County approves sewer for Millville-area development

Members of the Sussex County Council unanimously approved provision of sanitary sewer for an 89-lot residential subdivision called White Creek Landing at their Nov. 1 meeting, after preliminary approvals in mid-July and Aug. 1, and on the recommendation of the county’s engineering department.

The Toll Brothers community will become linked with the Millville sanitary sewer district.

Also receiving unanimous approval at the Nov. 1 meeting was a conditional use for Edward Chason, to allow a gift shop to be built in an AR-1 agricultural zoning area.

Of no less unanimity among council members but subject of some objection from those in attendance at a public hearing on the issue was a change in the county’s pension policy for its employees. The changes were recommended by the county’s pension committee and came in two parts.

First, when computing their pension figures, the county will add an additional year to service calculations for county employees who have served two or more years in the military and been honorably discharged.

The additional year will not figure in determining retirement times or the time it takes for the employees to become vested in the pension plan.

The move was intended to further recognize the contributions of the veterans, county financial officer David Baker noted in describing the recommendation.

Baker said approximately 47 county employees would be eligible for the additional year in their pension calculations, costing the county an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 per year. (Council Members George Cole, Dale Dukes and Lynn Rogers noted they will each qualify for the additional year based on their service.)

Greenwood resident Dan Kramer — a perpetual presence at council meetings and watchdog of county coffers — did not object to that change but did strongly object to the second recommended alteration to the pension plan: reduced pension vesting ages for elected county officials based on their years of service.

Under current pension guidelines, elected officials are fully vested at age 60 with 15 years of service or at 55 with 30 years of service. The pension committee recommended that service requirement be reduced to better align the system with that of the state in regards to state elected officials. It would also make it closer to standards that exist in neighboring counties in Delaware and Maryland, Baker said.

The new guideline would allow full vesting at 60 with five years of elected service or at 55 with 10 years of elected service.

Baker emphasized that an analysis of the change by a county actuary had indicated the change would cost the county nothing, but Kramer attacked the move as that of “pigs at the trough, squealing for money.”

“You vote yourselves a pension that you don’t deserve at all,” he told the council members.

Baker noted for Kramer that the state’s pension policy was actually more liberal, but Kramer said he felt that all county funds were taxpayer funds and made it plain he thought they should be spent carefully, even if the apparent cost of the change was nothing.

Council members focused on the bottom line of the issue, unanimously approving both aspects of the pension calculation change.

In yet another unanimous vote from the council members, the council approved a $250 grant request from the Greater Delmar Chamber of Commerce for its Citizen of the Year banquet. Councilman Vance Phillips had initially put in a $100 request on behalf of the group but said a recent conversation had put $250 as closer to the mark.

Council members also recognized a group of Delaware Technical and Community College students who were in attendance at the Nov. 1 meeting. The students had been assigned to attend and report on the meeting as part of their journalism class at the college.

With a thin agenda, council members took the opportunity to ask the students where they lived – particularly noting their own constituents – and suggest they might have a council meeting with more meat to it in the coming weeks.