When word came out late last week that Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) Secretary Carolann Wicks was resigning, there was little surprise. She had been facing a lot of heat since news stories broke considering financial pay-outs to landowners connected to the proposed Route 113 North/South project, and two top DelDOT officials had left the office in the wake of that story.
Gov. Jack Markell’s office reviewed the “land reservation” deals and the project as a whole was indefinitely suspended. Wick’s resignation was really only a matter of time following the scrutiny that came from the proposed project.
“It’s been a storm that’s coming for a long time,” said state Sen. George H. Bunting, whose 1999 Senate resolution started the process in which the state looked at potential U.S. 113 Noth/South improvements. “The public has been calling for accountability, and it’s been one big issue after another. And, finally, it has brought forth some accountability... The scrutiny of it has been coming for a long time — not just with this secretary. She inherited a lot of issues.”
Two important items to take from Bunting’s comments: first, he is correct in saying Wicks inherited a lot of issues. DelDOT has been in the public’s eye for some time, including the bypass project in the Middletown area and other major jobs, such as work done in the Christiana area and work not yet started along Route 26. This was before Wicks’ watch.
And the second item to take from Bunting’s comments that deserved extended conversation is the notion that the public has been calling for accountability.
Our series on the proposed Route 113 bypass written by Monica Scott was mentioned as an impetuts in the governor’s report, and was spurred by information we received from the public, including local farmer Carrie Bennett. Without getting information from the public, we would not have known the full scope of this project, and the information would not have been out for the general public to read.
Here was a case of people in the public knowing about something they felt was wrong, and going into action. We all saw the signs around Route 113 imploring DelDOT to not go forward with this plan, and there was a general call to action by those who would be affected by the plan.
This is how things get done.
When you feel as if there’s nowhere to turn, think of local farmers like Carrie Bennett and Paul Parsons, who fought the good fight and got something done about their problems. You really can make a difference if you try hard enough.