County Council opts for psalm at meeting

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me...”

So began the June 26 county council meeting. For the second week, the council meeting began with Psalm 23, after County Attorney Everett Moore read a statement regarding the issue of reciting the Lord’s Prayer before meetings. He said that, while the council as a legislative body is allowed to recite a prayer, the council was exploring options as to “what is an appropriate and permissible prayer.” He requested that all in attendance at the meetings refrain from reciting out loud the Lord’s Prayer “as we work through this process.”

“Council is subject to an injunction because the prayer recited was exclusively the Lord’s Prayer,” he said, adding that council is not “permitted to stand or otherwise participate in any attempt to circumvent this order. Mere silence on the part of the council while the Lord’s Prayer is being recited by others may cause individual members and the Council as a whole to be held in contempt. Your cooperation with Council as it works through this difficult process will be appreciated,” he said.

In other county news, County Administrator Todd Lawson said that he recommended not extending the contract with the State of Delaware to provide process serving, and the council agreed.

Councilman Vance Phillips asked whether Sheriff Jeff Christopher had been invited to attend the meeting or asked for his input. Lawson said he had been and that Sheriff Christopher concurred that the request for proposal should be re-bid, so Lawson hadn’t thought it necessary for him to attend.

“With a $4 million stream of revenue from this office, do we even re-bid it?” asked Councilman Vance Phillips. “This is the one of the most dangerous parts of [that office’s duties]. Is it worth it to put the deputies in such a dangerous position for revenue that isn’t even a fraction of that?”

Lawson explained that it can be one of the more dangerous parts of the sheriff’s deputy position, to serve Family Court notices including Protections from Abuse (PFAs), wage attachments, subpoenas and summons.

“The only decision, for today, is whether you want to extend the current contract — that’s the only decision you have to make today,” he explained, saying the State could opt to re-bid it at a later date.

Lawson also reported that Sussex County has invited the public to offer suggestions for the County’s upcoming 2013-2014 Capital Transportation Program request via the County’s Web site through July 27.

County council also voted this week to move forward the first annual report on the county Comprehensive Plan. Attorney Vince Robertson presented the report, saying that because state law changed and new Comprehensive Plans had to be done every 10 years instead of every five, there is now an annual report due every year to check on progress. This year’s report was the first, so it encompasses 2008 until the present.

Robertson said they had 23 ordinances that they had considered or acted upon in some way or another, and he explained them to the council. Councilman George Cole asked what the definition of “considered” was.

“Yeah, we might have talked about it and then moved on...” he said. “But we haven’t addressed it. And now with things being slow,” he added of real estate, development and building, “now is the time to do it.”

“I mean, define ‘open space’ — we have been debating that for years. To say that we are considering them isn’t going be sufficient,” surmised Cole.

Robertson said that out of the 23 issues, there were “none that had received no consideration.”

“Of the 23 ordinances listed, they have all been addressed and 18 to 20 have been adopted in one way or another.”

Councilwoman Joan Deaver said the council needed to be more transparent and that she would not vote to forward the report on to the governor’s council. She said the county’s land-use plan had “been in front of people, and I just found out about this a couple of days ago. It is an excellent report, and it is important — especially to the people who weren’t here five years ago.”

Cole asked if there could be a workshop with Planning & Zoning commissioners before the next annual report, so it could be discussed more in depth. Lawson said he would schedule a workshop.

Ultimately, the council voted 4-1 to forward the report on to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Planning. Council President Michael Vincent reiterated that the report would be available online so the public can view the progress that has been made.

In other news:

• County Council held a public hearing on an ordinance that would amend the code relating to car washes and laundry business, because of new technology and how it affects the way equivalent dwelling units (EDUs) are determined.

• The council voted to grant money to several Sussex County non-profits.