County nearing end of state police deal

Sussex County Council presented the Delaware State Police with a ceremonial $1.4 million check Tuesday in the final annual extension of the decade-old partnership.

In the mid-1990s — according to county officials — the council and state police brokered a deal to put 32 additional troopers in Delaware’s largest geographical county. Currently, 166 state police officers serve Sussex full-time and they plan to add four officers this year in the final year of the contract, according to police officials in attendance Tuesday.

“This has been an excellent partnership,” said Col. Thomas Macleish, superintendent of the Delaware State Police. “I sincerely thank you for the commitment you’ve made.”

County Council President Lynn Rogers presented Macleish with a real $460,000 quarterly check Tuesday that will be used for salaries, benefits and seven new police cars to be used in the county, officials said.

“We’re delighted to be a partner of the state police,” Rogers said Tuesday. “We’re appreciative for all you do.”

Money given to the state police has increased annually in recent years. According to county Public Information Officer Chip Guy, Sussex budgeted $697,000 in the 2003 fiscal year, $843,000 in 2004, just more than $1 million in 2005, $1.2 million in 2006 and $1.4 million in 2007.

County officials have consistently backed the subsidization of state police coverage, especially when faced with ideas to form county forces. Outgoing Sussex County Sheriff Robert Reed — whom Democratic challenger and Sheriff-elect Eric Swanson defeated in the Nov. 7 election — favored a local force to serve only Sussex County.

No formal discussions about forming a county police force ever surfaced, partly because of council’s seemingly unanimous disapproval and support of the state police deal.

“The present program we have, where we have additional troopers in Sussex County, is the most efficient, most cost productive way of providing additional security,” said George Cole (R-4th) when faced with the county force versus state police subsidization debate. “I like that.

“We need to just enhance (police protection) through the state,” Rogers said, calling a county force a potential “fiscal nightmare.” It is unclear whether another deal between council and the state police will be brokered at the nearing end of the current contract.

County approves inspection fees

Because of new state law, mobile home owners will now have to pay $120 to have a county official inspect foundation footers and tie-downs on their home. Each additional visit beyond three to perform the full $120 inspection will cost the homeowner $40.

Council approved the ordinance implementing the fee Tuesday. According to county officials who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, a law passed through the Delaware legislature this summer requires county officials to inspect the homes for safety purposes. Nine county officials now in training will perform the inspections along with their regularly-assigned duties. The homes will be inspected to manufacturer standards, officials said Tuesday. State law did not mandate the adoption of governmental standards — just that the three Delaware counties perform the inspections.