discussion of a resolution registering Council's opposition to a
plan to cover, rather than remove, a large pile of contaminated
material at a site near the Du Pont Co.'s Edgemoor plant,
William Tansey declared that he would vote against it.
read the [Department of Natural Resources & Environmental
Control] plan and I think it is a sound plan. ... If we keep
ratcheting down on these corporations, they're going to leave,"
he said. He then pointedly questioned one of six persons from
the public who testified in favor of the resolution about his
professional credentials to evaluate proposed safeguards against
the contaminants spreading.
However, when the roll was called a few minutes later, Tansey
voted 'present'. With Penrose Hollins, a Du Pont Co. retiree,
voluntarily disqualifying himself to avoid a
conflict-of-interest perception and two members absent, the
resolution was adopted, nine-to-zero.
Earlier in the session on Apr. 12, a resolution sponsored by Jea
Street advocating a "holistic" approach to reduce drug-related
violence in the city of Wilmington was approved on a 10-to-zero
vote with Council president Paul Clark and Karen Venezky
recorded as 'present'. They both questioned the plan's cost and
the county's ability to financially support some of Street's
Street, who voted in favor of his resolution, had left his desk
when the Du Pont resolution was put to a vote. Joseph Reda was
out of town and excused from attending the session.
even less expected shift occurred concerning a resolution to
change Council rules to require a two-thirds majority to hire or
fire members of Council's staff. During an afternoon meeting of
Council's personnel committee prior to the plenary session in
the evening, that resolution had drawn stiff opposition from
Clark and George Smiley. They argued that it would make more
difficult, if not stymie, Council's ability to muster an
administrative staff. When the resolution came to a vote during
the evening, however, both joined their 10 colleagues who were
present, in a 12-to-zero vote in favor of passage.
turnaround streak did not prevail entirely.
Venezky tabled a resolution calling on Council to periodically
"assess the direction of the county" in terms of its spending
and to establish long-term guidelines for the operating and
capital budgets. She agreed that the proposal "needs more work"
after sometimes rancorous debate during a finance committee
meeting indicated that Council probably would vote it down.
other matters at the plenary session, Council received a package
of ordinances setting the financial course for the fiscal year
which begins July 1. They included the proposed $214.5 million
operating budget and the proposed $58.7 million capital budget.
Also in the package was legislation to impose an overall 28.1%
increase in sewer fees, set an unchanged property-tax rate,
authorize a $10 million bond issue, adopt a six-year capital
projects plan, and increase fees charged by the recorder of
deeds and sheriff. Those measures are scheduled to be voted upon
at Council's May 24 session.
Council voted unanimously and without discussion to transfer $1
million from several budget accounts to finance continuing
litigation and settlement of several lawsuits involving
employment and land use issues. County attorney Gregg Wilson
earlier briefed the finance committee during an executive
session behind closed doors.
Apr. 12 plenary session also saw unanimous approval of an
ordinance extending the Ethics Commission's power to investigate
former county officials and employees for up to five years after
their employment ends, restrict re-employment of ethics
violators and impose daily fines for failure to file
financial-disclosure statements on time.
ordinance establishing a rental code was introduced. Its
sponsor, Robert Weiner, said it is identical to the measure
which the previous Council defeated in 2004. He said the
taskforce convened by then Council president and now County
Executive Christopher Coons will be reassembled to determine if
it still favors the proposal in its original form.
Cartier said he sponsored the resolution concerning the Du Pont
material not only to eliminate an existing hazard but also "to
send a strong message [that] it is not right to burden future
generations with this environmental legacy."
pile actually is inside the municipal limits of Wilmington,
bordering Cartier's southeastern Brandywine Hundred district.
Hollins, who disqualified himself in the matter, represents the
area where it is located.
previously reported, the pile contains about 500,000 tons of
what Du Pont calls 'iron rich material', which is a byproduct
from the manufacture of titanium dioxide pigment. Du Pont
originally was accumulating the material for sale, but has been
prevented from doing so by federal environmental regulations.
The company said, in a 'project fact sheet' distributed to
Council members, that the pile can be effectively covered, will
not adversely impact drinking water and contains a concentration
of dioxins less than what would require remedial action if they
were the only contaminants in the pile.
Apparently referring to Governor Printz Boulevard or Interstate
495 which pass by the plant and the pile, environmental activist
John Kearney testified that it is "the most dangerous road in
America." He and others allege that Du Pont is probably the
largest producer of dioxin in the world.
Responding to Tansey's comment that Council's position could
induce the company to leave the area, David Tackett said, "If I
have to weigh having a clean healthy place to live and the
company leaving, I'll open the door for them."
that Du Pont now ships the material, which is still being
produced as a byproduct, to a hazardous materials landfill in
South Carolina, Smiley said the company was willing to have it
hauled away when wanted to sell it "but now that they've found
out it's toxic, they want to cover it up."
Street's proposal to deal with violence centers around having
Wilmington city government call a 'summit' conference to bring
together not only city, county and state agencies but also
non-profit organizations, businesses, labor unions, religious
organizations, drug treatment providers, educators and others to
develop a comprehensive strategy.
Referring to "a crisis of violence" in the city, the preamble to
the resolution said dealing with it "requires fresh ideas,
multi-jurisdictional cooperation and leadership, and the
coordination of quality-of-life initiatives."
accompanied the resolution with a 10-part plan containing a wide
array of specific actions that should be taken in both the
public and private sector. Included is implementation of the
relative recommendations of the former Wilmington Neighborhood
Acknowledging that some of the proposals would be costly, Street
asked rhetorically "What price is life?" He said that since
Wilmington is a part of the county, county government is an
appropriate vehicle to initiate a response. "I'm tired to going
to funerals," he said.
Clark and Venezky said they approve of the idea in principle and
voted 'present' because they did not want to be recorded as
voting against the resolution. "There are some thing in here I
cannot support," Venezky said. Clark said he did not "feel
comfortable ... asking the city to do something we cannot
provide the money for right now."
Primary justification cited for the resolution having to do with
hiring and firing Council staff members, which also was
sponsored by Street, was sustaining morale. Council employees,
who are not covered by merit system rules, feel vulnerable
knowing their job is on the line if they are in disfavor with
any Council members who can gather six votes to remove them,
argued during the personnel committee meeting that having to
gather nine votes "could prove difficult" and result in its
"taking too long to get anything done." William Bell replied
that "if there is just cause and reason to terminate, we should
be able to get a two-thirds vote."
revolution was obviously inspired by the controversy over the
firing of former auditor Robert Hicks although that was not
mentioned during the discussion. However, it was clear that
criticism in the news media of that and some other personnel
moves was not far removed. "Those people who didn't agree with
the expansion of Council and who make their living by taking
shots will continue to take shots," Smiley said.
Venezky said Council has filled new positions deemed necessary
as a result of the expansion along with some vacancies by a
"fair and open interview process." The Council office is now
Weiner's pointing out that the resolution merely changed
Council's procedural rules and that the rules can be suspended
by a simple majority vote in any given circumstance evidently
influenced Clark's and Venezky's eventually voting to adopt the
resolution. Clark referred to that just before the vote was
taken when he said, "Let's give it a try; it can always be
changed with seven votes."
Venezky's resolution having to do with financial oversight
proposed holding spending growth to 3.5% in fiscal 2006 and for
three years beyond that and eventually reaching the point where
revenue in any given year would cover budgeted expenditures. It
also would cap bond borrowing to the extent that debt service
would not exceed 10% of the operating budget. The county would
"create no new programs without equal funding or cost savings in
existing programs." The resolutoion also would call for the
county "to streamline the workforce by a 5% reduction in
authorized positions" by June 30, 2006.
believe that if we don't start looking at the budget
strategically ... we're going to end up with a huge deficit,"
Venezky said. "This is an opportunity for us to be pro-active."
Hollins argued that the proposal would "put a stranglehold" on
the Coons administration.
apparent reference to the spending patterns in the previous
Thomas Gordon administration, Hollins said, "The should have
been done a year ago [and not] when we get an administration
that has demonstrated it is going to be fiscally responsible."
said that Venezky supported major spending initiatives during
the Gordon years and is part of Council's having "hired whomever
and at whatever salary," adding, "You can't have it both ways."
Invited by Venezky, who chairs the finance committee, to
comment, chief administrative officer David Singleton said the
present administration "encourages fiscal restraint," but added
that he "can't say if these goals are achievable. A 5%
employment reduction, for instance, would require eliminating
about 50 jobs, compared to 30 that the administration was able
to determine this year to be expendable. The debt ceiling is now
just under 10% but would rise above that mark if Council
authorizes the bond issue in fiscal 2006.
Venezky said the figures are presented in the resolution as
'guidelines' and that she would be willing to modify or drop
Singleton said the administration's position is supportive of "a
tightened budget consistent with our obligation to provide
service to the public."
said the the current 'listening campaign', which involves town
meeting-style gatherings in each Council district, has not
turned up much enthusiasm for cutting any services.
proposed resolution calls for hiring a consultant to conduct a
survey of county residents "to determine the value of services
currently offered by the county."