State Rep. Gerald Hocker (R-38th) met with residents of Fenwick Island recently for one of his “Coffee’s on Me” talks that allows constituents to hear his thoughts on issues, ask questions and get updates on legislation.
He spoke of some of the more recently enacted bills and his thoughts on them, including yard waste and the universal recycling bill. Of the yard waste ban, which was already in place in New Castle County and now is a reality in Kent and Sussex County, Hocker said that, because people “have no options,” yard waste is getting dumped in ditches and on vacant lots.
Regarding the recently enacted recycling/bottle bill, he said, as a store owner, “I have benefited more than any other legislator with the recycling/bottle bill, but I could not support it, because it wasn’t well thought-out. It won’t work, it’s too costly, and we can no longer say we are a sales tax-free state.”
“To be giving grants and subsidies to companies that are going to profit and being told it wasn’t going to cost anything – now you know that’s not true,” he said.
Hocker said he had heard that recycling would cost homeowners anywhere from $3 to $12 per month. He added that, as an owner of a mobile home park in Fenwick Island, he knows that his tenants can’t afford the extra $6 per month it will cost them.
“It’s not working. People don’t want to take the can. They don’t want to use it,” he said. “To tell the waste haulers that they have to give the containers but not force the consumer to use it is wrong.”
Resident Kimberly Grimes told Hocker that the Friends of the Lighthouse, Fenwick Island’s historical group, have a “big dream,” to have a museum that would encompass the former home of Oliver Cropper, the associated store and the lighthouse. She also emphasized the importance of the actual stone being named a national monument and requested Hocker’s help.
“We wanted to put it out there,” she said. “That stone is of such great importance – not just for the state, but for the nation. We could make that a national treasure. I would love to see that happen for Fenwick Island.”
Resident Diane Tingle asked about the sidewalks on Route 54 west of Fenwick, and whose idea it was for them to be there.
“That came through the administration through DelDOT,” answered Hocker. He added that he was against having the sidewalks if they didn’t run the whole way to Route 1.
“If you don’t bring them to Route 1, you’ve got nothing. We are working on it, but there is quite a bit of wetlands to deal with. It is dangerous for bikers and joggers going over that bridge. Somebody is going to get killed there,” he said, adding that he believes where the sidewalks start is the safest point on the whole route.
Resident Ron Wuslich asked about the status of the remediation plan for Burton’s Island at the Indian River power plant, which has an old, unlined landfill of coal ash that was found to be leeching into nearby waters.
The Center for the Inland Bays had asked that independent scientists look at the options for remediation, but eventually, Wuslich said, Gov. Jack Markell allowed NRG Energy – the owners of the Indian River Power Plant – to work on the plan itself, with oversight from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).
“Do you know what the status of that is?” he asked Hocker.
Hocker said he didn’t but offered that he knew they were struggling with where to put the ash, where it would “not create a problem somewhere else.”
“Should have never been approved there, but how do you deal with it?” Hocker asked rhetorically.
He also shared his thoughts on the state’s recently enacted laws permitting civil unions for same-sex couples and establishing a system for permitted medical use of marijuana – neither of which he voted for or supports now.
Hocker asserted that, while he originally did vote for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, if he “knew then what I know now, it would not be law in the state of Delaware.” Positive change has already been made, he said, and the costs of the program outweigh the benefits.