County gets charitable with budget

It’s getting to be budget time again. As part of the yearly ramp-up to County Administrator Bob Stickels’ final proposal, humanitarian organizations once again pitched their causes before Sussex County Council, on March 1.

Easter Seals got things rolling, with a resounding thank-you to council for $250,000 last year. The organization assists people with disabilities or special needs.

Sussex Director Ford Waggoner called last year’s grant “a legacy that will benefit Sussex Countians for years to come.”

He noted plans for a new facility near Georgetown (Route 113) — which could double the number of people served by Easter Seals.

The project should also bring 50 new jobs to Sussex, right off the bat, and that was expected to increase to 76 over time.

Easter Seals once again requested $250,000 toward that project, rounding out the $500,000 council decided to split up last year.

Next, Charlene Hubert of the Indian River Senior Center appeared to ask for county assistance toward a new building in Millsboro.

Hubert said they’d founded in 1970, and been in the Millsboro Civic Center for the past 25 years. Now, they’ve purchased a couple acres west of town, and plan to build their own place.

La Red Health Center’s Brian Olson approached council to request $85,000 for continued ob-gyn services for Hispanics. “Need exceeds capacity,” he said. We deliver 200 babies annually, and we still have to turn away five women a month.”

Those women end up with no prenatal care, and usually deliver their babies in an emergency room.

Council typically budgets money for capital projects — not operating costs. However, Olson said La Red’s main funding stream (the Delaware Health Care Commission) tapered off last year and they were in the midst of building up a new one.

For another thing, they are trying to receive federal funding as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), and they need to keep their ob-gyn program going to meet the criteria.

After La Red, Bill McGowan of Primeros Pasos stepped forward to request $100,000 for a childcare facility in Georgetown.

He said they had 1.4 acres, cleared and engineered, and planned to provide Head Start-style care to 76 children, ages 6 weeks to 4 years.

United Way came next, with a request for $50,000 a year for the next five years.

They fund 30 different agencies, and 56 different programs, through a Statewide Community Needs Assessment.

Brenda Kelley of Westside New Beginnings (West Rehoboth) came forward with a request for $50,000 to continue their work in “forgotten communities.” She grouped West Rehoboth with areas like Twin Cedars, Lazy Lagoon and Shockley Town.

YMCA’s Mike Meoli asked $250,000, saying the organization was looking for land for a “field house” in the central county, and finally, John Hollis of Nemours Health & Prevention Services asked $100,000 for a multi-faceted collaborative aimed at promoting health in children.

“The amount is not as important as the partnership,” Hollis said. “That vision of collaboration created a world-class hospital for children’s care, and we plan to use that same energy to establish community-based awareness and lifestyle change.”

Nemours owns and operates the Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington.

All told, the request totaled $885,000. The county disbursed $382,000 in grants last year.

Council Member Vance Phillips asked Stickels if they would be able to consider other outlays, like land acquisition and revenue-sharing with law enforcement.

As Stickels added, “loss of the Community Development Block Grants would be devastating.”

While council won’t be making any final decisions on these requests until the budget approaches final draft, they did award several smaller grants toward the end of the meeting.

For this area, Phillips gave $3,000 from his community investment fund to the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, for renovations and expansions at the Visitor Center.