Another year of change now in the rearview

It’s hard to believe that our little paper will turn 10 years old in about a month.

There are times when I sit back and think about our journey here at the Coastal Point, and it seems like only yesterday Susan Lyons and I were meeting at her kitchen table in the morning to plan out our days or looking at each other across a largely-empty office and wondering what in the heck we had gotten ourselves into by starting this thing. Of course, there are other times when it feels as if I’ve been sitting at this particular desk since pterodactyls were chasing Bob Bertram around the rock quarry, but ...

Well, I digress.

Looking back at our humble beginnings from this lofty perch atop our, well, humble present, I get astounded, really, that it’s been 10 years already. I’d like to report that it’s now becoming old-hat around here to produce the paper each week, but that’s not really true — and that’s what we all love about it so much.

Each paper we put out is its own “little baby” to us. There’s a sense of satisfaction each week for the group as a whole when we ship it up to our printer to get mass-produced, or when we are driving around town and see people picking up the new paper out of the box. We get the rare opportunity to see our work in its entirety each and every week, and there’s something gratifying about this that isn’t easy to quantify. You know that feeling when you are sweating and dirty and look back at the freshly-cut lawn you just finished? Yeah, it’s something like that for us.

What inevitably happens to me and my cluttered little mind is that I get through one issue, take a deep breath and explore the wonders of Jameson Irish whiskey, and subconsciously push that edition out of my skull and move on to the next one. It’s a great trait as far as compartmentalizing what I need to focus on from one moment to the next, but it sometimes makes me not appreciate all that has happened over an extended period of time.

With that in mind, I invite you to join me as I take a look back at 2013 through our archives.

January often starts with a Jameson-induced headache for yours truly, but many in the community began their 2013 slates with a cool jump into the ocean in Bethany Beach or Fenwick Island. Selbyville’s Alyssa Murray, then-Miss Delaware, took her talents to the national stage with her participation in the Miss America pageant, and the Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro continued its efforts to stay technologically-relevant with an idea to air classic films on Monday nights. The Castaways developers, under a deluge of negative criticism from residents around their plans, withdrew their application to build a campground and waterpark on Cedar Neck Road. A referendum passed for the Indian River School District to build new classrooms, Jack Burbage proposed a new hotel to replace Bethany Arms in downtown Bethany Beach and Sussex County officials announced they had a budget surplus of $854,000. On a personal note, I caught a wicked cold and got turned down for my grant request to the County for $850,000 to fund my comparison between brand name cookies and generics.

February is the shortest month of the year, but there was plenty going on around here. For starters, the County announced they would spend that aforementioned surplus on libraries, police coverage and home repairs for low-income residents (as cookies get passed over once again). Two Indian River High School students, Kees Elling and David “Jordan” Marshall, were both recipients of service academy nominations, and the area’s bravest men and women were honored in the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce’s Valor Awards. The Millsboro Civic Center opened up after significant renovations, and work trucks began showing up in downtown Bethany for Streetscape work. Personally, I spent a week in Orlando, Fla., enjoying rides, beverages and sunshine — and then two weeks at home trying to get through sunburn and a roller coaster-created wedgie that threatened to separate me at the seams.

March usually begins the thawing-out process, and many area parents had their hearts warmed by the news that the Indian River School District would start all-day kindergarten in the 2013-2014 school year. Hearing began in Bethany Beach on the redevelopment of the Bethany Arms, and the Delaware Superior Court started hearing two arguments of note for our area — the proposed cell phone tower by AT&T to be put in south of Bethany Beach and arguments from both sides as to whether or not Delaware sheriffs should have arrest powers (AT&T ultimately won, and the sheriffs lost). I had a terrific St. Patrick’s Day, thank you for asking, and I’m still quite hopeful that I’ll find that shoe.

April showers bring ... much confusion at one local intersection, as a new four-way Stop sign was put in at the corner of Woodland and Central Avenues in Ocean View, catching many a motorist off guard. Town officials also approved some signage for a proposed Royal Farms, next to the CVS. It was also announced in April that the federal government would be providing funds to have our beaches repaired after they took a bit of a beating at the hands of Hurricane Sandy, and Bethany Beach Police Lt. Rick Haden was formally indicted on charges he assaulted a suspect in custody. April saw me giggle like a little kid at the prospect of a new season for my beloved Baltimore Orioles, but I quickly found those April showers to be typhoons when the team’s previously-reliable bullpen stepped on to the field.

Let’s face it: As much as this community is becoming more and more of a year-round community, May is still the start of the “real time” for our area, as visitors and summer people make their way back to the shore to keep our businesses humming and our entertainment much more significant. Jack Burbage vowed to keep his proposed Bethany Beach hotel in the “Quiet Resorts tradition,” and Leolga Wright won an election to keep her seat in the Indian River School District’s Board of Education. Two Ocean City, Md., men were arrested as part of a significant cigarette smuggling operation, according to authorities, and they were allegedly using local storage units to keep their merchandise. The Frankford Town Council joined many other local towns in enacting a rental tax, even though that proposal was not met warmly when it was first floated. I got my camping equipment ready for a summer that would be spent outdoors, enjoying friends, nature and everything wonderful about our area ...

June came, and with it came a broken foot for me, shelving me for much of the camping season and making me weep sad little man tears. I wasn’t the only one upset in June, as work on Route 26 had traffic down to one lane, and many business owners shaking their fists. South Bethany residents complained about their dune crossings becoming far too steep after Hurricane Sandy, and were told they would have to wait for the federal workers to make their way down there to fix them. Mark Steele left his job as principal at Indian River High School to take a job with the District, but he was replaced by another popular face in the area, teacher Bennett Murray. Two pedestrians were killed near Fenwick Island when they were struck by a vehicle, continuing a dangerous season for walkers and bicyclists and a lack of vendors forced the Selbyville Farmers Market to shut down. I already shared my broken-foot story, and I’m not going there again.

July is our time to shine, and a national study that determined Delaware beaches to have the best water quality in the nation helped get things moving along nicely. Following another successful Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade, longtime organizer Phil Rossi decided to step down and leave remarkably big shoes to fill. Before I continue, thank you, Phil, for all your hard work and dedication. You were a joy to work with, and a true star in what you did. Best of luck in all you do. The proposed Royal Farms in Ocean View went up for its preliminary site review, and the proposed Southern Delaware Botanic Garden was also unveiled. Whispers began circulating that the Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter, was facing serious economic challenges. Those whispers turned to roars later int he month when Kent County terminated its dog-control contract with Safe Haven, the group’s major source of revenue. I sat on my couch. In air conditioning. Trying to scratch an itch in my cast that just wasn’t getting satisfied.

August is my birthday month, so, yeah, that stunk. I got older. But we also saw the Pyle Center in Roxana host TWO softball world series, hosting both the Big League and Senior League events for the first time, and doing it with great success. Bethany Beach voters supported a referendum to create a commercial lodging zone in the town, and the County decided to support year-round coyote hunting. Safe Haven officials announed that the organization was regrouping. More on that soon.

September saw kids go back to school, another Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral end the “summer season” and the Millsboro Country Festival host Cooter from the “Dukes of Hazzard.” Bethany officer Haden was acquitted by a Superior Court judge for his alleged assault of a suspect, and Chuck Peterson was voted into office in Bethany Beach. Hearings began on the proposed Route 113 bypass again, infuriating many local farmers and business owners, and local businesswoman Kami Banks was named interim director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce. It was announced that the previously-popular Slam Dunk to the Beach basketball would be returning to Sussex County in December 2014 and I got out of my cast ... and then put in a walking boot.

October is a month for ghouls and goblins and the great unexplained, and the happenings at Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary seemed right up that alley of the unexplained. We got word that Safe Haven was closing, and then we were told they were not, and then we were told they were trying to find homes for their dogs. We scratched our heads and just kept moving. A Selbyville teen was arrested in the shooting of a 25-year-old woman, and a local family had the American flag outside their home burned by still-unknown assailants. The Frankford Public Library opened its doors again after renovations increased their size by about 300 percent, and the Ocean View Town Council started discussing an overpopulation of deer. I don’t shoot deer myself, but I do have many friends who began licking their lips when that was announced. On a side note, it’s gross when my friends lick their lips. Just saying.

Ah, November. The month that brings giant turkeys, heaping servings of mashed potatoes and so-so-wonderful pumpkin pie. Of course, this is Sussex County, and that means the pumpkins were flying at this year’s Punkin Chunkin event, possibly the final one this area will host because of liability concerns. Verizon Wireless proposed placing a cellular antenna on top of Lord Baltimore Elementary School, which they said would not cause any harm to the students, but still made our own Shaun Lambert a little nervous as he sits across from the roof at L.B. A police trial board found Haden guilty of five of the six charges facing him, and we’re guessing there is still more to come on that front. A string of burglaries hit the area, from the beach towns to those more inland, and though police made several arrests, there are still more homes and cars being broken into to this day. On an incredibly positive note, the Indian River High School boys soccer team won a state championship, making everybody proud of their efforts, both on and off the field. On a less positive note, Safe Haven made the news again, first by announcing they would indeed be closing their doors, then by closing their doors before they had announced, and ultimately seeing 19 dogs being euthanized. One of the saddest stories of the year for us was this Safe Haven mess, and just like the Haden situation in Bethany, we’re sure there is more to come out of this. I am still full from a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, but have no plans on changing how I attack it next year.

December is the last month of the year, and probably the busiest for many of you. Selbyville residents voted to approve a $2.5 million loan for water filtration. The loan has zero percent interest, and will be forgiven completely when the filtration system is properly up and running. That seems like a no-brainer, and it was indeed an unanimous vote in the town. The Town of Millville held its first Holiday Market to promote both the town and shopping local, and the Indian River Inlet campground closed down for a major winter upgrade to the facilities. A crazy police chase that started in Georgetown, made its way to Fenwick Island and eventually came to a conclusion in Milford started conversation for days around here as many people saw at least a portion of the chase, and truly drove our reporter Maria Counts out of her mind as she tried in vain to follow the progression of the chase. I wrapped up an early deadline at the paper to drive down to North Carolina to see my mommy, so, yeah, life is good.

Happy New Year, one and all. Let’s see what 2014 brings us.