Archive for March, 2010

Why can’t we all just get along?

March 31, 2010

To say there is no tension building among Sussex County Council members would be like saying the Titanic sinking was not a major historical event.

Over the past few weeks, some of the discussions have become more than a little heated. A lot has to do with the make up of the council. Sitting on each end of the table are two people who probably wouldn’t agree that school buses are yellow, Sam Wilson and Joan Deaver.

Wilson, who has lived on the same land his entire life, is a diehard Republican conservative who believes in God and property rights. I don’t think he has voted against one application since he took office in January. Democrat Deaver, a liberal, is building up a strong resume of voting against most development.

There is Republican George Cole who seems to enjoy antagonizing Council President Vance Phillips. The two rarely see eye-to-eye on anything. Phillips almost always votes with Wilson, or vice-versa, in favor of applications. On the other hand, Cole is very selective, especially on applications in the Cape Region. If I had a nickel for every time Cole said “Vance” I’d almost have enough to pay for parking in Rehoboth Beach.

And Cole’s debates with “Sam, Sam, Sam” are legendary. The debates are part generation gap and part difference of opinion with a whole lot of wit added in.

Somewhere in the middle of this fracas is Mike Vincent, another Republican, who so far has not been pulled into the fray.

The funny thing is, when they get done arguing and berating one another, they usually end up laughing at the end of the meeting.

It’s still the best show in town, a lot better than any TV reality program.

Taking stock of a pot of gold

March 19, 2010

There is a pot ‘o gold out there bigger than any leprechaun’s stash. It’s the more than $15 million owed to Sussex County and school districts in penalties, back taxes and fees. Imagine what they could do with that money.

Of the total, most of it (about $14 million) is owed in back property taxes with $7.8 million in arrears in school taxes. That’s about $1 million for each district in the county.

The county is serious about collecting the money and was able to bring in nearly $800,000 in property taxes and $400,000 in water and sewer fees during an amnesty program, which ended in March.

There is still a long way to go.

Sussex officials are looking at various ways to get their money. The most ambitious is an idea promulgated by Council President Vance Phillips who wants to publish the worst delinquent’s names on the county’s website.

The county has hired its first collections manager and officials have told staff that tax sales are OK to pursue. Nasty grams are going to be sent, and I’m sure some doors are going to be knocked on.

Here is another idea. There is a nice set of stocks in front of Citizens Bank on The Circle in Georgetown. Why not set up a time each week for the worst offenders to spend some time getting humiliated in public?

All should play by the same rules

March 15, 2010

I’ve complained about the Sussex County hearing process in previous blogs. Now, I have a new wrinkle to add to the issues with the system.

Everyone should play by the same rules when it comes to a public hearing. In a good move, the county now requires applicants to submit materials for hearings at least 10 days in advance. That gives the public and county officials a little time to prepare.

But at least one department within county government does not follow that time frame.

The engineering department routinely submits comments on applications the day or day before planning and zoning hearings, the first of two hearings for most applications.

A prime example of that practice occurred during the Thursday, March 11, hearing for a proposed CVS pharmacy at the entrance to the Villages of Five Points in Lewes. On the day of the hearing, the engineering department submitted its objection to the rezoning application based on the lack of sewer capacity.

That put the commissioners as well as the applicant behind the eight ball and actually helped delay the process. The public record for the commission’s hearing was left open for 10 days to allow the applicant time to respond to the engineer’s findings.

The action even upset Vince Robertson, the usually well-composed county assistant attorney. “It’s frustrating when we get stuff at 4:30 p.m.,” he said during the hearing. “We put 10 days on everybody else.”

Something tells me this practice is about to change.

And while they are at it, county officials should stop the practice of allowing applicants to present any materials the day or night of a public hearing without sufficient copies for the public to see.

Head inland young man

March 10, 2010

If you believe the reports about sea-level rise along the Delaware coast over the next 75 to 100 years, you should start buying property in Georgetown, because that could become the next beachfront community.

Although that’s a bit exaggerated, sea-level rise is a problem that has the eyes and ears of scientists, environmentalists and policy makers. Sea-level rise predictions over the next century range from inches to several feet, with most studies falling in the 1- to 3-foot range in an area just a few feet above sea level.

Reports and studies focused on the area around Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge paint a dismal picture without some drastic action. Under the best-case scenario with minimal sea-level rise, a large portion of the more than 6,500 acres of fragile saltwater and freshwater marshes would be under water. You can guess the worst-case scenario.

Under that scenario Prime Hook Refuge would practically cease to exist as we know it today.

You have to consider that most of the refuge is about 3 feet above sea level, and the marshes are actually losing ground instead of building up. It doesn’t take a scientist or expert to figure out that an increase of 2 to 3 feet in the level of the Delaware Bay on an area that is 3 feet above sea level is a recipe for disaster.

The effects would not only be felt along the bay beaches but also the ocean beaches where tourism dollars are vital fuel to move the state’s economy.

Prime Hook provides both salt and freshwater marsh ecosystems, a rare combination that does not occur in many places. It’s also a key stop on the Atlantic Flyway.

Because saltwater marshes are more resilient, some are advocating that the refuge be allowed to become totally saltwater. Currently, refuge officials manage sections of the refuge with a series of water-control devices, dikes and canals to maintain the freshwater marshes.

Others advocate beach and dune replenishment as a way to provide a thin line of defense for the marshes. Still others say  let nature takes it course; it’s time to retreat and plan for a different refuge landscape.

Any action taken is a shot in the dark because policy makers will be making decisions based on science that is predicting events to occur decades in the future.

Several studies are ongoing, and I’m sure more will follow.

A glimpse of the future? Flooded Prime Hook Road.

The first steps on a long road

March 4, 2010

Except for the occasional kidney stone and headache, I’ve been blessed with good health during my half-century on the planet.

Although my diet has not always been the greatest, I have been physically active all my life. In my 20s, 30s and 40s I ran untold miles and even competed in seven marathons. In my late 40s and into my 50s, I switched from running on the roads to cycling on the roads and have completed many century (100-mile) rides.

So suffice it to say when my family doctor told me I had Type 2 diabetes, I was floored. No one in my family that we know has it, and my lifestyle was not prone to getting it. It’s a mystery, but the fact remains I’ve joined the 24 million other Americans who have diabetes. There are another 6 million who are undiagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association.

I knew something wasn’t right, and now that I understand the symptoms of the disease, it’s clear what was going on. I had some blurred vision, terrible thirst and on bike rides, I would run out of gas, and I mean hit the wall hard, after about an hour. My hands would shake, and I would feel totally spent. My blood sugar was out of balance.

My doctor has given me three months to change the way I live and we hope to control the disease without medication. I know it’s going to be extremely hard; most diabetics end up on medication.

First off, my doctor says I have to get near my high-school weight and lose about 35 pounds. Secondly, I need a much more healthy diet; I have to stop eating the junk that probably put me in this position in the first place. No more fast food, no more skipping meals, no more sweet drinks and an increase in fruits, vegetables and fiber. Managing carbs is the key to diabetes management.

I read labels now when shopping and am surprised to find the amount of carbs that are in our diet that we are not aware of.

I’ve started monitoring my blood sugar and have discovered it varies greatly, mostly on the low end of the scale, throughout the day.

I’ve started an intense exercise routine with walking, biking on my inside trainer and even adding some Wii-Fit routines in the mix. So far, I’ve been able to drop 10 pounds, but it hasn’t been easy. I seem to be hungry most of the time. It’s like a vicious cycle – I exercise to burn calories and carbs to trim up around the middle and increase my hunger, yet I have to be careful to eat in extreme moderation.

I still have a lot to learn about a disease doctors say is one that requires daily attention.

I recently finished two classes offered by Beebe Medical Center about managing diabetes. The instructors were great and offered a greater understanding of how important proper medication, diet and exercise are to controlling a disease that has no cure.

It’s also important to set goals when managing the disease. My goal is to get myself in shape to ride a metric-century (63 miles) in May in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure near Philadelphia.

I’ve ridden many metric-century and century rides over the past decade, but this one will be special. Go to tour.diabetes.org, click on donate and type in my name to make a donation.

The DMV: Fear of failure

March 1, 2010

Not far from The Circle in Georgetown is a place that causes me to lose sleep at night.

It’s not the place itself that is scary or bad, but all the unknowns surrounding the place that cause trepidation.  It’s thinking you may have forgotten an important paper, or you will fail in front of everyone.

Known to everyone as the DMV, the Delaware Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles controls the fate of one of the most important possessions we own. We need its blessing every so often to drive the roads of Delaware.

Almost everyone agrees the operation at the new complex in Georgetown is light-years ahead of what occurred at the old complex. It’s much more efficient and customer oriented – but it’s still scary.

It’s a safe bet that about 98 percent of those taking a vehicle through the DMV inspection lanes drive in and drive out with a passing grade and have no problems renewing their tags.

Put me in that other 2 percent because the DMV wizard has put a spell on me. I’ve failed inspection several times now, including this past week, for any number of reasons. One time my rear taillight actually burned out on the drive to Georgetown, another time my Jeep failed the emission test (twice) and most recently I discovered I had too much tint on my front windows. Actually, as I was to learn later, you can’t have any tint on the front windows, unless there is a medical reason that necessitates it.

I’ve been driving the vehicle around for more than three years with the illegal tint, which was in place when I bought the Jeep.

Jared Becker is my new hero. The owner of Shore Tint on Indian Mission Road near Long Neck saved the day when he removed the illegal tint from my front windows.

Jared said it’s not unusual for him to remove tint, and he has the art of taking the stuff off down to a science. He had removed tint from two other vehicles prior to doing my job.

Getting the thin tint off is not hard – it comes off with a razor blade – but getting the goopy glue off is another story; it’s not something you want to try at home.

Jared has been in business for almost 20 years and not only does vehicle tinting but also residential, business and marine tinting.

My hero pulls illegal tint from the window.

It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.