County honors Indians football team, outgoing administrator

Sussex County Council, at their meeting this week, recognized the Division II state champion, undefeated Indian River High School football team. Todd Lawson, county administrator appointee, joked that, as a “[Sussex Central] Golden Knight, it brings me much pain…but duty calls.”

Lawson said the Indians were the 14th team from Sussex County to win the Division II championship since 1975. It was only the Indians’ second win, the last time the team won being in 1988 and the last time they made an appearance in the championship game being in 1991.

The council also honored outgoing county administrator David Baker. Baker’s last day is officially Dec. 31 but Tuesday was his last council meeting as administrator. The council thanked him for his 33 years of service to the County, first as director of accounting, then as director of finance and finally, for the past five years, as county administrator.

“It’s been a privilege and honor,” said Baker, who thanked his family for their understanding of the demands of the position over the years.

The county council on Tuesday also approved a motion to go forward with a grant to from the State of Delaware Infastructure Fund for the extension of the runway at the Sussex County Airpark. The grant will be originated by PATS Aircarft and endorsed by the county, said Baker.

To be able to accommodate insurance carriers of the of the owners of 757 aircraft, the county has been working for a few years to extend the runway 1,000 feet, explained Baker, which could result in between 50 and 110 more jobs. The first 500 feet, from 5,000 to 5,500, will cost the county just $232,000 because that expansion is 95 percent funded by an FAA grant.

Baker explained that to go from 5,500 to 6,000 feet, the cost would be around $12 million, with $6.3 million coming from having to re-align nearby Park Avenue. Baker said he does anticipate federal funding, which would reduce the cost by 50 percent, but the county could still be responsible for about $3 million – hence the motion on the grant application.

In other news from the Dec. 13 council meeting, the council approved distribution of an excess of revenue of $3.4 million. The money will include $136,000 in grants approved by the county in June 2011; a 10 percent funding for open space (about $346,153), as is necessary per a county ordinance; and a 3.5 cent change to the tax table, which would work out to, on average, a savings of $8 per household ($1,063,088 total). The remaining excess revenue will be split between pension contributions ($957,756) and the pension benefit trust fund ($957,756).

Finance Director Susan Webb said the overage was due to more-than-projected realty transfer tax revenue and a decrease in employee/benefit expenditures because of attrition.

The council on Tuesday also introduced an ordinance regarding a revision of the survivor pension plan and discussed possible options for new employees regarding pension and medical insurance – something they will discuss again after the first of the year.

Planning & Zoning Director Lawrence Lank, responding to a request from Councilman George Cole last week, reported that the council has nine conditional-use and two change-of-zone applications pending. Cole had wanted to know what applications were remained on the council’s to-do list so they could start to clean them up by the end of the year.

Lank said they could post them all on the Jan. 3 agenda or in the month of January, depending upon what the council desired.

The council this week also approved the county engineering department going forth with a Rural Utility Service grant in the amount of $2 million for additional improvements at the Inland Bays Regional Wastewater treatment plant. The county will eventually have to provide about $2.8 million for a second phase of the project – something Webb said they could try to find funding for in grants, loans or unused funds from the Angola sewer project.

“So we are not just making up a project just so you can get the $2 million?” asked Cole. “This project is something you have been contemplating?”

County Engineer Mike Izzo confirmed that it was something that had already been researched and that, under the stipulations of the grant money, it must be used at the Inland Bays plant and be used by May 2012, which sped up the process. They plan on using the initial $2 million to pre-purchase spray irrigation equipment that will allow them to spray 90 additional acres of land.