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September, 2006

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American College has offered to buy about a third of the Holy Rosary campus in a bid to expand in Claymont and said that could also provide support to keep the parish school open.

Donald Ross, president of the school now housed in leased quarters across Philadelphia Pike opposite the Catholic church, told the Claymont Business Owners Association on Sept. 28 that the plan would be to establish a residential campus on the site of the parish's conference center. It would serve about 125 students during the 2007-08 academic year and increase enrollment over the next several years to as many as 1,000. He compared its potential to Wilmington College, which he and his wife founded in the early 1970s, which started with 100 students in a former motel and now has 10,000 students in multiple locations.

American College was chartered this year as a four-year degree-granting college succeeding the two-year Delaware School of Hotel Management. Chris Sarafian, executive vice president, said Claymont is "on the pinnacle of development" and the college wants to be part of that. Ross did not disclose how much it was willing to pay for the Holy Rosary site, but said it would be enough to provide an endowment to underwrite the parish school until planned redevelopment provides enough students to justify keeping it open. The Catholic diocese intends to merge it with the St. Helena School near Bellefonte next year. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

Redevelopment of Brookview and related projects in the Philadelphia Pike corridor will generate sufficient demand for parochial education that both schools can be kept in operation, Ross said.

    

HISTORY MARKED:

With appropriate fanfare provided by the fifes and drums of the Delaware Militia, a state historical marker was unveiled at the Robinson House on Sept. 28. The oldest part of the house at Philadelphia Pike and Naamans Road dates to around 1730. Having served variously as a residence, an art colony and a tea house, the structure is now owned by the state Department of Historical & Cultural Affairs and administered by the non-profit Naamans Heritage Association. The marker unveiling was part of the opening of a weekend of events commemorating the passage of Colonial and French troops through Delaware 225 years ago en route to the climactic Revolutionary War Battle of Yorktown.

    

CONTRACTOR QUALIFICATION LAW PASSED: County Council by a 12-to-one vote on Sept. 26 enacted a slightly revised version of an ordinance intended to assure that bidders on public works contracts are qualified and committed to promoting apprenticeship training and racial minority hiring. William Tansey was the loan dissenter saying the latter points "are not the government's responsibility." About 175 construction workers and officials jammed the Council chamber, but no one testified for or against the measure. As revised, it applies to general contracts valued at $100,000 or more and subcontract work worth $50,000 or more. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

    

CARPER, TING SQUARE OFF -- KINDA: Republican challenger Jan Ting told a group of seniors that he is "convinced the President is getting bad advice." That apparent divergence from President Bush's stance is as close as either senatorial candidate came to discussing the Iraq war and terrorism, the key issues in the coming off-year election, in a gentlemanly joint appearance at the University of Delaware Academy of Lifelong Learning on Sept. 25. "When the President calls to congratulate me on my victory, I'm going to tell him," Ting promised. "If Jan Ting is elected senator, that is going to be a lightening bolt to complacent Washington."

Although pundits agree he's clearly the underdog in the race, Ting came out strongly in attacks on the immigration system and tax code while incumbent Senator Tom Carper focused on his record in Congress and as governor and constituent service. He said he is devoted to "trying to build bipartisanship" in addressing major issues. "I don't make a lot of promises as a politician," he said. Ting, a proponent of term limits, pledged that he would serve no more than two six-year terms and challenged Carper to do the same. Carper replied that he is undecided on future plans, but added that seniority is significant for a state with only three congressional seats.

    

Councilman George Smiley said he expects to bring the proposed ordinance revising rules for parking boats and recreational vehicles before County Council for a vote at its Oct. 24 session.

He told attenders at a public meeting on Sept. 20 that he will consider their comments and personally look at specific instances where boaters or R.V. owners believe they would be subject to unreasonable treatment before seeking action. Main objections to the ordinance as it now stands that were voiced at the meeting were requiring that there be a three-foot space between the property line and a driveway where they can be parked -- which reportedly is not common in many suburban developments -- and a claim that dimensions of currently popular models of boats are greater than the maximums specified in the proposed ordinance.

Although considerably more liberal than the existing law -- enforcement of which has been suspended pending revision -- the measure Smiley drafted drew objections at the meeting attended mostly by people who feel they would be adversely affected. He told them that the revisions "try to restore some of the rights that were taken away" by the present law, itself a revision of a prior one. Moreover, he added, enforcement will be complaint-driven. "If your neighbors don't complain, we (code enforcers) are not coming out," Smiley said. He also said his research has found that keeping boats and R.V.s in residential areas does not lower property values. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

    

CONTRACTOR QUALIFICATION SOUGHT: An ordinance to be brought before County Council on Sept. 26 will define 'responsible' as in 'lowest responsible bidder' for a public contract. In the process, it also will seek to address a skills shortage in the construction industry and promote racial and ethnic diversity there. Councilman John Cartier said the intent is to assure that the $80 million county government annually spends, on average, for capital projects is directed to firms that have the capability of doing quality work and are committed to supporting its policy of equality on the job and recognized apprenticeship programs.

Gerard Waites, a Washington-based consultant who helped draft the proposed law, told Council's special services committee on Sept. 19 that county government will join jurisdictions around the nation in requiring that firms do more than have a license and post a bond. "If you don't define 'responsible', it (the contract) goes to the one who comes in with the lowest numbers," he said. They also will have to certify under oath that they comply with other standards. Councilman Jea Street, an outspoken proponent of racial diversity, said the ordinance "sends a strong message ... that if you want access to these multi-million dollar projects you'd better fall in line."

    

LAST CHAPTER?: Approval of its proposed parking plan apparently will be the final step in clearing the way for Talleyville Girls Softball League to build a four-field complex at the site of the former Old Mill Lane school. "It's getting the same level of scrutiny according to the code that other plans get," Charles Baker, general manager of the Department of Land Use, said. But he added that community objectors to the project "may not like the decision." His comment was in response to a plea by Tanya Looney, a resident of Liftwood, for unspecified action to block the project.

"The site plan is incompatible with the infrastructure of our neighborhood," she told Council Council's land use committee, on Sept. 19. "It (the complex) will generate more traffic than we expected or can handle." Lisa Goodman, a lawyer who was at the meeting in regard to another issue, said community residents raised no objections during the time $1 million in state money was being spent to tear down the derelict school building. Council president Paul Clark said some Council members 'had qualms about this," but were required by state law to be involved. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

    

REZONING SOUGHT: County Council will be asked to merge two properties at the entrance to BrandywineTown Center opposite Shipley Road and rezone them to allow construction of a two-story 23,000-square-foot medical office building. The application by Wilmington-based 202 Group Ltd. was submitted to the Department of Land Use on Aug. 1, but not disclosed publicly until Sept. 16 when it was referenced in the published agenda for the Planning Board's Oct. 3 hearings. The plan calls for a 112-vehicle parking lot to be accessed from Brandywine Parkway, the interior circumference road around the shopping center.

    

WHAT DO THEY HAVE IN MIND?

The motto on the District license plate is a bit chilling -- especially when you consider it was spotted in a parking lot in John Dickinson's home state. History buff will recall it was he who described that sort of thing was nothing but downright tyranny.

    

Rejecting a plea from the chairman of its public safety committee, County Council voted 11-to-two to confirm the appointment of Rick Gregory to be chief of police.

"We have outstanding and extraordinary leadership in our department and we're not going to promote from within," William Bell said at Council's session on Sept. 12. He said that acting chief Scott McLaren performed well during more than a year at the helm and deserved to be advanced to permanent status. Joseph Reda, who joined Bell in casting the negative votes, also cited McLaren's record and said not appointing him "sends a message to our rank-and-file" about lack of career-advancement opportunity. Joseph Lavelle, president of the police union, also voiced objection, but pledged to cooperate with Gregory.

George Smiley said he had supported hiring from within but that Council agreed to a selection process "free of politics." Now that it is complete, "why did we spend all those dollars and six months" only to reject its finding, he asked rhetorically. Gregory declined Council president Paul Clark's invitation to speak after the vote. A press statement issued later on behalf of County Executive Christopher Coons said he has "every confidence that Lieutenant Colonel Gregory will tackle his new role with enthusiasm and a determination to make our communities safer. He will assume command by the end of September, according to the statement. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

    

Three Brandywine district schools face severe sanctions if some of their students do not demonstrate significant academic progress in state testing next spring.

Lynn Linscott, of the district's educational services support team, told the school board at a workshop session on Sept. 11 that P.S. du Pont Intermediate, Talley Middle and Brandywine High could be required under present provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act to take corrective action if supplemental educational services now being provided do not bring up the scores of specified groups of students found deficient under the law's complex rating system. All three schools considered as a whole meet standards, but their black, special education and low socio-economic status students, respectively, do not.

Board vice president Nancy Doorey said that a 'hope for the best but prepare for the worst' philosophy requires seeing to it that the tax-rate referendum planned for next spring provides money to finance planning for and implementing corrective actions if they become necessary. Those actions, Linscott said, could include such steps as replacing staff, bringing in outside experts, extending the school year or, at the extreme, a state takeover by the 2008-09 academic year. There are calls from across the country for changes in the law -- especially its provisions for sanctions -- as it comes before Congress for renewal. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

Some repercussion already is being felt. The board was told that parents, after being notified of the situation as the law requires, transferred 117 children out of P.S. for this academic year.

    

TRY AGAIN: County Councilman George Smiley said he will soon introduce a proposed ordinance that would allow residents to park boats in their driveways without having to screen them. It would permit keeping two recreational or utility vehicles on a residential property with one of them in the front yard, subject to some restrictions. At the same time, it would ban any parking of oversize vehicles and several specific types of vehicles -- such as delivery trucks and vans, limousines, heavy trucks, school buses and rented commercial vehicles -- except when involved in work or providing a service at the property.

Smiley, who has scheduled an open meeting on Sept. 20, beginning at 6 p.m., in the Gilliam Building on the Government Center campus, to receive public comment, said he has spent nine months crafting the measure in an effort to resolve a lively controversy among civic organizations and activists, over provisions in the county's revised property-maintenance code which severely restrict keeping unhoused recreational and utility vehicles on private residential property. Enforcement of that part of the code has been suspended while Council attempts to come up with compromise legislation. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

    

MARCHING: Three men who are marching, at the rate of 15 miles per day, to Yorktown, Va., to observe the 225th anniversary of the climactic battle of the Revolutionary War reached a rain-soaked Delaware on Sept. 5. Mike Fitzgerald, of Pittsburgh, David Holloway of Wallingford, Conn., and Dave Fagerberg, of Kansas City,

Mo., are tracing the route French Count Rochambeau's troops and Washington's Colonial army as part of an effort to promote its designation as a National Historic Trail. Fitzgerald said it is hoped Congress will enact a measure to do that before the Oct. 19 anniversary of the British army's surrender.

The trio -- all of whom are "over 55" -- left Newport, R.I., on June 17. Breaking the 685-

Marchers-to-Yorktown make an appearance at Boy Scout headquarters in Wilmington during the first of two days in Delaware.

mile route into 15-mile segments, Fitzgerald said, approximates the pace of the armies dictated by the speed of their supply wagons. The re-enactment, however, makes some accommodation to current conditions. The marchers' supplies, for instance, are being carried in a trailer. Although most nights are spent in their tents, they elected because of the weather to spend the one in Delaware in the trailer. Instead of going into camp at the end of the day's trek, they participate in public receptions with locals along the way.

    

REVISIONS: The restriction in the Unified Development Code on apartment complexes with more than  200 dwelling units will be eliminated if County Council, as expected, enacts an omnibus amendment to the code at its session on Sept. 12. Charles Baker, general manager of the Department of Land Use, said it is intended to clarify provisions and eliminate shortcomings discovered in applying the nearly nine-year-old comprehensive law. The most sweeping provision in the amendment "removes language which creates residential designs that are undesirable in New Castle County."

Councilwoman Patty Power, sponsor of the measure, said permitting owners of large parcels of land to 'carve out' a one-acre parcel will permit farmers to provide land for their offspring. Another provision clarifies that the requirement for unobstructed view in corner lots applies to existing as well as new development. Swimming pools would be permitted in side yards provided they meet setback requirements. Rezonings involving historic overlay protection and redevelopment of 'brownfield' properties would no longer have to wait for Council's tri-annual consideration of rezoning ordinances.

    

PLAY BALL: Vice Chancellor Stephen Lamb threw out a suit which sought to block use of the  Old Mill Lane school site for youth softball. "We win. Hopefully the girls will be playing ball on their new fields for the start of the spring, 2007, season," said Martin Lessner, lawyer for the Talleyville Girls Softball League. Lamb ruled that the General Assembly determined that use was compatible with the neighborhood and that the Brandywine school board did not have to also decide that point when it leased the site to New Castle County government for sublease to the softball league.

Lamb also denied what amounted to a challenge  by Richard Abbott, lawyer for the Shellburne and Liftwood civic associations and two residents of those developments, to the General Assembly's practice of including instructions for various uses of state money in an 'epilogue' to annual capital spending legislation. Because it raises money from several sources, the 'bond bill' is not subject to the state constitution's requirement that tax laws be limited to a single subject, Lamb ruled. He also dismissed a claim that the school board's decision denied the complainants 'due process' required under the U.S. Constitution. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

    

James Scanlon's contract provides that his tenure as Brandywine school superintendent and future salary be "strongly correlated with improvements in student, school and district performance."

Following successful completion of his first year, the school board may extend the three-year employment agreement through June 30, 2012. Scanlon is to begin his service in the district on Oct. 26. As previously reported, his starting annual salary will be $163,000, prorated to reflect the fact he will be employed for only part of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2007. He will be eligible for 'performance pay'  of up to 4% of his salary after the first academic year and 6% thereafter. Each year after the first, the district will contribute 5% of his salary to a tax-deferred annuity.

The contract, which was made available to Delaforum in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, provides that Scanlon will receive $4,900 to cover moving and related costs plus reimbursement of the actual cost for services of a moving company. He will have 24 days of paid vacation a year  and all fringe benefits given to the district's professional employees. Scanlon will be permitted to have speaking engagements, teach elsewhere and take on consulting work provided they do not conflict with his Brandywine duties and he uses vacation or personal time to cover absences. He will be given a monthly stipend of $450 for position-related expenses. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

The contract also provides that the board may grant a longevity bonus after 2008 and that he give six-months notice to terminate the agreement.

    

DEAD ON ARRIVAL?: Irrespective of whether the state Coastal Zone Act is brought into play, chances are slim to nil that reported plans to build an ethanol plant on the General Chemical site  in Claymont will come to fruition, according to state Representative Robert Valihura. "It's a great site [but] there are serious issues" related to environmental contamination from the chemical plant which formally operated there. He said that, although he is not conversant with the business economics involved, he feels it is not likely a private owner would take on the responsibility of having to pay the millions of dollars an environmental cleanup would cost.

Last updated on September 29, 2006

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