County moves on local sewer

“This is kind of a milestone,” said Assistant County Engineer Russell Archut. “It’s the last piece — with this project, the entire southeast corner will be filled out.”

Slated for completion in May 2007, the Miller Creek and South Ocean View Sanitary Sewer Districts will bring the last remaining lands between the Indian River Inlet and Fenwick Island onto central sewer.

Sussex County Council unanimously approved a contract with Whitman, Requardt &Associates to design the project at the March 15 council meeting.

As the name suggests, the project will serve areas south of Ocean View — Plantation Park, Shady Dell, and surrounding subdivisions.

The new districts will eliminate more than 300 septic systems and prevent nearly 60 new ones from being built, according to the project description. Every year, the new district will prevent roughly 6,600 pounds of nitrogen and 500 pounds of phosphorus from entering the groundwater (and thence, the Indian River Bay).

The price tag for the entire project stands at $8 million.

The state will contribute $2.85 million toward those costs, in the form of a 21st Century grant (aimed at keeping user rates affordable).

The county will also contribute $350,000, and borrow the remaining $4.8 million (from the state, 30 years at 1.5 percent).

Archut said the financing appeared to have contained costs within the range originally budgeted. County Administrator Bob Stickels conferred with Finance Director David Baker, remembering the Wastewater Advisory Council meeting when they’d attained the low-interest loan.

“The situation is considerably better than what was expected when we went to referendum,” Stickels said (however, he hesitated to start the celebrations before bidding the construction).

Elsewhere during the meeting, council approved a small expansion to the Fenwick Island Sanitary Sewer District (five homes, in Mill Creek Acres).

Baker introduced an ordinance that would authorize the buy-back, and resale at a lower interest rate, of bonds the county used to build the West Rehoboth Expansion sewer project.

Baker said they had reissued the 1990 bonds ($19 million) when rates decreased in 1995, but the county had only been allowed to refinance one time.

“As of Sept. 16, we will be able to pay them off and buy new bonds,” Baker noted.

Stickels estimated $1.5 million in savings, depending on interest rates.

The move would solely benefit the customers in that particular district.

In other business, Stickels read a proclamation urging Congress to restore Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.

“Last week, when we attended the National Association of Counties (NACO), one of the biggest issues was the President (George W.) Bush proposal to eliminate the CDBG,” Stickels said.

The NACO development subcommittee, of which Stickels is a member, unanimously passed a resolution opposing the President’s proposed budget.

As Stickels read, President Gerald Ford enacted the CDBG program in 1974, with the goal of developing “viable urban communities, by providing decent housing and suitable living environment, and expanding economic opportunities,” especially for low- to moderate-income families.

Stickels said Sussex County had disbursed nearly $1.44 million in CDBG funding for housing rehabilitation (or demolition) and wastewater hookups, and the President’s budget would “completely eliminate the CDBG.”

Council President Finley Jones and Council Members Dale Dukes and Lynn Rogers voted in support of the proclamation. Council Member George Cole was out sick. Council Member Vance Phillips abstained.

Later, Phillips said he believed the CDBG program had merits, but added, “I’m very concerned about national debt, and I think the president is making a sincere attempt to bring the federal budget under control.”

In other business, council recognized Carol Jones of the Delaware League of Women Voters. Jones handed out this year’s version of the “They Represent You” information flipbook.

Council members awarded several grants, including $2,500 to Delaware Ducks Unlimited for the Safety and Conservation Day event, scheduled for April 2 at Owens Station in Greenwood.

Organizers expected 4,000 children would attend this year, up from last year’s 2,400.

Council also unanimously approved three conditional uses.

• A small engine repair business at Leroy and Jo Ann Marvel’s property on Powell Farm Road, south of Burbage Road. The Marvels’ son, Thomas, runs the business.

• An expansion to the Honolulu Mobile Home Court (two manufactured homes), east of Frankford. Harold Truxon, vice-president of Delmar Homes, represented the application.

• A mini-storage facility on 1.7 acres south of Daisey Road, in Bayard. Ken Christenbury of River Basin Engineering represented the applicant, John Willey of Peninsula Oil Company.