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    Sussex County Councilman I.G. Burton gave a brief presentation to fellow council members this week regarding his concerns about to buffers and density.

    “For the 11 years I was on Planning & Zoning, we always discussed it… It was just talked about. It was in our previous comp plan that said we should look at buffers and density. It’s time to quit not talking about it, and it’s time to start talking about it.”

    County code states, “The number of dwelling units permitted shall be determined by dividing the gross area by 21,780 SF,” which currently allows for tidal and non-tidal wetlands to be included in the calculation, increasing the number of units permitted versus what would be permitted if wetlands were not included in the calculation.

    “To allow on unbuildable — it just doesn’t make sense to me,” said Burton. “It just never made sense to me. That two units-to-the-acre density calculation is, I think, a generous density. Then, to allow that density to be calculated on lands that are unbuildable just doesn’t make sense to me… I have a tough time with that math formula.”

    Burton said that, while this has been the County’s practice in the past, he is unsure from where the calculation stemmed, and he suggested a revision be considered.

    “I think density is an important conversation we continue to have on this council,” said Councilman Rob Arlett. “I would concur that we should, and perhaps need to, look at the buildable area.”

    Councilman George Cole agreed.

    “My guess is a lot of it started when the wetlands weren’t important. Back then, we didn’t address wetlands,” he said. “New rules came along, but we didn’t adapt. What has happened over the years is we’ve been very generous in computing our density calculations. We’re permitting too much to be jammed in on these small parcels in our most environmentally-sensitive areas, and we’re way behind the 8-ball, I think.”

    “Certainly I think the conversation is one we need to have,” added Council President Michael Vincent.

    Arlett asked how land becomes classified as “wetlands.”

    “A licensed soil scientist will have to go out and delineates wetlands, determines where they are on the property, and that is based on a number of different type of criteria that have been developed — not by the County, but nationally — as to what determines what wetlands are,” explained County Planning & Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell.

    “What’s the goal?” asked Arlett. “Is it trying to determine a better way of calculating density, protect the environment…?”

    “All of the above,” replied Cole.

    Burton said he also believes the County’s buffer rules need to be reviewed as well.

    “We have to look at what buffers do for us from an environmental standpoint, from a quality-of-life standpoint, from a water-quality standpoint, from a flooding standpoint. We have to say, ‘Does our current code add or subtract from those goals?’” he said.

    “The inland bays and the bay... They’re just too important to our economy, to the nature we have, to the scenic views that we have, to everything that makes this county what I personally like about it. I think we should talk about that.”

    During the discussion, Burton presented the council with a buffer ordinance comparison chart for New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties, as well as New Jersey and “critical areas” of Maryland.

    It showed that New Castle and Kent counties have a 100-foot buffer for tidal wetlands and a 50- and 25-foot buffer for non-tidal wetlands, respectively. Sussex County has a 50-foot buffer for tidal wetlands and no buffer requirement for non-tidal wetlands.

    “I can’t see how that makes sense if we’re trying to protect our waterways, protect our natural vegetation, if we’re trying to protect our landscaped areas,” Burton said. “The wetlands… We have very little buffer, and then we’re trying to take those two items and put as much as we can on that site. It just seems incorrect to me.

    “I think we have to look at this with eyes wide open with our protected waterways, with our protected wetlands. We can’t just keep doing what we’re doing and expect a different result. We sit here and have this concern, and then nothing changes.”

    The council agreed to schedule a presentation by a soil scientist to discuss how areas are determined to be wetlands. There may be workshops on the topic at a future time.

    “What I’m trying to do is maintain the rural character of this county,” said Burton. “It’s going to take some work, but I think it needs to get done.”

    In other County news, with Planning & Zoning Commissioner Marty Ross retiring, Arlett nominated Holly Wingate to fill the position. Arlett said there were three individuals who had applied for the seat on the commission.

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    With summer having arrived, traffic in coastal Delaware has spiked. While travelers use various modes of transportation to get from Point A to Point B, the Ocean View Police Department is reminding the public to always use caution.

    “With all the building, the year-round traffic is even getting heavier. But the summer — Memorial Day weekend is usually our first little tease as how bad it’s going to be,” said OVPD Sgt. Rhys Bradshaw. “Memorial Day weekend, I couldn’t make a left-hand turn on Atlantic Avenue because traffic was so thick.”

    With that in mind, Ocean View officers want residents and visitors to be as safe as possible.

    Bicycle safety

    After a fatal bike accident on Memorial Day weekend that remains under investigation, OVPD officers emphasized that it is important for motorists and bicyclists to be extra-alert while traversing the roads.

    “When possible, wear bright clothes,” said OVPD OFC AnnMarie Dalton, who heads the department’s bike-patrol program. “Make sure that you have a front light and a back light and rear reflector. The front light should be visible from a distance of at least 500 feet.”

    Cyclists who don’t have a bicycle light may stop by the Bethany Beach Police Department adjacent to Bethany Beach Town Hall for a free lamp.

    “I’ve stopped people before for not having lights,” said Dalton. “That’s the biggest thing, more or less because of safety. There are so many times where I’ve seen kids with no lights at all, and they’re riding on these dark roads. It scares me. I try to keep lights in my truck to give to them.”

    “Especially at this time of year, we have a lot of foreign exchange students. We’re not looking to write tickets — we like to stop them, inspect their bikes and give them lights if they don’t have them,” Bradshaw added.

    While the law only requires cyclists younger than 18 to wear a helmet while on the road, Bradshaw said he strongly recommends all cyclists don headgear, no matter their age.

    Those who own helmets but are unsure of the proper fit may visit the OVPD for an inspection.

    “The biggest thing with the helmets — the strap can’t just be loose-hanging, because then it could fall off,” said Dalton. “You want it to fit perfectly tight around your head. You should have a little bit of space [between the strap and your chin] but not a lot — maybe two fingers.”

    Cyclists using correct hand signals is also critical. Hand signals must be given no fewer than 100 feet before a turn. Cyclists also need to remember to travel with the flow of traffic, not against it.

    “There’s no reason for you to be riding against the flow of traffic,” said Dalton. “Signs go with the flow of traffic. If they’re on the opposite side of the road, they’re not going to be able to see the traffic signs.”

    “Bicyclists have to obey all traffic laws. You have to stop at stop signs. You have to stop at red lights, yield — all that,” added Bradshaw.

    And it is illegal in most municipalities, including Bethany Beach and Ocean View, to ride bicycles on the sidewalk.

    “We’ve had people walking on sidewalks get hit by bicyclists,” said Bradshaw. “It can really hurt someone. The sidewalks are meant to keep pedestrians safe from bikes and cars.”

    “If there is not a bike lane, they should be using the roadway,” said Dalton. “In each designated lane, they should be in the right third of that lane. Stay as close to the shoulder as possible. When a cyclist is riding, the road is broken up into three quadrants — right, middle and left.

    “When you’re trying to go straight or make a turn, technically you’re supposed to be in the left portion of that left lane, but I always say stay in the middle, because people can kind of push you off the road.”

    Even if a cyclist is traveling legally on a sidewalk, they are still required to yield to pedestrians. If they intend to pass a pedestrian, they must give an audible signal, such as a bell ring or whistle, before doing so.

    It is also illegal for cyclists to travel with headphones covering both ears, as it can prevent them from being tuned in to their surroundings.

    Cyclists are allowed to park their bikes on a sidewalk, as long as it doesn’t prohibit or restrict the flow of traffic.

    A bicycle may not carry more people than what it was designed for, with the exception of a child carrier. Riders should not transport others via pegs, handlebars, et cetera.

    “If you’re going to ride with kids, keep one adult in the front and one in the back. That way you have constant eyes on the kids,” added Dalton.

    Dalton urges cyclists to be keenly aware of their surroundings.

    “You have to be more aware riding a bicycle than you do driving a vehicle. You always have to remember you’re not paying attention for yourself but for every other driver,” she said. “When a vehicle is slowing down, maybe there’s a reason for that, so consider slowing down as well.

    “Be aware of what’s going on around you. There’s always that chance the vehicle ahead isn’t going to use their turn signal, they whip that right and you’re coming up the bike lane…”

    Pedestrian safety

    Pedestrians should always walk against traffic and wear brightly colored clothes, Dalton advised.

    “If there is a sidewalk, please use the sidewalk and not the road. Carry a light at night,” advised Dalton. (In fact, Delaware state law requires all pedestrians walking outside municipal limits at night to carry a light or reflective item.) “Be very cognizant of traffic — especially turning vehicles.

    “Same with runners,” added Bradshaw, noting there is sidewalk all down Route 26 now, from Millville through Bethany Beach. “Runners like to run with their headphones on, but they should always try to keep one ear open.”

    If possible, pedestrians should use the buddy system and walk with someone.

    Pedestrians must, by law, cross roadways at designated crosswalks. Bradshaw said there are crosswalks at all major intersections on Atlantic Avenue (Route 26).

    “It’s very dangerous to be crossing in the summertime where there is no designated crosswalk,” said Dalton.

    When crossing a roadway, they advised, pedestrians should be cautious and use common sense.

    “Vehicles have to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. That being said, pedestrians have to safely check the roadway to make sure it is safe for them to cross,” said Bradshaw. “They can’t just walk into the middle of traffic and expect a car that’s 20 feet away to slam on their brakes and stop.”

    Delaware law states that pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway when they are crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

    Moped safety

    Any low-powered, motorized bicycle tagged as a moped, or “MP,” must be operated in the bicycle lane, even if it has a license plate.

    Moped drivers must have a valid driver’s license in order to operate the vehicle. While no helmet is required to be worn by moped drivers unless the person is younger than 16, Bradshaw emphasized the importance of wearing a helmet for safety.

    Additional summer safety tips

    With temperatures on the rise, everyone should remember to drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen.

    Those who go swimming in the ocean should stay near a lifeguard stand and not go too far out.

    “The surf and riptides can be very hazardous if you’re not used to swimming in the ocean,” said Bradshaw.

    Those who frequent pools should be cognizant of small children and make sure they do not run while around the pool deck.

    Skateboarders and those who roller-skate should wear all proper safety equipment. Tricks or stunts should not be attempted on public streets or sidewalks.

    And while Bradshaw said he knows it is sometimes unavoidable, he recommends cyclists stay off of Route 26.

    “Try your best to stay off of Atlantic Avenue. I know sometimes that’s hard, but that road is our main road — and same thing through Bethany — and is extremely congested.”

    “We know there are designated areas for bicycles, but it’s just so busy,” added Dalton.

    No matter what the mode of transportation is this summer, people should also remember to leave plenty of time to get where they need to go and be aware of those who are traveling around them.

    “Take your time, and leave plenty of time to get there,” added Bradshaw. “The beach isn’t going anywhere. It’ll be there when you get there.”

    For more information regarding bicycle or pedestrian traffic safety, contact the Ocean View Police Department at (302) 539-1111.

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    Coastal Point • Laura Walter: This was the historic Blackwater Presbyterian Church mid-demolition, following a decades-long bout with termites and years of the Tunnell family trying to keep it maintained.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: This was the historic Blackwater Presbyterian Church mid-demolition, following a decades-long bout with termites and years of the Tunnell family trying to keep it maintained.The Blackwater Presbyterian Church, built in 1763, has been in deteriorating condition for years. Although efforts have been made to repair and renovate the church over the past 20 years, termites ultimately forced the caretakers of the building to take it down in recent weeks.

    “About a year ago, the building really started to lean a lot,” said Robert Tunnell Jr., whose family has maintained the property for many years. “We started looking at the structure and what’s going on,” he said. “The boards were full of termites.”

    Once the process started, Tunnell said, it became apparent that “there was a lot more termite damage than we thought.”

    “We were worried about it,” Tunnell said. “It was unsound. You couldn’t even really be in the building.”

    The church has been taken down to the foundation — and what will become of the site remains unclear.

    “We took it down by hand, and we saved everything we could save,” Tunnell said. “We are going to figure out what’s salvageable.”

    Various components of the structure have been placed in storage and will be dealt with by experts. For example, he said, the exterior of the building had lead paint on it, so lead paint experts will deal with that portion.

    Tunnell said his family has been working with representatives from State and County archives divisions throughout the demolition. The church’s history has been well-documented. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and the State of Delaware placed a historic marker on the property in 2004.

    Coastal Point • Kerin Magill: Metal lighting fixtures from Blackwater Presbyterian Church are kept in this old leather case in Ocean View Presbyterian Church.Coastal Point • Kerin Magill: Metal lighting fixtures from Blackwater Presbyterian Church are kept in this old leather case in Ocean View Presbyterian Church.According to state records, more than 200 years ago, a congregation was organized at Blackwater by Charles Tennent, referred to as the “charismatic son” of Princeton University founder William Tennent. Before the church was completed in 1767, services were held in members’ homes.

    After Presbyterian churches were built in Ocean View and Frankford in the ensuing century, Blackwater’s attendance faltered, and by the late 19th century, regular services had ceased. Occasional services were held there until 1921, when it was officially declared desanctified by the New Castle Presbytery, the governing body of the Presbyterian Church in the region.

    The Tunnell family has managed the property since 1949, maintaining a trust for the purpose. Various community groups have worked with the Tunnell family over the years to help maintain and repair the church. The Rev. Kerry Shull, former pastor at Ocean View Presbyterian, oversaw some of those efforts, alongside the late Bob Orem.

    “We saw that the building was in serious disrepair,” Shull said.

    Tunnell family documents from 1995, now located at Ocean View Presbyterian Church, refer to termite damage to the structure. Other documents list early members of the church, including many familiar Sussex County names. During the Revolutionary War, the church’s pastor was paid in corn, which was considered to be more valuable than currency, given the wartime upheaval, according to one document.

    A description of the church from its addition to the National Register of Historic Places describes it as 35 feet by 30 feet, with pews that were “simple, apparently locally made, of indeterminate but early age.” It refers to a “rebuilding” of the church in 1893 and of evidence that different, taller windows once graced the west side of the building.

    The description also includes the cherry and walnut pulpit, ornate Victorian stoves used to heat the building, and “lambs’-tongue chamfers” on four posts supporting the church’s gallery.

    The same document also refers to the floors of the church being wide pine boards, but adds that “legend states there is a brick floor below.” Other documents refer to the possibility that John Dagworthy, after whom the town of Dagsboro is named, is buried beneath the church — but that claim has been disputed over the years.

    Oil lamps lined the edge of the church, and tin candle sconces — some of which are now at Ocean View Presbyterian Church — had been attached to posts in the church gallery.

    In a letter dated Sept. 22, 1921, Blackwater’s last pastor, the Rev. P. K. Vanderkam, wrote “with a mixed feeling of just pride and sadness,” that the church’s remaining members would transfer to the Frankford Presbyterian Church a few miles to the west.

    Christmas services were held at the church into the 1990s. Tunnell said family members have been married in the church, and family reunions were once held there. Many of Robert Tunnell Jr.’s ancestors are buried in the brick-walled church yard — the most famous of whom was U.S. Sen. James. M. Tunnell, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1940 to 1946.

    “Our family has got a big stake in the church,” Tunnell said. “We are trying to figure out what the next stages are” for the property, he said.

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    According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million people per year in this country are abused by a domestic partner; 20,000 calls are made each day to domestic violence hotlines; and 276 people have died from gun-related domestic violence acts this year.

    Of course, real life is not a simple collection of raw numbers and data. It’s often much more “real” than that.

    “Most of the time, when an officer responds [to a domestic situation], he is tasked with peace- keeping, and then he has to make himself available to handle other complaints,” said Officer David Moyer of the Millsboro Police Department.

    “He does whatever is expedient for that moment in time, and a lot of times that is separating parties or coming up with some other kind of peace-keeping solution — but we aren’t solving the core issues of the problem.

    “The program here allows the officer to go above and beyond what the officer on the road can do,” continued Moyer. “It’s not family counseling, but in a way it is, because we’re trying to help fix that core issue.”

    The program Moyer is describing is a new effort by the Millsboro Police Department to improve the manner in which the department responds to domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

    The effort was birthed, Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway said, when he realized his officers would show up to a complaint, and then show up again at court — and that was their only contact with the families or homes. Calloway began hunting for federal grants that could help his department allocate one officer to do “follow-ups” with people in those periods between a horrible incident and a court date.

    It was through his research that he discovered the Criminal Justice Council in Wilmington.

    “The way this works is they first say, ‘We need to look at the numbers. What type of cases? How many cases are you handling annually?’” explained Calloway. “Then they could determine from that what they could do to help. From that data, they said we didn’t have enough cases to fund it totally, but they would fund some of the salary and benefits. So, the Town reviewed this and decided to accept the grant.”

    Any Millsboro officer can respond to a call, as was always the case. But, now, according to Calloway, officers will forward the domestic-violence cases to the one officer dedicated to the calls, and he will then make contact with both parties.

    “It’s not going to be one or another, or picking sides,” explained Calloway. “It’s both parties, so we could find out if there’s something we could provide. It could be something as simple as providing a phone number to social services. It could be helping with transportation issues to meet court dates. It could be resources, such as someone needing food.”

    Calloway has also rediscovered just how generous the people and businesses of Millsboro can be when someone needs a hand. He said the Christian Storehouse has partnered with the police to help donate food. Others have donated things including new locks for a home.

    “For us to be able to buy new locks, that’s a little more difficult than just running out and buying locks — there’s an audit trail,” he explained. “We found that many of our businesses were willing to donate these things. It’s really just a great program, and that’s just one side of it.” Calloway also pointed out that the officer in the Millsboro Police Department is also tasked with providing assistance in sexual-assault cases. It is easier on the victims with one officer being charged with these tasks, according to Calloway, because that is just one officer for the victim to know and be comfortable with, as opposed to being shuffled from one officer to another.

    The officer will go to training in Texas this August, and then a sexual assault seminar in September. And it will not be some cushy position.

    “Oftentimes, when we respond to these situations, it’s the result of something that’s been brewing for months,” said Calloway. “And we are just brought into the middle of these situations and have to try to figure out what’s going on.

    “We don’t know about conversations that happened three months ago, or actions that happened three months ago. We know what happened right then. It can be a dangerous position, because you just don’t know what you’re getting involved in. I’d say domestics are some of the most dangerous situations a police officer can find himself in.”

    Calloway said he knows his officers won’t be able to solve domestic violence or sexual assaults in the town by creating a new position, but he hopes they can help.

    “The real hope of this program is to let the public know that we have resources to help them when they need them,” said Calloway. “So, the hope is if you are a victim... that victim would know we have resources and can help them in the future. Victims know we are going to stay involved throughout the entire process.”

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    Following the mailing of this year’s property tax bills, the Town of Ocean View has been receiving feedback from some property owners.

    For its 2019-fiscal-year budget, the council had previously voted unanimously to increase property tax by 50 percent — down from the 100 percent increase that had initially been proposed. In an effort to save the Town money, they also switched from using the Town’s own assessed values for properties to those of Sussex County.

    “The issue of raising Town taxes 50 percent, while controversial, is defensible, and we, the town council, have all given our reasons for why it was necessary. We have not changed our position on the 50 percent increase,” said Mayor Walter Curran this week.

    “What has caused great consternation is the second part — switching to the County valuations, which has caught everyone, including this council, by surprise. In many conversations with County officials, among ourselves and in public meetings, we talked about there being some differences from one household to another, but we thought those differences would be relatively minor.

    “Furthermore, no one foresaw variances where some households got increases of 100 percent or more and others got a reduction in taxes. That was never the intent of the town council. We felt that the burden would be shared equally amongst all property owners.”

    Curran said that for individual households that have requested review of the new assessments, the calculations have all been correct. He noted that a master list is being worked on and should be completed soon.

    “The master list will ultimately show a comparison of every property on the Town rolls, between what the 2018 Ocean View valuation and assessment was and what the 2019 County valuation and assessment is.”

    Curran said the Town is also looking at the ramifications, both financial and legal, of possibly switching back to its old system of assessments.

    “As mayor, my job is to lead, and when the subject of saving the Town $250,000 over five years arose, I said, ‘Let’s investigate it.’ Clearly, we did not investigate thoroughly.

    “I accept blame for not doing proper due diligence on the extent of the variables between the two systems, but two wrongs don’t make a right. So, as we proceed on this, we will take whatever time necessary to research and vet every possible contingency before making any further changes.”

    It is important to not disrupt the cash flow structure of the Town, he added, noting that tax bills that have been received by property owners “are valid and remain an obligation.”

    Councilman Frank Twardzik said he, too, expected the switch to save the Town money.

    “We were all under the impression we were saving the Town money,” he said, noting that the switch seemed like a “no-brainer.” “I echo your sentiments, Mr. Mayor.”

    “This is just indicative of switching from one system to another…” said Councilman Berton Reynolds. “We need to work going forward. It needs to be corrected.”

    Bear Trap resident Kent Liddle said he had seen an 85 percent increase in his tax bill, and that many of his neighbors had seen the same.

    “I think it needs to be fair,” he said. “My concern is — which I expressed to Mayor Curran — I think you jumped in really quick… Maybe our system wasn’t really so bad. Frankly, every time I’ve had to deal with the County, it’s always an issue, it’s always a problem.

    “In the future, if we wanted to go and protest our tax bill … we have to go to the County now. To me, you are our leadership. That type of reassessment should be handled at the Town level, not at the County level… I hope you follow through. I don’t like the 50 percent. I’ve accepted the 50, but I don’t want to pay 85 percent.”

    Ocean View resident Dennis Supik said in breaking down his County tax bill of $1,400, after monies are taken out for schools, libraries, sewer assessments, et cetera, only $144 goes to County administration.

    “So I’m paying $144 to run all of Sussex County, and my last tax bill was $1,006 to run Ocean View? … Just a comment: That just kind of seems crazy.”

    Resident Ann Scolari said she believed the Town could save money by not having a K-9 unit.

    Sgt. Sidney Ballentine said K-9 Hardy is used “all the time.”

    “He’s definitely a force-multiplier,” said Ballentine. “People have told us they would’ve ran, but they saw the dog or heard him bark… If we work two days, I call him out at least once to do a scan on a vehicle.”

    Ballentine said Hardy is also used outside of town limits, as a County and State asset.

    “He’s the only K-9 on this side of the county,” said Ballentine. “He’s utilized to find dementia patients, runaways — not to mention people who run away from traffic stops. For my safety, he’s invaluable.”

    Scolari also brought up concerns about the police department’s bicycle patrol program.

    “They’re not fully dedicated bike officers,” explained Ballentine. “If you’re going to have concerts in the park, they’ll be more nimble. If you go through the golf course … the bike is silent and, for the most part, they don’t see you coming until you’re right up on them smoking weed or stealing from your car.”

    Ballentine said the department’s mountain bikes, as is also the case with its ATV, are not used every day but are an asset to the Town.

    “But they are things we spend money on,” said Scolari.

    “Yes, ma’am — but if you were injured on the Assawoman Canal and nobody could get to you, and I rode up to you on the ATV and could put you in it, it would be money well spent.”

    Property owner Ray Wockley addressed the council to emphasize the importance of seeking financing outside of town limits. Wockley showed the council a map of the municipality and its surrounding area, noting that, while there are 7,561 addresses served by the postal service in the 19970 ZIP code, only 2,900 tax bills were sent out by the Town.

    Noting that in the month of May the police department assisted Delaware State Police on 30 calls outside of town limits, Wockley said the Town should be receiving more compensation for its help.

    “We should be getting $100,000 from Sussex County.”

    Curran said the idea of a regional police force is something the Town is still actively pursuing, but it cannot happen overnight.

    “We can make our case, and we’ve been making our case,” said Curran.

    Drainage issues in Avon Park discussed

    Nicole Kelly of Avon Park had submitted a proposal to the Town asking for financial help to pay for longstanding drainage issues in the development.

    Kelly said the development has a “constant drainage issue that gets worse and worse.” By working with the Sussex Conservation District, the Town is eligible for a cost-sharing program that would pay for half of the work — helping eight parcels. The Town would need to agree to pay approximately $6,000 to run piping underground that would tie into a nearby tax ditch.

    Curran thanked Kelly for her work and said that, on face value, the idea seems simple. He added that the Town couldn’t agree to the program at that evening’s meeting.

    “We have to determine who is responsible,” said Curran, regarding drainage. “From a technical point … all of this is purely personal property. … It’s all in your yards, except where the streets are.

    “For that reason, tonight I’m saying no, I’m not going to say yes, as one member of the council here. But I think we need to discuss that in a relatively short timeframe. Going forward, is it worth it to do it, even though it’s technically outside of the scope of the Town’s responsibility?”

    Town Manager Dianne Vogel said she has been trying to go through old meeting minutes related to the Avon Park annexation in 2002. Documents from Planning & Zoning meetings from that time were found that indicate that developers Gulfstream and Bob Harris attended meetings, and an ordinance was adopted to bring the development into the Town with “very strict exceptions and costs.”

    “Do the taxpayers of Ocean View want to start paying for individual HOAs when there were specifics set out for what would be covered and what wouldn’t? Therein lies where I need help.”

    Vogel said she does not have the staff to dig through all the documents to find the information and would love to get some volunteers — perhaps retired librarians familiar with research.

    Kelly noted that while the Town has money budgeted for Avon Park drainage projects in 2020, the cost-sharing proposal is only good for six months.

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    Coastal Point • Jason Feather: Bob ‘The General’ Knight stopped in at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company to voice his support of Rob Arlett.Coastal Point • Jason Feather: Bob ‘The General’ Knight stopped in at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company to voice his support of Rob Arlett.A coaching legend made a stop in the area last week, taking the opportunity to offer his support for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Arlett.

    Former Army, Indiana University and Texas Tech floor boss Bob “The General” Knight spoke to a large contingent of Arlett supporters inside the Millville Volunteer Fire Company engine room. Knight was there to show his support for Arlett, as well as President Donald J. Trump.

    “One thing to be sure of, folks — when you’re the man or lady in charge, be in charge,” Knight joked with the crowd prior to embarking on a 45-minute conversation with the local residents. “You’ve got a wonderful state. You’ve got a lot of wonderful people here. You’ve got a lot of Americans, and we need all the Americans we can have.

    “One of the things that I think that I always really appreciated was to get the chance to really get to know our current president. The reason I say that is because here’s a guy running for the president… this is America that we’re concerned about. Let’s get it working for America.”

    Knight made several jokes throughout the event about his time coaching, including how “whenever I was at Army, we always beat Navy” as a way of having fun with Arlett’s U.S. Navy family. Someone in the crowd responded, “Let’s play football,” which got a loud laugh from group.

    For Arlett, having a man of Knight’s stature speak on his behalf was a chance he couldn’t turn down.

    “We have a vision to do good things here in Delaware,” Arlett said. “All of you care about your country. All of you care about Delaware. We are truly honored to have Coach here tonight. He is here just for us, just for you.

    “I believe that our great state of Delaware is in need of great change, and we are going to do it for you.”

    Arlett will be hosting another Community Town Hall event coming up on Tuesday, July 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company, located at 30 N. Main Street.

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    The downtown streets of Bethany Beach will be filled with participants in this year’s Bethany Beach Lifesaving 5K on Sunday, June 24.

    The event will also feature a separate beach patrol competition before the race to find out who the “Fastest Beach Patrol Team” on the Delaware beaches is. The winner of the beach patrol event will earn the right to hold onto the Ed Dean Cup for a year.

    All proceeds from the event each year benefit the Capt. Ed Dean Scholarship Foundation.

    The race committee promotes the race as a one that is “flat, fast and gentle turns through the streets of downtown Bethany Beach.”

    Participants of all ages are welcome to run or walk, and strollers are also welcome.

    Racers are able to pick up their packets, or make any last-second race registrations, beginning at 6:15 a.m. on June 24. The Beach Patrol One-Mile Race Competition begins at 7:15 a.m., with the Ed Dean 5K Run/Walk following afterward, at 7:30 a.m.

    An after-party with awards will take place on the Bethany bandstand, located at the end of Garfield Parkway, around 8 a.m.

    Awards will be given out to the overall top male and female finishers, as well at the top Masters (40 or older) male and female finishers. There are also age-group awards, beginning with 9-&-under and including 10-13, 14-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70-&-up.

    Last year’s top overall winner was Andrew Cavaliere, a 33-year-old racer from Fairfax, Va. The top female race finisher was 22-year-old Melaney Heald of Ocean View.

    For more on the race and to view the results following the competition, check out the website at

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    The 7th Annual Paddle Second Chance (PSC) event will take place Saturday, June 23, at Holt’s Landing State Park near Millville.

    Over the past six years, the PSC has raised more than $140,000 with its paddleboarding event for Operation Second Chance (OSC), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving wounded veterans and their families as they recover and transition back to active duty or civilian life. There are more than 39 families and 66 children that have been part of OSC in the area.

    The races will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, with an awards ceremony and community picnic taking place afterwards. In the event there is inclement weather or water conditions are deemed unsafe, the event will take place the following day, on Sunday, June 24.

    There are three levels for racers to compete in, with more than $5,000 in cash and gifts being awarded to the top three performing athletes in each division and board class. The three divisions include the Elite (5.0 miles), Open (2.5 miles) and Sprint (1.0 miles). Racers will be able to compete using SUP, surf-ski, or kayak. Each division and board class must have at least five registered participants to qualify for awards.

    Anyone wishing to register on the day of the event may do so for $70. The top racer and group that raise the most funds will receive a special award.

    OSC Honorary Chairperson Harry Bologna will be participating in the race with his daughter. Bologna is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL with more than 22 years of special-operations experience. While serving, Bologna was stationed in South and Central America, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. His tours in the Middle East covered both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    During his time on active duty, he was awarded several distinguished honors, including a Bronze Star with Valor, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals.

    “We are honored to have such a decorated war hero on our team, and we’re well on our way to topping last year’s record of 150 paddlers to reach this year’s $50,000 fundraising goal.” OSC Delmar Chairperson Walt Ellenberger stated. “We encourage you to get on board for a cause that truly impacts the lives of our wounded warriors and their families.”

    For sponsorship information and paddler registration, visit Follow Coastal Point sports on social media with #PSC2018 via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates.

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    DonawayDonawayRecent Indian River High School graduate Collin Donaway will be participating in this weekend’s Blue-Gold Game at the University of Delaware. The game benefits the Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens (DFRC).

    The Blue-Gold High School participants include ambassadors, band members, cheerleaders and football players. All of them play a role in the success the DFRC Blue-Gold program, and the DFRC mission to “enrich the lives of Delawareans with intellectual disABILITIES.”

    “It is truly an honor to be a part of this game,” Donaway said from his dorm at the University of Delaware between practices on Tuesday. “I am happy to be able to wear the IR helmet one last time in this game.”

    Donaway will be attending DelTech in the fall, and will be working toward becoming a paramedic. He is a member of the Gold team, and will be wearing No. 73 for the game, which is Saturday, June 23.

    Players in the Blue-Gold Game are nominated by their own high school head football coach, and then approved by their school’s athletic director and principal through a character verification process. All-State or All-Conference athletes are not automatically selected to play in the Blue-Gold Game.

    All players nominated must meet Blue-Gold character standards. The Blue and Gold head coaches, selected by the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association (DIFCA), then select team players to play in the game from the nominees submitted.

    “I found out about being selected after receiving a text message from my coach,” Donaway said of coach Phil Townsend. “We are up here [at UD] all week for practices twice a day. It’s been a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to the game.”

    Three dozen players are selected for each team. The Blue Team consists of players from most of the high schools in New Castle County. The Gold Team comprises players from all high schools in Kent and Sussex counties, as well as the Christina and Appoquinimink District high schools.

    Each high school with a Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association-sanctioned football team that has qualified seniors will have at least one representative on a Blue-Gold squad each year; however, no school may have more than four representatives in a single year.

    Many of the students take part in the Hand-in-Hand program, where they are matched with children and young adults — Blue-Gold All-Star Buddies — to share their Blue-Gold experience leading up to game day.

    Each month of the program, there are statewide events — a dance party, a bowling outing, a picnic, and more — that are organized by the DFRC Blue-Gold Committee. Participants and buddies often get together between events to see movies, go to school events, or just talk and hang out together.

    For more information on DFRC, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, or like their page on Facebook.

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    A couple of Indian River student-athletes have continued on with the all-star circuit well after their scholastic seasons have ended.

    Baseball players J.J. Killen and Jacob Anderson were recently part of the Delaware South team that competed in the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2018 Carpenter Cup High School baseball showcase up at FDR Park.

    Killen and Anderson will both be seniors next year for IR, and both said they were very happy for the opportunity to play on such a select stage with fellow Southern Delaware teammates.

    “It was a good experience to be able to travel to Philadelphia,” said Killen, who played first base for the Delaware South squad. “To be able to play in front of many scouts was good, too.”

    Killen made two plate appearances in the two games. During Friday’s 8-6 win over Delaware County (Pa.), he had a game-tying double in the bottom of the seventh inning. In his at-bat in Monday’s 4-3 elimination setback to Burlington County (N.J.), Killen popped out to right field.

    “It was a lot of fun,” Anderson said of the experience. “Of course we wanted to go further, but there is always next year. It was great exposure to be playing in front of all the scouts.”

    For the two games, Anderson started in centerfield and batted leadoff. During the scrimmage prior to the tournament, he batted 3-for-5 with a home run and a couple of RBIs, though he wasn’t able to collect a hit in his four at-bats during the two tournament games.

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    The Town of Ocean View will be hosting Delmarva Big Band as part of its Concerts in the Park series, on Friday, June 22, at 6 p.m. It is the second consecutive year that the big-band group has performed at John West Park, which is located at 32 West Avenue.

    Delmarva Big Band, formerly known as the Len Glazier Orchestra, was established in 2005. The orchestra consists of 18 musicians: four trumpeters, four trombonists, five saxophonists, a full rhythm section of piano, bass, guitar and drums, and a vocalist. The band performs contemporary and classical music.

    If it rains, the Town will try to reschedule the concert, depending on the availability of the band. Town Clerk Donna Schwartz said the Town strives to make the concert series an enjoyable event for all members of the community.

    “We usually have a good crowd, between 500 and 600 people,” said Schwartz.

    Concertgoers are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets to spread out on the lawn for a comfortable evening.

    In years past, Boy Scout Troop 281 has sold concessions at the concerts. This year, those attending can purchase hot dogs, sodas and water from Cub Scout Pack 280 from Ocean View. The Town plans to also have an ice cream truck on site for the show.

    There are three more concerts scheduled in the series. The 287th Army Band will take the stage on June 30, while OverTime will perform on July 13, and the Jean Lenke Band will play on Aug. 10. All concerts are from 6 to 8 p.m.

    Concerts and parking are free. For more information, visit or contact Donna Schwartz at (302) 539-9797.

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    Coastal Point • File Photo: A group of international students pose for a photo during a past picnic at Saint Martha’s Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach.Coastal Point • File Photo: A group of international students pose for a photo during a past picnic at Saint Martha’s Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach.Each summer, Bethany Beach and many neighboring towns fill the staff of local businesses with international student-workers. The students come from all over for a summer experience in the States, and Martha Fields at Saint Martha’s Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach makes sure to welcome the students with a picnic.

    On June 26, starting at 5:30 p.m., Saint Martha’s Church is inviting all the international student-workers over for food, drinks and conversation to truly welcome them both to the country and to Bethany Beach.

    Fields said they have been “involving them with a welcoming group of people so they come in with a good first impression of the country.” The students are welcomed by volunteers and members of the church to a picnic in the Social Hall of the church.

    Anyone who wishes to volunteer can arrive at the Social Hall early to help set up and to help make it a experience memorable for the students.

    Though the event truly starts at 5:30, the international students are encouraged to come over as soon as their schedule allows. If their work schedule is keeping them until later, they can feel free to come over whenever is convenient.

    An exciting piece of any event is to see familiar faces, and it’s not uncommon for international students from prior years to come back to the picnic because when they left the country the prior year they had such a positive attitude about it that they wanted to come back, said Fields.

    While handing out fliers to promote the event, Fields went to many local businesses and came across many people who were once international student-workers and who had attended the event during their first summer. They have come back and acquired jobs, such as bartending and even becoming a state trooper.

    Martha Fields said she aims to make the international students feel a warm and positive welcome and wants them to have a place that for them to feel comfortable going if they ever need anything throughout the summer. The picnic is held at Saint Martha’s Church, at the corner of Maplewood Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Bethany Beach.

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    Coastal Point • Darin J. McCann: Sergio and Ruben Palazzo in their family-owned shop, Ocean View Jewelers. The shop specializes in custom jewelry and customer service.Coastal Point • Darin J. McCann: Sergio and Ruben Palazzo in their family-owned shop, Ocean View Jewelers. The shop specializes in custom jewelry and customer service.Ruben Palazzo has been designing and creating custom jewelry for more than 40 years. And while he’s still surrounded at work by many of his creations, he actually now gets to work alongside two of his most significant creations — his son, Sergio Palazzo, and his daughter, Alessandra Mauser.

    “Oh, yes,” said Ruben. “It’s very nice.”

    Ocean View Jewelers opened its doors last June, and the Palazzo family has grown fond of the town, as well as their customers.

    “Ocean View is fantastic,” said Sergio, the COO of Ocean View Jewelers. “The customers here are awesome. We love them, and it feels like we just fit perfect here. We have a lot of return customers, and I think people feel at home with us when they come in to the store. We now know a lot of our clients on a personal basis, so I’ll remember them when they come in and what they like.”

    Ruben has been doing jewelry design and creation for decades, and he learned it himself from his uncles, who were jewelers in Italy. For many years, he did repair work for other jewelers in Delmarva, servicing several stores from Berlin, Md., to Lewes. Eventually, he decided to open his new shop with his family and cut out the middleman.

    “It’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” said a smiling Sergio.

    Creative design is a hallmark of Ocean View Jewelers. They use a CAD system to design unique pieces digitally and then use a 3-D printer to print out the designs. Each stone is hand- picked and set individually, giving customers an individualized piece of jewelry, and at a reasonable cost, to boot.

    “Custom pieces are not that much more expensive than going into a store and just buying a piece,” said Sergio. “And, this way, it’s your piece. Nobody else in the world has it, because you designed it, or you came up with the idea and helped us design it.

    “Jewelry is not something you’re going to wear for a couple years,” continued Sergio. “It’s going to be something you’re going to wear for almost all of your life. And then your kids are going to wear it, and, hopefully, it goes down the line for generations.”

    Coastal Point • Darin J. McCann A sample of the jewelry in Ocean View Jewelers, which also offers custom pieces.Coastal Point • Darin J. McCann A sample of the jewelry in Ocean View Jewelers, which also offers custom pieces.The family said they stand behind every piece of jewelry they sell and that the store does clean- and-polish services for free, and they will check the mountings on the jewels. Ruben pointed out that customer service is their top goal, because that leads to satisfied customers.

    “If a customer isn’t walking out of here smiling...” said Sergio.

    “Or crying,” interjected Ruben with a laugh.

    “Yes, or crying,” Sergio answered, laughing himself. “We’ve had two people actually walk out of here feeling so happy they were crying. You know you brought that piece of jewelry to life for them. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. We are really here to help people. Making money is obviously nice, but we love helping people.”

    Alessandra is the CFO of the store and handles all the financials. Ruben, besides being the patriarch of the family and the master jeweler, is the CEO. Sergio said another younger brother will be getting into the business soon as well.

    “It’s very exciting to work with family,” said Sergio. “And to do it here... it is wonderful. We couldn’t be happier.”

    Ocean View Jewelers is located at 59 Atlantic Avenue (Route 26), Suite 2. They can be reached at (302) 537-1121, or on Facebook at

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  • 06/21/18--12:24: Looking up
  • Coastal Point • Laura Walter: The Selbyville Post Office mural was installed in 1942, showing a slice of Delmarva life.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: The Selbyville Post Office mural was installed in 1942, showing a slice of Delmarva life.Some people never look up when they enter Selbyville Post Office. But look up, and you’ll see an idyllic mural depicting Delmarva farm life in the 1940s.

    The mural shows a girl surrounded by chickens, a man nearby and farmhouse with horses in the background.

    Look a little closer, and you’ll see water damage starting to consume the ceiling and walls nearby.

    Now, the Selbyville Community Club has stepped up to protect the mural and help ensure its historic impact remains for years to come.

    “We want to make sure we can do everything possible to protect that mural,” said Dawn LeKites.

    The club contacted the U.S. Postal Service and Delaware’s U.S. Congressional delegation for more support and action.

    “Selbyville Community Club wants to put the spotlight on a unique piece of public art that is often seen but rarely appreciated,” they wrote.

    The mural and the brick building itself are an impressive show of federal support in a small town.

    “It was recovery from the Great Depression that we got this federal building,” LeKites said.

    The 1940 building itself put people back to work during the New Deal, and the 1942 mural was intended to bring art to the people and boost morale after the Depression. Around 1,500 postal and other federal facilities were planned as part of the effort. But only a handful got murals, which were supposed to depict life in their local communities.

    Originally, Selbyville’s mural was supposed to be a mill and waterwheel, according to an old Life magazine article. But artist William H. Calfee must have had other thoughts when he visited Sussex County, where the broiler chicken industry was helping people survive the Depression. He pained the idyllic “Chicken Farm” instead.

    Rumor has it that Franklin Roosevelt’s administration helped secure the building as a thank-you for then-postmaster and political delegate Inga Tubbs.

    “She was so helpful in getting FDR get the nomination, he patted her back with the federal post office in Selbyville. That’s the story that goes around, anyway,” LeKites said.

    Selbyville also had a busy postal service and agricultural concerns, including the old Bunting Nursery, which shipped seeds and plants all over the country.

    LeKites hopes to put the building (which still serves its original mission) on the National Register of Historic Places.

    That could be years away, but the Selbyville Community Club is off to a good start with its efforts. LeKites was surprised to receive a USPS response within a week of her initial letter.

    “The United States Postal Service intends to engage a contractor to investigate water intrusion issues,” LeKites reported. “So I’m hoping there’s not just a standoff, but somebody is going to take action. They said a contractor would be here to look over the situation and make any necessary repairs. We hope that will take place.”

    Mayor Clifton Murray has offered Town Hall’s services, if needed.

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    Special to the Coastal Point • Christina Weaver: The northern most breeding colony of pelicans in the eastern United States is located on Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Delmarva Birding Weekends organizes a day-trip to the island to view the bird population and learn about the local wildlife.Special to the Coastal Point • Christina Weaver: The northern most breeding colony of pelicans in the eastern United States is located on Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Delmarva Birding Weekends organizes a day-trip to the island to view the bird population and learn about the local wildlife.Smith Island sits in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. It is a day-trip away. It’s a visit to a back-in-time way-of-life. And, in the summer, it almost seems like a window to Jurassic Park.

    “The babies look like little pterodactyls!” Barbara Hetler Robert from Ocean Pines, Md., posted on Facebook.

    Robert was referring to brown pelican chicks whose parents have formed part of the northernmost breeding colony in the eastern United States. The pelican colony, intermingled with families of double-crested cormorants, is situated on an island clump of marsh on the periphery of Smith Island.

    Hundreds of pelicans, wearing their distinctive breeding plumage, make a wondrous and memorable scene. They were caring for chicks of all stages of growth and took no notice of fascinated interlopers peering at them from skiffs. And, back and forth, adult pelicans would fly in with full beaks of regurgitated fish — the perfect food for their offspring.

    “Let’s just sit here for half an hour or so and take it all in,” said Jim Rapp.

    And that’s just what a group of participants with Delmarva Birding Weekends did. They sat quietly, took lots of photos, listened to the gentle lap of water and had their questions answered. For one, it was the fulfillment of a bucket-list wish.

    Taking the time to relish the whole experience is time built into Rapp’s schedule for the day.

    “Our goal is not to get as many people in and out of Smith Island as quickly as possible,” said Rapp. “We want them to develop a bond with the island, meet some of the residents whose families have lived there for centuries, visit the small towns of Tylerton and Ewell, experience the cuisine, see and hear unfamiliar shorebirds, and return on time to the mainland, feeling their money was well-spent.”

    Rapp is co-principal, along with Dave Wilson, of Conservation Community Consulting (CCC) based in Berlin, Md. Together they have around 50 years of experience in wildlife, conservation and nature tourism. Rapp, for example, was the former director of the Salisbury Zoo, and Wilson was the executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

    Delmarva Birding Weekends is one of the programs offered by CCC. The day-long Brown Pelican Colony/Smith Island excursions, as well as its three-hour Sunset Seabird Safaris, are scheduled throughout the summer, and early registration is advised. The next opportunities to see the nesting brown pelicans with them are Thursday, June 28, and Friday, June 29.

    It takes about an hour and a half to drive from Ocean View to Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, Md. That’s where one meets the professional bird guide from Delmarva Birding and is introduced to the captain of the Barbara Ann II. The boat ride to Smith Island takes about 45 minutes. Each trip’s departure time varies according to the tide, due to the shallow waters surrounding the island.

    Apart from seeing the pelicans, another highlight of the trip is lunch (included in the registration fee) at Tylerton’s only restaurant and store, Drum Point Market. Owned by Duke Marshall — whose family was amongst the first settlers on the island 400 years ago — the front porch-style restaurant has received rave reviews from Food Network and Coastal Living magazines.

    The crabcakes — made with crabs caught hours earlier — and the famous Smith Island cake made by Marshall’s mom are the best. In fact, the opportunity to actually watch Mrs. Marshall making the specially-ordered cakes in her kitchen is an added bonus.

    Promptly, according to the schedule, one arrives back at the dock in Crisfield, happy and exhausted from an active, wind-blown day.

    For the Sunset Seabird Safaris, Delmarva Birding, along with seasoned boat captain Brad McCabe, offers trips in the bays behind Ocean City, Md., and Assateague Island. From the boat one sees nesting herons, egrets and glossy ibis, as well as migrating shorebirds, state-endangered royal terns, black skimmers and many more. The tour departs from the West Ocean City Harbor boat ramp.

    Some of the participants in Delmarva Birding Weekends are serious birders who come equipped with all the gear. But this is not necessary. All that is asked is to enjoy nature, be interested in learning more about conservation and show respect for the environment in which our amazing local birds live and breed.

    “Dave and I saw a change in America’s conservation culture,” said Rapp. “It used to be hunters and sportsmen who primarily supported nature conservation through the purchase of duck stamps. The trend now is for people who just want to connect with nature, take photographs, go kayaking and learn from professional naturalists.

    “We are offering small boutique experiences that are memorable for the participants and economically helpful to the charter-boat and skiff captains, watermen and restaurant workers. We make sure there is enough time for people to visit the museum in Ewell and the church in Tylerton. We want Smith Islanders to see us as guests who are grateful for giving us a glimpse into their unique way of life and the beauty and fragility of their surroundings.”

    Jennifer Idzi is the coordinator of the Institute, a learning center for residents in the community of Bayside in West Fenwick. A small contingent of Baysiders joined a recent Brown Pelican/Smith Island expedition.

    “Both Dave and Jim have come to Bayside to conduct birdwatching walks in our community,” said Idzi. “They are very professional to work with, and so nice and friendly. When they told me about the opportunity to see a pelican colony, I knew we would be interested, but I didn’t realize just how extraordinary the day would be. One of our group said it was one of those life experiences she will never forget.”

    More Delmarva Birding tours are scheduled in June, July and August. The registration fee for the Brown Pelican Colony/Smith Island tour is $185 per person. The Sunset Seabird Safari costs $75 per person or $400 for a group of six. To learn more Conservation Community Consulting, Delmarva Birding and to register, go to

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    Coastal Point • Kerin Magill: Richard Syphard has teaching in his blood — and now he is the Millsboro Middle School Teacher of the Year.Coastal Point • Kerin Magill: Richard Syphard has teaching in his blood — and now he is the Millsboro Middle School Teacher of the Year.Chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad. Civil Rights. The purpose and power of government. International trade. Information sources. The U.S. Constitution.

    Sounds like an average day’s news coverage, right? Well, yes. But it’s also an average day in Richard Syphard’s seventh-grade social studies class at Millsboro Middle School.

    Syphard — Millsboro Middle’s Teacher of the Year — was also one of three finalists for Indian River School District 2018 Teacher of the Year.

    A 2012 graduate of the University of Delaware and a Sussex County native, he has been teaching in his old stomping grounds for six years. Syphard attended Lord Baltimore Elementary School, then Southern Delaware School of the Arts, and graduated in 2008 from Sussex Technical High School.

    Not only is the area familiar, but the career path is one that Syphard figures is in his blood. His father, John Syphard, is now retired but taught at Southern Delaware School of the Arts and Indian River High School for many years.

    At U.D., Syphard studied social studies education with a concentration in history.

    “When I started researching and studying and spending time in the library, I really liked social studies; it was just a good fit,” he said. “It was something that I could keep learning and then share my passion with others, and that’s what made it stick, I think.”

    “We’re humans, and it’s just the study of trying to understand why we do what we do,” Syphard continued. But that’s not all. Social studies involves studying other cultures. Cultures include food, he said, “and I like food, and we get to talk about food, and that’s a good connection for me.”

    He said he felt a connection with his college history professors; their curiosity about the world resonated with him.

    “The social studies professors, the history professors, were always the most interesting to me. They’re always characters, and I like that,” Syphard said.

    The intersection of social studies and seventh grade, he said, makes his job particularly satisfying.

    “I feel like, with seventh-graders, they’re starting to think in a mature way but still have the energy of children. I think that if you can harness that energy, it can be really fun in the classroom.”

    Syphard works each day to engage his students in the world around them, to get them thinking about a whole world of topics.

    “We start each day with a thought question, to get the kids going,” he said. “It’s always something that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer, so I get them thinking outside the box — something with some opinions, something that they can talk about — and then we have a discussion.”

    He said one of his favorite classroom activities is “Project Citizen,” a civics project in which students research a “problem in their community. It could be as local as their town or neighborhood… They start to brainstorm solutions to the problem, and then we teach them how to get involved in the public policy-making process,” Syphard said. “We start to figure out who our local representatives are, and start to get used to the process of how to solve our local problems.”

    The final project is a portfolio that contains contact information for government officials, as well as possible solutions to problems they have identified.

    “There’s something really satisfying about having a rambunctious energetic class under control,” Syphard said. With classes of about 35 students, he said, it makes for interesting times. “It’s really awesome to see 12-year-olds having academic conversations about civic participation and culture and societies,” he said. “Social studies allows me to present a problem and allow them to work it out.

    “We live in a complex world,” Syphard said, “and it’s refreshing to have them reflect on what’s happening in the world, because they don’t have a lot of preconceived notions. Their parents obviously affect their values and beliefs, but they approach a lot of these topics with fresh eyes, which is cool.”

    He said the give-and-take between teacher and students that he saw in his father’s classrooms while he was growing up was a catalyst toward his own career choice.

    “I guess I’m a chip off the old block,” he said.

    Syphard is about to begin pursuit of a doctorate in educational leadership, with an emphasis on district-level leadership, through Wilmington University. But he is already a leader in his building. As a team leader, Syphard helps make instructional decisions for the school and plans schoolwide events with the other team leaders.

    Team leaders are “kind of an intermediary between the administration and the team teachers,” he said. “I’m the one that organizes the initiatives, as far as curriculum and schoolwide initiatives and things like that.”

    Technology and data analysis is also something he enjoys and feels he can contribute to his school.

    “I’d like to also think that I’m the one they can come to for … technology things. For my team, I try to do a lot of the data analysis,” which includes behavioral-academic data, as well as test-score analysis. Looking at standardized test scores helps determine what areas specific students need extra help in, as well as “why they’re not growing” throughout the year, he said.

    In addition to the obvious influence from his father, Syphard said he found inspiration during his practicum at Christiana High School.

    “I think that’s where I realized the connection,” he said. “It felt real, and it felt important.”

    He recalled several teachers throughout his own educational journey who helped light that spark, and said that, in general, “I didn’t know a lot about it, didn’t understand it back then, but it’s all about relationship-building. The ones I can remember are the ones I had a strong relationship with. Then, also, the cool content helped me remember those good teachers.”

    He also said he learned some out-of-the-box teaching techniques from teachers he met from other parts of the world through his father’s work as founder of the SDSA steel drum band.

    “Some of the instructors we had from around the world were interesting, and their teaching styles were unique and different,” he said. “I think I picked up on some of those different ways of teaching, rather than your traditional classroom teaching. I think that influenced me.”

    Social studies has been such an important part of Syphard’s life that it actually brought him together with his wife, Kayla. She is a social studies teacher at Georgetown Middle School. Having been in the same social studies classes, “We realized we were on a similar track, and that’s where we hit it off,” he said.

    This summer, Syphard will also be back on the lifeguard stand at Ocean Village, as he’s been for the past 10 years.

    “That’s kind of encouraged me to take fitness seriously throughout the year,” he said of his summer job, “and staying in shape and running and weightlifting. That’s what I like to do.”

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    Coastal Point • Kerin Magill: The FORGE crew celebrated the opening of the program’s new location with an open house on Saturday, June 16.Coastal Point • Kerin Magill: The FORGE crew celebrated the opening of the program’s new location with an open house on Saturday, June 16.Three months, ago, FORGE Youth & Family Academy was in limbo, having been turned down by the Town of Selbyville in its attempt to move its youth center into a vacant property in the town.

    A lot can change in a few weeks.

    The center, which had been located in the House of Mercy on Route 113 south of Selbyville, was founded by husband-and-wife team Rob Shrieves and Tara Barrett three years ago this month. In that time, the couple have built a program that serves at-risk youth, first in Sussex County, and now, in several more.

    Having been stymied in Selbyville, in May, FORGE moved to a storefront in Pittsville, Md., about 10 minutes from Selbyville. The new location, Shrieves said, was located by one of the adult volunteers in the program.

    Thanks to other volunteers, the new site is now up and running. The center has been freshly painted and features a new stage, colorful lighting for the Friday-night gatherings, a small kitchen, an air hockey table, a big-screen TV, and plenty of room for photos of FORGE activities and storage for awards and trophies already accumulating on a new shelf.

    The kitchen, Shrieves said, has helped facilitate the program’s Friday-night meals, which have turned into lessons in how to eat a meal with other people, Shrieves said.

    “I didn’t realize how many kids didn’t eat together anymore,” Shrieves said. Thanks to the donation of a microwave, “We make sure they have wholesome food,” he said. “The kitchen is a key thing.”

    FORGE provides programs for youth who agree to attend weekly meetings, where they gather for fun and for support from adult volunteers, according to Shrieves.

    In addition to the weekly gatherings, members can attend activities, such as fishing trips and camping trips. And now that FORGE has its own bus, not only can youth from a wider area receive transportation to activities, but the group as a whole can go on day trips, such as a trip to Washington, D.C., now in planning stages, Shrieves said.

    The center now also has a piano, recently donated.

    “It does need tuning,” Shrieves said.

    He and Barrett are reaching out to area schools, resulting in a planned Bullying Summit for Wicomico County, Md., students. The idea came from a FORGE member who approached her school on her own, Shrieves said.

    The center also has its own music group, Exodus, which performs at area nursing homes.

    Because of donations, the move into the new center has cost the Shrieveses $300 total, Rob Shrieves said. That, he said, made up for the $1,000 they spent on application fees for their unsuccessful attempt to secure approval for the location in Selbyville.

    “We believe in repurposing everything,” Shrieves said, pointing to the stage, which was constructed from the program’s parade float. “We are very, very careful with what God has given us.”

    In addition to the meeting space, FORGE is also renting a space next door, which houses a thrift shop. Currently, the shop is divided into two parts, one which features used items and one that features new, donated items including custom-made mailboxes, T-shirts donated by a Fenwick Island beach sundries shop and colorful tote bags.

    In the coming months, Barrett said, the shop will begin to showcase items hand-crafted by teen FORGE members. “The line will be called “Hand Forged,” she said.

    Both Barrett and Shrieves said they have been overwhelmed with support, both from the community at large and the Town of Pittsville.

    “Pittsville has been wonderful to us,” Shrieves said.

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    In 2017, taxpayers approved a referendum that gave Indian River School District more money for various needs, including student organizations. Local students are constantly winning state competitions and earning a spot at national’s.

    But among the many groups and dozens of kids who traveled to national competition this year, none of them received any funding from that particular student organization budget that the district created.

    These aren’t sports teams, either. Many are academic-based groups that align with the student’s actual coursework, like Future Farmers of America, Business Professionals of America, robotics teams and more.

    It all began this winter when students began winning their state qualifiers, and coaches started asking the district headquarters for financial help, in addition to the usual fundraising.

    Suddenly the school board realized they never laid out specific rules for doling out money, but they wanted to. And in their indecision for how to handle each request, they have not contributed toward any student travel.

    “That has not been determined yet,” IRSD Business Director Jan Steele told Coastal Point.

    This spring, when teams began requesting funding, Steele suggested a general policy of up to $500 per student, per event.

    But instead of approving any funding for students, the school board got bogged down in what their long-term funding policy would be. What would their approach be? What were their funding priorities? Should they pay for student travel, or should that be a matter of fundraising?

    “This is supposed to be flexible money that the district would have available as … opportunities for students came up, year to year. But if it’s simply going to be used for travel year after year,” said board member Jim Fritz, concerned that clubs would stop fundraising if they knew easy money was available.

    “This may sound cold, but I’m not necessarily concerned about trying to pass something so quick to help the students right now because they’ve been raising money in the past,” Fritz said in April. “I would think they’ve been raising money this year for the trips they were planning.”

    But many first-time clubs were surprised to qualify for world finals this year, including several robotics teams and Educators Rising. They were just starting learning how to compete in a new program, never mind anticipating a need to fundraise.

    Of course, students are expected to fundraise, but it takes a lot of legs on the ground. Indian River High School routinely qualifies a dozen students for BPA national’s. IRSD has been represented by five teams at once in Odyssey of the Mind world finals.

    This month, the board will consider a draft funding procedure. Money would loosely be split between the first and second semesters. Schools would submit a list of all organizations that they feel should be eligible to receive funding support, and those groups would submit budget requests. As in all expenses, the board would make the final decision.

    IRSD School Board will discuss this issue further at their monthly board meeting on Monday, June 25, at 7 p.m. at Sussex Central High School.

    In the meantime, while the district decides how to dole out money, clubs were feeling the strain.

    When it comes to fundraising, “You do what you have to do to get them there” because it’s such a valuable experience, said IRHS counselor Stephanie Wilkinson.

    “It is tough to fundraise all hitting the same businesses,” she said. “Fortunately the businesses around here have been very supportive, but you feel bad going back to them constantly asking for more money.”

    She’s been on both sides of the table, as a former business owner and teacher advisor of IR’s very successful BPA team.

    While there are some state funds for registration and materials, IR School District has been reevaluating how to dole out money for competition and travel expenses. As a result, students who have earned trips to national competition were hitting the pavement harder than ever, requesting grants and donations from local businesses and civic groups.

    There are special state funds specifically for career-oriented groups, like FFA and BPA and their nursing or education equivalents. But that only covers supplies, not travel expenses.

    According to the 2017 current expense referendum, IRSD would earmark 8 cents of the 49-cent increase for transportation, technology, textbooks and student organizations. This is a general pot for those four needs.

    “It’s not broken down individually between those things because there could be a year we do a textbook adoption and we need a million dollars, and we have less money set aside for technology,” said Steele.

    “The total we have collected and received as of today is $1,192,460.22,” Steele told Coastal Point in early June.

    So far this fiscal year, half a million dollars went toward textbooks, with about $107,000 for bus cameras.

    As of May 31, $571,000 remained in the 8 cents account.

    “The idea is: one year it might be textbooks, the next year it might be technology, the next year it might be sports equipment … it’s just a matter of where I pull the dollars. … You don’t know from year to year what unexpected expense you might have,” said Steele, whose goal has been to build contingency funds.

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    Noting rapid changes impacting healthcare nationwide and in the community, Beebe Healthcare announced this week that it is already making some changes to plans for its strategic expansion projects that were announced in 2017.

    “Hospitals and health systems throughout the country have worked very hard over the past few years to transform the way that healthcare is delivered,” said Jeffrey M. Fried, FACHE, president and CEO, Beebe Healthcare. “Likewise, Beebe Healthcare has been transforming the way we provide care, too.

    “The future of healthcare includes more care being provided in convenient and efficient outpatient settings, and less care requiring an extended stay in a hospital,” Fried said.

    Through its efforts to broaden and elevate its outpatient care and keep people healthy, he noted, Beebe has successfully reduced the number of people who need to stay in the hospital since the peak in hospital admissions reached early last year.

    With a greater emphasis on outpatient care, he said, Beebe’s Board of Directors plans to enhance and expand access to advanced medical technologies and outpatient services, rather than proceeding with the construction of additional inpatient rooms on the Lewes campus.

    “We have thoughtfully considered the national, regional, and local factors that impact the utilization of healthcare services, including demographic changes, the increased prevalence of chronic disease, changes in technology and medical advancements, and population health management strategies that all reduce the rate of inpatient hospitalization,” Fried said.

    “After careful review, we strongly believe that this is the right approach to ensure that we can remain focused on providing the right mix of inpatient, outpatient and emergency care services to improve the health of the communities we serve, enhance patient experience, and provide care in the most cost effective and fiscally sound manner possible.”

    Fried said Beebe is considering the best uses for expansion funding, and as such, the $10 million donation from the Ma-Ran Foundation received last year will be used to make way for significant renovations on the Lewes campus, to better serve patients, visitors and caregivers, including expansion of the West Lobby, additional parking and remodeling of patient rooms. Many donors have proudly joined the Rollins family supporting Beebe’s expansion plans, he said.

    “I completely support the decision that Beebe is making with regard to the revised expansion plans and believe it is the right thing to do for the community. Our family is happy to have our gift support the renovation of the Lewes campus. We welcome the opportunity to transform this historic campus,” said Margaret H. “Peggy” Rollins.

    “The Ma-Ran Foundation has a strong and loyal commitment to Lewes, especially to Beebe Healthcare. For many years, we have supported numerous projects on the Lewes campus, most recently the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing,” said Amy Kreisler, executive director of the Ma-Ran Foundation.

    “We have been following the rapid changes in healthcare that are happening not only nationally, but locally. The Beebe Medical Foundation has been in constant communication with our family about these changes and the impact on the community. We agree with the new plans and look forward to enhancing the current Lewes campus, to be named after my mother.”

    Plans for the construction of other expansion projects will not be changing, Beebe representatives emphasized.

    Construction of the new South Coastal Campus in Millville is on schedule, they said, with groundbreaking planned for this fall and completion expected in 2020. That campus will include a freestanding emergency department with on-site imaging and be a second location for Beebe’s cancer program, offering medical oncology, chemotherapy and radiation oncology.

    Groundbreaking for the new Specialty Surgical Hospital on the Rehoboth Beach campus is planned for spring 2019, with completion projected for 2022. That facility will serve as the new hub for scheduled inpatient and outpatient surgical services, and be the future home of Beebe’s labor and delivery for women and newborn babies and the Center for Robotic Surgery.

    “This is an exciting time in healthcare,” added Fried. “We are grateful for the community’s support and belief in Beebe. We’re proud to be enhancing and expanding access to Beebe Healthcare’s services and working to best meet the next generation of care and needs of our patients and community.”

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    Volunteers helped to launch over 10,000 small plants into the South Bethany canals this month. This floating wetlands project is a Town-sponsored effort to improve water quality.

    Organizers created dozens of tiny wetlands by attaching 130 floating mats with salt-water-tolerant plants at the town’s many dead-ends.

    As the grass grows, roots will stretch down into the water, eating up unwanted nitrogen and phosphorus and releasing much-needed oxygen in the sluggish waters. As a bonus, small fish, mussels and small plant life could find habitat among the roots, building a stronger ecosystem.

    “These plants take out a lot of nutrients, and by taking out nutrients, we increase oxygen,” which will hopefully decrease algal blooms, said George Junkin, former councilmember and longtime water advocate.

    “They look like little floating islands. You can’t even see the mat,” said Frank Weisgerber, councilmember and chair of the Canal Water Quality Committee.

    In an assembly line on June 19, volunteers placed individual plugs of smooth cordgrass (spartina alterniflora) into 10,400 tiny plastic cups. The soil was locked down with another small strip of plastic, and then each cup was lodged into large foam mats.

    Finally, volunteer boaters gently towed the mats into the water and across town, where more volunteers waited on land tie the mats to the bulkheads.

    About 26 property owners volunteered to host one 8-by-4-foot mat. Elsewhere, the mats were linked, up to 40 feet long, and attached to 16 canal dead-ends.

    This is just one of many projects South Bethany has undertaken in recent years to clean up their water, bit by bit.

    Bacteria is so bad that people are discouraged from doing either of those recreational activities. (Indeed, the South Bethany Property Owners Association is hosting a summer-long fishing contest, but encouraging people to throw the fish back.)

    “We’ve all this muck there and runoff from the streets,” Weisgerber told town council earlier this year. “We need to come up with a solution to get our canals back to swimmable and fishable again.”

    “Over the years, the Canal Water Quality Committee has been working tirelessly to restore the water quality of the canals,” said Town Manager Maureen Hartman. “Floating wetlands have been successful in freshwater ponds so we are looking forward to the success of this project.”

    The equipment is projected to have a lifespan of at least five years and require minimal maintenance. The Town will likely perform an annual mowing and collection of the grass. Asked why the Town chose plastic cups, Junkin said the biodegradable version was more expensive and also crushed too easily to even assemble the mats properly.

    Marine biologist and Beemats co-creator Steve Beeman came from company headquarters in Florida to help oversee the installation. In Florida, water levels would rise and fall so dramatically that he and his son invented this way to build up plant life that resists changing water levels. College studies proved how effective this would be.

    “The roots then become a really great habitat,” he said, down to the zooplankton and phytoplankton that grow.

    Volunteers flocked to help such an interesting project, especially from the SBPOA. It’s all about “community cooperation,” said Terry Conway as she plugged plants into the cups.

    “If it would clean up the canals!” said Bobbe Stephan, nearby. “I mean we’ve been down here 30 years, and the water quality is pretty much the same, if not worse … I wouldn’t swim in it.”

    Partnering with the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, the town won a Community Water Quality Improvement Grant from the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council, administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Nonpoint Source Pollution Program.

    South Bethany’s next big project will be canal beds

    South Bethany was originally a real estate deal. In 1952, developers Richard and Elizabeth “Iggie” Hall created prime real estate by digging canals and creating water access for nearly every lot west of today’s Coastal Highway. Now South Bethany is an incorporated town with about five miles of canals in an area less than one square mile.

    And 30 dead ends.

    The water has almost nowhere to flow, since almost all the canals stem from one corner of Jefferson Creek, which only links to the big inland bays by more canals.

    Houses, agriculture, septic systems, cars and more have filled the watershed with pollutants that drain very slowly from Delaware inland bays to the Atlantic Ocean.

    Although nitrogen and phosphorus are generally stabilizing, they are not yet improving.

    “The water’s controlled by DNREC, but they want us to clean it,” said Frank Weisgerber.

    In the long-term, the canals need dredging.

    South Bethany is about to do the first step, which is to figure out what’s actually under the water. The Town seeks to hire Woods Hole Group environmental engineers to test the soil; profile the seafloor to determine where the gunk ends and the original sand begins; and determine the volume of unwanted soil under the water. From this information, they hope to get recommendations for future action. Weisgerber just announced that South Bethany had won a $25,000 matching grant from the State to help foot the roughly $45,000 bill.

    “The idea is that 50 years of sediment is percolating upward,” Weisgerber said. “We’re going to come up with, hopefully, remediation [so] the Town can fix the problem.”

    The core samples will be especially important. If the Town decides to vacuum dredge (which is exactly what it sounds like, but underwater) the possibly two or three feet of excess material on the seafloor, they’ll need proof that the soil is not toxic before the State issues permits to dump the excess material anywhere else.

    If it’s healthy enough, the dredged material could help another area, like rebuilding wetlands or even Fenwick Island’s sunken Seal Island. (The Town of Fenwick is currently having similar conversations about core sampling and dredging their waterways.)

    This is just the first phase, in which South Bethany figures out the problems. Then they’ll research solutions. Eventually, they’ll decide how to fund the projects.

    South Bethany dredged around 2007 or 2008, but that was more of a trench, not suction.

    “The multiple layers of sediment were dispersed into the water or scattered,” Weisgerber has said. “Since 2007 is when we’ve seen the algae blooms.”

    Earlier this month, all dead ends were showing dissolve oxygen below the critical levels of 4 mg/L, according to volunteer Dave Wilson. Algae has been spotted forming, although it doesn’t seem as bad as in previous years. Every week in summer, residents test their neighborhood water quality for the Citizens Monitoring Program through University of Delaware’s Sea Grant.

    “Last year was a particularly good year so maybe things are happening,” Junkin said. “But there are so many variables,” it’s hard to pinpoint what good thing has occurred within the entire inland bays watershed.

    South Bethany has invested in, and won grants for, other water quality projects, like trapping nutrients before they reach canals in the Anchorage Canal forebay and bio-retention areas (rain gardens) along the highway. After years of testing oyster growth in cages, the Canal Water Quality Committee hopes to pilot a new layout, where oysters and spat are released to take up residence where they choose.

    Property owners are asked to do their part by keeping grass clippings and lawn fertilizer out of the water.

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