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February 2010

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The Brandywine school board approved construction of a five-classroom addition to Lombardy Elementary and immediately hired a general contractor to build it for $1,332,500.

John Read, the district's construction manager, said construction will begin within three weeks and promised that the new facilities will be ready by the time the next academic year begins in August. Newark-based Whiting-Turner Construction Co., which Read said came in the lowest of 10 bidders, was awarded the contract for the fast-track project. Superintendent Mark Holodick said it will be paid for with proceeds from the sale of long-term bonds. The district does not have to go to referendum to obtain authorization for that capital financing because it falls within the scope of state-approved realignment of its grade configuration, he explained. Chief financial officer David Blowman said paying off the bonds over 20 years will require an increase of one-tenth of 1 cent in the capital tax rate.

Although board member Ralph Ackerman questioned how the district, having just gone through "the painful process of closing [two] buildings ... can come back to approve an addition," he joined five colleagues who attended the meeting on Feb. 22 in unanimous votes on both matters. He asked rhetorically whether there were no seats available in the district's other elementary schools to accommodate added enrollment at Lombardy. Patricia Hearn said that during planning for reconfiguration "we tried to adjust the 'feeder patterns', but it wasn't accepted by the community." 'Feeder pattern' is jargon for 'attendance zones'. Need for additional space at Lombardy first came into general public view in January and bids were opened on Feb. 18, before the board consented to the project. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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PLAN APPROVED: Brandywood Elementary School will share a split-level building with the Bush Early Learning Center as described in a preliminary design plan submitted to and unanimously approved by the school board at its Feb. 22 meeting. The left arm of the 'u'-shape structure, which will house at least 20 elementary-grades classrooms, will be two stories while the other arm, which is closer to houses in Chalfonte, will be one, Timothy Skibicki, of Tetra Tech Engineering, said. Depending on how construction costs work out, the elementary wing may be extended to include four additional classrooms, John Read, the district's construction manager, said. If not, he added, "it is a tight fit, but that is the price of being efficient."

As previously reported, the Brandywood building has been designed to obtain 'Leed' certification. That is an acronym for 'Leadership in energy and environmental design', a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council. Among its 'green' features will be recycling rain water for non-potable uses and a shading system to blend  natural outdoor lighting in varying degrees with artificial indoor lights, Skibicki said. The new building will stand on the site formerly occupied by Hanby Middle and incorporate several of the architectural features of the recently opened Lancashire Elementary, he said. Read said material recovered from the old building, now being torn down, will be used in the new, thus avoiding the necessity to cart some 700 truckloads of the stuff through Chalfonte. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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CLARIFICATION: County Executive Chris Coons has publicly declared that he intends to continue serving in that office while seeking election to the U.S. Senate. An earlier Delaforum article concerning succession in the event the office becomes vacant implied that he intends to resign in the relatively near future.. "He has made no such plans," according to spokesperson Angie Basiouny.

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A MATTER OF TIMING: How long Paul Clark serves in an ex-officio capacity as county executive depends on how soon Chris Coons steps down to run for Joe Biden's former U.S. Senate seat. State law provides for the president of County Council to fill the top position in county government if it becomes vacant. If that happens before Aug. 15 -- 30 days before primary election day -- Clark will be there until just after the November general election. If Coons waits until after Aug. 15 to vacate his present post, Clark will serve until after the 2012 election. He is eligible, of course, to run for a two-year term in next November's election or for four years in 2012. While its presidency is vacant, the president pro-tem, Penrose Hollins, will lead County Council. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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NO BIG DEAL: County Council, in blasť fashion, on Feb. 16 confirmed the appointment of Patricia Creedon to be general manager of the Department of Special Services. She will be paid $126,526 to run a department with a $60.7 million budget. She succeeds Mike Svaby, who headed the public works agency in an acting capacity since last year. Creedon was founder and president of Creedon Controls, an electrical contracting company. According to a Jan. 29 internal memo from County Executive Christopher Coons announcing her appointment, "in 2008 she was ready for a new challenge and closed her company." Conformation came without discussion along with other items on Council's 'consent calendar' following a perfunctory interview in committee earlier that day.

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County Council approved the controversial rezoning of the Pilot School property on Garden of Eden Road after refusing to allow the sponsor of the ordinance to do so to table the measure.

Approval came on a nine-to-four vote after lengthy discussion and public testimony -- which mostly repeated previous arguments before Council's land use committee and the county Planning Board -- on Feb. 16. The result became a foregone conclusion when Council voted seven-to-six against Robert Weiner's motion to table. In seeking to postpone action for a week, Weiner asked for "the same consideration that is granted to other members of Council." Normally, Council routinely approves tabling resolutions by unanimous voice votes. Seven other rezoning ordinances were tabled without discussion at the Feb. 16 session. Weiner, the second longest-serving member, said he could not recall any tabling refusals during his time on Council.

Lisa Goodman, lawyer for Reybold Group, which wants to build a 147-unit age-restricted community with mixed housing types on the school site, objected to tabling. "This rezoning has had more discussion and scrutiny than most," she said. Jerome Heislser, who heads Reybold, asked for quick action because Pilot School faces a deadline to acquire property at its proposed new site. Reybold's plan still must receive approval as being compliant with the Unified Development Code. Weiner got both Goodman and land use general manager David Culver to acknowledge that the plan, which they had denied is precedent-setting, is the first of 69 approved or pending under redevelopment provisions of the code, which grant density incentives, as inducements to redevelop residential properties. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

Voting against tabling were Bill Bell, Paul Clark, William Powers, Joseph Reda, George Smiley, Jea Street and David Tackett. Bell, Lisa Diller and Penrose Hollins joined Weiner in voting against rezoning.

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IN THE RACE: Chris Coons positioned himself to follow the path of the man whose Senate seat he seeks and jump from county government into the national political spotlight. The country executive announced on Feb. 3 that he will run for the seat Vice President Biden occupied for many years. It is being filled in the interim by Ted Kaufman. All but certain to get the Democratic nomination, Coons will oppose Congressman Mike Castle. The Delaware contest is one of about a half dozen that are considered crucial if President Obama's party is to keep control of the Senate. Coons, who previously was president of County Council, where Biden was serving when first elected in 1972, is regarded by political pundits as a decided underdog in the race against long-serving and popular Castle.

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TALL TOWER: Delmarva Broadcasting has asked for and probably will receive a Board of Adjustment use variance to build a fifth transmission tower adjacent to its studios in Brandywine Hundred. Michael Reath, general manager, said the 495-foot structure, tallest of the group, will support a new broadcast antenna for WSTW-FM, replacing one destroyed when struck by lightening last fall, and cellphone disks. At a community meeting on Feb. 1, hosted by Councilman Robert Weiner, Reath said the new setup will provide better reception for the radio station and reduce interference its signal causes to telephones and other devices in nearby buildings. He said the towers have been there since 1948, when the surrounding area was rural and companion station WDEL's studios were in Wilmington.

Last updated on February 23, 2010

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