Sussex County Council reorganizes 2021 (copy)

The 2021 Sussex County Council: Mark G. Schaeffer (R-3rd), Cynthia C. Green (R-2nd), Michael H. Vincent (R-1st), Doug Hudson (R-4th) and John L. Rieley (R-5th).

A Sussex County resident who called in during the Public Comments portion of the Tuesday, Jan. 12, Sussex County Council meeting urged the county leaders to “discourage individuals and groups from transforming peaceful demonstrations in Dover, when President Biden is sworn in, like that that happened in our national Capitol last week.”

Councilman John Rieley (R-5th) said her call was valuable and emphasized that all gatherings in Dover on Inauguration Day, Wednesday, Jan. 20, “should be peaceful.”

“Nobody should take weapons or anything that can cause a disturbance. We absolutely do not want to see anything like what happened last week. We all — at least I do — wholeheartedly uphold your sentiments,” Rieley told the caller.

Council members will now preside over land-use hearings in the Carter Partnership Center at nearby Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown, to accommodate the large crowds that often attend.

They heard details from County Administrator Todd Lawson at their Tuesday, Jan. 12, meeting, with Lawson saying land-use meetings draw more speakers and listeners than most other topics that council members tackle, and more space is needed due to coronavirus restrictions and the need to keep everyone safe distances apart.

“We wouldn’t be here but for COVID, so because of this and where we are because of restrictions that have been placed on our public meetings, we have had to adapt and look for a new venue, and that venue is Delaware Tech,” he said.

He said some land-use applications that would have normally been heard were put on hold until restrictions were lifted or a new venue was found.

“We want to keep business moving. We want to keep these land-use applications moving. One of the things we’ve prided ourselves on over the years is seeing how many land-use applications we could move through,” he said.

Before the pandemic, applications were under review in less than six months, a marked improvement from the two-year wait a couple of years prior, he said.

“We’re planning for the unknown. We have to find a venue to hold as many people as we can, because we don’t know if that will be filled by people interested in the applications, but they may not come at all. They may end up logging in and participating virtually … but we can’t plan like that,” Lawson said.

Rieley said the plan is an example of how every effort is made to accommodate the public. Lawson added that, if most people with an interest in land-use participate virtually, and a larger room isn’t needed after all, council members will return to the Council Chamber.

Also at the Jan. 12 county council meeting, council members reviewed a letter from John Cannon, president of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company, thanking County employees for quickly responding when, on Sept. 3, the fire department itself was struck by lightning, taking a direct hit during a storm. All of the BVFC systems were disabled, including the repeater and phone lines, leaving firefighters with no outside communication.

County officials and informational technology experts rushed to their aid, taking a telephone to temporarily set up a line to the dispatch center and making other accommodations.

“These gentlemen provided much-needed repairs in our time of need and performed in an outstanding manner,” Cannon wrote.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.