Letters - March 17, 2006

Finance committee supports police

In regards to the report concerning the financial committee meeting, I want to clarify my comments regarding the pay raise issue.

As mentioned in the story, I did express my concerns regarding the ability to maintain competitive salaries. The current salaries are, for the most part, in line with what other neighboring agencies are paying. Some agencies, like BBPD, have salaries which are several thousand dollars higher, and some agencies, like Selbyville, are in-line or pay slightly less than OVPD.

I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that the concerns expressed at the meeting were not immediate concerns. We are OK for the time being. However, as other agencies increase their base salary, we may start falling behind. If this occurs, some of our officers may be enticed to jump ship. Again, this is not an immediate concern.

Unfortunately, some members of the public believe that the threat of losing staff is immediate. As a result, the feeling that individuals opposing salary increases are anti-police has developed. I don’t believe this is true, and all indications are that all members of the Long Range Financial Planning Committee are supportive of the police.

Thank you for allowing me to clarify this matter.

Kenneth M. McLaughlin
Chief of Police
Ocean View Police Department

Wilson a perfect fit for school district

“I love public education. ... I love this community.” This is a direct quote, in “Wilson files for board seat” published in Coastal Point dated March 3, 2006, from Jacquelyn Wilson, candidate for Indian River School District Seat 4. I would like to ask for your support.

Passion! A passion for educating our future leaders and educators. A perfect fit! Wilson continues her family’s legacy of public education service. Jackie Wilson displays superior leadership and has extensive knowledge of Delaware education, very evident from her exemplary career in public education. The position of board member demands a candidate with a passion and a clear vision of Delaware education. This seat demands Jackie Wilson.

“It is really is important that when you’ve been blessed to be in a great community, you have to give back” — another key quote from the Coastal Point article.

It is without reservation that I bring Jacquelyn Wilson to your attention to serve as your voice for District 4. A vote for knowledge, a vote for experience, a vote for leadership and a vote for our children’s future is a vote for Jacquelyn Wilson.

S. Michael Cylc
Ocean View

Resident concerned about building

I would like to thank Ocean Views’ Town Council for all the time they give to the community; it is much, much more than I have done. However, I do have some concerns about the new police station and its cost and use.

About a year ago, when I first saw the plans for the new police station, I stated $100 a square foot was low. Not one of the council members commented. That month, I inquired about prices for these types of buildings from friends of mine who have recently built commercial buildings. My friends all said $100 is much too low.

At the next town meeting, I spoke about these findings. Everyone kept moving forward with this price and the large station as if $100 a square foot was reasonable.

I missed a lot of meetings last year because I had to be down in Florida doing hurricane repair. When I returned, I discovered that they were now willing to borrow $4 million for this project; I was shocked. I am surprised that the town’s town manager and all the council members all working together cannot come up with a closer estimate than between $1.5 million to $4 million. I am very upset that they would entertain spending $4 million without letting us vote on it.

All of the comments at the most recent Town Council meeting in favor of the new station really had nothing to do with the station itself. The bids are not low – they are over the $1.5 million estimate by $400,000. All the citizens want is the quality police protection they have been receiving. Not one of the council members mentioned they would still receive this protection regardless if the station is 17,000 square feet or 8,000 square feet.

I believe the building is much larger than needed and will end up requiring additional staff for maintenance in the near future. I do not believe they really have an accurate maintenance cost.

I have an added concern about the building’s use for evacuation purposes, a service garage, a training area and a jail. First, I have seen the damage done to buildings designed for winds of 120 mph. Do not begin to think this will be a place to go when hurricanes come. I have heard a Town Council member state that Ocean View citizens would be able to use the building in case of an evacuation. This is erroneous.

As for the building’s garage use, think about how much you save on an oil change and if a garage is justified. I believe that we want qualified auto mechanics working on our police cars. Do you think you really need an area for training once or twice a year when you can do it at a local school gym for less cost?

I do not believe it is in the best interest to keep people who are arrested in a jail owned by the town. It is best to send them to Georgetown immediately. A smaller station is being used for a 120 police officers in Montgomery County, Md., which serves over a million people. Do we really need this size of a station? We also serve other neighboring towns. Should they help with the cost?

George Walter
Ocean View

Local area does have radio tradition

Regarding Dick Roseé’s guest column on Feb. 24: He’s right about old-time radio: it’s imaginative, entertaining, and largely gone from today’s airwaves. But he’s wrong about the paucity of the form in our area — at least on one account.

Since 1989, I have been hosting and producing a live-to-tape radio program, “Radio from Downtown,” that’s been (and continues to be) broadcast on several radio stations on the Eastern Shore. The two-hour program is performed before a live audience at the Avalon Theater in Easton. It features a nine-piece house band, several actors performing original radio plays, musical guests, faux commercials and PSAs, and interviews with artists, writers, environmentalists, story tellers, tap dancers, duck callers, and anybody else doing something interesting in our region.
Guests have included writer Tom Horton, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, Don Baugh from CBF, Wayne Gilchrest, turtle conservationist Marguerite Whildon, writer Richard Ben Cramer, photographer Dave Harp and many, many others.

Two of the actors that have been with the show for many years are long-time broadcasters Susan Stamberg and Carl Kasell from NPR, where I am employed as director of “Morning Edition.” The show is produced three times a year and is supported by ticket sales and local sponsors, and occasionally by grants from local or state arts councils. I’m pretty sure this show has been in production longer than either the Ad Hoc Touring Company or Radio Airwaves Productions.

In 1988, I was a newcaster at WOVU in Ocean View. I’m sure it’s no longer there. I left in ‘89 to become news producer at WSCL, the public station in Salisbury. I began the show there as “Radio Free Delmarva.” After a successful run of several years (every month), an ongoing disagreement with the disagreeable (and new) GM at the station resulted in my ceasing production. Shortly thereafter, I myself ceased to be a part of the station.

I began working at NPR in 1994, resuming RFD on a bimonthly basis for a few years. Then, after another lengthy break, we resumed production last year on a thrice-yearly basis. The plays are original, written by me and my long-time cohort Jack Purdy, and deal with a usually bizarre extrapolation of an issue of interest to people of the region: snakehead proliferation, oyster disease, crab harvest, development, a new Bay Bridge, the coming of Starbucks, duck decoys, etc.

We have sent up these topics every way we can think of: science fiction, western, romance, Shakespearean, detective, horror, etc. A few years ago, upon the occasion of the 60th anniversary of “War of the Worlds,” we ripped off the whole radio show, complete with the same music used in the original production, only slightly rewritten to reflect our own area — plus it was funnier.

We have written about 60 of these two-act plays, which are complete with live and prerecorded sound effects, several actors, and thematic music from the live band. We’ve got a few fake sponsors: IHOM, the International House of Muskrat (“Where you never need a reservation, ‘cuz most folks already have reservations about eating there”); Junior’s House of Organs (“If your organ came from Junior’s, you know it used to be in somebody else”); Bob’s Bait City (“We’re at the bottom of the food chain so you don’t have to be”), etc.

The show has a staff of about 25, including musicians, actors, production assistants, Foley people, recording engineers, etc.

If any of your readers — including Mr. Roseé, I’m sure — are interested, the next show is at the Avalon on June 3. I don’t know who the guests will be, but as usual, I’m sure the show will be: Not That Far from Art.

Van Williamson
Washington, D.C.

Reader feels kinship to guest column

Amen to Dick Rossi’s guest column in your March 10 edition. My sympathy to Dick. He served in a particularly tense period of the Cold War (1956-59) in a guided missile battalion in the historic invasion route (Fulda Gap) in Germany — part of a doomed “token force” in the event of an attack. Yet, he was recently denied membership in American Legion Post 28 (Millsboro) because his service did not occur during a “declared war.”

I served in the same area (1954-55) as a corporal in the 39th infantry regiment and on many occasions I spent cold nights in foxholes wondering whether if foreign tanks would appear out of the darkness. And I, too, had the experience of being denied membership in a veterans organization (Mason Dixon Post 7234 Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ocean View) — a humiliation aggravated by being offered a “social” membership.

Interestingly, the newsletter of that organization regularly contains urgent appeals for new members.

Col. Bob Wallace, USAR (JAG), Ret.
Bethany Beach

Reader advises: Say ‘no’ to ESDAs

The overdevelopment and continuing destruction of Delaware’s sensitive coastal and inland waterway areas ratchets up another level, as if that even seems possible any more.

Apparently it is, however, since its been reported that Sussex Councilman Vance Philips (5th District) and one of two county councilmen from the same town (Laurel), is prepared to introduce a bonus density ordinance next Tuesday, March 14. This ordinance would permit developers to double the existing building density in these sensitive areas.

In return for the right to purchase 1/6 acre lots in ESDA (Environmental Sensitive Development Area) designated locations, the developers would pay an additional $20,000 per housing unit to buy land for conservation elsewhere. However, this would be chicken feed to developers in exchange for the right to build pricey homes or condos on water-front or water-view property, prices they would be unable to get for the same unit on other land.

As far as I know no public sewer system has been proposed for these ESDA areas, so it is important to bear in mind that 1/6 of an acre equates to only 7,000-square-foot lots, and in that relatively small area not only must a residential unit but an accompanying sewage treatment and potable water source must also reside, right next to other 7,000-square-foot lots, all of this in sensitive hitherto undeveloped environmental areas.

These $20,000 contributions by the developers would go to the Sussex County Land Trust (SCLT) to purchase parcel of land for preservation elsewhere. Ironically, they would not go to buy threatened coastal and inland waterway environmentally sensitive lands that we all know needs preserving if the inland bay ecology is to remain reasonably healthy and vibrant. Instead they would be used to preserve land that is far less sensitive, most likely inland farm lands. How’s that for intelligent land conservation planning?

While the SCLT name seems to infer ownership and control by those interested in the preservation of Delaware’s ecology, the facts seem to indicate otherwise. The group is led by developers, bankers, lawyers and building material company owners, as well as Councilman Vance Phillips himself.

One of the many shortcoming of such a plan is we would have no idea how that group might decide where and how to spend the money in that fund. Perhaps they might even decide to buy Councilman Phillips’ own farm that he recently inherited. Or perhaps they might decide to purchase some of Sen. Thurman Adams’ 300-plus undeveloped acres in and around Bridgeville. Now wouldn’t that be something to think about?

On the surface it appears this whole exercise is a charade designed to gain builders access to hitherto unattainable land and then be able to pay money for that privilege back into a fund that will be controlled by themselves or by others with similar interests. What a deal.

Speaking of Sen. Adams, he continues to stonewall HB 170, not letting it out of committee for a senate vote.

I don’t know about others but have you ever asked yourself why Sussex County councilmen, unlike most politicians, feel immune to the hue and cry that surrounds their ongoing rape of Sussex County? Even with HB 170 having passed the House by an overwhelming 34-4 vote, they have the audacity to now propose a bonus density ordinance that would create a further negative impact on the lifestyle of those that live and visit Delaware.

The answers appear to be readily apparent of course. We are a county with obscenely gerrymandered council voting districts that: (1) effectively neuters voter retaliation in the district where the majority of overdevelopment has taken place, and where once again the proposed ordinance would impact the most, and (2) a voter-representation ratio that has been skewed with 40 percent of the council vote coming from one town that represents only 2.5 percent of the county’s population.

In addition, the county council appears to have Sen. Adams in its political back pocket, thus enabling them to prevent legislation (HB 170) from ever coming to a vote in the senate — legislation that could help the citizens of Sussex gain fairer, more appropriate representation. Whether that has to do with possible county sewer that would make Adams’ extensive land holdings much more valuable or whether it has to do with something else, it obviously is important enough to Adams that he is willing to help prevent his fellow county citizens from having the legislative assistance they need to gain fairer representation.

It is this combination of legislative stone-walling and the gerrymandered county voting districts which permit the current council to blissfully ignore criticism and potential voter reprisal.

Some part of this arraignment must change, and change quickly if Sussex County is not to be paved over. Legitimate redistricting would be years away, if ever. Passage of HB 170 this year is the only realistic and viable solution to the problem. If something is not done to bring sanity to Sussex County’s land development policy this legislative session, then it would appear at some point in the not too distant future legislators who refused to do all they could to correct the problem will be held accountable by an increasingly angry and disillusioned electorate. It will be interesting to see if they will be able get out of town fast enough when that occurs.

In the meantime, opposing Vance Phillips’ bonus density ordinance Tuesday would seem like a good place to start for those truly interested in trying to solve the problem rather than adding to it.

It is also imperative that you contact Sen. Adams and request that he releases HB 170 so that your senator can do what you sent him to Dover to do, that is, to represent your interests and to vote on legislation that affects those interests. Sen. Adams can be reached at: Dover office phone (302) 744-4318; Bridgeville office phone (302) 337-8281; Dover address Legislative Hall, P.O. Box 1161, 19903; Bridgeville address P.O. Box 361, 19933; legislative e-mail address thurman.adams@state.de.us.

Allen Ide

Reader says that ESDA plan a bad dream

I had a really bad dream last night. I had died and gone to Hell, and as I entered the gates there was a big high-density housing development on the left and a whole bunch of condos for sale, jammed onto a small lot on the right. I could tell right away where I was.

I think that bad dream came to me because I had been reading about Vance Phillips and Dale Dukes, members of the Sussex County Council, who are behind the council’s plan to pass a “bonus” density ordnance that would give developers the right to use tiny sixth-acre lots in high density cluster developments. In other words, they would be given the right to jam housing tightly together on very small lots under the excuse that it would use less land. That dubious privilege would give them the advantage of putting more housing on less acreage, saving them millions, for which they would give an organization called the Sussex County Land Trust (SCLT) $20,000 per housing unit.

These housing units would be very high density units on land designated as Environmentally Sensitive Development Area (ESDA), which are waterfront or water-view coastal areas, where very high housing prices exist but exactly where high density housing should not occur. Coastal land is extremely high priced, so jam-packed condos on very high priced land penalizes the housing buyer but saves the developer millions, a highly questionable scheme, because the end result is a huge saving on the land the developers can pass a pittance elsewhere for the privilege. The scheme smells.

Why, then, if it is so apparent to the average layperson in Sussex County, is it not apparent to the Sussex County Council? Could it be because it would be voting members a piece of the developers’ pie? Anywhere else, that is called a conflict of interest, an illegality.

The whole issue of high density is just another way in which the Sussex County Council is trying to add to the present burden of overdevelopment in Eastern Sussex. The example being shown nowadays in other parts of Delaware is exactly opposite, where elected officials are already working to relieve the burden of overdevelopment, such as in neighboring Kent, not add to it.

Lower density and planned growth is not being recognized in Sussex but is being ignored, as illustrated by this idea of high density, .exactly the opposite of what should be done. The appeals for help by those who now live in the coastal area for proper representation on the council to balance their decisions are ignored so the high density trend can continue.

The fact that the $20,000 “bonuses” would be added to the cost of the housing and would be paid by the unfortunate buyer, and that money would then go to a private organization (the SCLT is a private organization of developers, their lawyers, bankers and others from the development community) to be used without oversight, is a highly questionable deal. But, it gets worse: two of the members of SCLT are (you guessed it) the two Sussex County Council members from Laurel, Vance Philips and Dale Dukes.

In other words, the council members who are pushing the Council to approve the concept of more housing on less land, to save developers acreage money, will then themselves as members of the non-governmental SCLT authorize it receive $20,000 per housing unit. It supposedly is to be used for land preservation which is unspecified, for no known future valid reason and no known purpose.

The whole scheme smacks of highly questionable purpose and motivation and is vulnerable to misuse. Even the idea of elected officials seeking legality for a purpose of financial return to an organization of which they are members and could personally profit smacks of malfeasance in office.

Isn’t it wrong for public officials to openly propose and vote on a bill from which they may then personally benefit in some way when it is passed?

Surely, a proposal of such suspicious origins and purposes should be thoroughly examined by the people of Sussex before the council even begins to try to pass it, which they are trying to do on a priority basis. There is no valid justification for it and no detailed background facts available, if they exist at all.

It is time for the people of Sussex County to revolt and prevent this bill from being made into law by the council. This dubious proposal would not only encourage and multiply the evils of overdevelopment but would do it in our most sensitive waterfront coastal areas which makes it a multiple evil. It should not only be voted down and prohibited in future but be a reason to examine and question the motives of some of our council members.

Charles N. Valenti
Rehoboth Beach