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  • 01/05/18--10:26: Aquaculture map filling up
  • Oysters are coming, and local entrepreneurs are plotting their futures.

    But even as the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) adds names to the state’s aquaculture map, officials said this week that 91 previously approved acres will probably be removed from shellfishing, due to bacteria levels.

    “Based on new water-quality testing methods and potential water-quality impacts to the upper Indian River Bay, it is likely the … area may become classified as a prohibited harvest area within the next two years,” said Michael Globetti, DNREC spokesperson. “If this area becomes designated as prohibited for the harvest of shellfish, it will no longer support shellfish aquaculture.”

    That may explain why only two people applied for acreage on the west side of the Indian River Bay.

    “Any aquaculturists applying for leases [there] should understand that this area may not function as a viable aquaculture area in the future,” Globetti said.

    The area is located between the mouths of the Indian River and Pepper Creek, both of which are in the red for bacteria levels, which means shellfishing would be prohibited. Most of Delaware’s smaller waterways are considered “impaired,” due to various toxicants, nutrients or bacteria. Aquaculture sites were first proposed by the Aquaculture Tiger Team, which the Delaware Center for Inland Bays created to research the subject.

    Human and animal feces are the most common concerns in this situation, especially when the inland bays serve a Sussex County watershed that includes poultry farms, areas of fertilizer application and septic tanks. There’s also vibrio bacteria, which can appear when waters remain warm.

    Other Indian River sites were pulled off the table in 2016 after public outcry encouraged the State not to pursue 24 acres in Beach Cove, located in the southeast corner of the bay.

    Ultimately, 343 total sites were made available in the Rehoboth Bay (209 acres), Indian River Bay (91) and Little Assawoman Bay (43). Although the Little Assawoman sites are full, each applicant can still request up to 5 acres total between the Indian River and Rehoboth bays.

    Overlooking the water near Indian River Inlet from their headquarters, staff at the Center for the Inland Bays have championed the cause since the idea was first proposed.

    “We’re very excited to see the aquaculture industry get started in the inland bays, and we think it’s going to be a great thing in the long-term for water quality in the bays,” said Marianne Walch, CIB science and restoration coordinator. “I think that there’s going to be a period of adjustment and transition as the aquacuturalists and the State figure out how to move forward.”

    “There could be shellfish gear and seed in the Inland Bays as early as this spring/summer,” Globetti said. “The next step for each applicant or lessee depends on where they are in their timeline.”

    Walsh said a few poles marking aquaculture sites are already visible in the water. One person has officially completed the lease. Most sites have been claimed by the lottery winners but are still “pending.” After submitting the paperwork, application fee and requesting their sites, lessees still need to submit insurance information and a performance bond; survey and mark the lease area boundaries; purchase or build gear; arrange for seed, or spat; and possibly hire a crew.

    After the springtime lottery yielded nearly 60 applicants, DNREC re-opened leasing on Dec. 5. Currently, people can still apply on a first-come, first-served basis for remaining spots.

    Applicants were mostly Delawareans, with a few from Maryland and Pennsylvania and one from Washington state. Several dozen sites are still available. Since Dec. 5, fewer than 10 people put their names in. Mid-week this week, 12 acres were still available, along with another 8 acres that need to be sampled for hard clams, and 84 acres in the Indian River section.

    Applicants have a year to submit the additional paperwork to DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife.

    “The lottery participants had one year from the date of the initial lottery to submit a completed and accepted lease application to the Department,” said Globetti. “The acres are ‘pending’ because they have been selected by lottery participants, but either the participant has not yet submitted an application for the lease, or the lease has not yet been fully executed.”

    People don’t have to stick to those sites. They can apply for other corners of the inland bays. But Delaware already did the legwork for state and federal permits for the pre-approved shellfish aquaculture development areas (SADAs).

    Interested parties should keep an eye on DNREC’s interactive map, which includes locations, lease status, shellfish advisories and other updates. Details are online at DNREC’s Shellfish Aquaculture webpage at, or by calling the Division of Fish & Wildlife at (302) 735-2960.

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    Coastal Point • Maria Counts: County officials listen to members of the public weigh-in on the proposed ‘right-to-work’ ordinance put forth by Councilman Rob Arlett.Coastal Point • Maria Counts: County officials listen to members of the public weigh-in on the proposed ‘right-to-work’ ordinance put forth by Councilman Rob Arlett.The Sussex County Council on Tuesday held a public hearing on a proposed “right-to-work” ordinance. The ordinance, “relating to the promotion of economic development and commerce by regulation of certain voluntary payments required of employees in Sussex County,” Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett said, would be to “provide that no employee covered by the National Labor Relations Act be required to join or pay dues to a union, or refrain from joining a union, as a condition of employment.”

    The proposed ordinance, which was introduced in October, was brought forth to council by Arlett — who, at the Jan. 2 meeting said, “We are here today not to hear from Rob Arlett. This is a day not about Rob Arlett, not a day about this council. This is a day about this community. We are here today about a few things, because this subject — first and foremost, the people of this county expect and desire jobs…

    “As elected officials, we have the responsibility to do what we can to do, so I look at this room, I look around, and everyone has the same desire... We all want to be able to provide for our families. We all have dreams; we all have aspirations. The reality — what is it we are to do to foster that? We’re here today to hear from the community…”

    County Attorney Everett Moore had said at the council’s Oct. 24, 2017, meeting that it was his opinion that the County did not have legal authority to pass Arlett’s proposed ordinance, after reviewing Delaware’s Home Rule Statute — which includes a clause stating, “This grant of power does not include the power to enact private or civil law concerning civil relationships except as an incident to exercise and express their grant in power.”

    “I read that as prohibiting — that this does not give Sussex County the grant of authority under our Home Rule to pass such an ordinance,” he said in October.

    If the ordinance was passed, Moore had warned, the County would face “very, very expensive litigation.”

    “I also believe there would be litigation on multiple fronts, including federal and state,” he said, adding that opposing parties would most likely file for injunctive relief, which would put a hold on the right-to-work legislation going into effect. “That would mean that, during the entire litigation, you would not have this ordinance.”

    He added that those opposed to the legislation could also review the County’s record, playing tape of Moore publically advising against the ordinance.

    The five-hour public hearing on Jan. 2 had about 50 people speak, with council chambers packed to standing-room-only and other County building areas filled with interested parties. Protesters against the ordinance set up on The Circle with signs and, on East Market Street, an inflatable “fat cat” symbolically choking out a union worker, as well as inflatable rats (one of which had a picture of Arlett attached to it), along with an LED sign truck.

    The County has received numerous letters both in favor of and in opposition to the proposed ordinance, including a number of legal opinions from attorneys in the state — one being from the Solicitor General in the Attorney General’s Office.

    Attorney Ted Kittila, representing the free-market think-tank the Caesar Rodney Institute, spoke in favor of the proposed legislation, stating that Delaware is in the minority of states that does not have right-to-work legislation in place.

    “I want to see this county succeed, and I want to see the state of Delaware succeed,” he said. “You have the power to do that.”

    Kittila said that, in his professional opinion, the County was granted the authority to pass the ordinance based on the Home Rule Act, passed 1970 in the General Assembly of Delaware.

    Economist David Stevenson, also of the Caesar Rodney Institute, said Delaware has been in trouble over the last decade, growing economically by 0.4 percent a year — a third of the national average, according to the I.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. He noted that, in 2017, Delaware was only one of four states that saw unemployment rise.

    “This is not anti-union,” he said of right-to-work legislation, adding that Delaware’s union membership peaked in the 1990s.

    Master Interiors owner Lyle Humpton said he has an open shop, which allows for growth in his business.

    “We’re all in this together,” he said. “Do you want the government in the way of your growth and your future?”

    State Sen. Bryant Richardson also spoke in support of the legislation, noting that he believes the right-to-work legislation would help grow the economy.

    “Good jobs are fleeing Delaware, and we are rarely even considered for new major manufacturing or assembly facilities. Every new or expanded U.S. auto assembly plant has gone to the right-to-work states…”

    Richardson commended the Seaford Town Council, which recently passed its own right-to-work legislation.

    “The eastern side of the county has the ocean and a vigorous tourism industry to keep it moving ahead. We have some of the best farmland in the United States on the western side of the county and a rich heritage of which we can boast. What we don’t have is an abundance of career opportunities. I strongly encourage our county council members to take steps to reinvigorate our economy by passing the right-to-work ordinance.”

    Delaware Republican Party Secretary Carol Bodine, also an Ocean View Town Council member, urged the all-Republican council to vote with their party.

    “Right-to-work is a Republican issue,” said Bodine. “My guess is that all these pro-union people here did not support any of your candidacies. The right-to-work people supported your candidacies.

    “If you’re afraid of being sued, Caesar Rodney has attorneys ready to work for you. The reason we haven’t handed you the money is you haven’t voted on the issue yet. If you have a personal connection to unions that makes you feel like you can’t vote properly, you can recuse yourself. If Sussex County supports the right-to-work, it will boomerang on the East Coast, you’ll see.”

    Cathy Watts, the president of the Sussex County Republican Women’s Club, said the organization voted unanimously to support the right-to-work legislation.

    Laurel resident Mike Horsey said he has nothing to gain financially from the legislation being passed, stating he was in favor of the ordinance.

    “All we’re asking is for a chance for the kids on the western side of the county,” he said. “What I do know is, what we’ve been doing so far today has not been working.”

    Milton resident Kevin Burdette also spoke in favor of the ordinance, stating, “Unions have been lackadaisical” in Sussex County.

    Burdette played videos from the website, a pro-right-to-work website, which does not give information as to whom funded the site, but states, “It’s time to jump start the Delaware economy. That begins with right-to-work in Sussex County.” However, during his presentation, Burdette said he paid for the videos to be made.

    While the videos played, many union members in attendance stood and turned their backs to the council.

    Opponents include

    attorneys, union

    members and more

    More of the speakers at the public hearing voiced their opposition to the legislation, including Bethany Beach resident Mike Fanning, a retired attorney who focused on labor law.

    “If you do adopt this ordinance, you will immediately be involved in two separate court houses — the federal lawsuit and a state lawsuit — that will be addressing two separate issues…

    “I couldn’t disagree more with Ted’s opinion,” said Fanning of Kittila’s legal opinion that the County has the legal authority to pass the ordinance.

    “If you are going to adopt an ordinance that will regulate civil relationships — that’s what you’ll be doing here, you’ll be regulating business. You’ll be telling businesses they no longer can enter into these kinds of contracts that they’ve always been able to enter into… If you’re going to regulate civil relationships, you can only do it if you have the specific grant of authority from the state legislature, and that’s not here.”

    Fanning said he sees any case arguing that the County has the authority to do otherwise as a “dead loser.”

    “Why walk yourself into this legal morass when you have so much more important things to do with your time and our resources?” he asked, being met with applause from many in attendance at the hearing.

    Former County Administrator Joe Conaway, who spoke on behalf of the Sussex County Economic Action Committee, said right-to-work hasn’t really been an area of concern in the county.

    “The business community has not expressed any interest in right-to-work,” said Conaway. “What they are really concerned about it the availability of appropriate infrastructure; a well-trained workforce; excellent schools; widely available broadband; regulations that are clear, consistent, and tidy; affordable housing that is county-wide; and sites that are move-in ready.”

    Conaway said it is time to end the “divisive discussion that will result in a loss of economic development opportunities.”

    He added that, in his 45-year involvement in economic development, he has yet to talk to any business that would not come to a state because it does not have right-to-work legislation in place.

    “It has never been an issue in all the jobs that have been created in this county.”

    Conaway said Moore’s ruling regarding the County’s lack of authority in the matter was “completely correct” and commended him for his integrity and knowledge of the law.

    “This causes problems that, I think, are better placed somewhere else, but not in Sussex County.”

    Milton resident John Dean, who said he is opposed to the ordinance, said he was worried that the council would potentially vote in favor of something they were publically advised against by their own attorney, whom the council had unanimously voted earlier in the day to reappoint to that position.

    “It concerns me, as I sat here earlier today as you reappointed Mr. Moore as your attorney — as a taxpayer, it concerns me that you are not taking his advice and [are] moving ahead with this illegal activity.”

    Georgetown resident Jane Hovington also voiced her opposition to the proposed ordinance, saying the County has more important things to focus on.

    “Our County Attorney has said it; the Attorney General has said it — this is something you cannot do… You’re taking the tax payers dollars, about $8,000 a day… What — we’ve wasted $24,000 to discuss something that should never have been…

    “There are far more important issues besides this issue of right-to-work… In our making America better, we could use our money a lot more wisely than we are doing here today.”

    Milton resident Kerry Stahl, who noted that she was raised in Lewes and attended Cape Henlopen High School, attended university in North Carolina, where she went on to work as an educator.

    “As I’m sure you are aware, North Carolina is a right-to-work state. That gave me the right to a starting salary below the national poverty line. That gave me the right to work many unpaid hours,” she said. “That gave me the right to work without the protection of a contract and, eventually, it gave me the right to leave North Carolina, where the teaching shortage is in a state of crisis.

    “I left North Carolina because a right-to-work state equals the right to be an unprotected and unvalued employee. I urge you council members — do not allow this movement to creep into our state… I offer you my story, and I beg you to learn from it.”

    Millsboro resident Al Brocato, a union carpenter of 44 years, said he is opposed to right-to-work. He said those who are trained under the union receive a four-year apprenticeship, wherein students go to school and work throughout their education.

    He said that, when their education begins, the workers — many of whom are just out of high school — are then paid throughout their education, and receive health benefits, a pension and annuity. He invited the council to an open house at DelTech to learn more about the education process.

    He went on to share that the benefits allotted through the union to his family while his wife, Rose, battled breast cancer let his family focus on fighting her illness, rather than focusing on the cost of treatment.

    “The treatments she had cost anywhere from $5,000 to $35,000, and that was every other week,” he said. “During the treatment, we didn’t have to worry about money. That was the best thing for Rose. She didn’t have to worry about if the bills were going to be paid, because we knew the Carpenter’s Union was taking care of us, and they still take care of me today.

    “This is why I pay my union dues. It’s more than just taking money from people — it’s really more than that. Rose would tell you this, but Rose died June 27 at 8:30 a.m. of this past year. She passed away knowing that our hospital bills would be paid for and I wouldn’t have to sell the house and sell whatever else I had to pay Beebe Hospital. I ask you, would you rather me pay union dues to take care of my family, or do you want me to be on assistance from the government?”

    The Rev. Jermain Johnson of the United Commercial Workers voiced his opposition to the legislation as well, stating the benefits of the union have been a “blessing” to him and his family.

    “This right-to-work — there is nothing ‘right’ about it,” he said. “When you shut unions down, you shut our voice down.”

    He also likened the proposed legislation to a gym membership fee.

    “I’m a member of a gym, and we have a monthly membership fee,” he said. “I was thinking, if you took the language of this ordinance and put it on that gym, and you defunded that gym and told it that gym could not have any more membership fees, that gym would shut down… I believe this ordinance is about shutting unions down.”

    Lynne Betts of Seaford said “right-to-work” is a misnomer.

    “Everyone has a right to work,” she said. “Having the choice here to collectively bargain and get good-paying jobs is imperative.”

    Milton resident Tom Jones, a member of the United Steel Workers, said he was also opposed to the ordinance. He called attention to the Taft Hartley Act of 1947 — as many speakers opposing the legislation did — and specific clauses thereof, which regulate unions.

    “Under federal law, no one can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. As the Supreme Court has made clear, workers cannot be forced to pay dues used for political purposes...”

    Jones said that, if the ordinance were to be passed, if a non-union worker who was mistreated by an employer, the union would be required to prosecute the grievance, just as it would for a dues-paying member.

    “Non-dues-paying workers would also receive higher wages and benefits through their dues-paying coworkers… The only thing right-to-work does is make that person not pay the right-to-agency fee…”

    Patricia Lake of Seaford said she stood before council to oppose the ordinance because, after working for Vlasic Pickle — which was later purchased by Pinnacle Foods — she has witnessed first-hand the difference between a union job and non-union job.

    She noted that, at the start of her employment, Vlasic in Millsboro did not have a union, while other Vlasic plants in Michigan did.

    “We didn’t get our overtime like the unionized plants in Michigan. When holidays came around, they sent all the work down to the Delaware plant, and we made $2 to $3 less than the Michigan plants.”

    Lake said she was one of the original workers who helped create the union at the Delaware plant.

    “I’m 70 years old. If I went back to work tomorrow, it would not be in a non-union plant.”

    Formal opinion

    from Moore to come

    Following the hearing, Arlett read into the record some of the letters received regarding the proposed legislation, although they were already part of the hearing record.

    Council President Michael Vincent asked Arlett, who had put forth the proposed ordinance, about the cost to the County if it was passed.

    “I know, in the proposed ordinance, it talks about the duties of the county administrator to investigate complaints and whatever. Have you done any cost analysis of what it would cost the County? ... Have you done that as your research on your ordinance?”

    “I have not,” said Arlett.

    Councilman George Cole motioned to defer a vote, due to the amount of time and public input the council had received on Tuesday.

    When it came time for him to vote on whether or not to defer the vote, Arlett went on to say he was in a “quagmire.”

    “I think we heard lots of great testimony today… What concerns me today, as we’re going to do this, is a lot of folks today made reference to the verbal legal opinion done on Oct. 24 by our County Attorney.

    “I will tell you, I respect him greatly. I admire him and will always do so. What concerns me, though — the legal opinions and letters that are in the public record that is now closed, does not include a written legal opinion from our attorney. A lot of people were making comments and referencing something that doesn’t exist. For that, I’ll tell you, it’s unfortunate. Even though we were assured we were going to get one, and we don’t have one now… I’m not sure one can provide legal opinions on something that doesn’t exist.”

    The council voted 5-0 to defer their vote.

    Vincent subsequently posed a question to Moore: “You are our attorney. You sit here today and hear everything we heard… It would be my thought that you will now prepare your opinion and that’s allowed to be given to us at any point in time.”

    “Yes,” said Moore.

    “You’re going to do that?” asked Vincent.

    “Yes,” said Moore.

    “Just as long as we’re all on the same page here,” said Vincent, before moving to adjourn the meeting.

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    Coastal Point • Submitted: Water, insulation and celiing tiles flood a Sussex Central hallway after a sprinkler leakCoastal Point • Submitted: Water, insulation and celiing tiles flood a Sussex Central hallway after a sprinkler leakThis weekend, after nearly a foot of snow and below-freezing temperatures outside, Sussex Central High School staff were displeased to find water inside the school, too.

    After a sprinkler and another pipe burst, the school suffered partial ceiling collapse and flooding. The roof itself did not collapse, officials emphasized.

    The Millsboro Volunteer Fire Department received an automated alarm about the incident around 2 p.m. on Sunday, due to the change in water pressure.

    “The sprinkler burst in the penthouse above the D wing,” a central spoke in the high school layout. “We had extensive flooding upstairs and downstairs,” said SCHS Principal Bradley Layfield.

    Upstairs, the insulation and ceiling tiles were saturated with water and fell through.

    Most of the direct damage was in hallways, not the upstairs math classrooms or the downstairs computer labs and ELL classrooms.

    Then, the C wing was discovered to have had another pipe burst through the wall — that time, a pipe that typically feeds water to the science labs.

    On Sunday afternoon, custodians, administrators and some teachers were on the scene for major cleanup. On Monday, they were letting fans and dehumidifiers finish job.

    “Our intention is to finish up cleanup and remediation today,” Layfield said on Monday morning.

    More than 1,600 students attend SCHS, which is located north of Millsboro.

    Despite the hassle, Bradley said the school should be ready to reopen whenever the rest of the district is. The Indian River School District has been closed since Thursday, Jan. 4, due to heavy snow and, subsequently, treacherous roads stemming from the blizzard that hit the area late on Jan. 3.

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    Coastal Point • Submitted: Donna Hall won first place in over 60 and second place in over 50 age groups divisions at 2017 Eighth Annual NPC Amanda Merinelli Body Building Competition in Florida.Coastal Point • Submitted: Donna Hall won first place in over 60 and second place in over 50 age groups divisions at 2017 Eighth Annual NPC Amanda Merinelli Body Building Competition in Florida.Donna Hall, a trainer at the Bethany Beach World Gym, recently came out of “retirement” from bodybuilding competitions. And, after an 18-year hiatus, the 63-year-old won first place in one age group and second place in another, younger, age category.

    Hall, who lives in Bethany Bay, near Millville, decided to compete in the 2017 Eighth Annual NPC Amanda Merinelli Body Building Competition in Florida, because, she said, “They had an over-60 division,” which she said is rare for such competitions.

    Hall competed in the “Figure” division, which differs from the “Body Building” division in several ways. Those who compete in “body building,” she explained, are seeking a “more muscular” look. “It’s a little thicker in muscularity,” she said. In the “Figure” division, the emphasis is on “being toned” and on a “total symmetry” in body shape.

    Another difference between the two divisions: bodybuilders compete barefoot, while “figure” competitors wear platform heels. Their outfits are also a bit more “blingy” than the body builders’, Hall said.

    Having competed for about a five-year period 18 years ago, Hall decided to get back into the competition circuit last year and began training for her return about four months before the Nov. 4, 2017, competition, which was held in West Palm Beach, Fla.

    “I told Jim,” Hall said of Jim Miller, World Gym manager, “I have to do it one last time.”

    Her training regimen focuses heavily on nutrition, she said. While many competitors expect to lose 20 to 30 pounds while in training for a competition, she was already very slender. At 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 113 pounds before the competition, she was down to 108 pounds by competition time.

    “I had to be a lot more meticulous with my nutrition,” said Hall, adding that she already eats “clean” and “pretty much organic.” Because of the need to build muscle for the competition, she said she added more protein to her diet, adding bone broth, protein powder and even some lean chicken — although she normally doesn’t eat much meat.

    She also ate more often than usual, she said, and “paid a lot more attention to eating super-clean,” avoiding processed foods as much as possible. Hall said that, as far as training, she continued her work with heavy weights.

    “That’s really important in order to maintain that level of muscle,” she said, adding that she had to “stop doing so much cardio,” because she was losing too much muscle.

    Her body type was a major contributing factor to her entry into the “figure” competition, since it focuses less on bulk.

    “I’m a small girl,” she said, and “figure is a lot more appropriate for my physique.”

    The goal in the figure division, Hall said, is “good, athletic lines” with definition in the back and shoulders; thicker, muscular legs; and also a nicely shaped rear-end.

    “The butt is big,” she said, adding that “having a tight butt — that’s hard for women over 60. The two areas I wanted to bring ‘up’ were my butt and abs,” she said.

    As a trainer whose “specialty” is helping older women lose fat and achieve more toned bodies, Hall said that, with her clients, she focuses on a “lifestyle” approach, teaching them how to eat well, as well as finding an exercise regimen that works for them.

    “I’ve always been into working out and staying fit,” Hall said.

    Her routine started with running, and at one point she was running 3 to 5 miles a day. Once she reached her 30s, “after I had my kids,” she said, she moved into aerobics, eventually adding step aerobics to her repertoire and then adding 3-pound weights to that. Hall said she first became interested in bodybuilding when she read a book titled “Flex Appeal” by Rachel McLish, a pioneer in women’s bodybuilding.

    “I remember looking at the cover, and I said, ‘How do you get your body to look like that?’” Hall recalled.

    She started going to a gym to work out in the late 1980s, she said, and now, working out is such an integral part of her life, “It’s like taking a shower.”

    A native of Hockessin, Hall moved to Sussex County six years ago and has worked as a trainer at World Gym for four years. As a trainer, she emphasizes nutrition, as well as fitness, along with the benefits of meditation and getting proper rest.

    “It’s a lifestyle,” she said. “It’s not about just going to a gym to lose 20 pounds.”

    In order to keep her clients on track, Hall said, “We make working out fun and make good nutrition doable.”

    By the end of the November competition, Hall had taken first place in the over-60 division and second place in the over-50 division. Her sons, now 28 and 32, are “very supportive” of her commitment to fitness, she said.

    “They are both very much into working out,” she said. In fact, she noted, her older son competed in a powerlifting competition the week after she returned to the body building arena.

    Hall said she hasn’t decided yet whether she will take part in more competitions. She admitted that her first foray back into completions was fun but added that finding competitions with over-60 divisions makes competing more challenging for her than it was a couple decades ago.

    “I don’t know,” she said. “You kind of get the fever…”

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    Coastal Point • Submitted: Cassie Winebrake dressed up in a sumo wrestler costume on the show ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’Coastal Point • Submitted: Cassie Winebrake dressed up in a sumo wrestler costume on the show ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’Cassie Winebrake may not have been recognizable — what with the sumo wrestler costume and all — but her recent appearance on the television gameshow “Let’s Make a Deal” had friends and relatives cheering her on.

    Millsboro resident Winebrake, 24, was visiting California in mid-August 2017 with her best friend, Dayana Monge Zamora, when the two decided to attend a taping of the show, she said. Winebrake and her fiancé, Mark Gardner, watch “Let’s Make a Deal” regularly.

    “We always watch, and we’re like, ‘What would we do?’ in the various game situations on the show, Winebrake said.

    A student at Delaware Technical Community College’s Dover campus and a server at Irish Eyes’ Milton location, Winebrake said she and Zamora decided to fly to California in August to visit a friend, and when they realized “Let’s Make a Deal” was filmed about an hour away from where they were staying, decided to try to get audience tickets.

    When their ride to the taping didn’t pan out, Winebrake and Zamora almost decided not to go, but then, she said, “We figured, we’re not going to come back to California any time soon,” so they found a way to get to the show.

    During the pre-show process, which Winebrake said takes about an hour — “but they make it really fun” — audience members are divided into groups and spend some time telling the group about themselves. There are also costumes available to rent.

    Costumed audience members are part of the “Let’s Make a Deal” tradition, and Winebrake and Zamora had prepared by ordering sumo wrestler costumes for themselves. Winebrake’s, however, didn’t arrive in time, so she rented a lion costume. But she ended up wearing Zamora’s sumo costume, and her friend dressed in the lion costume.

    When Winebrake heard her name called as a participant, she said, her reaction was, “Oh, my god — I’m dreaming right now!” The game she participated in involved choices between a monetary prize and an unknown prize. Based on clues in game, Winebrake said, “I kind of knew the prize was going to be a car.”

    The other contestant pressed the button for the monetary prize before Winebrake did, she said, because Winebrake had decided to hold out for a car. Before the game was over, the other contestant had picked a “fake car,” and Winebrake ended up winning, as they say on the show, “A BRAND NEW CAR!”

    She won a 2017 Chevrolet Spark, to be exact. The student and restaurant employee is also starting an internship at Delaware Turf in Frederica, and she said the new car — a compact that gets more than 40 mpg — is very welcome in her life.

    “My car is on its last legs, and I couldn’t be more grateful” for the new car, Winebrake said. She expects to receive the car in the next week or so, and when she does, it will be the same color as her current 11-year-old Chevrolet Cobalt — purple.

    Winebrake was initially told that her appearance would air in March, but the air time was recently moved up to Tuesday, Jan. 9. She said she’s glad the show aired early, because “I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what I won ’til the air date.”

    Although Winebrake wasn’t able to watch the airing of the show, relatives taped it for her. Even without the recording, she said she’ll never forget her experience on the game show.

    “It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said.

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    Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Sussex Central High School took a bit of a hit from the recent wintery conditions when a sprinkler and pipe burst, causing a partial ceiling collapse and flooding.Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Sussex Central High School took a bit of a hit from the recent wintery conditions when a sprinkler and pipe burst, causing a partial ceiling collapse and flooding.Last weekend, after nearly a foot of snow and below-freezing temperatures outside, Sussex Central High School staff were displeased to find water inside the school, too. After a sprinkler and a pipe burst, the school suffered partial ceiling collapse and flooding. The roof itself did not collapse, officials emphasized.

    The Millsboro Volunteer Fire Department received an automated alarm about the incident around 2 p.m. on Sunday, due to the change in water pressure.

    First, “there was a problem with our fire pump and our pump house out by the stadium,” said Principal Bradley Layfield.

    That malfunction somehow triggered two sprinklers in the HVAC room, located above the two-story D wing — a central spoke in the high school’s layout. Upstairs, the insulation and ceiling tiles were saturated with water and fell through.

    “We had extensive flooding upstairs and downstairs,” Layfield said.

    But most of the direct damage was in hallways, not the math classrooms upstairs, or the computer labs and ELL classrooms downstairs.

    “Everything is operational, should we have a fire,” Layfield said of the fire-suppression system — which sent out the automatic notification to the Millsboro fire company even during the event. “I think it’s just some sensors that may need looking at or replacing.”

    Later that day, staff were actually near the C wing when a pipe burst — one that typically feeds water to science labs. The wall was cut open and the pipe welded back together.

    On Sunday, the custodians, administrators and some teachers were on scene for major cleanup. After that, fans and dehumidifiers finished the job. Ceiling tiles are regularly replaced anyway, so SCHS already had six new bundles on hand. Insulation will be replaced Friday, Jan. 12, when school is closed to students for a teacher workday, Layfield said.

    “So everything’s back to normal here at Sussex Central,” he reiterated, commending staff for their hard work, and teachers for keeping tidy classrooms, which he said prevented worse damage.

    The school could even have re-opened Monday morning, Layfield noted, to the 1,600-plus students enrolled at SCHS, which is located north of Millsboro. But the Indian River School District closed school from Thursday, Jan. 4, through Tuesday, Jan. 9, due to the snow and treacherous roads. Students were back in the classrooms at SCHS on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

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    When residential drinking wells are potentially contaminated because a major poultry plant didn’t treat wastewater properly, lawyers are generally willing to invest some time and effort. And, in this case, they’re confident a settlement is coming.

    After reading the news articles and hearing from the first few residents who said Mountaire was responsible for contaminating their wells, attorneys at the Delaware firm of Baird, Mandalas & Brockstedt LLC mailed postcards to households across the Millsboro area, inviting them to a town hall-style meeting on Jan. 8 at Millsboro Town Center.

    “We’re here to take care of your community and hold Mountaire responsible for what they’ve done. … We’re used to dealing with corporate defendants,” said Philip Federico of the firm Schochor, Federico & Staton P.A., based in Washington, D.C.

    “We have experience covering large, complex cases, just like this. Right now, we’re working to understand the severity of the contamination and the effects on the residents of Sussex County, Delaware,” Chase Brockstedt said.

    With nitrates above the 10 mg/L limit permitted appearing in private wells around Mountaire’s Millsboro-area plant, the legal partnership has begun hiring experts to investigate: real estate appraisers to calculate loss in property values; medical experts in gastroenterology, toxicology, cardiology and infection diseases to address the physical toll; hydrology experts to document where the water’s flowing.

    In November, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control cited Mountaire for a wastewater treatment system officials said had failed to properly remove nitrogen, fecal coliform concentrations, biochemical oxygen demand (BODs) and total suspended solids (TSS).

    In just 2017, Mountaire had at least 100 violations in a wastewater system that spray-irrigates all effluent from its plant onto crop fields north and south of the plant on Route 24 in Millsboro. The facility can spray a monthly average of 2.6 million gallons per day across 928 acres on 13 fields. Testing wells in that area routinely find contaminants to be above permitted levels.

    After Mountaire was cited for high nitrate levels on-site (and subsequently fired employees who had allowed the water to bypass its proper treatment system), the State began testing nearby private wells for contamination. Mountaire is now following DNREC’s recommendation of providing bottled water to affected residences.

    “Mountaire’s plant is in the highly competitive big chicken market and has significantly increased its production since Mountaire bought it from Townsend’s in 2000,” said Roger Truitt, an environmental law consultant. Thousands of chickens are processed there daily, each requiring 5 to 10 gallons of water to process.

    That’s a lot of water needing treatment.

    The attorneys on Jan. 8 laid out their plan: test contaminants in clients’ wells; hire experts; determine damages and reparation costs; push for permanent solutions (and likely settlement money); and “force Mountaire to be a good neighbor … and comply with environmental laws and permits,” Brockstedt said.

    Residents considered risks, remedies

    The ultimate answer for residents’ concerns is still unknown. Could it be digging deeper wells or putting people on a public water supply? Time will tell.

    Drinking nitrates is the biggest concern, not bathing, said Keeve Bachman, public health consultant. But nitrates can only be removed through special filtration, not through boiling. The EPA is currently investigating nitrates’ effect on cancer, blood, endocrinology/thyroid, Type 1 diabetes, reproductive and developmental issues, Bachman said.

    Methemoglobinemia and “blue baby syndrome” are the most immediate illnesses connected to such contamination.

    “It’s not unusual for this groundwater, laden with nitrates, to travel as much as 1 to 2 feet per day,” or one football field a year, Truitt said of its impact on the aquifer. “It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.”

    “It’s awful — it’s just terrible, ’cause you don’t know the impact, how bad it is,” Paula Pinkett, who uses her private well water for cooking, bathing and drinking, said after the meeting. Her husband prefers bottled water, he said, since the water where they live on Hollyville Road frequently smells bad. They’ve lived there, northwest of the poultry plant, since 1996.

    Their well hasn’t been tested yet, but some of their neighbors have found elevated nitrates. Pinkett said she hasn’t heard an update since DNREC tested wells in the nearby Indian Meadows neighborhood. But living near three irrigation systems, Pinkett said she has always been concerned with the well water, “ever since I lived there, just knowing that Mountaire was behind me.”

    Until the issue is sorted out, people are being encouraged to get their wells tested and find out for sure if elevated contaminants are showing up in their wells. They can buy filtration systems to treat nitrates.

    Right now, residences with private wells appear to be most at risk — not those on Millsboro’s municipal public water system, although the entire area historically has less-than-stellar water quality. Although everyone is trying to determine the extent of the contamination, wells are more likely to be impacted on the north side of the Indian River and east of Swan Creek, Truitt said.

    But only testing can produce answers. After that, lawyers will have a case if they can prove those particular nitrates or contaminants came from Mountaire.

    And that is just the beginning. Federico said he expects at least three to six months of investigation before the law firm files court paperwork.

    Attorneys are scrambling to get better figures on Mountaire’s wastewater history, on which even Mountaire claims to not have concrete figures.

    The lawyers’ goal is not to destroy Mountaire, they said, since it’s still a major employer and economic driver in Sussex County’s agricultural industry.

    Mountaire has also been contacting residents to offer deeper wells or water filtration systems. Some residents were baffled to find that Mountaire had delivered bottled water to their homes, without any kind of notification. But that’s just a “Band-Aid” over the problem, residents said.

    One woman suggested suing DNREC, although attorneys said that’s a different kind of suit altogether. They said they preferred to work with DNREC to improve enforcement.

    The attorneys haven’t decided to dive in with a class-action suit or other method. Federico said clients will not pay any fees in the meantime, but that attorneys would be paid out of any settlement funds.

    “Frankly it’s a no-risk proposition,” he said.

    There can be power in numbers, which is why attorneys are trying to line up as many clients as possible. Although Federico wouldn’t say how many clients have officially come on board, the partnership has met with “a dozen or more” people out of the “75 to 100” who have contacted them. In the meantime, those in attendance at the meeting were submitting contact information to the attorneys on Monday night.

    “If we don’t stick together, we don’t have a chance. They will eat us alive,” one resident said.

    People interested in learning more can contact Baird, Mandalas and Brockstedt through or or by calling (302) 645-2262.

    Another Delaware law firm publicly began seeking clients just before Christmas. Jacobs & Crumplar P.A. have partnered with the law firm of Nidel & Nace PLLC to investigate well-water claims relating to Mountaire.

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    The Ocean View Town Council met earlier this week, with the recent snowstorm being the main topic of discussion. Town Administrative Official and Public Works Director Charles McMullen thanked Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin and his officers for their assistance in dealing with last Thursday’s snowfall.

    “He had to reassign people, because we always use one of the Ocean View police personnel to help us plow during serious events, such as the one that occurred,” McMullen said.

    McMullen also took the time to recognize and thank the three public works employees, as well as the officer, who plowed the Town’s streets.

    “I think that they deserve recognition,” he said.

    “Yes, I think they did a great job,” said Mayor Walter Curran.

    “This was a major incident we had with this snowstorm,” added Councilman Frank Twardzik, who recommended that perhaps the two departments could do an after-action report. “Not to find fault, but I’m sure on the fly we came up with unique solutions for different situations… I think there are a lot of heroes out there on both sides, and I’d like to thank both of you guys for your work and your staff.”

    McMullen said that, after each event, each employee is asked to provide comments — positive or negative — about what was done, what could be improved and so on.

    “So we can incorporate them into the next event, so whatever is needed to accomplish the task are done.”

    McLaughlin added that such an event shows that Ocean View is unique in terms of its response, compared to many neighboring towns.

    “Every time we have one of these events, it really sheds light on this — that we are alone to some degree as a local form of government… We heard this a lot — especially when we started getting in depth with some of our planning efforts for storms,” he said, noting that people had questioned what the Town was doing with all of its planning, since the state and federal governments would be on-scene to respond.

    “They’re not. And we’ve seen that on at least two different occasions in storm scenarios, and we see it on a regular basis with snow. In fact — it’s the opposite. Charlie’s guys are out taking care of State roads, because the State’s not capable of doing it. Your limitations and vulnerabilities get exposed. The guys did a good job for the amount of work they had.”

    Resident Steve Cobb also commended the staff for how they handled the storm and subsequent plowing.

    “I, as a citizen, want to congratulate Charlie, the chief and their staff,” he said. “Years ago, we as a town, struggled with council members who … left us out to struggle. It is just amazing now, under council’s leadership, these gentlemen and the other department heads, how unified we feel as citizens. We see it…

    “I’m just proud to be a resident and proud to have you gentlemen work for the Town.”

    Ocean View approves election calendar

    The council on Jan. 9 also voted unanimously to approve its 2018 election calendar. Prior to the vote, Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader cautioned the council against making any changes to the schedule as proposed.

    “The State election law for municipalities is very complicated. It requires that certain things take place so many weeks, so many days before, during or after some other event. It’s all full of moving parts,” explained Schrader. “If you were to change one item on here, we would have to go back and recalculate the dates for everything else because of how the State election law reads.”

    The council approved the schedule, which includes the candidate filing deadline of March 7 and the election on April 14. The only seat up for election this year is in District 4, which is currently held by Councilwoman Carol Bodine.

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    After an emotional few months of discussions and public testimony, the Sussex County Council on Tuesday voted down a proposed “right-to-work” ordinance.

    The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Rob Arlett (R-5th), “prohibits mandatory union membership or payment of certain union fees, involuntary union pay deductions, and acts of coercion or intimidation related to union support or payment.”

    While some union security agreements may require employees to join a union as a condition of employment, under federal law employees are already allowed to opt out of paying for a full membership, instead paying only a portion of dues for the benefits provided by the union. Arlett’s ordinance would have eliminated that lesser requirement.

    Timeline of right-to-work discussions

    At the Jan. 9 council meeting, County Attorney Everett Moore said that he, along with the rest of the council, had been contacted in 2016 by someone from the Caesar Rodney Institute, informing him of the right-to-work legislation in the state of Kentucky. At that time, Council President Michael Vincent (R-1st) had asked Moore to look into the legislation.

    “We took a quick look at it, and at that point my concern was, just because someone in another state does it doesn’t mean that we can necessarily do it.”

    In late December 2016, Moore said, he was contacted by James P. Ursomarso of the Caesar Rodney Institute, indicating Ursomarso wanted to send Moore background materials related to the topic of right-to-work.

    Moore said he had contacted Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson and Vincent regarding the request, and he was told to move ahead with his review. Materials, including videos and polling information, were sent to Moore in February of 2016, he said.

    Then, on March 9, Moore related, he and an associate had had a conference call with Ursomarso, wherein Moore had stated his opinion that Delaware’s Home Rule statute does not permit the County to adopt right-to-work legislation.

    “Part of the reason I bring this up — there were some statements that we did not do any research on this before and we made them hire an attorney,” said Moore. “Our office found there was a problem with this, and as a result of that, they retained counsel to take a look at it.”

    In April, Moore said, he was contacted by CRI attorney Ted Kittila, who asked for a meeting at which they could present information regarding right-to-work in Sussex County.

    “Frankly, we thought maybe there was something we had missed in our research or maybe there were some other pieces out there… but when we had the meeting, frankly, my associate and I left the meeting with no change in our opinion whatsoever.”

    In future discussions and requests for meetings, Moore said, he inquired if anything was found on the Home Rule statute that would alter his argument.

    A follow-up meeting at Moore’s office included Vincent and Councilman I.G. Burton (R-3rd), whom Moore said he was not informed had been invited, as well as Ursomarso, Kittila and the attorney involved in the right-to-work case in Kentucky.

    “During that meeting… I just kept coming back to, ‘You have not addressed our Home Rule statute,’” recalled Moore. “At one point toward the end of the meeting, I turned to [the Kentucky attorney] and asked him, ‘In Kentucky, do you have the same language in your Home Rule as we have in Delaware, as we have for Sussex County?’ His answer was ‘No.’”

    Moore emphasized that his public assessment of the proposed ordinance, given at the Oct. 24, 2017, council meeting was not “off-the-cuff.”

    “When you asked my opinion earlier, that was not, as someone characterized, ‘an off-the-cuff opinion.’ In fact, it was an opinion that I had spent quite a few months looking at.”

    Home Rule statute

    “I remain committed that we have a problem with our Home Rule statute,” said Moore.

    According to Delaware Code 9 § 7001, “— The government of Sussex County, as established by this chapter, shall assume and have all powers which, under the Constitution of the State, it would be competent for the General Assembly to grant by specific enumeration, and which are not denied by statute…”

    Moore argued that the statute expressly prohibits Sussex County “to enact private or civil law concerning civil relationships, except as incident to the exercise of an expressly granted power…” which he went on to refer to as the “Private Law Exception.”

    “Since this ordinance proposes to regulate contracts between employees, employers and unions, this Private Law Exception is the critical language in determining whether the County has been granted the authority by the Home Rule statute to enact the right-to-work ordinance,” Moore said, reading from his 11-page legal opinion.

    Citing a 1976 Court of Chancery case, Weldin Farms Inc. v. Glassman, and the subsequent case of NVF Inc. v. Garrett Snuff Mills (2002), Moore said, “‘If the County cannot foreclose a private cause of action, it also cannot create one.’ Thus, the court again affirmed the Private Law Exception by declining to allow a county ordinance to serve as the basis for a civil right of action to sue…

    “It is my opinion that, under current Delaware law, a court will find that the Private Law Exception to the County’s Home Rule authority prohibits the County from enacting this ordinance.”

    Moore also addressed the argument that the Town of Seaford had unanimously approved right-to-work legislation and that, thus, the County can as well. He pointed out that Home Rule authority differs for municipalities and counties.

    “The language is similar, but it is not the same, and those differences will likely affect any comparative analysis,” he wrote in his opinion. “Note that the National Labor Review Act preemption will be of equal concern to a municipal ordinance.”

    National Labor Review Act

    Moore also stated that there was question of whether the proposed ordinance was preempted under the National Labor Relations Act — a federal law regulating private-sector employment.

    “The NLRA permits, under certain conditions, a union and a private employer to make an agreement, called a union-security agreement, that requires employees to become union members as a condition of employment; however, every employee has the option to decline full membership and instead pay a portion of the union dues, referred to as ‘agency fees,’ to the union in order to retain their jobs,” he said.

    Moore noted that the NLRA has an exception, which states, “…The NLRA states that the Act shall not be construed as ‘authorizing the execution or application of agreements requiring membership in labor organization as a condition of employment in any State or Territory in which such execution or application is prohibited by State or Territorial law.’

    “In other words, the States are clearly permitted to enact right-to-work legislation that prohibits union-security agreements, but only recently have local entities made a concerted effort to challenge the assertion that the ‘States’ includes local entities. What they are arguing is, that ‘States’ do not mean one of our 50 states but any subdivision of the states.”

    Moore said the authority has not been granted by the Third Circuit Court, which governs Delaware, or the U.S. Supreme Court, to allow for “State” to include the political subdivisions of the state, i.e., the counties.

    He went on to reference a Harvard Journal on Legislation, published in the summer of 2017, which found that the Sixth Circuit Court (which does not govern Delaware) to be the only court to “affirm a local entity’s right to enact right-to-work legislation, under the NLRA exception.”

    “I do not believe the ordinance is likely to survive a challenge under the federal issue of NLRA preemption,” said Moore.

    In his opinion, Moore noted that the ordinance, which was not drafted by his office, was first proposed by Arlett at the Oct. 31, 2017, council meeting.

    He added that, if the council were to pass the proposed legislation, a budget amended might need to be considered to provide funding to maintain it, as the proposed ordinance included the language, “It shall be the duty of the County Administrator, or his/her designee, to investigate complaints of violation or threatened violations of this chapter and to take all means at his/her command to ensure the effective enforcement of this chapter.”

    Moore cautions council on accepting financial help from outside

    Moore on Tuesday also issued a further note of caution to the council based on issues arising from the proposed ordinance and its consideration.

    “At the public hearing and in prior testimony, several have mentioned that certain organizations have offered funding and/or pro bono legal services to defend any potential challenges to this ordinance. If, despite my legal opinion, council decides to pass this ordinance, I strongly recommend that council submit the question of whether such funds or services may be accepted to the State Public Integrity Commission.”

    Moore went on to cite Delaware Code 29 § 5806 — specifically:

    “(b) No state employee, state officer or honorary state official shall have any interest in any private enterprise nor shall such state employee, state officer or honorary state official incur any obligation of any nature which is in substantial conflict with the proper performance of such duties in the public interest. No state employee, state officer or honorary state official shall accept other employment, any compensation, gift, payment of expenses or any other thing of monetary value under circumstances in which such acceptance may result in any of the following:

    “(1)?Impairment of independence of judgment in the exercise of official duties;…

    “(4)?Any adverse effect on the confidence of the public in the integrity of the government of the State.”

    He added, “The council has adopted these so, we’re bound by those.”

    Following Moore’s presentation, Arlett motioned for the council to defer their decision on the ordinance. That motion was met by sounds of disapproval from many of those in attendance, and the motioned failed due to a lack of a second.

    Councilman George Cole (R-4th) then motioned to adopt the ordinance, with a second from Burton. But the council vote was 4-1 against approving the legislation, with Arlett the lone vote in favor of it.

    “I think, based on the testimony, there are plenty of organizations out there that support this. People want this, business communities want this. Obviously, quite a few others don’t really agree with that,” said Arlett prior to his vote. “Ultimately, I believe in the power of choice. I believe in the power of the person. So, to me — it’s worthy of six school districts of this County, why isn’t it worthy of the private sector? That’s just a common-sense analogy.”

    Arlett also made note of the differing legal opinions.

    “It’s an important part of the equation,” he said. “Truth be told, I’m not an attorney. None of us are up here that have a vote. That’s why we have a legislative body, that’s why we have a court system to determine what is lawful what is not lawful. I think if we had another attorney over here today, he would probably counter that opinion.”

    Due to the “merits of economic development,” Arlett said, he would vote yes to pass the proposed legislation.

    “To me it is about choice,” he said. “If it has the ability to attract jobs to this county, then we should consider it and let the courts make their decision as they see fit.”

    Cole said that he was heartened by the City of Seaford and their decision to pass Right-To-Work legislation.

    “I would personally, if I thought I could, I would vote for it,” he said of the ordinance. “I think as an elected official from here on out I will do what I can to encourage other towns to look at this issue and move forward on it.”

    Cole went on to vote against the legislation.

    “I wish there was a way I could vote yes. I wish there was a way we could tackle this issue,” he said.

    Burton questions legal costs for right-to-work

    In discussing the proposed ordinance, Burton said he is a proponent of bringing jobs to Sussex County.

    “I was elected to improve the economic opportunities for families in Sussex County. I want more businesses to locate here. I want more people to be employed here, so my kids and grandkids don’t have to leave Sussex County for a good-paying job. I support any initiative that improves the economic landscape… Who doesn’t want that? We all do.”

    Burton said there was great public conversation through public comments on the proposed legislation, with the overarching theme that everyone wants more opportunities for the county.

    “However, I have great concerns with the ordinance we are being asked to consider today,” he said. “Although I believe the right-to-work ordinance may be a factor for some companies, I firmly believe other factors, such as infrastructure, shovel-ready sites, transportation system, strong labor force, competitive, available utilities, low taxes, internet and good schools all outrank right-to-work for companies looking to relocate to Sussex County.”

    Those factors are ones the council “can affect now,” said Burton, noting that everyone has the responsibility to work toward making the County attractive for businesses.

    “I want to focus on improving these items, rather than spending time and public money fighting lawsuits over this ordinance.”

    Burton said he was not ready to sign the County up for a court battle — one he said he believes would follow if the legislation was passed.

    “This will be very expensive and this will be very time-consuming and, in my opinion, will be an unnecessary distraction,” he said, noting that the suggestion of legal fees being paid by an outside entity was not enough of an assurance for him to waive his reticence.

    “All costs were never defined, by whom or how much. Oddly, while this offer was stated in an early public meeting, it was not mentioned on the record in the public hearing. This fact is a great concern to me, given the amount of publicity this very statement has garnished.

    “I feel it is my sworn obligation to look after taxpayer dollars and how they are spent. I do not believe most taxpayers approve of their money going toward fighting an unavoidable lawsuit.”

    Burton also said it is his duty to uphold the law, and the opinion of the County attorney clearly stating the County does not have the authority to adopt the proposed legislation.

    He added that he also had concerns regarding the County’s insurance and how a lawsuit could affect their coverage.

    “Has the possible increase in premiums been explored or questioned by Mr. Arlett? Do we have a firm commitment from our insurance company that it will cover us, knowing our legal counsel has given this opinion stating that Sussex County does not have the authority to adopt this ordinance under Home Rule?

    “Just as important, will they continue to cover us, and, if so, what will our premiums be? What will our deductible be?”

    Burton said that, prior to the 2012 litigation against the County regarding the council’s consistent use of “The Lord’s Prayer” to open its sessions, the County’s insurance deductible related to litigation was $25,000, but it has since increased to $500,000.

    “Additionally, only one insurance carrier agreed to underwrite the County, after being dropped by our previous provider. Our premiums took an equally drastic increase. This is a lasting effect above and beyond any claims to cover the County’s direct legal expense.

    “Who’s going to pay the increased premiums in years to come? Who’s going to pay the increased deductibles the next time we are in court on something else? What happens if we can no longer get insurance and we have to self-insure? These would all be legacy costs that the taxpayers would have to fund, even if the direct costs of litigation of this ordinance are paid.”

    Burton voted against the proposed ordinance.

    During Vincent’s statement prior to his negative vote, he said everyone on the council had been aware of his attendance in the meeting with Moore and CRI. He stated that he had asked at the meeting if there were companies that would come to Delaware today if right-to-work was enacted.

    “The answer was an emphatic ‘No.’ It would make us competitive with other states that are right-to-work.,” he said.

    Vincent also said he was “disappointed with how the ordinance was introduced.”

    “That’s not how we do business here,” he said. Addressing comments that it was being “stonewalled” he said, “I was never asked about an ordinance being introduced, nor do I think the attorney was or administrator was.”

    Vincent also said he was upset that the County has spent so much money already over the proposed ordinance. According to the County’s finance department, as of legal billing through Nov. 30 alone, the County had spent $20,000 on right-to-work, and additional legal costs have been incurred since then.

    “I am sad that we have already spent tens of thousands of dollars researching, in legal fees, on something that we were told that we couldn’t do months ago by our attorney.

    “You heard Mr. Burton reference the deductible we face and the pro bono idea that would somehow pay for all of our legal expenses. I will tell you this: I sat in federal court on a lawsuit against this council about ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ We had pro bono attorneys with us, with our council attorney and the insurance carrier. And the insurance carrier spent $445,000 to defend something I totally believed in… Pro bono doesn’t mean everything is free.”

    Vincent said he whole-heartedly wants to bring jobs to the county but does not believe the proposed legislation was the right way to go about it.

    “I don’t think there’s anyone on this dais that would not tell you we would do anything we could to bring jobs to this county, no matter what it is.”

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    It’s time for residents to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. Mountaire Farms will host a public meeting for Millsboro-area residents to discuss elevated nitrate levels in drinking wells near the Route 24 poultry-processing facility.

    The meeting will be held Wednesday, Jan. 17, from 6 p.m. to approximately 7:30 p.m., at Indian River Senior Center, 214 Irons Avenue, Millsboro.

    In November, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) cited Mountaire for scores of wastewater violations, stemming partly from a treatment system that didn’t fully process used water before irrigating local crop fields with it.

    “While Mountaire does not believe that the recent wastewater treatment system upset is a significant source of elevated nitrate levels in the area, we feel that as a corporate neighbor with long-standing and excellent relationships in our community, it is the appropriate time to have this meeting with our neighbors,” Mountaire representatives stated on Jan. 15.

    “Members of the Millsboro community are encouraged to attend this informational meeting, at which time they will have an opportunity to ask questions of Mountaire personnel, as well as several experts in various water- and health-related disciplines,” staff continued.

    In addition to nitrogen, violations of Mountaire’s spray-irrigation permit and agricultural-utilization permit had also revealed excess fecal coliform concentrations, biochemical oxygen demand (BODs) and total suspended solids (TSS). Mountaire said it has already fired several wastewater employees over the incident.

    Center for Inland Bays speaks up

    “I’m glad there is a public forum that has been called. That is definitely a good thing,” said Chris Bason, executive director of the Delaware Center for Inland Bays (CIB). This is the perfect opportunity for Mountaire to inform the public in a situation that impacts human and environmental health, Bason said, especially after DNREC declined a CIB offer to co-host a public forum.

    A dozen miles away, on the opposite side of the Indian River Bay, the CIB is deciding how to respond to potential contamination of the watershed. They created a Mountaire Contamination Outreach ad-hoc subcommittee to study the issue and develop an official response to the situation. That might include a general letter-to-the-editor about nitrates’ impact on the inland bays, or higher-level actions, such as policy recommendations for Delaware to prevent this type of violation from occurring in the future.

    From an environmental standpoint, contaminants can move very slowly across the watershed. Some households may see elevated nitrogen levels immediately, while others might take more time. Based on DNREC data, Bason said he has not yet seen a specific spike in nitrogen levels in the watershed in the seven weeks since the original violation.

    “I think the general feeling from folks is: there this big violation, they’re pumping all this untreated water on the fields, and now the river’s going to go to crap,” he said. “What’s important for everyone to understand is … it has to infiltrate into the groundwater, and then that water has to drain through the aquifer.”

    Some of the water has already hit the aquifer, but it could be years or decades before it fully reaches the Indian River and inland bays.

    The CIB subcommittee convened on Jan. 3 and will meet again Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 10 a.m. All CIB meetings are open to the public.

    “Decisions that we make today are going to influence our generation and our kids’ generation,” Bason said, “and those decisions are on the type of policy we have, how well that policy’s enforced.”

    Public comments on sludge permit

    Mountaire needs to fix its equipment in a hurry. DNREC will accept public comments on Mountaire’s amended permit application for a short-term sludge storage facility at the Millsboro facility.

    The Division of Water’s Surface Water Discharges Section will host a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Millsboro Town Hall/Town Center, located at 322 Wilson Highway.

    Only comments directly related to the proposed sludge storage activities will be accepted. People wishing to speak should register with the presiding hearing officer by Jan. 22 by email to or by mail to Robert P. Haynes, Esq., Office of the Secretary, DNREC; 89 Kings Hwy.; Dover, DE 19904. Written comments are also being accepted.

    Interested persons may contact Brian Churchill at (302) 739-9946 for more information.

    “Upon completion of the construction of the storage facility and permit issuance, the permittee would be authorized to temporarily store anaerobic lagoon sludge generated at the Millsboro Mountaire poultry processing facility,” DNREC’s legal notice states.

    The activity is permissible, pending public notice. Mountaire’s goal is to clear the excess sludge (biosolids) from the system, providing room for maintenance to the anaerobic lagoons. The temporary solution (costing up to $10 million) merely paves the way for a $25 million wastewater treatment upgrade, according to Mountaire spokesperson Sean McKeon.

    Since the request merely amends DNREC’s public notice from Oct. 18, 2017, all public comments that were submitted at that time do not have to be re-submitted and will be considered as part of the review of the amended permit application. Last autumn, DNREC didn’t plan to host a public hearing on the permit unless the Secretary received a “written meritorious objection” or determined it was in public interest.

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    Millville’s town park has been stuck in neutral for months.

    After purchasing the land in autumn of 2015, the town council approved design plans and purchase of playground equipment a year later. But Millville can’t start digging until government groups give final approval.

    First, it took months to get entrance permits from Delaware Department of Transportation. And, currently, Millville’s application is with the Sussex County Conservation District, which has 30 days to grant approval or request more information. The soil conservation district has already requested more information once, and town officials are holding their breath to secure that approval in the next 30 days.

    “Other than that, the building has been designed — everything has been designed. The next step is going to bid,” said Town Manager Debbie Botchie.

    The Town would pick a contractor, then build, then get fire marshal approval.

    “It’s been very heartbreaking for all of us. The residents — we geared them up so much for this, and we haven’t put a shovel in the ground,” Botchie said. “Our engineers, GMB, they’re already doing all they can on their end, even starting the bid packet and all that — just need these approvals so we can move forward. It wouldn’t take us long to get ready to bid.”

    Permits for patios and pavers

    Stormwater concerns pushed the council at their Jan. 9 meeting to require permits for people installing patios, decks and the less-permanent paver patios.

    Although paver patios are intended for installation over sand or another pervious surface, some people install them in a permanent manner that promotes flooding and stormwater problems, officials noted. Residents need to be responsible for stormwater runoff when they install any structure, said Code & Building Official Eric Evans.

    “We don’t want them to go out so far that now they have no way of capturing water on their property.”

    So now, just like porches, concrete patios and decks may only encroach 5 feet into the property’s setback. Similarly, patios that are not part of a building can only extend up to 5 feet into the front- and rear-yard setback area.

    After hearing public concerns in December, the council agreed that paver patios may encroach halfway into the rear-yard setback no more than half the distance between the setback and the property line.

    During the Jan. 9 meeting, they also clarified language elsewhere in the code.

    A new definition of “structures” will include decks and pavers, but “for purposes of setbacks, structures do not include driveways, front yard sidewalks or front yard pathways less than five feet in width.”

    In other Millville news:

    • Upon receiving a complaint about littering in Millville, Mayor Bob Gordon said town officials will run that complaint “up the chain” to state legislators and “see what we can do.” In fact, the legislature has created a Delaware Anti-Dumping & Anti-Littering Task Force, which is meeting regularly to write a statewide report by April. Council members suggested various remedies, such as installing anti-littering signage, hosting community trash pick-up days or photographing the offending parties.

    • After Winter Storm Grayson dumped about a foot of snow on coastal Delaware in the midst of a temperatures approaching single digits, Councilman Steve Maneri thanked the Millville Volunteer Fire Company for being staffed on a 24-basis to respond to emergencies.

    “They had a busy five days,” said Gordon.

    “And they helped a lot of people in need,” said Botchie.

    • A closed executive session was also scheduled for Jan. 9, but there were no public votes, Botchie said. The private meeting was a legal strategy session as the Town considers possible litigation.

    The Millville Town Council meets on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., with a workshop scheduled for Jan. 23 and their next regular meeting on Feb. 13.

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    Democracy rolls on as Millville Town Council elections approach. Candidates have until Friday, Feb. 2, at 4:30 p.m. to register to run in the 2018 election.

    Two seats will be up for election, each with a term of two years, beginning in March. Those seats are currently held by Valerie Faden and Steve Maneri.

    Eligible candidates must be 21 or older; a bona fide resident of Delaware and the U.S.; and a resident of the Town of Millville for at least 90 days before March 3.

    Anyone interested in running for the seats must provide proof of residency, a completed application and filing fee of $100.

    Applications are available at Town Hall or online at Completed forms can be mailed to Town of Millville Mayor; c/o Deborah Botchie, Town Manager; 36404 Club House Rd.; Millville, DE 19967.

    Further election guidelines are online at

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    This week, the Sussex County Council heard more than 30 county residents speak in opposition to an ordinance to amend the county code related to “Special Events,” as permitted uses in the AR-1, GR, B-1, C-1, CR-1 and M districts.

    The council had discussed the code back in May of 2017, after Councilman George Cole had received complaints regarding a concert held at Hudson Fields, an 18-acre parcel zoned AR-1 and located near Milton. Following discussion by the council, County staff was directed to rework the ordinance.

    At this week’s Jan. 16 meeting, Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson gave a presentation on the amendments and clarifications offered in the draft ordinance.

    “We also looked at some other jurisdictions to get a feel, and I can tell you they’re all over the place,” he said. “We also recognize that no two events are the same… You quickly realize you cannot legislate every single event.”

    He noted that the code, as it currently reads, does not set a limit on the number of times a special event can occur in a calendar year. There was no clarification as to whether set-up and tear-down are included in the three-day special-event time limit, and no guidance given to the Planning & Zoning director as to how to decide whether to approve or deny any event of less than three days.

    “Theoretically, someone could request three-day events every weekend on a property, and there would not be any guidance or clear basis whether to approve or deny them,” said Robertson.

    In the draft, it states:

    “Special events such as circuses, carnivals, midways, promotional and tent sales events; fairs, festivals, concerts, rodeos, shows, races/walks or any other event or mass gathering being held outdoors or within a temporary structure or at a site and for a purpose different from the permitted use and usual occupancy of the premises or site.

    “Such special events may be administratively approved by the Director or his or her designee, when, in his or her judgment, the proposal will not impair the purpose and intent of the zoning ordinance, and when the use is not so recurring in nature as to constitute a permanent use not otherwise permitted in the district, and when the use will not significantly affect the surrounding properties.

    “In determining whether to administratively approve the special event, the Director or his or her designee shall take into account considerations including (but not limited to) the following: the estimated number of attendees; the size of the parcel where the special event is to be located; the parking requirements of the special event; roads and traffic patterns providing access to the special event; prior events conducted by the applicant; noise, light, odor, and dust generated by the special event; proposed hours of operation and number of consecutive days; and such other considerations that may be applicable to the requested event.

    “The Director or his or her designee may impose conditions upon an administrative approval, including (but not limited to) hours of the event and maximum attendance. No more than three (3) special events shall be approved for the same property or premises during a calendar year. Each calendar day of a special event shall be counted as a separate special event, not including reasonable time required for set up and removal when the event is not otherwise underway.”

    “How did we get here today?” asked Councilman Rob Arlett.

    Robertson noted that the County had been receiving more applications for special events, calling attention to an application for a rodeo on the western side of the county.

    “We were directed by council at some point…” he added.

    “It’s like so many other things. We need to update the ordinance and bring it into modern times,” said Cole.

    He added that he believed the County needed to provide more information to its citizens regarding special events being held, including if they had received approval from the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner to sell alcohol, insurance information, the number of people, and availability of parking, portable toilets and emergency services, et cetera.

    “Is the County held harmless if someone gets hurt because we didn’t ask for enough information?” said Cole. “The world is so different nowadays. This is the time to come up with an application to get good information, so if there’s a problem after the fact we have some good information for them.”

    “What you essentially said is, you’ve taken something relatively simple to ‘you’re going to build a building.’ At that point, I don’t know if it’s special anymore,” Robertson responded.

    “The ordinance, as presented, does not have a lot of the considerations that Mr. Cole is speaking of,” clarified County Administrator Todd Lawson, adding that, if the council wants those included, staff would need to be directed to include those items.

    Robertson said those who are denied a special event permit may appeal the decision to the Planning & Zoning Commission or to the Delaware Courts.

    During the public hearing — at which everyone who spoke was in opposition to the proposed ordinance — there was question as to how three had been selected as the number of special events to be permitted per property per year.

    “There’s been no justification or information by the council as to why that number three is important,” said one speaker, suggesting the number was chosen arbitrarily.

    “Three has been around for 30 years,” said Cole, noting it has been used by the County for decades.

    VFW, Moose remind council of benefits

    Many individuals representing community groups, such as Moose International and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, attended and spoke in opposition, stating that special fundraising events outside and under their pavilions help raise a lot of money to support the community.

    Arlett asked the council’s legal counsel as to how one might know if their event would fall under the proposed ordinance.

    “What discretion is being used to make that determination based on the normal use?” asked Arlett. “It can get really dicey.”

    Robertson said it would be similar to any use of zoning code.

    “If you’ve got something you want to do in the commercial zone … that is not exactly listed word-for-word, the [Planning & Zoning] director is going to make that decision… You’d have to call and find out.”

    Robertson said the County hasn’t been in the business of sending out violations, but rather educating people on the correct process.

    County Attorney Everett Moore said that places like the American Legion and VFW are used for social gatherings and thus would be excluded from having to apply to hold special events.

    Robertson agreed, saying it has been interpreted that way in the last 15-plus years.

    Christian Hudson of Hudson Fields testified that his family’s property has been used for events since 1953, prior to the County even being incorporated.

    Hudson said that, at the October meeting at which the policy had been discussed, the proposed ordinance was interpreted as not grandfathering in such organizations as the Moose and American Legion.

    “It’s so nebulous. You’re trying to build a shifting policy,” he said. “Today, the VFWs, we’re saying they’re specifically excluded by the same language… The language hasn’t changed since October.”

    Hudson noted that he had paid an engineer from Pennsylvania to measure the decibels emitted from his property during a concert.

    “The concerts are less than 100 decibels, but the airplanes, tractor-trailers on Route 1 and the helicopters are well in excess of 100 decibels,” he said. “There’s so many things wrong with this ordinance.”

    Hudson’s comments were met with applause from the audience.

    Julie Hudson, who is the events coordinator for Hudson Fields, asked if the council was actually familiar with what the special events application looks like currently.

    She asked if the County was ready to have the P&Z director become an “event czar,” as the changes in the ordinance would create a large influx of applications, she said, noting blueberry festivals, fall festivals and strawberry festivals (among others) that already take place throughout the county.

    She also noted that she has submitted a number of applications — one of which she never received a response to.

    “The email goes to four different County emails,” she said. “No nothing. I’m just wondering, if I’m applying and no one is responding to me… I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do… Then I could be fined, shut down? What happens if I am doing something wrong?”

    Arlett asked if there was a “technical glitch somewhere,” and it was determined that there are two separate portals to apply — one through the County and one through the public safety office. The council noted that they need to address that aspect of the County website.

    Proposal cited as poor update to ordinance

    The Hudsons’ attorney, Stephen Spence, said the County was trying to fix a poorly written ordinance, but they are trying to replace it with an equally poor update.

    Spence said that, while the County doesn’t require event organizers to contact other state agencies, such as DelDOT, ABC or Delaware State Police, the majority do, so as to not “get arrested.”

    “It’s not in a vacuum that all of this happens,” he said.

    He also said there is very little guidance in the proposed ordinance for the P&Z director to follow when reviewing special events applications. Spence said giving absolute discretion to an employee is not right, as the employee should be guided by the council.

    “You took a bad ordinance and just made it worse,” he said.

    Spence also called attention to sports organizations that rely on the kindness of property owners who allow the use of their property.

    “For a county that chooses not to invest money in public parks… to take away one of the best locations we’ve ever had because of this process you’re going through, to me is silly.”

    Spence recommended the council start the process over and offered his services to help.

    Larry Mayo of Lewes said he lives between the Hopkins farm and Hudson Fields, and says when the fields have manure on them, he can’t really enjoy his property, but that he is OK with that because they are using their property.

    Lewes resident Judy Mangini said she doesn’t understand how the County got to where it is with the proposed ordinance.

    “We have to come ask our employees for simple things, like have a concert on our property, or have a fundraiser on our property,” she said. “I have to laugh, because of all the development you all approve, that also affects the dust, noise… An ambulance coming to my house that once took five minutes can now take 40 minutes.”

    The council motioned to leave the public record on the proposed ordinance open to accept written comment over the next 30 days. Councilman Sam Wilson and Arlett voted against doing so, which would have allowed the council to move to address the proposed ordinance.

    “I think today has been very clear to me,” said Arlett of the ordinance.

    Councilmen I.G. Burton, Michael Vincent and Cole voted in favor of leaving the record open for 30 days, which could lead to further discussion of the ordinance in the future, and that motion passed.

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    Coastal Point • Tyler Valliant: The recent winter storm to hit the area was a challenge to first-responders and everyone else who had to travel in the area.Coastal Point • Tyler Valliant: The recent winter storm to hit the area was a challenge to first-responders and everyone else who had to travel in the area.The Jan. 4-5 snowstorm that dumped up to a foot of snow on parts of southeastern Sussex County kept schools closed and many side roads nearly impassable for days afterward, but for the most part the storm was more of a nuisance than a danger.

    The Indian River School District made the decision Wednesday night, Jan. 4, to keep schools closed the next day, as did other districts and private schools across the region. Once Gov. John Carney declared a state of emergency and a Level 2 driving restriction, non-essential vehicles were supposed to be off the streets and, once the wind died down, plows could get to work clearing the heavy snow off the roads.

    Snowfall totals were difficult to measure due to heavy drifting — it was not unusual to see nearly bare spots near drifts several feet tall — but according to the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), a service of the University of Delaware, the award for the highest total snowfall during the storm goes to Stockley, with 11.4 inches. Second place went to Dagsboro, which reported 10.8 inches, with Lewes a close third at 10 inches.

    In Millville, Council Member Steve Maneri gave credit to local emergency personnel who made sure the public was safe during and after the storm.

    “I want to personally thank the members of Millville Volunteer Fire Company, especially those that manned the company on a 24-hour basis,” from Wednesday to Sunday, Maneri said.

    “The Millville Volunteer Fire Company had a complete complement of manpower who handled over 60 calls,” Millville Mayor Bob Gordon said. “I know they had a lot to do. They had a busy five days.”

    Town Manager Debbie Botchie added that the fire company “helped a lot of people in need.” One of those was a woman whose heat had malfunctioned; she was brought to the firehouse, kept warm and fed “firehouse chili” while she waited for her heat to be repaired, according to reports from the fire company’s public information officer, Tony Petralia.

    Local grocery stores reported that, although they were able to stay open throughout the storm, many employees didn’t make it in. Some departments were low on merchandise — mostly because supply trucks were delayed in delivering new stock because of road conditions.

    Indian River schools were closed for four days because of the storm. Two of those were for the storm itself and the state of emergency. Slippery, snow-covered conditions on many back roads the following Monday and Tuesday forced school officials to keep schools closed until Wednesday, Jan. 10, when they opened on time.

    “We called it Wednesday night,” district spokesperson David Maull said of Jan. 4, “because we knew that storm coming in was going to be bad.”

    District officials kept an eye out during the days leading up to the storm, frequently checking long-range forecasts, Maull said. District Superintendent Mark Steele consulted with school board president Charles Bireley throughout the storm and the lead-up to it.

    “That was a really good decision there,” Maull said of the early notice of the Thursday, Jan. 5, closure. “What got us this time was the wind and the cold — in the state of emergency, we couldn’t even send buses out.”

    Maull said that, as with any storm, “We get people out on the road to see what the conditions are.” Although main roads, such as Routes 1, 113 and 26, were mostly clear by the weekend, “A lot of developments still had a ton of snow and ice back there,” Maull said.

    Tuesday’s warmup helped melt the snow enough that the back roads were clear enough by Wednesday to open schools again.

    School custodial staff, however, had gone back at work on Friday, Jan. 6, according to Maull.

    “What we did is we had custodial crews out at the buildings on that Friday, clearing parking lots and getting ready for students,” Maull said. “With that amount of snow, we needed to get a jump on it. Custodial crews did a fantastic job,” he said.

    Over that weekend, custodians at Sussex Central High School had a situation to contend with inside the school as well, when a leak originating on the second floor of the school caused damage that resulted in ceiling tiles falling through to the floor below. Crews worked through the weekend to repair the ceiling and “had it pretty much cleaned up by Monday,” Maull said.

    With four weather-closure days now used up out of approximately eight and a half days the district builds into its yearly calendar, “We’re in good shape” as far as the need to make up any days, Maull said. “But it’s early in the winter yet,” he cautioned.

    Whatever the rest of the winter brings, Maull said the fact that the governor declared a state of emergency for two of the missed days may be a factor in whether they have to be made up.

    “In the past, the State has forgiven those. We don’t know what’s going to happen with those at this time,” he said.

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    Northeast of the Indian River, Millsboro area residents are filling up their 2018 calendars, and those definitely aren’t social engagements.

    Public meetings have been scheduled left and right regarding the Mountaire poultry processing plant’s potential role as nearby households begin finding high nitrates in their private well-water, above the 10 mg/L limit.

    In November, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control cited Mountaire for scores of wastewater violations, stemming partly from a treatment system that didn’t fully process used water before irrigating local crop fields with it.

    Interest groups of all kinds will tackle the issue from different angles, from environmental interests to DNREC permitting. At least two legal partnerships of four law firms are soliciting clients among residents.

    Mountaire itself scheduled a public meeting for Millsboro-area residents on Wednesday, Jan. 17, (just after the Coastal Point’s press deadline), at Indian River Senior Center.

    “While Mountaire does not believe that the recent wastewater treatment system upset is a significant source of elevated nitrate levels in the area, we feel that as a corporate neighbor with long-standing and excellent relationships in our community, it is the appropriate time to have this meeting with our neighbors,” Mountaire representatives stated on Jan. 15.

    At the meeting, attendees were to be able to ask questions of Mountaire personnel, as well as experts in various water- and health-related fields.

    In addition to nitrogen, additional violations of Mountaire’s spray-irrigation permit and agricultural-utilization permit had also revealed excess fecal coliform concentrations, biochemical oxygen demand (BODs) and total suspended solids (TSS). Mountaire representatives said the company had already fired several wastewater employees over the incident.

    Center for Inland Bays speaks up

    A dozen miles from Mountaire’s Millsboro plant, on the opposite side of the Indian River Bay, the Delaware Center for Inland Bays (CIB) is deciding how to respond to the potential contamination of the watershed. They created a Mountaire Contamination Outreach Ad-Hoc Subcommittee to study the issue and develop an official response to the situation.

    That might include a general letter-to-the-editor about nitrates’ impact on the inland bays or higher-level actions, such as policy recommendations for Delaware to prevent that type of violation from occurring in the future.

    The CIB subcommittee convened on Jan. 3 and will meet again Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 10 a.m. All CIB meetings are open to the public.

    “Decisions that we make today are going to influence our generation and our kids’ generation,” said CIB Executive Director Chris Bason. “Those decisions are on the type of policy we have, how well that policy’s enforced.”

    On the larger environmental side, contaminants move very slowly across the watershed. Some households have seen elevated nitrogen levels immediately, while others may take more time. Based on DNREC data, Bason said he has not yet seen a specific spike in nitrogen levels in the watershed in the seven weeks since the original violation.

    “I think the general feeling from folks is there this big violation, they’re pumping all this untreated water on the fields, and now the river’s going to go to crap,” he said. “What’s important for everyone to understand is … it has to infiltrate into the groundwater and then that water has to drain through the aquifer.”

    Some of the water has already hit the aquifer, but it could be years or decades before it fully reaches the Indian River and the inland bays.

    Nitrogen is already high in the Indian River, but the concentrations fluctuate from month to month, according to DNREC data that Bason provided. February and March typically have the highest average readings.

    Bason said he was glad Mountaire planned a public forum to address human and environmental health, especially after DNREC declined the CIB’s offer to co-host a public forum.

    Public comments open on sludge permit

    Mountaire needs to fix its equipment in a hurry. DNREC is accepting public comments on Mountaire’s amended permit application for a short-term sludge storage facility at the Millsboro facility.

    The Division of Water’s Surface Water Discharges Section will host a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. at Millsboro Town Hall/Town Center, located at 322 Wilson Highway.

    Only comments directly related to the proposed sludge storage activities will be accepted. People wishing to speak should register with the presiding hearing officer by Jan. 22 by email to or by mail to Robert P. Haynes, Esq., Office of the Secretary, DNREC; 89 Kings Hwy.; Dover, DE 19904. Written comments are also being accepted.

    Interested persons may contact Brian Churchill at (302) 739-9946 for more information.

    “Upon completion of the construction of the storage facility and permit issuance, the permittee would be authorized to temporarily store anaerobic lagoon sludge generated at the Millsboro Mountaire poultry processing facility,” DNREC’s legal notice states.

    That activity is permissible, pending public notice. Mountaire’s goal is to clear the excess sludge (bio-solids) from the system, providing room for maintenance to the anaerobic lagoons. The temporary solution (costing up to $10 million) merely paves the way for a $25 million wastewater treatment upgrade, according to Mountaire spokesperson Sean McKeon.

    Since the request amends DNREC’s public notice from Oct. 18, 2017, all public comments that were submitted at that time do not have to be re-submitted and will be considered as part of the review of the amended permit application. In the fall of 2017, DNREC hadn’t planned to host a public hearing on the request unless the Secretary received a “written meritorious objection” or determined it was in public interest. Now, the hearing will be held after all.

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    Last Thursday night, Jan. 11, within a six-hour period, there were seven reported heroin overdoses in Sussex County.

    “They were all over the county, from Rehoboth to Seaford to Selbyville to Ocean View,” said Sgt. Rhys Bradshaw of the Ocean View Police Department. “That’s not typical for a 12-hour period.”

    Bradshaw said that, usually, when there’s a spike in overdoses, it signifies that a bad batch of heroin is going around. Bags of heroin are usually identified by their stamp — an image or certain saying, such as “Summer Slam” or “Rocky” — delineating that batch from others.

    “The one here in Ocean View, we couldn’t find any, so we weren’t able to get a ‘brand’ to warn people,” said Bradshaw of the Jan. 11 overdose in town.

    In order to give someone a fighting chance at surviving an overdose, Bradshaw said, it is imperative that people call 911 immediately, and they shouldn’t waste time worrying about legal implications.

    “Call 911 and advise them it is a heroin overdose. What a lot of people still don’t understand is, when you call in a heroin overdose, you are protected by the Good Samaritan law. Even if there’re drugs in that house — if we find heroin and needles — we’ll collect it, but you’re not going to be charged for a crime.

    “You’re protected under the Good Samaritan law, because you’re trying to save someone’s life. We’re not going to charge you or the user with a crime at that point. At that point, our priority is to save a life.”

    In 2013, then-Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed the law into effect, granting immunity to those who report an overdose.

    OVPD Officer AnnMarie Dalton said that, many times, when the officers are called to respond to an overdose, those who call try to either flush or hide the evidence so they don’t get in trouble.

    “They will try to hide it. You know — it’s instinct. What I like to tell them is, ‘Where are they? You’re not going to get in trouble. The only reason we want to know this is we’ve had multiple overdoses, and we like to see if there’s a similarity in all the evidence we’re collecting,’” she explained.

    Bradshaw said the department, along with Sussex County emergency medical officials and other organizations, are keeping track of the types of heroin hitting the streets, so having that evidence is helpful in developing long-term statistics.

    “And, if we get a bad batch like this one, we can warn people so they don’t die,” added Dalton.

    Bradshaw said a person experiencing a heroin overdose will become hot and sweaty, with labored breathing. Many times, he said, the individual will “just drop.”

    “A witness in the house the other night told us he witnessed it. He said the person was talking, stumbled a little bit and then just dropped right in front of him,” said Bradshaw. “We were there pretty quick, and the person was still not doing good.”

    “The scary thing was, the witness said, ‘You guys were here so quick,’ and yet, the subject who overdosed was still having a hard time breathing, and we were there in less than five minutes,” added Dalton.

    Many law-enforcement agencies and EMS providers now carry naloxone, also known as “Narcan” — a medication that can help temporarily bring an individual out of an overdose, though medical attention will still need to be sought.

    “It’s imperative to call us immediately. Ocean View — we carry Narcan. Most state troopers carry Narcan; fire companies carry it. The quicker we can administer the Narcan, the better,” said Bradshaw.

    Currently, OVPD officers carry an injectable version of naloxone, with each dose being .4 mg.

    “It’s been so potent right now,” Bradshaw said of the heroin batches they’re seeing cause overdoses, “it’s been taking a few of these — 1 or 2 milligrams of Narcan — to get them back. That’s a lot,” he said.

    “When it works, it’s interesting to watch, because the person could be as blue as your shirt, and if we hit them with that… you see the color come back. A lot of people will sit up and go, ‘Whoa! What happened?’ It just shows you how powerful some of this stuff is.”

    Through legislative efforts by grassroots organizations including atTAcK Addiction, regular citizens can now take a course to become certified in administering naloxone and can even purchase the life-saving drug over-the-counter.

    “A lot of family members do struggle with it, knowing their loved-one is addicted,” added Dalton, noting that a Nar-Anon family group meets at Ocean View Presbyterian Church every Wednesday at 7 p.m.

    “They hold meetings there for family members. They give advice on how to deal with a loved-one being addicted. They touch base on ‘Don’t feed their habits and addictions because they’ll come to you for money.’ They cover the steps you have to go to, and I know that’s been helpful.”

    For those in the community struggling with addiction or who have a loved one in trouble, Bradshaw said to not hesitate to contact police — it’s what they’re there for.

    “Call us. We offer programs or point them in the right direction on where to get help. You can walk in here as a heroin addict and say, ‘I want to go to detox,’ and we will take you to detox in Ellendale.

    “We are here to help people. We’re here to help them get their life straight, point them in the right direction for help. Our goal is to save lives and help people get treatment — not to arrest people for this. We highly encourage people to seek help, either through us or other state agencies.”

    The Ocean View Police Department is located at 201 Central Avenue in Ocean View. To contact them, call (302) 539-1111.

    Naloxone training:

    Delaware Overdose Survival Education (DOSE)

    The next training session will be held at Abundant Life Christian Church in Georgetown on Monday, Feb. 5. For more information and other scheduled classes, visit

    Nar-Anon Family Group:

    Every Wednesday, 7 p.m.

    Ocean View Presbyterian Church

    67 Central Avenue, Ocean View

    Connections Community Support Programs Inc.

    Offers a variety of services, from counseling to treatment, with locations throughout Delaware.

    Delaware Help Line

    Call 411 (non-emergency) or 911 (emergency)

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    At a special meeting on January 24, the Indian River Board of Education appointed Derek Cathell of Frankford to fill a vacant seat in Election District 5. Cathell was sworn in after the board conducted interviews with several candidates for the seat.
    Coastal Point • Submitted: Derek Cathell (center) is sworn in by Superintendent Mark Steele (left) and Board of Education President Charles Bireley.Coastal Point • Submitted: Derek Cathell (center) is sworn in by Superintendent Mark Steele (left) and Board of Education President Charles Bireley.
    Cathell will fill the seat of former board member Douglas Hudson, who resigned from the board last year after moving his residence outside of Election District 5. Cathell’s term will expire on June 30, 2018.

    The complete list of Board of Education members for 2017-2018 is as follows:

    Charles M. Bireley, President District 4
    Rodney M. Layfield, Vice President District 2
    Derek E. Cathell District 5
    W. Scott Collins District 5
    James E. Fritz District 1
    Dr. Donald G. Hattier District 4
    James E. Hudson District 1
    Gerald T. Peden District 2
    Dr. Heather M. Statler District 3
    Leolga T. Wright District 3

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    If 2017 was a year for protest, then 2018 has been deemed one for action. On the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches around the world, local ladies are eying the 2018 election and gearing up for action.

    They celebrated with a Women’s March anniversary rally Jan. 21 at the Lewes Public Library.

    “We’re still paying attention, we’re still showing up, we’re speaking out, and we will be running for office,” said Meghan Wallace, co-founder of Mary Ann’s List, which helps train and run pro-choice Democratic women candidates in Delaware elections.

    Born out of frustration with the 2016 presidential election, the Women’s March on Washington snowballed into one of the biggest coordinated protests in world history. On Jan. 21, 2017, up to 5 million people of all backgrounds gathered peacefully across all seven continents for various issues, including equality for all people and dismantling systems of oppression.

    Miles of roads were closed in Washington, D.C., to accommodate up to 500,000 marchers.

    But people are still asking why the women marched.

    “It had nothing to do with actually marching, and it had nothing to do with the pink hats,” said Paulette Rappa. “It was always about us saying, ‘Enough.’ It was about us saying we are tired of waiting our turn,” or waiting for permission to access the boardrooms, politics or backrooms where negotiations happen.

    “The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change,” the national website says.

    “It’s the unity and the solidarity the Women’s March gave us. That is why we celebrate,” said Pamela Malsch of Women’s March—Sussex.

    “You remember that feeling when we were at the Women’s March, and everywhere you turned, there were women. In all directions! And there was a feeling of comfort and strength to be … beside them in public and not behind closed doors,” Rappa said.

    Jill Roberts of Milton attended the Lewes anniversary to connect with women of “every color, every lifestyle.” Waiting for the event to begin, she laughed and snapped photos with Sandi Bisgood of Lewes. They had only just met.

    They said they were personally concerned about the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade and about recent healthcare policies written primarily by white men.

    But women can champion any topic in the political spectrum. Every issue generates different opinions, but organizers said it’s important that the legislators and decisions accurately represent the public.

    Democratic leader Joann Cabry encouraged people to get involved at the local level.

    “As a grassroots group in a small state, we believe we can have the most impact at the state level,” Cabry said of the Progressive Democrats of Sussex County.

    In the 2014 midterms, only 36 percent of Delaware voters actually went to the poll.

    The Delaware State Legislature is not a very diverse group. Nearly 80 percent of state lawmakers are men. Only 13 legislators are women, and only a handful are people of color. That means most legislators don’t share the life experiences of either group.

    “Get involved. … Together we will blaze toward a more-equal Delaware,” Wallace said.

    “The time of marching is over. It’s time for action,” Rappa agreed.

    The speakers advocated for women of color, immigrants, seniors, low-income people, victims of sexual violence and more. Other people discussed healthcare and living wages. Equal benefits will help all people, they said.

    Following the fight

    Proudly wearing pins and gear collected last year in D.C., Laurie and Chuck Valunas arrived early to ensure a good spot. Coming from the Long Neck/Angola area on Route 24, they shared frustration with current events.

    “You either retreat, or you don’t,” said Laurie Valunas. “We pick our battles,” which are women’s equality, independent media and the environment.

    Some attendees had previously fought for women’s rights and human rights during the 1960s’ civil-rights movement.

    “I did this 50 years ago in the ’60s. I can’t believe I’m fighting the same fights now,” said Sylvia Moritz of Bethany Beach, formerly of New York City, where she attended the Women’s March last year.

    The crowd was mostly white women, middle-aged or older (31 percent of all Lewes-area residents are white women 60 or older), with several husbands, fathers and elementary school-aged girls joining the fray.

    Last year, Pamela Malsch said, she regretted not driving to D.C., so she joined 12 others with signs at Rehoboth Beach. She then attended and helped organized several events throughout 2017.

    “My mother raised me to be here. Everything she taught me has been challenged or reversed by this [presidential] administration. My mother was a feminist and an activist. She taught me I could be anything I wanted to be,” Malsch said.

    “She taught me no person should have to live with abuse of any kind. … She said color, gender and sexual preference do not matter, and she taught me that the United States of America was a place that believed in these principals.”

    They said the movement is about inspiring people to speak up and act for any issue, like people recently did to encourage the Delaware Public Service Commission to push utilities companies to share the federal tax-cut savings with their customers.

    “That’s what political activism is about: influencing decision-makers to do the right thing,” Cabry said.

    “The personal is political,” Wallace said she had learned at the University of Delaware, when the school counseled her to take a leave of absence to deal with PTSD, while the male classmate who had sexually assaulted her graduated on time. As a legislative aid, she later helped write the legislation requiring Delaware colleges to better respond to assault.

    “Choosing not to be political is a privilege,” she said. “Using our personal experience to shape the state and world we want to live in, and in service to others, is the best hope we have for a more equal society.”

    “The real march is at the polls on Nov. 6,” Rappa said. “That’s where women can make a difference.”

    This fall, 10 state senators and all 41 state representatives are up for election in Delaware, plus five statewide positions and five county positions.

    Delaware has only had one female representative in congress, one female governor and one female Sussex County council member in at least the last 50 years, if ever.

    Rappa compared running for office to the first time she swam a long distance as a youngster.

    “You know what to do. You know how to do it. Just go out there and have fun,” Rappa said her mother told her that day at the lake.

    The men and the aftermath

    The speakers also encouraged men to continue supporting women.

    “There were the men that were marching beside us, who do understand, who are willing to open the door for us and keep the door open” by mentoring and sharing political insight, Rappa said. “We applaud those men, and we salute them, and we encourage them to build more meaningful relationships.”

    Attendees also reminisced over last year’s photographs, laughing over particularly clever posters and signs.

    “We didn’t know how big it was until we got home and saw the TV,” said Bonny Mearf.

    Never a very political family, she and her husband, John, chartered a bus to go march after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, despite winning the popular vote. Since then, the Mearfs have volunteered with the Sussex County Democratic Committee, helping advocate for candidates and to improve voter turnout in their district.

    The local Women’s March group will host more “Intro to Delaware Politics 101” workshops to explain the movers and shakers in local politics, which seats are coming up for election and more. Workshops will be held Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. at the Lewes Public Library and March 12 at 6 p.m. at Captain’s Pizza & Grill in Long Neck. Details are available by searching

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    On this brisk January day, it was tough to find parking at the Delaware Department of Transportation headquarters in Dover. Vehicles inched along the rows of cars, everyone hoping for an empty space.

    But what if there were fewer cars on the road? What if, instead of parking our cars during an eight-hour workday, we stepped out, and the cars then drove other people around all day long, and a car returned at closing time?

    That is Uber’s vision of the future, as explained by Shari Shapiro, head of Public Affairs for Uber in Pennsylvania and Delaware, on Jan. 18 at a crowded meeting of the Delaware Advisory Council on Connected & Autonomous Vehicles.

    Uber is a ride-share service operating worldwide that allows people to order and pay for rides through a mobile app. In the near future, the company believes, drivers will be optional.

    Surveying the technological landscape, Gov. John Carney created the advisory council last September with Executive Order 14. If connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) are becoming more prevalent and could radically transform the world, then he wants Delaware to be ready.

    “I would encourage people to consider this as a possibility. When many of us got into it, our immediate reaction was, ‘No way this is going to work,’” said Elayne Starkey, chief security officer for the State of Delaware. Now, she emphasizes education and awareness for this “new, scary and exciting” technology.

    Delaware policymakers need to decide how to embrace the technology, and that research has just begun. By this September, the council will recommend strategies to prepare Delaware’s transportation network. They’ll study economic development, technology, privacy, highway safety, infrastructure and more.

    The State decides who and what may operate on public roads. Carney had suggested that Delaware could be an early adopter of CAV networks, since the State owns more than 90 percent of all its roads, and DelDOT has improved telecommunications to better monitor traffic. Plus, Delaware can keep an eye on the new technology and create laws to accommodate, or regulate, the CAVs and their drivers.

    Testing the waters in Delaware

    The general public is slowly becoming more familiar with vehicle automation. Farmers have combines that do much of the work autonomously. New cars have mapping, self-parking and automatic deceleration if they sense a sudden traffic jam ahead. Even airplanes are mostly automated while in the air, except for takeoff and landing.

    “In Pittsburgh, at the beginning, seeing an Uber self-driving car was exciting. It is no longer exciting. They are so over it,” Shapiro joked. “We want people to be bored with autonomous vehicles.”

    Cars can work at different levels of autonomy, from none to a completely driverless car.

    With first-hand experience as a passenger, Jim Lardear of AAA Mid-Atlantic recently rode an automated test shuttle-bus in Las Vegas.

    “It was a very smooth ride, I’ll tell you that,” said Lardear, recalling that the “driver” was rated 4.8 of 5 stars.

    Maybe autonomous vehicles could fill gaps in the trucking industry, or even Sussex County’s shortage of bus drivers. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s ready to test driverless school buses with real children.

    At the same time, could Delaware get a jump on the competition and possibly host a pilot program?

    “Delaware has to move fast,” said Cathy Rossi of AAA Mid-Atlantic. “It’s striking a difference between all of those factors.”

    The University of Delaware might like to host a controlled test environment at the technology-centered STAR Campus, where students in public administration and mechanical engineering programs could study.

    But Uber, Olli and Waymo (a Google spin-off) are already testing vehicles with passengers on public roads, Shapiro said. They want real-life, not practice tracks.

    “We need to test on roads where things happen on a regular basis,” with squirrels, construction zones and bicyclists, Shapiro said.

    If human error causes 94 percent of car collisions (which it does, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2015), what would happen if humans are removed from the driver seat?

    “To date, there have been no crashes as a result of the autonomous driving on these public roads. But there will be. There will be crashes. There will be deaths,” Shapiro said. “But the question that you need to ask yourself is, ‘Will there be less than the 30,000 deaths on the streets that would [typically] happen?’”

    Her numbers are modest. The CDC reported 33,736 unintentional motor vehicle traffic deaths in 2014. The National Safety Council had that number at about 40,000 in 2016.

    “Why are we doing this? What’s the point? What are we afraid of?” Shapiro prodded. “These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves, beyond, ‘This is a robot car, and that’s scary.’ We have to acknowledge and appreciate that public fear, but what is our job in this room, as far as moving Delaware forward from a technological standpoint?”

    Delaware has 400,000 cars registered that are idle 95 percent of the time, Shapiro said. Uber executives believe people would rely less on cars if they could get reliable point-to-point transportation. If fewer people owned individual cars, that could mean fewer parking lots and less emissions.

    “This is how we see the future,” Shapiro said.

    Riding in real life

    Uber itself has been testing autonomous vehicles since 2015, including in San Francisco, Phoenix, Toronto and Pittsburgh.

    But they need piles of data before CAVs can be released onto the roadways, even while still attended by a human. First, companies thoroughly map a test city: every road, sign and traffic signal. Cars need that baseline so they can begin looking for things that shouldn’t be in the way: pedestrians, wild deer or double-parked cars.

    “If you go on the Uber system in Pittsburgh, you might get an autonomous vehicle,” Shapiro said. “[Passengers] give them the same ratings they give our regular drivers.”

    “If you choose to accept, you’ll be picked up by a self-driving vehicle with a vehicle operator in the driver seat to monitor the vehicle as it travels your route,” Uber’s Sarah Abboud later clarified to the Coastal Point.

    So it’s not (yet) a completely driverless experience. Having that person in the front seat may help riders feel more conformable with an autonomous vehicle. AAA found that 75 percent of U.S. drivers are afraid to ride in a fully self-driving car, although 59 percent would like to have autonomous features in their next vehicle.

    One significant car collision could kill all the momentum of that research, Shapiro said. So it’s self-preservation that pushes companies to design technology right the first time.

    They still do regular testing on private courses and on public roads. They’re learning every day, and they could be fully autonomous this year, Shapiro said.

    Meanwhile, Uber says automated passenger aircraft are coming sooner than people might think.

    In the future, Uber envisions more shared rides, automated vehicles and electric vehicles. That could reduce the stress of driving, especially over long distances. Moreover, DelDOT officials said they see better transportation access coming for elderly and those with disabilities.

    But the vehicles bring a truckload of new situations: how police or insurance agents investigate car collisions; how the DMV licenses operators and vehicles; how the State collects and secures data about CAVs and passengers.

    Delaware will have to proceed carefully with any promises made with companies it hosts. For example, Pittsburgh’s mayor — who first welcomed Uber with open arms — was later criticized for not getting Uber promises to hire locals or provide free rides “in writing.” States also need to consider the possible loss of traditional jobs, or lost fees, such as parking revenue.

    The Advisory Council typically meets on the third Thursday of every month at 11 a.m. at DelDOT headquarters in Dover. Details, including meeting notes, agendas and presentations are online at

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    While my readers, hopefully, continue to practice after reading my recent articles and attending clinics, I trust they slowly will realize the importance of anticipation, footwork and balance. But this week, I want to share a wonderful personal experience.

    It is great fun playing pickleball, but sometimes, perhaps when you are peeping over the snowdrift outside your window, you need to step back and appreciate this wonderful place we call Delmarva.

    I’ve always had a keen interest in Assateague Island. I had at least one ancestor on Assateague in the late 1600s, and another built Scott’s Ocean House, a hotel for the wealthy, in the 1870s. My great-grandfather and his sons operated a small sailing ship to take hotel guests and supplies across the bay.

    Before the federal government purchased Assateague, there were hunting camps spotted along the island, as well as other barrier islands, and they passed from generation to generation.

    Reachable only by water, they were built with remnants of earlier structures from a village that once was located near the Green Run Life Saving Station, and floating shanties that were pulled up on the marshes and joined together. They were typically built with a hodgepodge of available materials and might sleep twenty or more.

    One family, with whom I shared a grandmother six generations ago, started a traditional New Year’s Day old-fashioned pig roast for their neighbors and friends at their hunting lodge on Assateague. Guests arrived by boat and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

    Traditionally, about four in the morning, or earlier, the pig was put over the fire, duck and venison roasted, and soups were started over open fire. The recipes did not come from Martha Stewart or the search engine Google, but were handed down from generation to generation, for more generations than anyone can remember. Before noon, fresh oysters were shucked and left on the half shell, and the clams were put into the soups.

    Bitter cold, first day of the year. The sun and air, wonderfully clear,

    Gazing across water, Sinepuxent Bay. Sometimes feeling the cold salty spray.

    While food preparations were under way, a bonfire was set to warm arriving guests, and the fellows cooking the pig pulled out their guitars to provide background entertainment. One year, Southern Living magazine even sent a reporter.

    It was always a special occasion and a chance to catch up with three or four generations of the invited families. Each year’s guest list might include an eclectic collection of artists, historians, hunters, conservationists, politicians and entertainers. Some years, that cold wind came whipping from the north across the island of Assateague, nipping at any exposed skin and creating a real appreciation of wool and goose down. The good fellowship, with an occasional nip, seemed to always subdue the weather.

    Two or three decades ago, the federal government took over the hunting lodges located on federal land. Kinsmen invited my wife and I this year to a continuation of their tradition, but from their boathouse, called BayHouse, built in honor of the hunting lodge on Assateague they once owned. Their boathouse overlooks Sinepuxent Bay across to Assateague, and it, along with the good fellowship, provided us some relief from the arctic weather we have been experiencing.

    There was a series of tables, maybe 40 linear feet, holding a buffet of these wonderful nourishments from the past, such as original barbecue, venison chili, black-eyed pea soup, prime oysters on the shell, crab soup and even a Bloody Mary recipe from more recent generations.

    Some newer members of their family had never experienced their family hunting lodge, but we old-timers shared our individual memories of earlier New Year’s celebrations with their family at High Winds.

    For someone steeped in Eastern Shore history and lore, it was indeed very enjoyable, and it was very special to be able to count our blessings on the first day of the year among friends, beauty and bounty.

    I admire and appreciate the family who has continued this New Year’s tradition. I have intentionally avoided their names for their privacy, but all their friends would recognize them in this essay and, I am sure, join me in a joyous thank-you.

    As difficult as it was for this old pickleballer, I remained on my best behavior, so that I might be invited back for another New Year’s celebration.

    Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit

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