Posts Tagged ‘Sussex County’

Sussex is not the largest county east of Mississippi

December 22, 2010

Things you might not know about Sussex County (Part 1):

• The county makes up almost half of the total land statewide – nearly 940 square miles.

• It’s not the largest county east of the Mississippi River, as many claim. There are nine counties in Maine alone that are larger than Sussex County and eight of those are larger than the state of Delaware.

• Estimated population of Sussex in 2009 was 192,747 with a projected population of more than 215,000 by 2015. Just over 82,000 Sussex residents are employed.

• Even though it is a large county it has no county parks and recreation department or police department. Although, the county provides grants to support youth and adult sports activities and allocates funding for extra state police patrols exclusive to Sussex.

• More people are moving to Sussex than are being born here. According to the U.S. Census, the majority of new residents in 2005 – 94 percent – came from other places as the result of external migration. The other 6 percent came from natural increases from births and deaths. That compares to 80 percent of newcomers in Kent County and just 28 percent in New Castle County.

• Tourism is big in Sussex providing nearly 11,000 jobs and adding nearly $710 million to the economy.

• Poultry is also big. The county ranks first among all U.S. counties in broiler production, with more than 223 million chickens grown each year. Sussex County is the birthplace of the poultry industry. One of 10 jobs in the county is related to food processing with an annual payroll of more than $236 million.

• Sussex farmers sold nearly $850 million in products in 2007; 83 percent was poultry and eggs.

Sources: U.S. Census, Census of Agriculture, Delaware Department of Labor, Sussex County planning and zoning department.

Time to make some decisions

October 13, 2010

We all know government moves at a snail’s pace, but some recent inaction by Sussex County makes snails look like rabbits.

County council has yet to hire a county planner, although the job has been posted. Insiders tell me the amount budgeted for the position, about $42,000, is not enough to attract a registered planner. In the meantime, the county is relying on a consultant from Urban Research and Development Corp. in Bethlehem, Pa. The county has been without a full-time planner since the retirement of Rick Kautz in May 2009.

Neighboring Kent County, which is smaller than Sussex County, has five certified planners with one vacant position. Sussex has nearly 40,000 more people and 300 square miles more than its northern neighbor.

Here’s another telling statistic from the U.S. Census: In 2009 Sussex issued 1,555 building permits, compared with 806 issued in Kent County. In addition, Sussex has more than 118,000 housing units, compared with 64,000 in Kent County.

Council President Vance Phillips is on the record saying hiring a planner is not a high priority under current economic conditions. Not everyone agrees with that opinion, including council members Joan Deaver and George Cole.

Council has also been dragging its feet on the appointment, or reappointment, of two members of the county board of adjustment. The terms of Dale Callaway of Milton and John Mills of Laurel ended June 30. Ironically, Callaway remains as chairman of the board.

Councilwoman Deaver has made it clear she will not renominate Callaway for the position, one he has held since 1992 (Mills was appointed the same year). Council shot down her first nominee, John Walsh of Rehoboth Beach, and a vote has never come up on her second nominee, former Lewes Police Chief Beau Gooch of Milton. The appointments have until now been low key and made without any discussion, but I don’t think that will be the case anymore.

Some residents are upset the board has an approval rate of more than 80 percent, and they want some new faces. These same residents want the board to follow its own rules and regulations and grant variances only when all criteria can be met. Board members admit that is not always the case.

One can only wonder why council is dragging its feet on these decisions, which are deemed critical in many circles. Could it have something to do with what happens the first Tuesday in November?

Build it and they will come

May 25, 2010

I’ve had the pleasure recently of interviewing several people who have retired to Sussex County. It’s not hard to find someone who fits into that category because there are thousands of people who have moved here to retire.

In fact, if you believe statistics, Sussex retirees could outnumber working folk in a few years. Most are putting down roots in eastern Sussex and have enriched the lifestyle of Sussex County with some amazing resumes.

So why do they come here?

I can think of a few reasons not to come here.

Florida and Arizona are much warmer in the winter months. In fact, the winters here can be rather dismal.

Outside of eastern Sussex, cultural activities are few and far between.

Health facilities may be adequate now, but with further influx of retirees and an aging population, they may not be adequate in the near future.

You have to drive to get anywhere; public transportation is not designed for retirees.

But, I can also think of plenty of reasons to retire here:

There are plenty of good golf courses.

Those who like nature can watch birds and canoe and kayak to their heart’s content. The beach is never far away from anyone in the county.

Active seniors have many options, with biking and walking trails in eastern Sussex and an active running and fitness community.

You could eat out every night and never run out of restaurants.

The beach is one of the big drawing cards to Sussex County.

There are many organizations, such as Southern Delaware Academy of Lifelong Learning, geared toward expanding seniors’ minds. Social opportunities are also abundant.

There is an endless stream of volunteer opportunities available to seniors who want to get involved.

But, by far, the biggest reason people come here is to get out from under high taxes, especially sales and property taxes.

Many people who escape from New Jersey are accustomed to paying $1,000 to $2,000 per month in property taxes alone. The average resident in Sussex pays about $100 a year in property taxes, not including school taxes. Those living in manufactured homes pay about half that amount.

Then there is growth in Sussex County. It’s hard to get a reading on how retirees look at our growth. There’s no doubt some are outspoken about development on the eastern side of the county – even those from major urban areas.

It’s hard to compare growth in the Washington, D.C. metro area, for example, to growth in Sussex County. Some counties in that area have larger budgets, schools and police forces than the entire state of Delaware.

My feeling is that most retirees don’t see growth as a problem in the county. They may complain about getting out on Route 1, but it’s comparable to what they are used to.

The rush to get here may have been slowed a little because of the economy, but it will return. There might not be gold in them-thar hills, but there is certainly a way to save some gold in the sand and soybeans of Sussex County.

Red Hannah reminder of the past

April 21, 2010

Sussex County whipping post.

Less than a block off The Circle on the side yard of the old Sussex County courthouse is a relic of criminal punishment. People walk by it everyday and don’t even notice it’s an original Sussex County whipping post.

Dubbed Red Hannah by county blacks, the whipping post was not officially abolished in Delaware until 1972, although the last official whipping occurred 20 years prior on June 16, 1952. Delaware was one of the last states to do away with the post.

The whipping post was used as source of corporal punishment for male criminals for centuries.

Criminals could receive 40 lashes for a variety of crimes including wife beating, maiming with intent to ravish, poisoning, assault, embezzlement, robbery, counterfeiting, stealing a horse, ass or mule and showing false lights to cause a ship to wreck.

There were 600 whippings between World War I and World War II, but only five from 1946 to 1952 as the public and key politicians took stands against what was called a barbaric form of punishment.

The following is from an article written by Hal Roth in 2006, which was reprinted from a 1910 newspaper:

“Here in the United States there has been a widespread delivery of sarcastic comment every time one of the three Delaware jails ties up a horse thief to the historic whipping post and squares accounts with him by literally taking it out on his hide.

“Delaware has listened to the voluminous lecturing upon the theme of her Dark-Age barbarism but has defiantly held on to her uncivilized method of dealing out justice. And now the French government, doubtless after a profound study of the Delaware scheme, is proposing seriously to introduce the whipping post as a restraining terror to a certain class of offenders.”

Sussex sitting on gold mine

February 3, 2010

Has Sussex County gone to the dogs? Let’s hope not, but the county has gone into the dog-licensing business.

Thanks to cost cutting at the state level, the state’s three counties are now charged with dog control. It’s not cheap to keep dogs under control; it will cost Sussex County at least $600,000, and probably a lot more.

The Kent County SPCA won the bid to provide actual dog control to Sussex residents, which is not a change from last year. The only difference this time around is that Sussex taxpayers are footing the entire bill without any state funding.

The county is, however, responsible for the sale of dog licenses. By law, all dogs except working dogs are supposed to be licensed. In reality, the SPCA claims only about 10 percent are. The SPCA also says there are about 48,000 dogs in Sussex County.

I need a license.

With a population of about 189,000, which is about 75,000 families, that means about 40 percent of Sussex homes have a dog. That number corresponds to the number of U.S. households owning dogs published by the Humane Society of the United States.

In my circle of friends and relations that number seems low. About 75 percent of those folks own dogs.

The county’s system is up and running and with a month to go before the deadline less than 800 of the expected 4,800 (10 percent of the total) dogs have been registered. Licenses are $10 or $15 depending if the dog is spayed or neutered.

There is a lot of work to be done to reach that number by March 1.

If the county reaches 10 percent, about $50,000 will be collected. It seems senseless to have a law only 10 percent of people follow. Can you imagine what the roads would be like if only 10 percent of drivers did the speed limit?

County officials need to step it up because they are sitting on a real gold mine. Even licensing half the dogs would bring in $240,000, a real bump in desperately needed revenues. Assigning, or even hiring, one person as the official dog-licensing enforcer would pay for itself.

Are sting operations and neighborhood and park road checks not too far off in the future? Bring on the house-to-house searches to round up those law-breaking Fidos.

To get more information about licenses, phone 855-7380.

Away in a place where animals live

December 17, 2009

Manger scene on The Circle in Georgetown.

Does the above photograph offend you? Does it bother you that this manger scene is on The Circle in Georgetown – on a piece of publicly owned property?

The vast majority would not give the placement of the crèche on The Circle a moment’s thought. But, more and more people would answer those questions in the affirmative.

In our politically correct world, mixing religion and government is becoming more taboo. The debate over separation of church and state is nowhere near settled and will continue for generations to come.

Most schools no longer have Christmas events. They are now called winter or holiday events.

Christmas parties with treats and presents around a Christmas tree in teachers’ rooms are frowned upon.

Many businesses are afraid to use the word Christmas in their advertising. However, I noticed that Walmart staff is saying Merry Christmas to customers, at least in the Rehoboth Beach store.

Lowe’s went as far as to remove the word Christmas from its trees, only to put it back on because of public outcry.

These changes in Christmas traditions are perpetuated by those who want everything we do and say to be politically correct and divorced of religious overtones.

People of other faiths and beliefs can still celebrate Christmas as a time for families to gather; not as the birth of the Christ child, and I’m sure many do.

Christmas can be what you want it to be.

Earth Day should never end

April 27, 2009

It amazes me that the hype surrounding Earth Day dies off so quickly when it should be part of our lifestyle.

I can recall exactly what I was doing leading up to the first Earth Day in 1970. As a freshman in high school, I was leading a corps of students in an aluminum can drive. We walked the back roads of Sussex County picking up thousands of cans, filling up my backyard to overflowing.

The good news is, because of the price of aluminum, it’s hard to find cans on the roads and byways today.

That activity on the first Earth Day ignited a fire in me about the importance of protecting and enjoying the environment that has never burned out.

It’s a sad state of affairs, but most people do little or nothing when it comes to protecting Mother Earth.

In my neighborhood, about 10 percent of the residents participate in the Delaware Recycles curbside pick-up program, which is close to the statewide participation number. Most of the people I know, even though I try to lead by example, do not recycle or reuse, which is the foundation of any move to green.

Why? Money and inconvenience. Living in a throw-away society, most people are not brought up to reuse or recycle and to do so would require a major shift in routine. Secondly, there is no money in it – at least not much. When recycling puts serious money in people’s wallets, you will see that participation number jump like a Mexican jumping bean.

It’s not always been that way. My dear grandmother lived through the Great Depression and World War II years. Through necessity, her family recycled and reused just about everything. For her entire life, she saved scraps of aluminum foil, leftover food and jars – just about everything.

We have moved so far in the opposite direction, we may have gone beyond the point of no return.

But, there is some good news, and it’s on The Circle. County government has started an aggressive recycling program – with help from the public that uses the recycling center. In March, more than 20,000 pounds of material destined for the landfill was diverted, collected at county offices and recycled.

The county is doing its part – keeping about 100 tons of material out of the landfill each year.

On The Circle

April 7, 2009

IT’S IN THE SEATING – The biggest question circulating around Sussex County political circles the past few months has been how the new county council will perform. How newcomers Democrat Joan Deaver and Republicans Mike Vincent and Sam Wilson were assigned seats may offer a clue. Facing the audience, Deaver is seated to the far left and Wilson is seated to the far right. If you spend any time with either council member, you will discover quickly that their political persuasions are not too far off the mark from the seating chart. Incumbents George Cole and Vance Phillips, both Republicans, moved a seat to the right, more to the center. Is there any symbolism in that move?

ONLY IN SUSSEX – New Councilman Mike Vincent of Seaford had to relinquish his Seaford council position to take on the new seat in Georgetown. His replacement is Bill Bennett, who is a relative by marriage of Sam Wilson, another new member of county council. The saying is true: You have to be careful whom you talk about in Sussex County. You never know who is related to whom.

EAGER DEAVER – New Councilwoman Joan Deaver is taking the county by storm. She has not only opened the county’s land-use comings and goings to the world with her own website, she has formed a group of ladies (there could be men in the group but I haven’t seen them) who attend all council meetings and advise her on matters. Deaver’s dedicated duchy is keeping a vigilant eye on every move made by the men of Sussex County Council.

WOMEN POWER – Maybe they feel more empowered now that one of their own is sitting in a chair of authority, but women are showing up more and more at county meetings. The Sussex chapter of League of Women Voters has started sending an observation team to every county meeting. And there appears to be a groundswell of other women who are attending meetings and speaking out during public hearings and during the public participation portion of council meetings.

Perhaps they are following in the footsteps of Abigail Adams who said:

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

And so it goes around The Circle.