With a majority vote, Sussex County Council this week approved the rebranding of the Georgetown Airport as Delaware Coastal Airport.
“We need to tell our story and position this facility for future growth,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson.
Rebranding is the latest step in a more-than-decade-long, nearly $40 million effort to modernize the facility and boost economic development, which includes extending the main runway, leasing new hangar space and replacing airport lighting.
Prior to the vote, Lawson said the airport has suffered from an “identity crisis.”
“Depending on who you speak to, many people refer to the facility by a number of names, including the County Airport, the Sussex County Airport, or the Georgetown airport — which most locals call the facility.
“In fact, just last year, a businessman and his associates landed their Falcon jet at the airport and came to realize they were not where they were supposed to be. They were in the wrong place. They were in the wrong state; they were in the wrong county. They were supposed to be in Sussex County, N.J., not Sussex County, Del.”
Lawson said the new name better reflects the airport’s location and service capabilities for its desired clientele.
Garrett Dernoga, owner of Georgetown Air Services, said there has been an increase in airport activity after the numerous facility upgrades, noting that earlier in the week they had run out of jet fuel.
“We really appreciate the investment by the council over the years.”
The new brand and logo were developed, with input from County staff, by Milford resident Ben Muldrow of Greenville, S.C.-based Arnett Muldrow & Associates. The firm has created brand identities for communities including Milford, Milton, Millsboro, Bridgeville and Georgetown.
“If we were going to rename it, we wanted to hit a homerun,” said Muldrow of the steering committee. “We wanted to name it something that people would automatically adopt, and we also wanted it to be a name that would be relevant and prevalent on a statewide level.”
Councilman Sam Wilson said he was concerned the public was unaware of the rebranding efforts.
“I don’t think the general public knows what we’re doing here,” he said. “I’ve talked to the general public all in Greenwood, Seaford, Bridgeville — nobody knew anything about this.”
He also questioned if there was a significant need to change the airport’s name.
“It has been Georgetown Airport since 1943… All of a sudden now we have to have a name change. I think it’s a poor excuse. Somebody lands in the wrong airport, so we have to change our name to satisfy those people? To me, that’s a poor excuse.”
Councilman Rob Arlett commended those who had worked on the rebranding of the airport.
“We obviously want to preserve the history here in Sussex County. I think nobody in this building or, for that matter, nobody in this county does not understand the history of Sussex County,” said Arlette. “But at the same time we have to learn from our mistakes and learn how to be better. I think having an identity, having a focal point, and having a visual would be very, very beneficial in all aspects. ‘Coastal’ does not mean the ocean; ‘coastal’ means we live on Delmarva, surrounded by water.”
The council voted 4-1 to approve the name change, with Wilson opposed.
Lawson said the County must now seek the official name change with the Federal Aviation Administration through “a paper process that doesn’t take much consideration.”
In other County news:
• The council, following a public hearing Tuesday, June 16, unanimously approved the proposed $128.6 million budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The approval keeps the County’s property tax rate at 44.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The average County tax bill for a single-family home will remain around $100 annually, not including independent school district taxes.
By law, Sussex County is must adopt a balanced budget by June 30 each year.
• The council approved a resolution starting that the County joins the “National Association of Counties in opposing the Waters of the U.S. rule, and urges Congress to support H.R. 1732 in repealing the final rule, and further urges Congress to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work collaboratively with local governments in developing reasonable regulations that continue to protect and promote clean water across the United States,” regarding the federal rule defining the Waters of the U.S.
According to the resolution, the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule would expand federal oversight of collection and control systems, including ditches, many of which historically have been regulated by local governments.
The council voted 4-0 to send an official copy of the resolution to Delaware’s U.S. senators, Tom Carper and Chris Coons, for consideration.
Councilwoman Joan Deaver abstained from voting, stating she had “doubts about the appeal.”
• The council will meet next on Tuesday, June 30, at 10 a.m.