County asking for proposals on vacant properties


Sussex County is making available three county-owned properties in Georgetown for lease or purchase to organizations that will provide decent, safe and affordable housing to those in most in need in Sussex County. The county recently released its Request For Proposals (RFP) for the vacant houses. They will be taking applications, and a committee will then review those suggestions to make a recommendation to County Council sometime in mid-March.

Six copies of the RFP response must be submitted by March 1 at 4:30 p.m. to Sussex County Council, 22215 DuPont Boulevard, P.O. Box 589, Georgetown, DE 19947.

“The idea of the county and other government entities taking stock of potential resources came out at one of our community meetings,” explained the Rev. Kim Tephabock of Unite Sussex.

Tephabock, pastor at Dagsboro Church of God, explained that Unite Sussex is a grassroots movement with the goal of uniting the people of Sussex County, from the people at the beach to the people on the farms and everywhere in between. They have had several “town hall” meetings to gather resources and spread information and hope to the people of the county who are experiencing hardship during the economic crisis, and to unite the organizations and government entities that can help with those that need help most.

He explained that the crisis affect everyone, albeit in different ways; and with limited income, the government had to become creative in ways they could still be of assistance to those needing the most help.

“We have seen personal income loss and hardship, but the economy has affected the government, as well, in terms of loss of income through realty transfer taxes, etc.,” explained Tephabock.

“So, the government found itself with increased need and decreased ability to help. And the question that was asked, ‘Why not find other ways to help?’ And this was one of the ways they could help. To take stock of resources they have and don’t have an immediate need for and try to find the right group that’s actively involved in getting care to the community,” he explained.

The potential purchases under the RFP are for the improvements (the homes) only and do not include the land upon which they are located. The property locations are as follows: (1) 1-35 20.00 40.00 – 501 S. Bedford Street Ext.; (2) 1-35 20.00 64.00 – 21603 Park Avenue; and (3) 1-35 20.00 51.03 – 22557 Springfield Lane.

Sussex County Council is seeking proposals from organizations that will lease them for up to three years, with the option to renew annually for the duration of the home’s availability; purchase the home and move the home from the property within a mutually agreed-upon time frame; or purchase the home, lease the land for the duration of the land’s availability, and then agree to move the home from the land by a stated date.

Gina Jennings, director of accounting for Sussex County, said offering up the vacant houses was a way the county could help address the need for affordable housing.

“We have had organizations ask us how we could help them, and this is our way of helping them out.”

The information in the Request for Proposals will aim to make sure the organizations are financially sound to rent and/or purchase the homes and that the houses will be used for good purposes.

A committee, including Tephabock as one of the members, will be asked to evaluate all completed responses to the RFP. Points earned will be awarded based on the required submittals, including the applicant’s financial and organizational capacity, the applicant’s proposed payment, expected use of the house, impact to the community and benefit to the community.

Barbara VanSciver, who used to own the property at 501 S. Bedford, said it brings her some peace of mind that her house will be used to help others after the planned expansion of the county’s airport forced her to sell the property.

“I did not want to leave my home, but since I had no choice, I am glad that it will take a positive turn to be somebody else’s home. It is a good home, well-built and inexpensive to operate.”

She added that she would still like to see the house stay put, even though purchasing the building and moving it from the lot is one of the options in the proposal, as all three homes are eventually expected to be required to be moved or demolished to make way for the airport expansion.

VanSciver, who made many energy-efficiency improvements to the house when she purchased it, including a new roof and windows, to ensure the lowest possible monthly expenses in her retirement, said, “If the reason that the county had to take my house has now changed, then I would strongly suggest that they not move it but lease it or sell it to some group that can use it where it is. It’s a well-built brick home that I bought from the original owner. It’s not going to blow down!”

The schedule for the evaluation of proposals for use of the homes is as follows: Feb. 16-19 – tour of county homes (must schedule an appointment); Feb. 26 – question and answer deadline; March 1 – proposal submittal deadline at 4:30 p.m.; March 5 and 10 – possible on-site interviews; March 11 – committee’s selection of proposals; March 16 – election recommendation to Council.

Six copies of the proposals are due by 4:30 p.m., March 1, to Sussex County Council Community Development and Housing Department, Attn: Brandy Bennett, 22215 DuPont Blvd., P.O. Box 589, Georgetown, DE 19947.

Questions and letters of intent concerning the RFP should be submitted in writing, and may be sent via fax to Brandy Bennett at (302) 854-5397 or e-mail at bbennett@sussexcountyde.gov.

On a side note, the Pepsi Refresh Project has accepted Unite Sussex’s application for a possible grant to help them fund their Sussex County project. To be awarded the grant, they need to receive the most votes in an online poll during the month of February. People can vote once per day. Visit www.unitesussex.org for more information.