Millsboro council annexes elementary school

The Millsboro Town Council, at its Monday, Jan. 6, meeting discussed a number of topics in the town.

 

Artwork could go on exhibit

 

The town council heard a request from a Millsboro Art League volunteer, asking that works of art be displayed at Town Hall.

“We want it to be community-focused. If we have the art league work here, anybody coming into Town Hall can see it. We’re hoping you’ll approve our request. We think it is a win-win,” the volunteer said.

Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said he has concerns about First Amendment rights, in case another organization wanted to display something lewd or pornographic, and might claim they had freedom of speech and expression.

Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox said requests to display artwork in a public space have caused varying results in jurisdictions throughout the country. The trend is to identify parameters of public display and regulate them, she said.

“You don’t want to just jump into this,” she said, suggesting a committee be appointed to determine specifications.

Hudson asked whether Mayor Michelle Truitt can serve on that committee, as she was involved with the Millsboro Museum and associated artwork. Schrider-Fox said the town charter doesn’t prohibit her from being on the committee.

Councilmen Brad Cordrey and James Kells will serve on that committee with Truitt.

 

East Millsboro Elementary School annexed

 

“Welcome to Millsboro,” Hudson told Joe Booth of the Indian River School District after the Millsboro Town Council voted to annex East Millsboro Elementary School into town limits.

Mayor Michelle Truitt had previously appointed a committee to discuss the matter, and at the December town council meeting, Councilman Tim Hodges, chairman of that committee, said annexation was recommended.

“It all seems to be plusses for the Town and plusses for the school district, too, so the committee recommends we annex the property. We already serve them with water and sewer. … The biggest advantage seems to be the Town of Millsboro will be able to provide them with a public safety officer,” Hodges said.

At the Monday, Jan. 6, council meeting, the vote was unanimous after a brief public hearing, with Truitt and Councilman Brad Cordrey abstaining. Truitt is a teacher, and Cordrey’s wife works for the school district.

The elementary school is located at 29346 Iron Branch Road. The Town already provides water and sewer to the elementary school. Millsboro Middle School, at 302 East State Street, is inside town limits.

Booth, during the public hearing, said he feels “it’s a win-win, because the Indian River School District and the Town of Millsboro have a great working relationship.”

Booth said there are “other proposals, too, that we can work on — an SRO, for example,” he offered, referring to a school resource officer, who will be a Millsboro police officer.

In November, the town council authorized Police Chief Brian Calloway to begin the process of hiring another officer.

Another benefit of annexation is local police can be contacted directly, if needed, and not have to wait to be notified by Sussex County Communications, also known as SUSCOM.

“It could shave off response time, probably only seconds,” Hudson said.

The hiring process for the new officer started early so the officer can be in place for the 2020-2021 school year. Hired as a patrolman or patrolwoman, the officer will earn an annual salary in the mid-$40,000 range, with benefits. If the new hire is categorized as a school resource officer, a large portion of that salary will be paid by the school district, Hudson said.

 

Fire department has busy year

 

In 2019, volunteers at the Millsboro Volunteer Fire Department responded to 500 fire calls, logged more than 4,000 personnel hours and traveled 6,447 miles, Millsboro Councilman Larry Gum reported.

“On the EMS side, we had a record-breaking year, with 3,072 calls. Neighboring fire companies assisted by responding,” he said.

There were more than 6,300 personnel rides on calls, with two on each, and 97,000 miles were traveled, carrying 3,177 patients.

None of the statistics include meetings or training, Gum said.

“Our volunteers are doing a great job. You’re in great hands. The biggest issue is getting out in a timely manner,” he said, because heavy traffic in Millsboro causes delays.

Gum also announced that Fire Chief Emeritus Norman Batchelor had died on Dec. 13.

He served 65 years with the Millsboro fire company, serving in positions including fire chief and president, field instructor for the Delaware State Fire School and parliamentarian of the Sussex County Fireman’s Association, according to his obituary.

He was appointed fire chief emeritus and presented with the Ned Carey Award as Fireman of the Year in 2009. He received a Lifetime Achievement award in 2014 for his 60 years of service. There was a special procession with police escort at his funeral.

“We do mourn the loss of Norman. He was a great mentor for us and everybody else,” Gum said.

 

Monthly police update

 

Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway, during his monthly report to the town council, said officers enjoyed singing Christmas carols at Atlantic Shores Rehab & Health Center with Millsboro Middle School students.

“It truly is an event I look forward to every year. At the end, we are all so grateful we did it,” Calloway said.

He announced that the annual Whiskers for Wishes initiative, to raise money for families in need at Christmas, garnered more than $8,000 this year. Three years ago, the intake was $1,200.

“I just want to express our gratitude for this, buying into this program. It has become bigger than I would have ever imagined. … We were able to provide Christmas for many families,” he said.

Male town employees and police officers who participate in the initiative may grow beards during the period, during which donations are accepted.

 

Dog park nears opening day

 

Millsboro’s new dog park, on Wilson Highway, is coming along nicely, Millsboro Assistant Town Manager Jamie Burk said at the town council meeting.

A pump station was placed on the property, and the fencing company will begin installation once grading is completed, he said.

Hudson said the site was selected because Wilson Highway is town-maintained.

“There was no need to get a state permit, which would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. It’s more cost effective for the Town,” Hudson said.

 

Executive-order action tabled

 

The town council agreed to table a decision concerning the Trump Administration’s executive order that requires municipalities to submit letters of consent if they are willing “to have refugees settle within town limits.”

The executive order allows state and local leaders to block refugees.

Councilman James Kells asked about the definition of a refugee, but Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox said that, while there is a legal definition, she hadn’t been asked to provide that information.

Council members discussed the deadline for sending the letter as being Dec. 24, 2019, but Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said that taking no action was also an acceptable response.

According to news reports, Delaware Gov. John Carney, in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agreed to accept refugees, stating, “Our country has historically been a refuge of safe harbor for those fleeing war-torn countries, violence, and political persecution. We should continue to stand as a beacon of hope and freedom for people around the world. In that spirit, as Delawareans, we are proud to do our part, and continue to accept the resettlement of refugees.”

 

By Susan Canfora
Staff Reporter