are not going to — unless it’s something life-threatening to you — we’re not going to run and tell people about it.’”

    “I had been a mentee of a program in late elementary, if not middle school, for a reading program with the college,” said Caselli, who mentors a third-grader. “It’s paying it forward.

    “At the same time, I already get along so well with the kids here and enjoy visiting the school, it was just an extra bonus to be able to have one student as a mentee and spend time with him.”

    “It’s a nice break in the day, going to see the kids, seeing the smile on their face… It’s fun,” added Bradshaw, who mentors a second-grader and a fourth-grader.

    Bradshaw said they have a friendship-based relationship with their mentees, a number of whom want to be police officers when they grow up.

    “We try to go once a week and spend time with them, whether it be shooting hoops or throwing the ball around, playing… Just talking about how things are going at home.”

    Caselli said he loves stopping by the school and seeing the kids.

    “It’s a nice break from my normal day. It’s not like in high school or middle school, where the kids kind of realize what’s going on in life. Everything is happy, truthful and honest. Lord Baltimore is a great school with great teachers. It’s a very good environment. I’m happy to be here, see the kids and talk to the teachers.”

    Speaking of his mentee, Connor, Caselli said they have become real friends.

    “When I first met Connor, we sat outside the classroom and talked a little bit, just to learn more about him. He’s a fan of soccer, football. He likes watching ‘SpongeBob’ and plays Pokémon, some video games,” he said.

    “Every time I’ve come here, we’ve gone outside and played soccer. He’s walked around to classrooms with me, because I’ll usually visit classes if I’m working. He’s helped me give out candy to the classes. He absolutely enjoys it; you can see it in the smile in his face, and that’s what it’s all about.”

    Dalton said O’Sheilds gave the officers mentees she thought would benefit from having police officers as mentors, and that she has enjoyed spending time with her mentees.

    “I love it, just love it. The best part is the child’s expression when they see you knocking on their teacher’s door. They drop everything and come running. It’s a really nice feeling to know you’ve impacted them in that way.

    “They’re such great kids. It’s an incredible program.”

    “It’s an amazing program. I wish more people could do it,” added Caselli.

    According to the program’s guidelines, mentors are not to have contact with students outside of school; however, a happenstance run-in at the grocery store is fine.

    O’Shields said the Ocean View officers are just an example of great mentors who give their time to the students at LB.

    “We have snowbirds. So, those people are wonderful. They send the kids postcards here. I look at them and then give them to the kids. It’s nice, because they know they’re being thought of.

    “Our mentors here really care a lot about the kids and take an interest in them, get to know them. Sometimes they play games. One woman taught a child how to crochet. They do different things with the kids. Sometimes it might be an interest the child has, like art or sports.”

    More mentors
    needed for program

    LB and the district are always in need of mentors for their students, and this year the district hopes to grow the program.

    Tracey Gross of Connecting Generations started out as a volunteer mentor at Long Neck Elementary before moving into the role of mentor recruiter. She plans to go to businesses, churches and other organizations to recruit volunteer to become mentors.

    “St. Ann’s has given close to 100 mentors over the years,” she noted of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach.

    Gross was one of many who attended a mentor appreciation luncheon at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts in January, which coincided with National Mentoring Month. SDSA has approximately 15 mentees, said Counselor Frank Shockley, who noted that many mentors have been retired teachers.

    “The way I see it, the mentoring program is only as big as many mentors you have,” he said, noting his mentors are at capacity. “The more I have, the more mentees I can put into the program.”

    Shockley said the school could use more male mentors, as 66 percent of his mentors are female.

    “I’ve heard that from every counselor that we’re lacking there. They’re definitely needed, because these little boys need good role models.”

    During SDSA’s luncheon, each mentor received a thank-you card written by their mentees, one of which read, “I wish I could see you every day,” welling up the eyes of the mentor.

    “I think the program is worthwhile. I was really excited about it coming into it. The kids need it these days,” said Shockley. “There are kids out there that need the extra attention, even if it’s just to have the extra friend. They could have the best parents in the world but just need that extra person in the school setting or extra person in their life to help them through, because there are so many things in this world they have to learn to deal with, how to cope with, and how to work through.”

    For more information about becoming a mentor to students in the Indian River School District, visit or call (302) 656-2122.

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    Sussex County recently purchased King Farm, a 74-acre property off Park Avenue, east of Georgetown, for $2.2 million. The property will be added to the adjacent Sussex County Industrial Park, which currently houses 20 businesses that employ approximately 900 people.

    At the March 14 County Council meeting, County Administrator Todd Lawson said the County already has one tenant lined up — Atlantis Industries Corporation. Atlantis is leasing their portion of the property for $500,000.

    Thad Schippereit, president of Atlantis, said the company makes injection-molded plastics, serving mostly military, automotive, medical and plumbing needs.

    “Our plan from Day 1, from buying the business, was to grow it,” he said. “This new facility is going to give us the space and opportunity to make larger parts efficiently.”

    The company has already broken ground on the property, building a 40,000-square-foot facility, and hopes to expand its workforce by up to 25 employees.

    Lawson said the County is currently in discussions with another company that is interested in leasing space in the park.

    The property will have water, sewer, natural gas and access to various transportation options, including Truck Route 9, Delaware Coastal Airport and railroad spurs.

    Greg Moore of Becker Morgan presented the council with a variety of layouts as to how the property could be parceled out. The County will create 12 lots for businesses and a connecting road to the existing industrial park, located to the west.

    There was also discussion as to whether or not the Route 9 entrance should have a guardhouse. Lawson said the County has had a mixed reaction to that idea from its current tenants.

    “It is going to be a question for us to consider going forward, based on the likes and needs of our tenants.”

    Also at the March 14 meeting, Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson and Planning & Zoning Director Janelle Cornwall updated the council on the previous week’s Comprehensive Plan workshop.

    “We had a really good, productive workshop on the 8th,” reported Robertson.

    The Planning & Zoning Commission was given an overview of the plan and then decided on an order of elements to discuss. Last week, they reviewed historic preservation. In the future, they will review community design, economic development, water and wastewater, mobility, future land use, conservation, parks and recreation, housing and more.

    The commission also reviewed a draft vision statement created by County staff that states, “Sussex County offers a unique quality of life for its residents and visitors alike. We appreciate and seek to preserve its unique natural, historical and agricultural character while fostering new economic opportunities and desirable growth. To accomplish this, Sussex County will balance the welfare of its citizens and its role as an agricultural leader and tourist destination with the most appropriate future uses of land, water and other resources.”

    Cornwall said the draft vision statement is on the County’s Comprehensive Plan website for the public to provide comment.

    The commission will continue to meet to discuss the plan, with the next meeting scheduled for March 22 at 9 a.m. in council chambers, to discuss economic development. A workshop is also scheduled for Tuesday, March 29, at 9 a.m. to discuss future land use.

    For more information on the County’s Comprehensive Plan, visit

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    Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Kevin, Merrick and Kristie Hudson pose for one of their first family photos. Merrick was born at 25.5 weeks and has been recovering at Christiana Hospital’s Neonatal Care Unit since birth.Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Kevin, Merrick and Kristie Hudson pose for one of their first family photos. Merrick was born at 25.5 weeks and has been recovering at Christiana Hospital’s Neonatal Care Unit since birth.As she was leaving work on Dec. 27, Kristie Hudson’s water broke. Normally, that would be a happy occasion for any mother-to-be; however, Hudson was only 23 weeks pregnant.

    “So, we went to Beebe and I hadn’t gone into labor, so they sent me up to Christiana,” said the Ocean View resident, noting that a full-term pregnancy lasts at least 37 weeks. “I was on bedrest for two and a half weeks, and then Merrick was born at 25.5 weeks, on Jan. 13.”

    Hudson said she had had an uneventful pregnancy up until the point where she experienced premature rupture of her membranes.

    “Basically, your water breaks early, which only happens to 2 percent of all women. They don’t really know why it happens. Sometimes it’s because of some kind of infection. They did every test they could think of, and they all came back negative. So, we’re never going to know why this happened.”

    Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Merrick Hudson has been battling since birth, and his parents are battling right along with him. In an effort to help the family through this struggle, there will be a chicken-and-dumpling fundraiser event at the East Sussex Moose Lodge 2542 in Roxana on Sunday, April 23.Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Merrick Hudson has been battling since birth, and his parents are battling right along with him. In an effort to help the family through this struggle, there will be a chicken-and-dumpling fundraiser event at the East Sussex Moose Lodge 2542 in Roxana on Sunday, April 23.What came in the following hours, days and months has given the Hudson family “an eye-opening experience.”

    “You never think these things could happen until they happen to you. The night we came in, they asked us to make a decision about if I went into labor at 23 weeks, would we want to try to resuscitate him, knowing that there was a less than a 10 percent chance of survival and those babies almost all have severe disabilities to the point they would never walk or talk.

    “I remember asking the doctors how they could ask me to choose between letting my baby die or trying to save him, knowing if he survived he would have no quality of life? It was the absolute worst moment of my life,” she said.

    “We had decided we would save him, even if it meant his life over mine, and give him a chance to fight unless he showed us he wasn’t up for it. Luckily, I was able to stay pregnant for another two and a half weeks, so it never came down to that point. As hard as it has been for us, I have always told myself, if he could fight this battle, then so could we.”

    Merrick, the first child of Hudson and her husband, Kevin, was born weighing only 1 pound, 13 ounces, and has been living in the hospital’s Neonatal Care Unit since birth.

    Since coming into the world, Merrick has had to fight. He was on ventilator for five weeks; he fought pneumonia when he was just a week old.

    “They thought he had a blood infection; his blood cultures grew bacteria. Then they ruled it out and said they didn’t think he had a true infection. However, at the time, they weren’t really sure, so they did a spinal tap to check his spinal fluid, to make sure he didn’t have an infection growing around his brain. He had also gotten a blood transfusion. This was all at the same time.”

    Merrick was also born with a hole in his heart, which luckily did not require surgery.

    “All babies have that hole when they’re in your belly, but it’s supposed to close before they’re born. Because he was so early, he didn’t have a chance for the tissue to grow and fuse together. It was a very large hole. They gave him some time to see if it would close on its own, and it didn’t.

    “He had to get two rounds of ibuprofen. During that time, he wasn’t allowed to eat. For over a week, he didn’t have anything to eat, and luckily it closed. If the second round hadn’t worked, he would’ve had to get surgery to put a clip on his heart.”

    Merrick developed a chronic lung disease due to his premature birth and the time spent on a ventilator.

    “The lungs are the last things to develop in your body. His lungs were so immature, and then being on the ventilator, all of that pressure of it giving him breath was destroying the tissue faster than his lungs could grow, it kind of scarred them.

    “Long term, we’re not really sure what’s that’s going to mean for him. Eventually, all of the damaged tissue should be replaced by healthy lung tissue. But he’s always going to be susceptible to getting sick, respiratory illnesses and things like that. Sometimes the babies come home on oxygen, but they don’t think that’s going to be the case for him.”

    Because he needed such high levels of oxygen when he was first born, that excess oxygen caused the blood vessels in his eyes to grow abnormally, which Hudson said could lead to blindness if left untreated.

    “His eyes are currently checked once a week and are not to the point where he would need laser surgery,” said Hudson.

    As a registered nurse, Hudson said having a medical background has been a mixed blessing.

    “For me, it’s been a mixed blessing. I take care of adult patients, but with babies, it’s completely different. The first time Merrick’s heart rate dropped to the 30s, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re going to have to resuscitate him and give him CPR,’ because if that was an adult, that’s what you would be expecting to happen next. But with a baby it’s very common. It’s definitely hard being a nurse and being a mom, seeing someone else giving my baby most of the care.”

    Aside from a recent low-heart-rate scare, Hudson said Merrick has been doing well in the last week and could come home next month.

    “They said babies typically come home around their due date; he was due April 25. That’s around when we’re expecting him to come home. But anything could happen between now and then. He could do really well and come home sooner, or if he got sick, it could really set him back.

    “He’s doing really good,” she added. “I actually just got to breastfeed him for the first time. It was something I’ve been looking forward to every day for the last nine weeks. I’m a nurse, so I’m very educated on what’s best for babies, and I know it’s very good to breastfeed them. It’s been very hard to see a tube giving him my milk, instead of me being able to. It was really nice experience for us both.”

    Hudson has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House, about 15 minutes from the hospital, since she was released. Her husband, Kevin, who works for Sussex County at the wastewater treatment facility in Bethany Beach, was able to take off of work until Merrick was about a month old.

    “I get up and I’m usually here from 10 to about 11 o’clock at night,” said Hudson. “[Kevin] went back to work about a month ago. He had had a lot of time, so he was able to stay off until Merrick was about a month old. He usually comes up on Wednesday nights and stays with me and then goes back home. Then he comes up Friday nights after work and will go home Monday mornings before work.”

    Hudson said the County has been very good to the family during the difficult time.

    “When Merrick was first born, they actually organized a bake sale and donated all the money to us. A lot of the guys he works with have pitched in, whether it’s making a donation or they go on call every six weeks — they’ll take his week so he’ll be able to come up and see Merrick and not be stuck down there. We’ve been very blessed.”

    Hudson worked at Nanticoke Hospital in a stepdown unit, but not long after becoming pregnant she decided she wanted to work somewhere with more normal hours and found a job at a doctor’s office.

    However, once Merrick was born, Hudson was not ready to leave him in the Christiana NICU and return to work.

    “I couldn’t leave my baby. I couldn’t imagine leaving him all week when he needed me. Unfortunately, they said they were too short-staffed and I hadn’t been there long enough to qualify for [the Family Medical Leave Act], so they were going to have to let me go — but that when I was ready to return fulltime, they would be willing to rehire me.”

    Once Merrick is discharged, Hudson said it will still take some time before she is able to return to the workforce.

    “When he comes home, I will need to stay at home with him until his immune system catches up, because if he was in daycare and were to even catch a cold, it is pretty much a given he’d end up back in the hospital and could face serious complications. So, for a while, we will have to shelter him from the outside world and limit his exposure to visitors and germs.”

    Now the family is not only dealing with the stress of Merrick’s health, but financial pressures, with Hudson’s loss of employment.

    With that in mind, a Chicken-and-Dumpling Fundraiser Dinner will be held on April 23 at the East Sussex Moose Lodge 2542 in Roxana. The dinner begins at 2 p.m., with tickets costing $12 per person.

    Hudson said her husband will definitely be in attendance that evening to thank people for their support. She’s not sure if Merrick will be discharged by then, but if he is, she and Kevin will switch out, so that both of them can thank community members.

    The family has also set up a GoFundMe page, where, in two days, they received more than $1,000 in donations.

    “We’ve had people send care packages, even with basic necessities — laundry soap, shampoo, all things you need but don’t have extra funds for right now,” she said.

    “Being a nurse, I’ve spent my whole life helping people. I never thought I would be in a position where I would need someone to help me. Me and my husband are very independent people; we don’t like asking for help at all. Just to have the whole community pull together to support us is indescribable.

    “We feel very fortunate to live in a community where everyone looks out for one another and helps one another.”

    As for Merrick, whose middle name, “Reese,” comes from his paternal great-grandfather, he is a fighter.

    “Instead of ‘miracle,’ we call him ‘our little Merrickle.’ He is very feisty and stubborn. He wants everything exactly the way he wants it,” she said with a laugh. “We say he looks like his daddy and acts like his mommy. Even when I was pregnant and we got a picture of him, and could really see his features for the first time, I was like, ‘You look just like daddy. You’re putting mommy through all of this and you don’t even look like me,’ and he kicked me.”

    Hudson said she and her family are thankful for the support they’ve received from the community and are excited at the possibility of reuniting their little family next month.

    “We feel very blessed that God has allowed us to get us this far, because not all babies born as early as Merrick are able to survive, let alone thrive the way that he has. We can’t wait to go home, see all of our friends and family, and put all of this behind us.”

    To send donations to the Hudson family, visit their GoFundMe page at The East Sussex Moose Lodge 2542 is located at 35993 Zion Church Road, in Frankford. For more information about the fundraiser dinner or to purchase tickets, call (302) 436-2088.

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    Lovestock: a Cancer Benefit “Dancert” for John “Taco” Wroten, drummer of the local classic-rock band Hooverville, will be held Sunday, April 2, from 2 to 8 p.m. at American Legion Post 2 in Dover.

    Wroten, 62, was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 tongue cancer and is currently receiving treatment, which is limiting his ability to perform with the band and at his full-time job.

    Friends and fellow musicians are pulling out all the stops for Wroten — who has played professionally in country and rock acts since 1980, with more than a decade playing in nationally touring groups such as Rain (Dover, Del.) and in the country music scene in Oklahoma, including briefs stops in Nashville and Los Angeles, for opening stints for Marty Haggard, Steve Wariner, Gene Watson, Moe Bandy, Earl Thomas Conley and others.

    Wroten has most recently kept the beat for Hooverville, playing classic rock across Delmarva since 2014 in venues ranging from Brew River in Salisbury, Md., to the Freeman Stage at Bayside in West Fenwick, the Bayview Inn in Bowers Beach and Cowboy Up in Dover.

    The April 2 event will feature Elvis tribute artist Bob Lougheed & Mystery Train; country music’s Mason Dixon Band; classic rock sounds of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s from Skinny Leg Pete; country band Sweetwater Run — for whom Wroten was the original drummer; pop-rock group Lionel & the Locos; local music personality Randy Jamz; and folk artists Mallory & Maria.

    Wroten’s special guests will include his friends Michael Spriggs (Nashville session guitarist, composer and member of The Grand Ole Opry Band) and Jon Coleman (keyboardist for Trace Adkins, John Hiatt and John Oates); and Encounter Praize. Many other special guests will be attendance.

    Admission costs $10 at the door, with children younger than 12 admitted free of charge. There will be a cash bar, and food will be available for purchase. The event will also include a silent auction of items contributed by Wroten’s musician friends and more from throughout the local community, as well as 50/50 drawings.

    Sponsors for the event include the fine folks at June Jam and American Legion Post 2 (Dover), and Coastal Point newspaper is an advertising sponsor for the event.

    For more information about the event, to contribute silent auction items or to participate as a sponsor, call (302) 674-3922.

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    The Delaware Department of Transportation is updating its 2014 ADA Transition Plan to ensure everyone has access to state roadways and infrastructure.

    Public comments will be accepted until about April 28 for the draft 2017 ADA Transition Plan, which DelDOT calls “an umbrella policy affecting everything we own (facilities, bus stops, infrastructure) and everything we do (programs, services, workshops).” It also reviews DelDOT’s current state of compliance and a path toward improvement.

    On March 20, at DelDOT’s meeting on the issue in Sussex County, staff explained that DelDOT’s path forward includes establishing a Title II program, funding and staffing; filling the statewide coordinator position; conduct self-evaluation of current programs, policies and services; receiving input; and creating a formal complaints process, as required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

    “It’s a plan for how to get from current state of compliance to a full state of compliance,” said David Nichol, the assistant director in Engineering Support and acting statewide ADA coordinator.

    It doesn’t include DART bus service, but does include all infrastructure, such as sidewalks, bus stops, crosswalks and curb ramps.

    One recent adjustment is requiring developers or utility companies to make ADA improvements when they want to change an intersection or sidewalk.

    And DelDOT is adding ADA compliance to its own projects.

    “We’ve already begun,” Nichols said.

    For instance, during road paving or resurfacing, “You will see a lot more work in putting curb ramps in or building curb ramps that are compliant [or] bus pads being redone to provide access to disabled individuals.”

    DelDOT is also writing a new Pedestrian Accessibility Standards (PAS) Manual to harmonize FHWA and ADA standards that otherwise compete with one another.

    An online map shows an ADA compliance analysis all of Delaware’s state-owned roads. Features are color-coded green or red, based on whether the bus stops, sidewalks, curb ramps and more are ADA compliant, based on 2011 and 2012 data.

    Visit for the Transition Plan Draft, plus maps, policies, accommodations and more.

    DelDOT staff said they would like public input on whether the plan is heading in the right direction, or if people have other ideas for improvement.

    To submit comments, email; telephone 1-800-652-5600 (in Delaware) or (302) 760-2080; or write to DelDOT Public Relations; P.O. Box 778; Dover, Delaware, 19903. Comments can also be submitted at the other two workshops, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on March 27 at DelDOT’s Bear Office in Newark or March 28 at the Kent County Levy Court Building, Room 202, in Dover.

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    Live music is a hallmark of Indian River High School productions, and the students are ready to impress once again.

    This year’s musical revue is IR Live! presents “The Corner Club on Baker Street,” featuring an original script by music director Nathan Mohler and student T.J. Oxbrough.

    Performances are Friday and Saturday, March 24 and 25, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5 per person.

    Students picked the songs, and Mohler arranged them all in this musical journey through the decades, from the 1950s to the 1980s and on to today.

    “It’s basically the story of a time-travelling girl who learns a lesson about life through her uncle and his life,” said choral director Chantalle Ashford. “It’s got love. It’s got comedy. It’s got a little drama.”

    The story revolves around a fictional café called The Corner Club.

    Songs include jazzy stylings of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” inspired by Postmodern Jukebox. Other songs include “Hound Dog,” “Respect,” “Hooked on a Feeling” and modern tunes, such as Zedd’s “Clarity.”

    “The kids have really risen to the challenge. I think this is our best production since Nate and I have been here,” Ashford said. “It gets better every year.”

    With about three or four dozen students are involved, either performing or running lights and sound.

    “The students here at IR really love the arts,” Ashford said. “They work really hard at it. These are some of the hardest-working students in the building. They do a lot of high-level academic stuff, a lot of them play sports — but they all make time to do this.”

    “And it’s a completely collaborative effort… This is one of the few times a year they get to come together,” with singers and actors backed by a huge pit band, Ashford said. “This is a unifying moment, and it’s going to be a great show. The kids are super-entertaining.”

    “It’s got acting, comedy, emotion and pageantry — it’s got it all,” Mohler said.

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    Coastal Point • Tyler Valliant: State Sen. Gerald Hocker, left, and son Gerry are preparing to open their new grocery store at the former location of Harris Teeter, near Salt Pond.Coastal Point • Tyler Valliant: State Sen. Gerald Hocker, left, and son Gerry are preparing to open their new grocery store at the former location of Harris Teeter, near Salt Pond.On Sunday, March 26, at 9 p.m., the doors will close for the last time at G&E Supermarket on Cedar Neck Road in Ocean View.

    On Thursday, March 30, at 7 a.m. the doors will open for customers one mile to the south, at the new Hocker’s Supermarket in the Salt Pond Plaza.

    “It’s bittersweet,” said Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr., whose father, Gerald Hocker Sr., took over the Cedar Neck Road store from his Uncle Jake in 1971.

    Even though Jake Hocker had the store for 18 years — less time than the 46 years Gerald Hocker Sr. has been at the helm — some longtime customers still call the store “Jake’s.”

    As Gerry and Gerald Hocker stood in the new store this week, contractors swarmed like bees, and the buzzing of drills punctuated the air. Four brand new self-checkout stands at the front of the store were swathed in plastic, to protect them from sawdust.

    Shelves in the nearly 50,000 square-foot store have been rapidly filling up with non-perishable goods and frozen foods.

    A large display of jars of Kitchen Kettle Village goodies stands ready for local fans of the Lancaster, Pa., food emporium and its jams, relishes, pickles and more — many of whom have weighed in on social media in response to questions from Gerry Hocker’s brother Greg, who sought input on which Kitchen Kettle Village items to stock.

    The new Hocker’s store will be the second-largest purveyor of Kitchen Kettle Village wares, right behind the Pennsylvania store, according to Greg Hocker.

    The Hocker family settled on the sale of the former Harris Teeter property at the intersection of Cedar Neck and Fred Hudson roads in September, and plans then began on how to configure the new store and what new things to add.

    “It’s like putting together a puzzle,” Gerry Hocker said as he walked the aisles of the new store, which will bring a third more retail space compared to the G&E store.

    “We’ve worked really hard to change a modern store to our family store image,” Gerald Hocker said.

    The long-term future of the G&E Supermarket building has yet to be decided, according to Gerald and Gerry Hocker. For the foreseeable future, it will definitely be used to prepare food for the family’s catering and food-truck business, they said.

    “One thing at a time,” Gerald Hocker emphasized, adding that the old building’s longer-term use won’t be decided until after the busy summer months.

    The existing gas tanks at G&E will continue to be open, but customers who don’t pay by credit card at the pump will now pay at G&E Hardware next door. There will be gas pumps at the new store, too — those pumps are currently in the permitting process, according to Gerald Hocker.

    The family’s popular deer processing service will also continue at the old store. And while the old store carried a small selection of baits, the new store’s bait offerings “for the recreational fisherman” will be expanded. By popular demand, the store will now carry 20 pound bags of ice, Gerry Hocker said.

    Meanwhile, customers at the new Hocker’s Supermarket will see some new features.

    Just inside the doors will be a “sit-down” area where customers can eat sandwiches, soups and salads purchased at the store. A “self-serve soft-serve” ice cream bar, complete with an array of toppings, will also be added, as will a soda machine that allows customers to create their own flavor blends.

    The new store will also feature a full line of linens — a nod to vacationers who perhaps forget to bring sheets or towels from home. Gluten-free and organic food availability will be greatly expanded in the new store, Gerry Hocker said. A tank for live lobsters will join the store’s seafood department.

    Hocker’s Supermarket will continue to sell sushi and has contracted with the same firm that provided sushi for the Harris Teeter store.

    Many of the fixtures in the store will be familiar to customers who shopped in the Harris Teeter store, which transferred to the Hockers with everything still in it — from checkout stations to deli slicers. The family has purchased new checkout stations and new pressure fryers to prepare the store’s fried chicken.

    “We know how we like to make it, and we want to make sure to make it the same way,” Gerry Hocker said.

    An additional produce cooler has been purchased to hold the store’s supply of fruits and vegetables, many of which are from local fields.

    The company is hiring 25 to 30 more employees, in addition to the 300 or so who are currently employed across G&E, Hocker’s Supercenter and Hocker’s Deli. The additional employees will be needed, Gerry Hocker said, to keep the store stocked and to properly staff the additional space.

    As the Hocker family celebrates its 70th year serving the local community, the father and son were a bit wistful about moving to the new building, while at the same time embracing the opportunities the new space will give them.

    “You’re walking out of one, but you’re growing into the other one,” Gerry Hocker said. “It was an opportunity that we had to take. It gives us a chance to grow, and that’s what we’ve always strived to do,” he said. “This is a big leap for our family.”

    Gerald Hocker reflected on his own career as he said, “There’s a lot of history. And this is my final chapter.” He said he feels fortunate that his children have stepped into leadership roles in the business.

    Both men expressed gratitude to the community that has supported the family’s businesses through the years.

    “It’s the loyal people that stuck with us that have kept us in business,” Gerald Hocker said.

    The family sees the March 30 opening as a “soft opening — a very, very soft opening,” Gerry Hocker said, adding that he hopes to have the store up to its full capacity by Easter.

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    Budget cuts are coming to the Indian River School District. Even with an additional $7.5 million annual income in local property taxes, thanks to the recently passed current-expense referendum, IRSD staff expect to trim at least $5 million from next year’s budget. And that’s in addition to expected state budget cuts.

    “I’ll be honest — we have cut these budgets to bare bones, because we really need to get it down to a point we can [live with],” said IRSD Business Director Jan Steele.

    Many programs already receive state or federal funds, but the school board is just looking to reduce the local dollars, which are more flexible, said LouAnn Hudson, director of instruction.

    District staff made some initial suggestions to reduce just the local expenses by more than $1.7 million in the 2018-fiscal-year budget. The board of education asked questions at their March 21 special meeting but made no decisions.

    One suggestion was to reduce pay for club advisors and athletic coaches. By cutting $225,000 from Nonathletic Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities (EPER), the student clubs would have to rely heavily on advisors willing to work after school on a volunteer basis. Or perhaps some clubs could move to empty time periods in some school days, such as Indian River High School’s Pride Period.

    Would band teachers, for instance, be expected to do parades and football games as part of their salary? Board Member James “Jim” Fritz asked.

    Yes, answered Director of Personnel Celeste Bunting.

    Some extra-curriculars aren’t affected by the proposed cuts, since business, agri-science and teaching curricula require a professional student group, such as the Business Professionals of America, Future Farmers of America or the forthcoming Future Teachers of America.

    The IRSD could save $185,000 by reducing paid athletic staff to four coaches for football and two for sports that already have two, plus one for other teams. Schools may also split that funding amongst more coaches.

    By reducing summer work days for school counselors, reading specialists, nurses, teacher mentors and other specialists, the district could save $384,000. But those staff must be notified by mid-May that their hours will decrease.

    The IRSD could also reduce training and travel expenses. They could move some money around or adjust programs to be eligible for state or federal funding, such as IRHS’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, which is transforming into a broader Allied Health curriculum.

    The staff proposed reductions to funding for the Math League, Ingram Pond, the Performing Arts Fund for low-income students and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), which helps improve academic skills.

    The high schools have already considered passing on to students tuition fees for the dual-enrollment college courses at IRHS and International Baccalaureate at Sussex Central High School. Other school districts even have parent booster clubs for IB, which can cost students hundreds of dollars per year.

    Some programs that use little or no local funds would remain unchanged, such as ExCEL and Academic Challenge.

    Staff also proposed $269,000, or about 30 percent, in cuts to schools’ discretionary budgets. The IRSD could also remove the $130,000 in long-term disability coverage that they offer, but never use, since the state offers a better option at no cost.

    A moratorium on new sports uniforms would save $75,000, although teams can fundraise or seek sponsorships. The IRSD can’t cut pay for sports referees or travel. But it turns out that some nearby schools refuse to play IRSD because of the ranking system, so IRSD teams are traveling to Baltimore and Pennsylvania to fill the schedule. Board members suggested asking other districts and the DIAA to encourage geographically-closer partnerships.

    Other cuts could include curriculum ($194,113), Board of Education ($14,000) and fleet vehicles ($10,000).

    In all, the proposed savings were $1,719,275 in salary, programs and other budget costs.

    The board could also consider saving $1.1 million by spreading the teachers’ already-scheduled 5 percent salary increases over several years instead.

    They’ll also consider reducing safety personnel at G.W. Carver and the Georgetown complex, although money approved in the referendum would still improve safety features, such as broken locks, glass reinforcement, bus cameras and more.

    “The uncertain thing is what the State is going to do,” Jan Steele said.

    Major cuts were expected when Gov. John Carney’s proposed budget was to be released on Thursday, March 23, (after Coastal Point press time).

    Board Members Donald Hattier, Douglas Hudson and James “Jim” Hudson were absent from the March 21 meeting.

    Administrator finances were discussed during executive session, since each administrator’s contract is negotiated individually.

    The board is expected to continue the discussion at the regular board of education meeting on Monday, March 27, at 7 p.m. at Indian River High School. Meeting agendas are online at

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    Coastal Point • Submitted by Ocean View Police Department: The vehicle being driven on Saturday, March 18, by Ocean View Police Officer First Class Nicholas Harrington was badly damaged during the incident. Harrington received treatment for injuries sustained during the crash.Coastal Point • Submitted by Ocean View Police Department: The vehicle being driven on Saturday, March 18, by Ocean View Police Officer First Class Nicholas Harrington was badly damaged during the incident. Harrington received treatment for injuries sustained during the crash.In what many would describe as a quiet beach community, an incident occurred last weekend that caused many to pause and consider, “even in my town.”

    On Saturday, March 18, a little after 10 p.m., Ocean View Police Department Officer First Class Nicholas Harrington was assisting Worcester County (Md.) Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Rhode in the pursuit of Troy Lee Short, 31, of Hurlock, Md.

    Short had been spotted driving in an “erratic manner” by a deputy in Ocean City, Md., around 8 p.m. that evening. The deputy had attempted to stop the vehicle; however, Short fled.

    “The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office initiated this whole thing in Maryland,” said Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. “They went to conduct a traffic stop of a vehicle, and the vehicle fled. They chased him, lost him. He ditched a car, stole another car. He stole a couple cars throughout this couple-hour ordeal that unfolded in Maryland.”

    According to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the suspect drove to the Berlin, Md., area where he crashed the vehicle he was driving, and then allegedly stole another vehicle before driving to Route 90 and abandoning that second vehicle.

    The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office deployed a K-9 unit to help in the pursuit, which led officers to an area near Route 575. According to officials, by that time, the suspect had allegedly located another vehicle and stolen it. That third vehicle was abandoned by the suspect on St. Martin’s Neck Road, in the area of Lighthouse Sound near Ocean City.

    The K-9 unit then led deputies to a nearby neighborhood, where a perimeter was set up, and a search began. During that time, Short allegedly burglarized a home and stole the occupant’s black Infinity SUV — the fourth vehicle he had driven that evening.

    “Ultimately, he was spotted in a stolen car coming up in Bishopville, ditched that car, broke into a house in Bishopville, kicked the door in, got a set of keys and stole a car,” said McLaughlin of that incident.

    Again, the deputies attempted to stop Short; however, he fled and traveled into Delaware. According to authorities, Short led deputies to the area of Burbage Road and Pine Grove Lane, just outside Ocean View. Harrington was dispatched to respond and assist.

    Burbage Road turns into Pine Grove Lane after crossing over Windmill Road, and Short found himself on a dead-end street, with two law-enforcement officers — Harrington and Rhode — in their patrol vehicles behind him.

    According to the DSP, when met with the dead-end, Short accelerated backwards at a high speed, directly into the front of Harrington’s fully-marked Ocean View patrol vehicle, pushing it off the roadway and activating its airbags, and almost striking the deputy’s vehicle as well.

    “I don’t know how fast, but I can tell you it was bad,” said McLaughlin of the impact with Harrington’s 2015 SUV. “It’s just destroyed.”

    Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: By Sunday afternoon, March 18, police were done with the scene and all that remained was some damage from the chase the night before.Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: By Sunday afternoon, March 18, police were done with the scene and all that remained was some damage from the chase the night before.According to police, the Infiniti continued backing at a high rate of speed, almost striking the fully-marked deputy sheriff’s vehicle and smashed into a homeowner’s mailbox, where it stopped momentarily before Short allegedly drove it back to the end of the street and turned the vehicle around.

    At that point, Harrington was able to exit his police vehicle via the passenger-side door and returned to assist the deputy.

    Short then allegedly drove toward Rhode and Harrington, who were both out of their vehicles and on foot. The two law-enforcement officers reported that they gave commands for Short to stop; however, according to officials, he continued to accelerate toward the two officers.

    Both Rhode and Harrington fired multiple rounds at Short before the Infinity came to a stop in a homeowner’s yard.

    The two officers then performed first aid on Short until EMT crews arrived. Short and Harrington were transported to Beebe Healthcare in Lewes. Short was later airlifted to Christiana Hospital, where, as of the Coastal Point’s Wednesday news deadline, he was still listed in critical condition. Harrington was released later that night with minor crash-related injuries. Rhode was uninjured during the incident.

    Short has a long list of past criminal run-ins in the state of Maryland, including traffic violations, and charges of burglary and malicious destruction of property.

    As of the Coastal Point’s press deadline, the Delaware State Police had not yet filed charges against Short.

    Mid-week, the Delaware State Police Homicide Unit was in its early stages of a criminal investigation, which DSP Public Information Officer M.Cpl. Gary Fournier said is handled like any complex shooting investigation.

    “Evidence is collected, witness and victim statements are obtained, and consultation with the Attorney General’s Office is conducted in order to file any charges.”

    Fournier said the DSP has yet to receive the toxicology reports on Short; however, he noted that Short was initially being pursued under the suspicion of a DUI.

    McLaughlin said Harrington’s vehicle was equipped with cameras, and police seized the vehicles, cameras, Harrington’s gun and other items as part of the investigation.

    According to McLaughlin, Harrington — who joined the OVPD as a recruit in 2012 — is “holding up.”

    “He’s going to be very sore from the crash injury. He took one hell of a jolt.”

    Per department policy, anytime an officer is involved in a serious use-of-force incident, they are placed on administrative leave, said McLaughlin.

    “In additional to the criminal investigation, the Ocean View Police Department will conduct an administrative investigation into the incident, but we probably won’t initiate that until the criminal investigation has been completed,” he said, noting the internal investigation relates solely to the review of any policy violations that could have occurred during the incident.

    “We look at our use-of-force policies and make sure there was no policy-type violation. The state police will look at if there were any criminal violations on the part of the officers.

    “I can tell you the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on plenty of occasions that, someone recklessly driving like that, putting other people at risk — officers are justified to use deadly force, whether it’s ramming the vehicle to end the pursuit or shooting the driver, to stop the person.”

    McLaughlin said Harrington will be on leave for a minimum of 30 days.

    “They have to go through some psychological debriefing, counseling. That’s part of our policy. It gives him time to recover from the incident. It’ll be for a minimum of 30 days, and then we’ll re-evaluate it.”

    He added that he was thankful for the response from the Delaware State Police, Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, Millville Volunteer Fire Company, Sussex County EMS, police dispatchers and all other agencies that assisted that evening.

    Police face greater dangers in today’s world

    Along Pine Grove Lane on the day after the incident, car parts were still on the street, although neighbors had tried to sweep most of it up. The damaged mailbox remained untouched and flattened near the roadway, and a light post and tree where the Infinity eventually came to stop were heavily damaged.

    Neighbors were still shaken up. Some said they had heard the shots; one said they had thought a transformer had blown. Another slept through the whole thing.

    Everyone the Coastal Point spoke with, however, was amazed that something so terrible could happen on their quiet little street.

    “Things are changing in Sussex County. It’s becoming a more dangerous environment for our officers, whether it’s our state corrections officers, state police, town police… I don’t know what the answer is. It’s just a reality,” said McLaughlin. “Ten years ago, this was a ghost town.”

    OVPD Cpl. Rhys Bradshaw recalled an incident on the evening of March 5, in which a state trooper and two OVPD officers were dispatched to Fred Hudson Road.

    “We got calls to our station, too, about a suspicious person running out in the roadway. SussCon also sent us out there,” noted of the Sussex County emergency communications dispatch center.

    The two OVPD officers were the first on the scene and were able to apprehend Joshua P. Covelli, 25, of Dagsboro. The officers collected Covelli’s information and found that DSP Troop 4 had an active warrant out for his arrest.

    “They detained him, placed him on a curb to sit down,” said Bradshaw, noting they were waiting for the trooper to arrive at that point. “While he was sitting, he was able to slip his cuffs out from under him. He stood up and attacked one of the officers, striking them in the face, at which time the Taser was deployed on him by the other officer.”

    Slipping handcuffs is not wholly uncommon, said Bradshaw.

    “Some people are just very flexible. You mostly see it with females. It can happen; I’ve seen it many times.”

    Bradshaw said the suspect was Tased four times.

    “He was extremely combative. It took that much to get him under control, basically.”

    The officer who was struck by the suspect did not sustain any major injuries, and Covelli was turned over to Troop 4, and was additionally charged with Assault on a Police Officer. He eventually pled down to Offensive Touching of a Police Officer.

    For such an incident, a use-of-force report must be filed by the administering officer.

    “Each Taser pull is 5 seconds long, and you have to be able to justify each pull of that trigger.”

    Bradshaw said the report was reviewed, and it was found that the use was within department policy.

    “Unfortunately, these types of events are more common now,” said McLaughlin. “There’ve been a lot of close calls.”

    McLaughlin said Saturday’s incident was only the second police-involved shooting since the department was founded in 1959.

    “There was a prior shooting that occurred in 1991 where then-police chief Dennis O’Mally was run over by a gentleman in a pickup truck, in front of the old police department by John West Park. It broke both of his legs and caused some serious internal injuries, too. He shot five rounds into the vehicle.”

    McLaughlin said people today seem more combative with officers, even if it’s just a traffic stop.

    “Just the level of resistance we’ve seen from these folks is disturbing. That forces us to respond with some type of physical force… I think the key there is ‘respond.’ We’re responding to their actions, and we’re seeing more and more people being combative.”

    The public as a whole is unaware of the dangers to law-enforcement these days, said McLaughlin, noting that most think it’s akin to “Andy and Barney” of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

    “People don’t understand what we do. They don’t understand that there are inherent dangers associated with the job that we do, whether you’re in a one-man department or a 500-man police department. The dangers are there nonetheless.

    “We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to hold. Thank God — it could’ve been a lot worse last night. Things are changing. It’s getting real dangerous for law-enforcement in this area. It’s everywhere.

    “The whole peninsula is changing dramatically when it comes to crime,” said McLaughlin. “It’s getting dangerous out there for local law-enforcement. Thank God none of the law-enforcement officers were injured last night. It’s amazing Nick wasn’t injured in that crash.”

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    Coastal Point photos • Tyler Valliant: Aquacare physical therapist Lauren Nuttle demonstrates her skills on fellow employee Elizabeth Kim.Coastal Point photos • Tyler Valliant: Aquacare physical therapist Lauren Nuttle demonstrates her skills on fellow employee Elizabeth Kim.After 10 years in its Millville location, the staff at Aquacare Physical Therapy continues to expand its “menu” of services.

    “We offer both ‘surf’ and ‘turf,’” said physical therapist Lauren Nuttle — referring to the pool-based aquatherapy available at Aquacare, as well as the “land-based” therapies offered there, too.

    While the aquatherapy is obvious from the name, Nuttle said, the office offers more traditional physical therapy techniques, as well as some new ones that have just come into use in the past several years.

    Nuttle said she loves the breadth of services offered at Aquacare because “I don’t have to tell someone, ‘Oh, we don’t have that here,’ or ‘We can’t do that here.’” The depth of the services allows staff at Aquacare to accept a wide range of patients, Nuttle said.

    She recalled one favorite patient who had suffered several broken bones in a motorcycle accident. Thanks to the availability of the pool for therapy in which his body weight was supported — a person submerged up to his neck in water feels a loss of 90 percent of their body weight — he was able to start therapy there and follow through all the way to his complete recovery.

    “We can serve every age range and every patient level,” she said, adding that the motorcycle crash patient is now back to his regular routine of hardcore gym workouts.

    A technique called “dry needling” (also known as myofascial trigger-point dry needling or intramuscular stimulation) is the use of either solid-core or hollow-core needles for muscle pain treatment. The needles are inserted through the skin into specific areas of the muscle, known as trigger points.

    Nuttle herself has been a dry-needling patient and said it helped her when rotator cuff spasms made any arm movement painful, with the therapy restoring her ability to raise her arm straight above her head.

    Dry needling has been used in Delaware since 2009; Delaware’s legislature became the 29th state in the nation to regulate its use in physical therapy in 2014.

    Aquacare also offers treatment for pelvic issues in both women and men and is the first physical therapy practice on Delmarva to do so. Pelvic-floor issues aren’t talked about much, Nuttle said, and often people suffer in silence because either they don’t know there is treatment or they have concluded that their symptoms are normal.

    “You shouldn’t have to plan your vacation around where the restrooms are,” Nuttle said simply.

    Aquacare offers high-tech applications for pelvic floor issues that help patients gain better understanding of their own bodies, which ensures that treatment is as effective as possible.

    Another recent addition to the services offered at Aquacare extends beyond the human species to canines that need physical therapy. Nuttle, who has received special training in canine physical therapy, said it’s a specialty that requires a certain ability to understand non-verbal cues from patients — either human or canine.

    When a dog is in pain or discomfort, Nuttle said, “They can’t tell you. But they do…” — it’s simply a matter of knowing how to read the non-verbal cues. Canine physical therapy also involves quite a bit of owner education, she said. The educational process emphasizes the importance of owners thinking about their pets’ health in terms of their needs for healing, rather than what their pets seem to want to do.

    That’s the big difference between human physical therapy and canine physical therapy, Nuttle said. As an example, she said, “When an older dog with a bad hip still wants to go get that ball,” owners need to remember not to throw the ball as far, at least not initially. Another example: Just as people often remove throw rugs to reduce the tripping risk for senior humans, they should do the same for dogs, Nuttle said.

    The most common reasons for veterinarians referring pets to Aquacare include weight management and osteoarthritis management, Nuttle said. Referrals are not necessary for dogs to be treated at Aquacare; however, she emphasized that if there has been a traumatic injury, the dog needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

    Nuttle said canine physical therapy is not something that every physical therapist can do, or wants to do, but that she has enjoyed the addition of the service to the Aquacare facility for the past three years.

    “It’s been very rewarding for me,” she said.

    The Millville Aquacare facility is one of 10 Delmarva locations; the others are located in Seaford, Lewes and Millsboro in Delaware and Berlin, Annapolis, Salisbury (two locations), Easton and West Ocean City in Maryland. The first Aquacare facility was opened in Salisbury in 1998.

    In the past year, Aquacare has also formed a partnership with Atlantic General Hospital and Berlin gastroenterologist Dr. Gerald Canakis, to offer the pelvic-floor help for both women and men.

    The public is being invited to celebrate their 10th anniversary with Aquacare from 2 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, when the staff will welcome visitors with gourmet appetizers and cocktails, complimentary massages by staff members, door prizes and a grand prize of a free 12-month pool membership.

    Aquacare staff will also host a series of demonstrations and free sessions during the event. They are:

    • 2-3 p.m. — Free water aerobics class (call to register);

    • 3-3:30 p.m. — “Bottom Line on Kegels,” a women’s health discussion by physical therapist Malisa Ochotnicky;

    • 3:30-4 p.m., “Am I Dizzy or Just Unsteady,” a balance program by physical therapist Donielle Brasure;

    • 4-4:30 p.m. — “Physical Therapy for My Dog,” a canine therapy program introduction by physical therapist Lauren Nuttle; and

    • 4:30-5 p.m. — “Oww… My Muscles Hurt!” a dry-needling demonstration by Nicole Evans, physical therapist.

    At 5 p.m., there will be a ribbon-cutting and “alumni picture,” in which all past patients are invited to participate.

    Aquacare Physical Therapy is located at 38069 Town Center Drive, Unit 15, in the Millville Town Center. For more information on services, call the office at (302) 539-7237 or visit their website at

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