Georgetown poised for growth

Due to its geographic location, perfectly set in the center of Sussex County, Georgetown has great potential for growth.

“We’re always entertaining new businesses and talking to developers to see what’s available, what people are talking about wanting to come to Georgetown,” said Georgetown Mayor Bill West.

West, a Georgetown native, has seen the town grow in his time as a resident and council member.

“When I was young and growing up there, the town was a complete circle. It was one quarter-mile around the Circle there, was what were the town limits. Now it’s expanded to where we’ve got close to 6,000 people living in Georgetown,” he said, noting the great diversity of residents within the town.

“We’ve got restaurants that have almost every ethnic food you can think of. It’s been great to be able to go to some of these and try the different foods. Things are good.”

West has served as mayor since 2014, after joining the council in 2012.

“In that time, we’ve opened close to 50 businesses and brought in an excess of just about $2 million from water, sewer, business licenses and things like that. The Town has really matured a little bit over the past three years — not just because of me, but because of the council that we have. We’re a bunch that works together and agrees on just about everything, or disagrees on just about everything, together.”

The town is the hub of Sussex County Courts, Sussex County government, a Chamber of Commerce, a regional airport and numerous businesses.

One large future development could be the Sussex County Sports Complex, located north of Route 9 on Sandhill Road. A 70-acre property was donated to the Sussex Sports Center Foundation by Joe Schell to build playing fields for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and informal touch-football games, as well as walking trails, pickleball courts and playground equipment.

As planned in the fall of 2017, the center will have eight regulation-size soccer/lacrosse fields, paved parking for approximately 350 cars and restroom facilities.

“We’re getting ready to build eight soccer fields and a big complex for kids to play…  That’s going to bring close to 700 kids to the town any given weekend. With that, they’ll need food, restaurants, places to stay. We’re really looking forward to this exciting thing.”

The foundation — which was in the process of getting approvals for the project in September of 2017 — is also in the process of seeking funding to pay the projected $4 million cost.

If the foundation is able to get the funding it is seeking, organizers anticipate the facility being open for play in the spring of 2019.

It could eventually become a part of a future Sussex County parks and recreation department, if the County chose to take it over.

“At some point, further down the road, if you all want to get into the parks-and-rec business, you’ll have the option to buy the facility from the foundation for $1,” Joe Schell told the Sussex County Council — one of three public entities from which the foundation is seeking funding — in September 2017.

Also endeavoring to meet the needs of its growing community, a two-story, 93,000 square-foot hospital run by SUN (Solving Unmet Needs) Behavioral Health, is expected to open for patient admissions in May of 2018.

The $18 million facility will employ approximately 150 people; will provide treatment for children, adolescents, adults and seniors through intensive inpatient treatment; and outpatient care and specialty programs for women, veterans and substance abuse.

West said that, as a retired Delaware State Police trooper who spent eight years in the Drug Division, he saw firsthand the negative effects drug use can have on users and their families.

“I can also remember having to transport people who were disturbed clear to Wilmington — a two-hour drive with a disturbed person in the car with you.

“Once we found out SUN was looking, we were more than willing to help them with anything we could. This is a resource families needed. When you take a person from Sussex County that has some mental problems, and you have to transport them two hours away to be treated, and you’re taking them away from their families — and many of their families don’t have transportation to get up there...”

The facility, which held its groundbreaking in November of 2016, will have 10 primary-care exam rooms, two women’s health rooms, eight medical consult offices, two specialty procedure rooms, three tele-health exam rooms, a private interview room, a radiology suite, reception area, lobby and more.

“This new facility — it gives them the resource, and something they need: their families to be there with them.”

The Town is also working on updating its facilities, with a renovation of a new town hall, directly next to the current town hall, under way in the fall of 2017.

“It’s fantastic, the new town hall. We’re on schedule to, hopefully, be in it in the beginning of November. Once it’s complete and we move everything from town hall into the new building, then we’re going to start remodeling the old building, which is going to be the Chamber’s,” said West.

“We’re going to make it extremely nice for the public, and something the people of Georgetown can be proud of. When we put this out to the folks, they supported it 100 percent.”

Another big project coming to Georgetown in the future is the U.S. Route 9 Truck Bypass, also known as the “Park Avenue Relocation.”

“Park Avenue is mainly, right now, a truck route. It’s unsafe. It runs behind the airport.”

The project, which is in the Delaware Department of Transportation’s budgets for the 2017-2023 fiscal years, will upgrade the road with turn lanes, shoulders and intersection improvements. DelDOT in the fall of 2017 was hosting workshops to inform the public of the plans and get public feedback.

In 2013, the Town installed its first playground, and they have also been growing town events.

“We put our first playground in, and it’s been a huge success. We’re looking at doing more,” said West, noting the Concerts in the Park series. “On Thursday nights, we host a two-hour concert that’s free to the public. It’s all kinds of music — country, rock ’n’ roll, oldies… The community comes out. We’ve had anywhere from 300 to 1,200 people at these concerts.

“We have a great New Year’s event where we close off The Circle at 9 o’clock on New Year’s Eve. We’ll have a band play from around 9:30 to 12:30 [a.m.]; we’ll have food vendors. We make it family-friendly, so you can bring the kids. One year, we had horse-and-carriage rides for the kids. We’re looking at maybe bringing some carnival games up there this year.”

West said that, eventually, they would like to expand things further, with a permanent stage and concession stand “so we can really entertain the people of Georgetown.”

The events are a great way to hear firsthand from the people of Georgetown, said West.

“This is a way for our council to find out what people like and what they want to see more of, and how they want to see the town grow. We can’t just go house-to-house and talk to residents. But when you host an event like this, it gives you the opportunity to walk around and talk to all the people, and they can give you quick ideas and quick thoughts. It’s outstanding to hear what the people in the community have to say about Georgetown.”

The Town also has a lot of hands-on help from residents and business owners alike.

“We have hanging baskets full of flowers down on Main Street — that’s the Arts & Flowers group who does that,” said West.

“For October, we have a scarecrow competition where we give the businesses everything they need to build a scarecrow, but they can make it look like anything they want. We fasten those scarecrows to the light poles. It’s a beautiful thing to see when you drive down and see all the different businesses with their different ideas on how they wanted to do their scarecrow.”

The Town is currently working on updating its Comprehensive Plan and is being proactive in maintaining its infrastructure.

“We’re pretty great on our infrastructure. We just spent some money to put new wells in, fix up our wastewater system. When I was elected mayor, I told them I wanted to do two streets a year, paving, and that’s what we’ve done so far… The town’s looking really good with a lot of the streets being repaved,” said West.

While the Town was not considering any annexations in late 2017, West said they are open to it for future expansion.

“We’re always looking for new adventures. If things keep going the way they are, we’re probably going to have to look at annexing, because we’re running out of room, the ways things have taken off.”

West said he’s thrilled to serve his fellow residents as mayor and is excited to see what the future has in store for Georgetown.

“People say this Town is something they haven’t seen in a long time — it’s friendlier, people are wanting to get involved and help non-profits, they’re wanting to help me and the council with projects we want to do,” said West.

“This town has really changed. People are getting involved, people are happy, and I see nothing but positive things for Georgetown.” v

– Story by Maria Counts