personnel committee agreed unanimously on Feb. 8 to begin the process of
hiring not only a new auditor to succeed the fired Robert Hicks
but also someone who will take over the financial advisory
function which Hicks had performed.
Because the hiring process takes time and cannot be completed
before County Executive Christopher Coons presents a proposed
fiscal 2006 budget and Council holds hearings on its components,
the committee agreed to accept an offer from the executive
branch to 'lend' it a present employee qualified to
fill the advisory role. That person will work either full time
or part time for Council and not do any auditing.
an auditor is hired, the committee further agreed, his or her
work will be overseen directly by the audit committee and he or
she possibly will be based at a location apart from Council's quarters.
Legislation pending before the General Assembly calls for the
audit committee to include two Council members and two
representatives of the executive administration. It presently
has five volunteer members with auditing credentials who do not
work for New Castle County government.
members discussed how to proceed with staffing, Councilman Jea
Street said that replacing Hicks on a one-for-one basis would be
inadequate. "It's impossible for one person to the do auditing
for a $200 million budget," he said.
Councilman Robert Weiner agreed, suggesting that there should be
at least one more auditor and possibly more for the office to be
"properly staffed so we can assure the taxpayers of New Castle
County that we're trying to increase efficiency."
Council president Paul Clark said that a financial risk
assessment of county government, which the Council committee
recently authorized, will "tell us what is needed" in the way of
an auditing staff. "The auditing function could grow," he
agreed by consensus that the new advisor position the committee
authorized will assume such duties as advising Council on the
financial implications of legislation and processing grant applications and other data involving spending.
committee -- which, like all Council committees, includes every
Council member -- also approved filling the vacant position of
Council policy director.
expanded Council, Clark said, needs professional support to help
prepare legislation and keep the part-time lawmakers up to speed
on issues. Only because he is on temporary leave from his job as
a department store manager, was he able to devote the time
necessary to craft a complex ordinance like the recently enacted
flood mitigation measure, Clark said. "That's not something [a
legislative] aide can do," he added.
Councilman Penrose Hollins cast the only 'no' vote on the motion
to hire a policy director. He cited the growth that Council's
administrative staff has experienced during the past few months.
With expansion to 13 members from seven, it was necessary to
add six more legislative aides. Also created, he noted, were the
positions of deputy clerk, assistant attorney and a paralegal.
view of that and in light of a shift in emphasis by both Council
and the new administration to controlling costs, "we need to
determine the need for a policy director," he said. "Are we just
going to get more paperwork saying the same things? ... At some
point, the court of public opinion will ask whether it will
it comes to replacing Council attorney Carol Dulin, who has been
selected to fill the new position of county solicitor in the
executive administration, there appeared to be agreement that
the position needs to be ratcheted up a couple of notches on the
county pay scale.
not going to be able to [hire someone with necessary
qualifications] with the current pricing structure we have,"
Weiner said. He suggested that a starting salary of up to
$150,000 a year would be necessary to compete with the private
who has 10 years of county experience,
makes about $105,000, which is the top of the salary range for her
position on the pay scale.
its semimonthly plenary session, Clark introduced an ordinance
establishing the solicitor position with a salary range of
between $82,816 and $128,476 and increasing the salary of the
county attorney two levels on the pay scale -- from
$78,872-$122,358 to $86,957-$134,900. Consensus at the committee
meeting appeared take the $128,000 figure as the amount Council
should pay its attorney.
Councilman William Tansey, however, questioned whether going
that high is necessary to attract someone in competition with
private law firms. "Nobody in the private sector gets 14 paid
holidays a year," he said. Noting that County Executive
Christopher Coons has called for controlling spending, Tansey
said, "Council ought to be at least as fiscally conservative as
said the higher salary is justified in order to obtain the
services of a lawyer with sufficient ability to handle the
position. "One bad decision is going to cost us (the county)
money," he said.
find it ironic that you have to pay someone more than I make to
do what I do," Dulin quipped.
Clark's proposed ordinance creating the solicitor position also
creates a grade-four executive-assistant position in the county
companion ordinance would transfer presently vacant job
positions from the administration department and the Department
of Special Services to the executive's office. The solicitor's
position, in effect, replaces a budgeted but unfilled position
of assistant county attorney.
effect of all that juggling is to keep unchanged in the present
budget both the number of authorized position and, apparently,
the payroll's bottom line.. A fiscal note to one of the
ordinances cautions, however, that starting salaries for the
positions involved will determine if the executive's budget will
have to be increased for the remainder of this fiscal year and
what impact creation of the positions will have on future
positions are all appointive. Gregg Wilson, a deputy state
attorney general, has been appointed county attorney. Both he
and Dulin take their new jobs on Mar. 1.
pro-'in-fill' stance was taken as Council voted to reject
an ordinance to rezone Sedgley Farms to require minimum lot
sizes of 40,000 square feet instead of the present 15,000 square
feet. As Delaforum previously reported, the community's civic
association and some residents sought the change to block
subdivision of existing lots to permit construction of
'In-fill' is a term which refers to building additional
structures in established areas which already have such
necessary infrastructure as sewers and roads. It is seen as an
alternative to developing open or nearly open land.
Residents who opposed the rezoning, including one who is a
builder and is doing that, said it would unconstitutionally
violate their property rights by denying them the opportunity to
reap the most economic value from their property.
recommending approval of rezoning, the Department of Land Use
acknowledged that it was unprecedented to change the zoning
classification of a long-established and essentially fully
developed community. Sedgley Farms was established in the early
1940s and has been zoned to require its present maximum lot size
since New Castle County instituted zoning in 1954.
Council voted to reject his department's recommendation by a
nine-to-one margin, with two absent and Clark abstaining because
his wife, Pam Scott, was the lawyer representing the builder,
Charles Baker testified that the department's planning staff had
difficulty deciding whether to follow established policy of
encouraging 'in-fill' in that particular circumstance.
Countering that policy, he said, was one of preserving the
'character of the neighborhood'.
decided the issue, he said, was the wide variations in lot sizes
in Sedgley Farms. It is unlikely there would be any comparable
situations in the county, he added.
Wilder, president of the civic association, repeated testimony
he had previously given before Council's land use committee that
a clear majority of residents favored rezoning. He was supported
by others who testified, including resident Carolyn Watjen who
said 'in-filling' was "not meant to destroy land that people
who sponsored the rezoning ordinance and was the only Council
member who voted to rezone, said the issue and the controversy
it roused was "all about the money."
Speaking for her client, Ron Stevens, Scott testified that
support for rezoning was not as strong as Wilder claimed, that
only about six or so lots could be subdivided within the present
classification and that rezoning an existing community would set
a bad precedent.
Prechtl, president of The Redevelopment Company L.L.C., who does
not live in Sedgley Farms, said that rezoning would "deny people
economic viability in their property." He said his firm has
identified several other communities in the county where
'in-filling' would be practical, but did not identify them.
said that the additional density which results from 'in-filling'
"is not an evil in itself." Instead, "quality of design" of what
is placed as a result is the determining factor. "Public policy
promotes 'in-fill' development. I don't see how the land use
department could come up with its recommendation," he said.
county Planning Board was unable to muster sufficient member
votes to come up with a recommendation either for or against
Earlier in the session, Tansey agreed to table an ordinance he
is sponsoring to authorize condemnation of a section of a
residential property on Emerald Ridge Road to permit
construction and later maintenance of a sewer line after the
owner, Lyn Walters, testified that it would seriously harm his
tipped the balance in that situation was that the Department of
Special Services acknowledged that it had let a contract to
construct the sewer line before seeking Council authorization to
acquire the necessary property. It was also open to question
whether there had been reasonable consideration given to
alternatives to running it through a residential property over
the objections of the owner.
also introduced the measure which would flatly prohibit county
government from buying or participating in the purchase of
flood-damaged houses. An exception would permit acquiring
flood-prone property for approved stormwater and drainage
purpose of the ordinance is to prevent setting "a precedent for
fiscal spending that is outside the customary boundaries of
county responsibility or to use funds [provided] by all
taxpayers for the benefit of a few."
preamble to the measure notes that only $3 million of the $17
million recently authorized to provide assistance to flood
victims of the September, 2004, storm and to finance related
projects is intended to meet the county's obligation to maintain
flows in non-tidal streams. The preamble goes on to say that
none of the $15 million the county put up to participate in a
buyout of victims of the September, 2003, storm in Glenville had
to do with meeting obligations.
Earlier in the day, projects coordinator Mike Harmer told
Council's special services committee, which Tansey chairs, that
the 15 buyouts in Glendale and Newkirk Estates which were
authorized by the recent ordinance are scheduled to go to
settlement beginning Feb. 25. Harmer said an additional 39
property owners in various locations have applied for buyouts
since that ordinance was enacted.
said that 10 private contractors and one county work crew are
clearing Red Clay Creek of debris. He presented a timetable
which calls for completion of the 34 authorized drainage and
flood-abatement projects by the end of 2006. Those with the
highest priorities are scheduled for completion by mid-year,
Council authorized county police to use $39,600 of grant money
from the state's Special Law Enforcement Assistance Fund to
acquire 36 police stun guns produced by Scotsdale, Ariz.-based
Taser International. The weapons are intended to be non-lethal.
police chief David McAllister told the finance committee that
the guns use 50,000 volts of electricity to "override the
nervous system" of someone violently resisting arrest "so they
can't fight any more." He said there are "no lingering effects"
from the jolt and that some of the county officers who have been
trained in their use have voluntarily opted to be subjected to
use, he said, would be limited to situations where policy would
justify use of a baton. The guns, he said, are in use in many
jurisdictions around the nation and "add considerably to the
safety of officers."