Sussex County Delaware

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Sussex County Council ...

County Approves Grant
for Drainage Work

SC Online Content Editor

GEORGETOWN -- Despite misgivings by some members, the Sussex County Council agreed to give the county Soil Conservation District $10,000 for emergency drainage work resulting from the recent wet winter at its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 6, 2003.

William Vanderwende, chairman of the district's board of directors, said the agency has received 106 drainage-related complaints since February. "The fact is we've just done more work than we had money to pay for," Vanderwende said.

He also complained that the agency's funding has not increased since 1994, and that Delaware's three counties split state funding evenly despite the fact that 63 percent of the state's "tax ditches" are in Sussex -- meaning the county receives one third of the funding even though it has two thirds of all the ditches.

Current funding levels allow the agency to maintain only 4 percent of all of Sussex County's drainage ditches each year, Vanderwende said.

Council member Vance Phillips expressed misgivings about granting additional funds to the agency, particularly since it has at least $700,000 in reserve funds.

"I support your group, but we have to answer to a lot of taxpayers," Phillips said. When fellow council member George Cole said "if they have a true emergency, we need to deal with it," Phillips rebuked him not to "use that rhetoric."

"They're not being held hostage," Phillips said. "They've got a million dollars."

Council president Lynn Rogers said he would like to wait a week, until other agencies have had a chance to present their budget requests for next year. Council member Finley Jones, meanwhile, commiserated with Vanderwende regarding the state's funding system. "The formula they have stinks, to say the least," Jones said.

Despite the concerns, the council unanimously approved the transfer of the $10,000 from the county's general fund to the grant-in-aid fund for the Soil Conservation District.

County Backs Senate Bill 66

Sussex County Council will support Senate Bill 66, which would give the county the ability to levy special taxes to fund infrastructure projects.

Delaware and Alaska are the only states that don't have legislation allowing governments to establish special tax bond structures in specific areas in order to complete major projects there.

The taxes would be paid solely by the people who live in the area served by the project. Before any tax would be established, hearings would be held on the boundaries of the district to be taxed, and on the actual bond issue to fund the project.

County finance director David Baker said he has consulted with officials in Maryland about similar legislation there and how it has affected the counties. Baker said there have been 25 projects funded by the special tax districts since 1996.

Baker said that although nationally, only 1 percent of the projects resulted in defaults, such an occurrence would likely have an "adverse effect' on the county's bond rating. To prevent a default, Baker said, the county would hire an engineer and a project trustee.

"I know of no reason why we should oppose it," County Administrator Robert Stickels said of the Senate Bill.

But the topic brought on a brief discussion of the status of county financing. Council member Vance Phillips said the county's "transplants" should "carry a larger burden than the native Sussex Countians, so to speak", because they are the reason many of the infrastructure improvements are necessary.

County Administrator Robert Stickels said the county is, in fact, "making the new guy pay" for improvements to roads and other infrastructure, through fees connected with development.

In Other Business ...
  • The council voted to schedule a public hearing for 11 a.m. June 3 on an appeal by Sussex Ventures Inc. regarding the county's denial of the Country Meadows Subdivision application No. 2002-31.

  • The council approved a conditional use request from Alton D. White for the sale of race car parts on a parcel in Little Creek Hundred west of Sussex Road 497 and north of Route 24.

  • The council approved 4-1 a conditional use request by Ronald E. Gray for mini-storage, RV storage and warehouses in Baltimore Hundred north of Route 54 and east of Sussex Road 381. Council member George Cole was the sole dissenting vote. Cole was also the only "no" vote on Gray's application to rezone another parcel on Route 54 for a "neighborhood shopping center". Cole said the applications are "speculative" at this point and exceed the need for such things in the area.

  • The council denied an application for rezoning by the owners of the 84 Lumber store on Route 26 in Millville. The owners, Pierce Hardy Limited Partnership, had requested the change of zone for 8 acres adjacent to the store to be used for additional storage and to allow for truck parking, in order to keep trucks from parking along Route 26. But council members said the store has clearly outgrown the site, even if the rezoning were approved, and that the rezoning is out of character with the surrounding residential area. The council did, however, approve the rezoning of a smaller parcel already containing storage buildings, because it was merely a "housekeeping" matter.

  • Council approved the following grant requests:
    • Delaware Rural Water Association, $500, public officials' seminar.

    • Eastern Shore AFRAM, $500, African-American Festival.

    • Sussex Technical High School, $400, Jacob Breasure, National Leadership Team.

    • Delaware Wavez Softball Team, $500, operating costs.

    • Seaford Revival Center Mission Inc., $600, operating costs.

    • Girl Scout Troop 1030, $200, Jennifer Conroe, National Wider Opportunity, Fly Girls.

    • Friends of the South Coastal Library, $500, Beach and Bay Cottage Tour.

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