Letters to the Editor -- July 4, 2008

IRSD sets record straight on referendum

It has come to our attention that some of the statements made during the marketing campaign for the May 22, 2008, current-expense referendum may have been inaccurate. Specifically, it was stated in press releases, newsletters and PowerPoint presentations that full-day kindergarten programs are mandated by the State of Delaware. After conversations with our local legislators, we have discovered that this is not the case.

The Full-Day Kindergarten Act passed by the Delaware General Assembly states that the act will take effect “upon a confirming vote by the local school district board and upon a specific appropriation by the General Assembly to fund the costs of full-day kindergarten.”

Our legislators recently informed us that this language does not amount to a mandate that districts implement full-day kindergarten by 2008-2009. One of the three referendum questions posed to the public on May 22, however, sought additional local funding for the implementation of full-day programs in all of our elementary schools to fulfill what we, at the time, understood to be a state mandate.

The Indian River Board of Education prides itself on being open and honest with the public and, whenever possible, minimizing the property tax burden for our residents. The district currently has one of the lowest property tax rates in the State of Delaware.

It was not our intention to deceive the public when we stated that full-day kindergarten was mandated by the State of Delaware. It was simply a result of a misinterpretation of the legislation by the district. We sincerely apologize for this inaccuracy and hope that we can continue to count on the public’s support as we build a world-class system of public schools.

Susan S. Bunting, Superintendent
Charles M. Bireley, Board of Education President
Indian River School District

Reader thankful for help from ‘rescuers’

After reading your editorial of June 20, 2008, about the tragic ambulance crash on Route 24, I was saddened by your sentence, “It is a thankless job (the local emergency responder community) they perform.”

Two previous ambulance experiences left me absolutely no physical or emotional abilities to personally thank the EMTs involved. I failed to make efforts later after my husband’s death and my own hospital stay to try to find out who had been our rescuers in our need.

Recently, I was taken by ambulance from Millville Emergency Room to Beebe Hospital. During the ride I was fully awake and kept thanking the EMTs and the nurse who accompanied me — but, yes, personal thanks and appreciation probably do get lost in the struggles that occur around this profession for those being “rescued” and the “rescuers.”

I pray for them with gratitude, I donate monies and I am very thankful — but, yes, individually — I am sure many thanks and appreciations are lost to those who serve in this profession. I now personally say “thank you” again and hope it is not too late.

Stephanie Campbell

P.S. From my school days of “long ago,” I learned to send up a prayer whenever I hear a fire whistle blow or see an ambulance pass on the road. Thank you.

Ocean View resident gives her arguments

I’ll challenge Mr. [Raymond] Sileo’s letter point by point and, hopefully, give him truth he can pin his hat on:

“To some, it appeared that town council motions (at their regular meeting, held Tuesday, June 10) were orchestrated.” Mr. Sileo said he didn’t see that.

Answer — Everyone present witnessed pre-typed resolutions (not motions) being passed through the hands of the councilmen. I believe seven, in all. Knowing this was improper, our mayor addressed this during the last meeting and apologized to all the residents of Ocean View and put through some very interesting thoughts as to how future resolutions would be handled properly. Simply put — no resolutions will be voted on the same night.

Second point — Mr. Sileo stated that anyone who reads the agenda knew these issues would be raised.

Incorrect. The agendas were changed four times. This is improper. Whenever you change an agenda, you must give prior notice. You simply do not change the agenda an hour ahead of time. The mayor himself did not possess the correct agenda.

Third point — “Why did Councilman Bill Wichmann have this plaque with him?”

Answer — After being asked by Mayor Wood to resign his seat with CAP on two occasions, he in fact knew the subject would be brought up and fully intended to hand his award back to the town.

Mr. Wichmann never received copies of the resolutions.

Fourth point — Resolutions were prepared because the standing rules say resolutions have to be written.

Answer — Robert’s Rules state resolutions are simply written motions. The town has been operating under Robert’s Rules since inception. Each resolution is subject to scrutiny of residents of the town. The residents were not given ample time to scrutinize the resolutions.

Fifth point — “The town council voted to reform the Citizen’s Auxiliary Patrol to keep it out of politics.”

Answer — This is blatantly incorrect. The mayor and council were to look into reforming the CAP unit. No vote was ever made to keep CAP out of politics. The CAP is not in politics. This is also a misconception. Two CAP members ran for office, which was their constitutional right, and both would have resigned their positions with CAP, although they also have a constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness. If their volunteering and giving back to their community makes them happy, God bless them.

Never did any CAP candidate run with an implicit endorsement of CAP. As a matter of fact, many CAP members did not vote for their fellow CAP members.

Candidates were not supported by campaign volunteers who were CAP members. This is also a lie. This lie was started by Mr. Sileo’s friend, Perry Mitchell. I attended the Roy Thomas (sitting councilman) “Meet the Candidates” night he bankrolled for his friends, Mr. Wood and Mr. Mitchell.

The evening began with the attendees being warned that CAP members were patrolling the parking lot. This [stuff] was brought to Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Wood’s attention by a local town crier and announced over the loudspeaker, in a public forum. Folks were told they should be on the lookout, their vehicle’s license numbers may be taken down by the CAP members. And we all know what that means.

The fact is there were no CAP members present that evening and no CAP members on patrol that night. I, along with my son, was humiliated.

After the meeting, I was approached by Mr. Thomas and asked, “Well, have we managed to convince a CAP member to vote for Perry Mitchell?” My answer was, “I don’t know where you got your information, but I haven’t been a CAP member since last November.”

So you see, it can be very unwise to assume Mr. Mitchell told his audience a downright lie. This, the councilman who said he is pro-law enforcement. Mr. Mitchell was reprimanded at the last town council meeting and, to date, has not apologized to the Ocean View Police Department or the CAP.

When CAP members are out of uniform, they possess the same constitutional rights as everyone else.

Why should Mr. Wichmann resign now? Why was he allowed to serve as a CAP for four years? Why was he even allowed to start the program? Because he had the full backing of the mayor and town council, and it was voted on.

Every one of the councilpersons is involved in extracurricular activities.

The mayor has a social attachment to the Millville Volunteer Fire Department. Does this mean the Town of Ocean View should discontinue donating monies to the Millville Fire Department?

Dr. Nippes is heavily involved with the Historical Society. The town has given him a house. Should he be able to take money from the town ($15,000+) for his pet project? Should he be able to vote on matters dealing with the Historical Society? And vote on the funding?

Should Mr. Mitchell be allowed to continue writing and editorializing for our local papers?

And should Mr. Thomas be allowed to bring forth Mariner’s Church business, since he is a member? Mr. Thomas was a director with the church, but it didn’t stop him from bringing the church’s Methodist House to the table.

Simply put, all of the above individuals should have the right to serve their town in any capacity, so long as it doesn’t interfere or cause a conflict of interest. If a conflict should arise, they simply recuse themselves.

An example is Mr. Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell sat on Planning and Zoning before obtaining the council seat. Once on the council, Mr. Mitchell had to resign his seat on P&Z and could not hear matters pertaining to the gas station. At the beginning of the hearings about the gas station, Mr. Mitchell stands, recuses himself, leaves the building and then proceeds to speak to the press, making his personal feeling about the gas station known to the world through television. Mr. Mitchell stated he was not in favor of the gas station.

At the council meetings, the citizenry does not have the chance to ask questions, much less make denials. Election Day was observed. Mr. Mitchell had Mimi Tyson sitting in as a challenger. Ms. Tyson is a CAP member. Mr. Wood’s wife was also working inside the building that day. Again, I must emphasize, members of CAP are citizens, too. They have every right to be inside or outside, and they also have the right to vote.

I suggest Mr. Sileo go to town hall to get a copy of the latest minutes. The minutes will include which items were voted on and how the vote turned out. The council did not vote to keep CAP members off the council. Over the last four years the mayor and council voted on all items pertaining to the police issues. Again, the majority ruled. CAP members have never held a majority in council.

All votes, on all issues, should be carefully judged, scrutinized and voted on with the best interest of Ocean View being at the heart of it all.

Nancy Colella
Ocean View

Reader feels young people need to grow up

I spent some time within the view of the busy Garfield-Atlantic intersection the other day and made terribly telling observations. I observed, without exception, every individual with predominantly grey hair wait patiently for a crossing opportunity and make some form of gesture of appreciation to cars stopped at the intersection. One even took her hand off her walker to wave a “thank you”!

Most of the next younger group glanced at least one way to ensure the coast was clear. All then crossed in front of waiting cars, without the slightest acknowledgement or even a glance at the drivers.

The even younger group didn’t bother to look in either direction, crossing in front of or behind any vehicle near their paths. Many did so on skateboards.

The observations may well explain why younger sports fans speak louder to continue their conversations when the national anthem is played and why two of three of the last remaining 2008 presidential candidates stood quietly with their arms either folded or at their sides as the American flag passed by their parade-reviewing positions.

We’ve lost something, and from what I observed, we’ll have to wait for a yet-unborn generation to bring it back. I just haven’t figured out who will teach them.

Capt. Alan Frost, U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps (Retired)
Bethany Beach

Carper urged to protect, honor state’s beauty

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

Some years back, if memory serves, about five years, ago you had laid out a plan to protect the pristine quality of our shoreline by making that area a part of a national park, which would automatically provide federal funding to keep our shoreline and the areas adjacent to it natural and undeveloped.

This seemed like a wonderful idea to me at the time, and I wrote to you to volunteer to help in any way possible.

Further, you had written an editorial proposing the development of such a park and that you would be standing behind it and submitting it to the appropriate committees and Congress for approval.

Inasmuch as we are presently looking at a land-use plan that involves the addition of as many as a million homes in the next several years, and an increase in population and traffic of perhaps 3 million, without the requisite infrastructure, it is time now to revisit that proposal.

Delaware does have one of the most beautiful and pristine shorelines on the East Coast, and, already, rampant, unplanned development, without the accompanying infrastructure, threatens to destroy it.

Delaware is one of the few states that does not have a national park.

The Rehoboth shoreline south, surrounded by the Inland Bays, would be a wonderful way to save our shore and our Inland Bays so that everyone who comes here can treasure an area extending some 20-odd miles that is still beautiful and relatively untouched.

I hope that this plan can be resurrected before national builders continue their exploitation of the area.

Already, we are in the midst of sprawl that demonstrates where an unplanned approach to development can lead. And we have seen in the land-use plan the elements that will allow such development to continue virtually unabated.

Already, we are hearing from our elected officials about their intentions to use marshlands, previously thought to be rigidly protected, for use as spray fields and other acts that would only serve to further pollute and destroy what many of us have learned to love and appreciate.

Now, that we have raised the profile of alternative energy, it behooves us to express our will to preserve Delaware as we know it should be preserved. We hope that our elected officials, and especially you, Sen. Carper, will exercise your authority as senator to save this beautiful stretch of shoreline so that our grandchildren can bring their own grandchildren down to see the beauty of sand and water and sky as nature intended.

Thank you.

Les Aaron Friedlieb,
The Power of One Society

Hocker provides update on bridge project

Efforts to build a new Indian River Inlet Bridge are moving forward after the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) tentatively selected a winning bidder for the project recently.

According to the DelDOT, Skanska USA Civil Southeast Inc. is the apparent winning design-build team for the construction of a new bridge over the Indian River Inlet. The company delivered a bid of just under $150 million, which corresponds with earlier costs estimates.

Sometime in July, DelDOT will officially award the contract with pre-construction getting under way this fall. If everything unfolds as expected, it could be ready for traffic in December 2011.

The new bridge across the inlet will be a long-span “cable stay” bridge, similar to the Delaware 1 bridge over the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. In all, it will be about a half-mile long including the 900-foot gap over the inlet itself.

Key to the new design is that none of its support piers will in the water. The main reason we are engaging in this expensive endeavor is to replace the existing bridge, whose supports are being undermined by the strong inlet current. Holes of up to 100 feet have been dug by the scouring action of the water, causing some concern for the span’s future safety and reliability.

I share the collective frustration and angst expressed by many Sussex Countians over the false starts, missteps and wasted time and money associated with the replacement bridge construction. Having said that, I’m optimistic this much-needed project finally appears to be on track and will be completed well before the existing bridge becomes a travel hazard for downstate motorists.

State Rep. Gerald Hocker
R-38th District

Alzheimers HOPE Team asks for support

The HOPE (Hocker’s Organized Proud Employees) Memory Walk Team for Alzheimers is about to begin their second year of fundraising for the cause. We were so excited in our first year to raise over $6,000 to contribute from our efforts and again want to thank the community for making this possible.

This year’s fundraising will begin with the selling of the “Forget Me Nots” at our stores (G&E, Hocker’s Super Center, and Hocker’s Grocery & Deli). Please donate each time you visit our stores and know you are contributing to a worthy cause. We do appreciate every dollar given.

Both G&E and Hocker’s Super Center will be holding a Hot Dog/Bake Sale for another major fundraiser. This is a special time when all employees have the opportunity to contribute to the team with their time or baked good donations. We HOPE to have a few new exciting events this year as well and will be advertising those as they draw closer.

And, finally, we will be participating and walking as a team in the Alzheimers Memory Walk in Rehoboth Beach on Sept. 27. We welcome anyone in the community to join our team (you do not have to be an employee) and walk with us! What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning while contributing to your local community!

Thank you again to all who participated last year and we HOPE for an even more successful year in our efforts to contribute towards the research and programs of Alzheimers.

Kim Blake, Ruth Ann Marvel
Hocker’s HOPE Team Co-Captains

Resident throws her support behind Lee

I have noted several letters in the local publications endorsing John Carney or Jack Markell to be the Democratic nominee as our next governor of Delaware.

I am submitting this letter to strongly endorse Republicans Bill Lee (to be our next governor of Delaware) and Charlie Copeland (to be our next lieutenant governor of Delaware), because it is time for a change in Delaware.

Those of us who live in Sussex County need only to focus on the Indian River Bridge to see a perfect example of why another Democratic regime in Delaware would be a disaster. The bridge is in danger of failure, and the Minner administration has done nothing constructive to bring a new bridge to fruition.

Over the last few years, multiple designs have been paid for and rejected, multiple bids have been solicited, but no award has been made to actually build a new bridge due to malfeasance and negligence by the Minner administration. The fiasco of the huge dirt piles being constructed and now dug up and transported to other sites — at a great waste of our precious resources — depicts the inept management of this State that the Democrats have created over the recent administrations.

Another example of the inept management of the State programs is being experienced by the residents of the Bethany Beach area. A new Catholic church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been built on Route 17 to handle the growing Catholic population of Sussex County. The church was completely built and scheduled to be dedicated on May 14, 2008, following which regular church services would begin. It was belatedly discovered that the design for the church had not received approval from DelDOT for the traffic flow into and out of the church parking area to Route 17.

The dedication had to be canceled, and the church cannot be used for religious services until this plan is approved by DelDOT.

It is now more than a month since this problem was discovered, and also the height of the tourist season. The church still cannot be used because of the failings of DelDOT to give this project appropriate priority so that the crippling traffic situation on Route 26 that results when services at St. Ann’s Church are beginning and ending can be eliminated or drastically reduced. This traffic disaster that occurs on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings does not just affect the Catholics; it affects all residents and revenue producing visitors who try to navigate the gridlock on Route 26.

Even if the major failure to secure this approval was due to the church’s designers’ failure to do something, why, in more than six weeks, can’t the DelDOT staff expedite and facilitate the approval of the design so that a now-vacant church can be used and the traffic problems in the area can be ameliorated? This can’t be “rocket science.”

How many times has this same situation occurred with all of the churches or other public facilities we have in Sussex County? At this pace, the tourist season will end and the church will still not be in service, and the monstrous traffic problems on Route 26 will continue and be exacerbated. This is an atrocity of public management that a Bill Lee/Charlie Copeland administration would not tolerate.

The State is also in a dire financial situation now. It was recently reported in the media that the State revenue estimates fell short of projections. These revenue projections and the gross overspending were done by Gov. Minner’s staff. Both Mr. Carney and Mr. Markell are current members of Gov. Minner’s staff and share the responsibility for the mess in which we now find the State.

We need to move these Democrats out and bring in Bill Lee and Charlie Copeland to return the State to a sound fiscal position and responsible use of resources. We need to remember that Mike Castle left the State in a strong fiscal position before Tom Carper started the decline and then turned it over to Ruth Ann Minner to destroy.

We need to remember that Republican Pete DuPont was the financial genius who established the favorable environment for corporations to register in the State of Delaware, which enabled the State to secure revenues from sources other than the Delaware homeowner taxpayers. The Democrats have succeeded to undermine the considerable benefits that this program has brought to Delaware over the years. We are now faced with the possibility of tax increases to burden our large senior citizen/fixed income population to finance the boondoggles of the Democrats.

Let’s return the state to Republican management. Bill Lee and Charlie Copeland will get rid of the excesses established by the Minner administration and return this state to the prosperity that we should enjoy with sound fiscal management. Apparently, Sussex County voters could be the key to bringing Republican leadership to the State. Please vote, and please submit your votes for Bill Lee and Charlie Copeland.

Kathy Vengazo
Ocean View

Wake-up call for federal retirees

A crucial election is approaching, and it appears that federal retirees in the area are not aware of the full impact that it can have on them.

Conversations with federal retirees over the past few years have made it clear that many are not aware of the risks to their earned retirement benefits. In each of the past few years, the administration has proposed reducing the contribution of the federal government toward the health insurance premiums of federal employees and retirees.

Thus far, the NARFE lobbying efforts have been successful in keeping these proposals from reaching the bill stage. In view of the deficit budget situation, it is clear that the assault on our earned benefits will continue in the next Congress.

I say earned benefits because through out our careers we worked at pay levels below our civilian counterparts, with the promise that the benefit package that we were promised would be there for us in our retirement years.

That promise has been badly bent, if not broken, several times in the past. I cited the several occasions when our COLA was delayed for several months; the passage of the Government Pension Offset; the passage of the Windfall Elimination Provision; and the Premium Conversion.

I have found that many federal retirees are not aware of these legislative actions that affect their retirement income.

The Cost of Living Adjustment, COLA, was put in place to assure that Social Security and federal retiree’s incomes would not suffer from inflation. By law, the COLA takes effect on Jan. 1 of each year, but there have been years when Congress has delayed the adjustment for a few months. NARFE lobbies constantly to prevent such delays.

The Government Pension Offset legislation (GPO), passed in 1977 but taking effect in 1982, makes federal retirees hired before 1982 ineligible for the Social Security spousal benefit that is not in excess of two-thirds of the public pension.

This legislation effectively denied those federal employees the Social Security spousal benefit to which they were previously entitled. This legislation was totally unfair because it took a benefit from federal employees to which they had been entitled.

The Social Security Amendments of 1983 included the Windfall Elimination Provision legislation that greatly reduces the Social Security benefit of a retired or disabled worker who also receives a government annuity based on his or her own earnings. It applies to anyone who becomes 62 (or disabled) after 1985 and becomes eligible for his or her government annuity after 1985. In 2000, over 22,000 WEP affected individuals were living below the poverty line.

The basic unfairness of GPO and WEP is that the affected employees had taken their chosen employment with the knowledge that they were entitled to the benefits. The passage of the legislation was done in such a manner that the employees had no options. They had already qualified for the retirement benefits that reduced or eliminated the benefits subject to these legislative actions.

Premium conversion: Through out the federal employees’ careers they were promised that in retirement they would receive the same health insurance benefits as if they were still current employees.

The Premium Conversion allowed federal employees and most corporate employees to pay their health insurance premiums with pretax dollars. In other words, the employees effectively are allowed to deduct the cost of their health insurance from their taxes while retirees are not allowed that tax break.

Upon retiring, federal employees find that they now must pay more for the same health insurance coverage. Federal retirees were denied this privilege, thereby making their health insurance cost more than if they were current employees.

Over 8,000 federal retirees and survivors reside in Delaware, yet only 1,200 are members of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, NARFE. The membership of those retirees and survivors who are not currently on board are desperately needed if NARFE is to continue its success in its mission.

Joining or complaining after the damage is done will not help. Your help is needed now! NARFE is the only organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the earned benefits of federal employees, active and retired, since 1921.

Walt Berwick, President
Delaware Federation of NARFE Chapter