County council adopts standards for airport-based businesses

The Sussex County Council this week adopted a “minimum standards” policy for commercial activities occurring at the Sussex County Airport.

Airport Director Jim Hicken explained to the council that they had rescinded the policies they had in place in April 2009 and had directed county staff to direct a new policy. Since then, the Airport Advisory Committee has been put in place, and committee members worked with county staff, including administrative and legal staff, to draft the new policy.

Jeff Reed, chairman of the Airport Advisory Committee, explained that the new standards were the best compilation the committee could come up with and, while not everyone was 100 percent happy or unhappy with them, in the end, they came up with the “compilation as best we could as a group. It’s been four years coming up with these documents,” he noted.

County Councilman George Cole asked if it wouldn’t be seen as the “fox guarding the henhouse” for the Airport Advisory Committee to come up with minimum standards for the aviation businesses.

“Yes, I’m sure you will have some constituents that could say that,” Reed acknowledged.

Cole also asked if the standards were similar to those in place at other airports.

“Yes,” said Reed. “We looked at several and tried to adopt what was best for everybody.”

“Can they be modified?” asked Cole. Addressing County Attorney Everett Moore, he asked, “Since we own the airport, can we arbitrarily make changes anytime we want?”

Moore emphasized that the standards had been drafted in a long process that included input from county staff, legal and insurance representatives, but he said, “There is a mechanism for change.”

Reed clarified that the standards will be reviewed every 36 months but can be reviewed sooner if the committee deems it necessary.

“The simple answer is yes,” chimed in County Administrator Todd Lawson.

Cole reiterated that he was simple wanting to know if the County was “locked in” to the standards as they exist presently. The complete document containing the minimum standards can be found online in this week’s council packet.

The council this week also approved several wastewater change orders and an airport wetland mitigation project change order. They granted several requests for grants: one to Immanuel House of Praise Church in Seaford for a community outreach day, one to the City of Seaford’s Police department for a community night out and one to the Coverdale Community Crossroads Community Council for a summer enrichment cultural event.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, Georgetown resident Linda Maginti encouraged the council to keep prayer a part of its meetings and said she was “concerned over the loss of religious freedoms.”

The county council is currently under an injunction from continuing to say the “Lord’s Prayer” at its weekly meetings, as part of a lawsuit involving the exclusive use of that prayer at the opening of the meetings. Instead, the council has been using a selection of psalms and has asked members of the public not to say the “Lord’s Prayer” on its behalf during public comment at the meeting.

Self-appointed council watchdog Dan Kramer of Greenwood questioned the council’s grant to the Immanuel House of Praise Church for its community outreach day, noting that the event’s organizers had offered to have Sussex County’s name appear in their bulletin and all other advertising for the event. “If that’s not vote-buying, I don’t know what is,” he said.

While Sussex County Council and its individual members have routinely sponsored and/or given funds to support various types of non-profits in the county, there has been criticism in the past of grants to religious groups and in recent weeks over whether councilmembers’ use of their councilmanic funds could influence voters.