Castle County government has "a strong humanitarian
bias to do anything we can to be helpful" in meeting
needs in the aftermath of the Gulf Coast storm,
according to chief administrative officer David
He said that County Executive
Christopher Coons has been working the phones since
Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and cut a large
swath of destruction in southern Louisiana, Mississippi and
Alabama in an effort to put together a public-private
He said reaction "has been
very positive" but did not indicate how close Coons has come
to being able to announce a specific plan.
Singleton told a meeting of
County Council's public safety committee on Sept. 6
that county's possible response could take either or both of
• Lending police,
firefighters or other emergency professionals for temporary
duty in the affected area;
• Securing temporary or
permanent housing here for some refugees.
However, he added, "So far,
we have not made any commitments."
The committee -- which, like
all of Council's standing committees, consists of all
Council members -- voted unanimously to endorse the
administration's efforts and to "encourage [it] to look for
any opportunity" to help. In doing so, the members indicated
their support for a formal resolution to that effect likely
to be introduced and passed on Sept. 13 when Council holds
its first plenary session following its vacation recess.
Singleton said that nothing
under consideration appears to require any legislative
action by Council.
A decision to dispatch
emergency personnel, he said, will be made in conjunction
with the Delaware and federal emergency management agencies.
The more involved housing
arrangement is under study with the Delaware Housing
Authority as well as several private-sector participants in
the housing market which he did not identify. To be
determined, he said, is "the number of housing units that
could be offered."
In both scenarios, Singleton
added, the effort "will not be paid for totally or even
mostly with county funds."
While the vote on the motion
to endorse Coons's effort was unanimous, some Council
members raised caveats.
Penrose Hollins asked why New
Castle County's response is still pending while various
state and local governments around the nation already have
been responsive to needs of victims of the disaster. "I
would not want us to be one of a handful or jurisdictions
that did not make an offer," he said.
David Tackett said any offer
should be made with the realization that "we're still
working on our flooding issues here." He added, "I would not
like to see that take a back seat."
"We're totally in agreement
with that. Our first responsibility is to the people of New
Castle County," Singleton responded.
At an earlier meeting of
Council's land use committee, Richard Przywara, general
manager of the Department of Special Services, reported that
buyouts of the 15 "top-priority homes" rendered
uninhabitable by flooding following storms in 2003 and 2004
have been completed. Other buyout applications are
"undergoing technical review," he said.
To a suggestion that the
empty hotel at the Interstate 95-Basin Road interchange be
used to provide temporary shelter, Singleton responded
that that idea is under consideration. However, he added,
that serious health and safety concerns exist. "There are a
number of issues that need to be corrected before you can
house people in there. ... I'm not optimistic at this point
that can be done quickly enough," he said.
Not the least of the
impediments is that the area surrounding the
structure, which was built five years ago but has never been
occupied, is prone to flooding, George Smiley. "The last
thing we'd want is for them (refugees) to wake up some
morning and find themselves in another flood," he said.