Millville sewer expansion on hold while property owners contacted

By Monica Scott
The Sussex County Council decided this week to defer for one additional week any action on the public hearing results for the proposed Route 26, Phase III portion of the Millville Sanitary Sewer District expansion, to further notice property owners in the immediate area.

Sussex County had held a public hearing in January that County Director of Utility Planning John Ashman said was sparsely attended, so they held an additional public hearing on Thursday, March 7.

Ashman said the attendance at the March meeting held at Millville town hall was “small but better” and that an informal show of hands at the end showed a “vast majority” approved of the project, which would expand the Millville Sanitary Sewer District. He said several property owners had requested after the hearing to be included in the district.

The expansion would include 82 parcels located along Route 26 that are contiguous to the existing sewer district. Property owners and those living within the area proposed for the expansion were encouraged to attend the meeting learn more about the project, which would extend public wastewater service mostly along Route 26, from Hocker’s Super Center west to St. George’s UMC Church at Clarksville.

Sussex County Council members had voted in October 2012 to allow the county engineering department to prepare and post notices for the proposed sewer expansion. Ashman said the core reason for the expansion request is to get ahead of the DelDOT mainline improvements slated for that same area.

“The primary reason for this request is that the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) has identified the Route 26 corridor from St. Georges Church to the canal for widening and improvements. In order to be proactive and complete our mainline regional work in this area prior to the DelDOT disturbance, we need to begin working on the installation of the gravity lines and force main in the Phase III area of Route 26,” Ashman had said at the Oct. 2 council meeting.

“Once DelDOT has completed its work, it would be approximately five years before they would allow us to re-disturb the area,” he emphasized, noting the additional costs that would result if the County isn’t ready to move forward before DelDOT begins the mainline project.

Ashman said the county engineering department has been coordinating with DelDOT on their plans for the Route 26 corridor and has incorporated the realignment of the St. George’s Church intersection and various other portions of the project area when developing their plans for County services in that area.

The expansion would consist of approximately 335 acres, and the owners of the parcels would be responsible for system connection charges.

The council at their March 19 meeting deferred action until next week, to see if Ashman could contact seven more property owners and the remaining property owners in the Wingate Court subdivision.

The council also heard on Tuesday from Dean Swingle, chairman of the board at Sussex Academy, about their plans for the upcoming year and years ahead. He said the school, currently known as the Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences, will hold grades 6 through 12 by the year 2016 and is geared toward preparing students for college.

Swingle explained to the council that the school is planning to switch buildings with Delmarva Christian High School because of the number of students they are preparing to accommodate and will need to raise $15.5 million to complete necessary changes to the building in order to make the switch. He explained they have raised $4.8 million far, plan on borrowing $6 million and have about $5 million to go to reach their goal. He noted that they receive no state or federal funding for building improvements.

“There are not state or federal funds given to charter schools for building,” he said, adding that they do receive funding for students, as public schools do.

“The money follows the student,” he explained after Councilman Sam Wilson asked what it costs to educate a student at a charter school. “So the savings [to County taxpayers] is in the buildings?” asked Wilson, to which Swingle said, “Yes, we have to raise the money.”

He said they have had a high demand for middle school (200 applicants last year for 110 slots) and have actively recruited in minority areas in order to broaden their student base, which he said is mostly “Caucasian” at this point. He said that, even with recruitment, students are then placed in a lottery and anyone can apply.

“We do have a reputation for being academically challenging,” he said, adding that students who were struggling academically haven’t historically applied, but that that wouldn’t preclude them from doing so. He said they only require that students be Delaware residents. He also said their main goal was to offer another option to the families and students in the area.

“We met with all the superintendents of all the area schools, and we made it clear we are trying to be friends. It is not a competition,” he said. “We believe there is a school for each kid, but we hope this gives people more options and raises the bar for the kids that felt after middle school they were not being challenged in high school.”

In other county news:

• The County approved the Bird Haven Community Improvement Project, a project that paves Blue Heron Drive in the Roger’s Haven area of Millville.

• The County approved a bid for the re-lining of sewer lines in South Bethany and approved a software update for the Sheriff’s Office.

• The County also paid off outstanding revenue bonds pertaining to West Rehoboth.