"Expansion of County Council proved to be a very wise and good
thing for New Castle County, said John Cartier, who was elected
in November to one of the six seats established by splitting the
six former districts.
shows civic-minded people that we're out to serve the people.
That's the reason Governor [Ruth Ann] Minner vetoed the bill,"
said Timothy Sheldon, another newcomer. He was referring to the
governor's having vetoed a measure which would have rescinded
commented as Council on Jan. 11 prepared to vote on an ordinance
and companion resolution
to redirect up to $17 million of
already authorized capital-project money to 30 projects. What
started out as a potentially highly controversial proposal was
approved unanimously with only a faint hint of debate.
Sheldon was primary sponsor of the measures, but by the time it
came to vote nine of his colleagues had signed on as
Christopher Coons signed the measure into law on Jan.12.
He said that the first three debris-removal projects it
will finance will begin immediately as will the process
for buying up to 15 houses rendered unsafe by flood
Council president Paul Clark said the path to that point "has
been very much a cooperative effort." Not only Council but also Coons and former
County Executive Tom Gordon, the Departments of Special Services
and Land Use
Christopher Coons signs the flood mitigation ordinance.
It was the first piece of legislation to reach his desk
after taking office. Councilman Timothy Sheldon, right,
was its primary sponsor.
state legislators and agencies share the credit, he added.
passage of a third version of Sheldon's ordinance a foregone
conclusion after the second version was tabled in December for
further tweaking, the only hurdle was to assuage objectors to
drawing down $10 million of the money budgeted for acquisition
ordinance's preamble states that Council intends to restore that
authorization in the fiscal year 2006 capital budget it will
approve in the spring, but its text notes that the money might
not be available to spend until fiscal 2007. Council members
Karen Venezky and Robert Weiner pledged that they will work for
prompt restoration of the authorization.
said that there were no plans to spend any of the $10 million in
this fiscal year and that the county's parkland acquisition fund
still holds $1 million. If an unforeseen opportunity to buy a
property arises, "we still have enough money for a down
payment," he said.
Eileen Butler, of Delaware Nature Society, complained during the
public comment portion of the Council session that there was "no
specific source of replenishment" stated in the ordinance and
Gail Van Gilder, of Delaware Greenways, testified that "open
space should be part of flood prevention," Clark responded,
"Give us a hair of credit. ... New Castle County policy has been
favorable to open-space preservation." He cited in particular
recent inclusion in the Unified Development Code of a provision
that at least half the acreage in new major residential
developments has to be left open.
William Ruth, who said his house in Marshallton sustained
$78,000 worth of flood damage, testified that there should be no
question about whether parkland or protection against flooding
should hold priority. Heather Klebon, whose house in Newkirk
Estates apparently would qualify to be bought out, said her
young daughter "can't play on a playground" because of illness
she attributed to the flooding.
don't think it has to be one thing or the other," Clark said.
Michael Harmer, of Special Services, told a committee meeting
preceding the Council session, that the county will seek
reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency of at
least part of the money it spends on buy-outs. Applicants to
have their houses bought must meet the same criteria the federal
agency requires. The county will seek a federal grant, but he told Delaforum
that the buy-outs will not be dependent upon receiving federal
ordinance lists properties in Glendale and Newkirk Estates as
"potential" buy-outs but also provides for buy-outs in other
places if the properties meet eligibility criteria and
sufficient money is available. Council's special services
committee would have to confirm those buy-outs. All Council
committee are committees of the whole so, presumably, at least
seven members would have to concur.
new provisions in the previously reported ordinance establish
the buy-out price as appraised value before flooding; prohibit
anyone who rejects a purchase offer from later applying for a
buy-out; and disqualify for a buy-out any property on which
flood insurance was dropped or which was purchased speculatively
at below market value. "The goal of this program is to ensure
[that] no unjust enrichment occurs in this buy-out process," the
the 30 projects were divided into four categories, several have
been moved from the listing of those for which financing
participation was being sought to the listing of those for which
it has been obtained.
categories now stand, with shifting still possible, they are:
Debris removal and drainage pond repairs for which the county is
legally responsible, $3,150,000; buy-outs, $4,850,000; projects
for which support financing has been obtained, $5,925,000; and
projects with no financing assistance, $1,625,000. There is no
requirement that all the money that is authorized be spent.
letter from state Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward
that was circulated among Council members offers in-kind
services of his department's personnel in effecting the
buy-outs. In it, Hayward said the department does not have money
available to offer financial assistance.
Councilman William Tansey noted that five of the 30 listed
projects involve studies. "Why are we wasting time on studies
that are just going to tell us there is a lot of water?" he