Monday, September 14, 2015


Brandywine planning a $54.6 million  capital program

Brandywine School District has asked the state Department of Education to authorize spending nearly $55 million to renovate four school buildings, demolish the unused Burnett high-rise building on the P.S. du Pont campus in north Wilmington and install new turf athletic fields at its three high schools. The program would be paid for by long-term bonds if the department determines that any or all of the component projects are justified. That decision is expected to come in November. The proposal then joins requests from other public school districts for presentation of the state Budget Office, which prepares the governor’s capital-spending budget for submission to the General Assembly in January. Historically, most school building projects are approved.

Scott Kessel, chief finance officer, said the bonds will not require an increase in the capital-spending portion of the district’s overall tax rate because older bonds, which a carry higher interest rates than would be expected from a new issue, are being retired at a pace which more than offsets the debt-service cost associated with a new issue. There are currently $54.1 million bonds outstanding. Kessel said there is no ceiling on the total amount of bonded indebtedness. The present capital-spending tax rate is 24¢ for each $100 of assessed property value.

School board president John Skrobot said, however, that it is likely the referendum at which district residents will be asked to approve the bond issue will be combined

The Burnett building

with a proposal to increase the main portion of the property tax rate to finance operations. That referendum is tentatively list to be held in next February or March.

If the usual ratio holds the state would pay 60% of the actual projects costs. The district would be responsible for 40%. While that division is frequently presented as an advantage for local taxpayers, the actuality is that district taxpayers are also state taxpayers.

Facilities supervisor John Read said the board must approve the individual projects. The five-year program was presented to the board at its annual ‘retreat’ in July and made public in general terms at the board’s August business meeting. Read added that specific details will be forthcoming.

Far-and-away the largest proposed project is complete renovation of Claymont Elementary at a cost of $26.5 million.

Construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2018 and be completed in the summer of 2021.

Items dropped from the 1994 renovation of Brandywine High would be completed at a cost of $14.7 million. The work would be done during the summers of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Carrcroft Elementary, which was renovated in 1995, would receive additional renovation and an addition at a cost of $4 million. That work would begin in the summer of 2017 and completed the following year.

The facilities base is to be moved from the Claymont Elementary campus to the site on Pennsylvania Avenue in Claymont that formerly was occupied by the district’s administrative office. The cost of that project is listed as $1.9 million.

Turf fields would be installed in the summers of 2017, 2018 and 2019 at a cost of $5 million.

Demolition of Burnett will be complicated by a requirement that the property first be offered to state, county and city governments. If there are no takers, the estimated cost was put at $2.6 million. Superintendent Mark Holodick said it is intended that the site, which abuts the P.S. du Pont stadium, be converted to an athletic field. The eight-story building was constructed by the former Wilmington Public Schools in 1972.

A good start, but there’s still a long ways to go

Chemours decision
expected soon

Welcome as it was, the announcement that 13 gang members had been arrested on 91 charges doesn’t solve Wilmington’s gun violence and drug problems. Hopefully the months ahead will see a concerted effort to build on this first step and create the momentum necessary to reverse the city’s reputation as a place where criminal violence is endemic. There no doubt are other active gangs and other individuals who must be swept off the streets. The newspaper this morning reported another shooting  just a day after Attorney General Matt Denn’s dramatic announcement of the arrests.

Police Chief Bobby Cummings reported three times as many homicide cases ‘cleared’ so far this year compared to last. That’s jargon for being ready to be turned over to prosecutors with a reasonable expectation of obtaining a conviction. That’s commendable, but still indicates that just slightly over half of the fatal shootings this year have been ‘solved’ and arrests made. More of the same kind of professional detective work that has brought the record to where it now stands is called for. The goal must be establishing strong odds that anyone who commits a violent crime is going to pay the penalty.

The best deterrent, however, is to create a general awareness that significant penalties will be imposed. That can only come from the criminal justice system – the courts.  The juveniles among those arrested must be tried as adults. All 13 gang members are terrorists and must be dealt with as such. The bottom line is that the state seek the death penalty for those the evidence proves acted with callous disregard for human life. There is a real danger that, as the lengthy process proceeds, sympathy for the victims – most, if not all, of whom were themselves engaged in present or past criminal activity – will be shifted to the point where it’s shared with the perpetrators. That’s not to deny them their right to a fair trial. It has been amply demonstrated that, under our court system, fairness and justice are not incompatible.

City officials are looking for Chemours Co. to announce as soon as early next month whether it will keep its headquarters in Wilmington. The Du Pont spinoff is now based in the Du Pont Building at 10th and Market Streets. It reputedly has committed to remain there for two years.

According to a source in city government, Chemours has narrowed the choice to Wilmington or an undisclosed site in sururban Chester County, Pa.

With incentives from Pennslylvania, moving would result in a lower tax bill. But the source noted that virtually the entire headquarters owrkforce -- more than 650 people -- live in the city and its suburbs and presumably would be adverse to being part of a mass relocation. Moreover, the choice involves the prospect of having to construct new facilities versus occupying an existing building. Although old, the Du Pont Building has been well maintained and frequetly updated.


All content, unless otherwise noted, by Jim Parks


To respond to any item here, comment on any topic of public interest or share a thought, send an e-mail to skip


Filename: j0371064.wmf
Keywords: communications, media, news ...
File Size: 15 KB

Filename: j0404035.wmf
Keywords: archives, business supplies, businesses ...
File Size: 5 KB






Hyperlinks on this site are not intended to violate copyright. Any one to which the copyright owner objects will be removed upon request.