County council approves Hazardous Mitigation Plan

Sussex County Council at their Aug. 24 meeting voted to approve a Hazardous Mitigation Plan update for the county.

Joseph Thomas, director of the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), explained that FEMA requires an updated plan every five years, and the county’s first plan was completed in April of 2005. He noted that FEMA had approved the update on the condition that it be approved by the county council.

Council President Vance Phillips asked whether the plan could be available online for a week or two since prior to council’s vote on approval, to allow for public viewing, but Thomas explained that two public hearings were held and public comments were included in the plan.

“In talking about the federal government that passes laws they don’t read, I couldn’t vote on it in good conscience today,” said Phillips, with Councilman Sam Wilson in agreement.

Councilman George Cole said he was involved in the first plan in 2005, and while admitting he hadn’t read the update yet in its entirety, said he felt confident in passing this new one as an update to the 2005 plan. Councilwoman Joan Deaver and Councilman Michael Vincent voted to approve it, as well, and the motion carried. Thomas said the plan would be posted online on Tuesday for further public viewing.

Adoption of the plan is a requirement for FEMA funding pre- and post-disaster. For example, many municipalities received FEMA funding to compensate them for snow removal and other costs after the twin blizzards in February, because it was a declared disaster by the president.

Without a plan like this in place, or an update on file, neither the county nor its municipalities would have been eligible. Thomas explained that all incorporated jurisdictions are involved in the update process and have their own strategies and actions in individualized plans based on the county plan.

Council members also voted this week to give the Town of Dagsboro a $3,000 grant to deal with drainage problems there.

The county on Tuesday approved accepting a grant from the FAA for $227,712, for an environmental assessment of the Runway 4-22 extension at the airport in Georgetown. When asked for his opinion on what the council should do regarding the grant acceptance, County Administrator David Baker explained that they needed to identify how many feet are needed for 757s to be worked on, and to get an estimate of costs, and to look to see what the FAA could fund.

Jim Hickin, airport manager, noted that they currently don’t have the hangar space for 757s to get worked on there, although the space is there to build.

They also discussed the possibility of the county funding a few hundred more feet of runway, if it meant that more companies/opportunities for business development could exist.

“If it means saving 500 jobs to fund, independently, a couple hundred feet, it might make sense to do that,” said Phillips. “And more opportunity for businesses in Sussex, besides construction, farming, etc.”

Councilman Michael Vincent said he was concerned that if the county went too short with the expanded runway, that the existing businesses would pull out all together.

In other news from the Aug. 24 meeting:

• The council approved authorizing the preparation and posting of notices regarding a parcel de-annexation from the Long Neck Sanitary Sewer District for a proposed development Baywood Villas, adjacent to Baywood and owned by developer Robert Tunnell. The area consists of approximately 30 acres along the north side of Long Neck Road.

Rob Davis of the Utility Planning Division explained that Tunnell had planned to serve the area from Baywood’s existing facility. DNREC, Sussex County Public Works and the Sussex County Engineering Department must approve it, as well. On Tuesday, the county simply approved authorizing the preparation and posting of notices. A public hearing is scheduled for October.

• The council approved a $250 grant for Coasters Inc., for outfits for the Mid-Coast Gymnastics Team, $200 for H.O. Brittingham Elementary’s Partners Program and $1,500 for the Bridgeville Apple Scrapple Festival, for operating expenses.