Seeks More Funding
for Sewer Annexation
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GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council heard a request for more funding from the organizer and founder of the Slam Dunk to the Beach National High School Basketball Tournament at its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 15, 2001.
Bobby Jacobs, executive director of Slam Dunk to the Beach, asked council for $35,000 for the 2001 tournament at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes to cover increasing costs associated with the tournament's continued rise in popularity.
The request is an increase of $20,000 from council's contribution of $15,000 last year.
Before hosting council members at a luncheon Tuesday, Jacobs said during council's regular meeting that limitations of the Cape Henlopen site prevent the non-profit tournament from becoming self-supporting through ticket sales and sponsorships.
He said that he wants to keep the tournament in Sussex County and that he needs the extra funding to continue to do so. He said that it could become self-supporting in a larger facility, one he hopes to eventually bring to the county in the form of a multi-purpose convention center that could house everything from the basketball tournament to monster truck rallies to conventions.
"My desire and my feeling is that it should never leave Sussex County," Jacobs said of the tournament. "But it's doubtful that the tournament could be self-sustaining unless it moved into a facility that would sustain the number of people and schools that want to come here. There is just no facility here that could make it self-sustaining."
Jacobs cited an independent study by the University of Delaware that showed the tournament brings $3.5 million to the local economy every year. He said there is probably additional economic impact from families who visit during Slam Dunk and then return for summer vacations.
Council made no promises to Jacobs but said they would study his proposal for possible inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2002 budget scheduled to be released to the public on Tuesday, May 22.
As for his grander vision, Jacobs said he has begun visiting arenas around the country to gather ideas for construction of a multi-use arena in Sussex County.
His vision includes an arena that could house sporting events, professional wrestling, monster truck and moto-cross rallies, boat shows and conventions.
When asked by County Administrator Robert L. Stickels about the financial woes of similar arenas in Salisbury and Ocean City, Md., Jacobs said, "With all due respect to those facilities, they don't answer the needs of the 21st Century," said Jacobs. "Plus, we have something they don't have ... the ocean."
Jacobs also said he planned to involve Sussex County teams other than Cape Henlopen in this year's tournament through a one-day "War on the Shore" event that would pit teams from Delaware against teams from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Americana Bayside Applies for Sewer ...
Council unanimously approved a planning study and the preparation and posting of notices for possible annexation of the Americana Bayside development into the Fenwick Island Sanitary Sewer District.
Freeman Communities, the developer of Americana Bayside, applied for the annexation and submitted the $500 application fee on April 20 in an apparent signal that it plans to go ahead with the development.
Freeman spokespeople said they would have to reconsider the project's feasability after county council cut the number of residential units to 1,700 from the 2,200 recommended by the county's planning and zoning commission. Freeman originally requested 2,900 single-family and multi-famiily units.
Before approving the preparation and posting of notices for the annexation request, council had to approve a planning study for the South Coastal Regional Wastewater Facility that serves the Fenwick Island sewer district.
County Engineer Mike Izzo and Jim Willey of the consulting firm George, Miles and Buhr told council that even without the American Bayside development, the South Coastal facility would need to be upgraded as it is nearing capacity after 25 years online.
To meet the existing and future demands, George, Miles and Buhr has recommended that the county upgrade both of the wet wells at the facility to make use of both the 10-inch and 18-inch mains there for current needs and add a wet well and pumping station with a 21-inch force main for future needs when Americana Bayside comes online.
George, Miles and Buhr has also recommended that the county locate all future upgrades for Fenwick Island at the Pump 30 location.
The estimated cost for the upgrades is $7,689,500, with about 60 percent covered by new connection fees and the rest covered by Freeman Communities.
Council adopted both the recommendations in the study and the motion to prepare and post notices of the proposed boundaries of the annexation by 5-0 votes.County Pension Funds ...
On the recommendation of the county's Pension Committee, council unanimously authorized the investment of $152,000 in interest income from the 1985 Single-Family Mortgage Bond program plus another $124,000 in outstanding loans in the program into its employee pension fund.
Under the program administered by Wilmington Trust, the county borrowed money through local banks to provide mortgages at below-market rates for families in the county. The income from the mortgages was used to pay off the bonds for the original mortgages. The remaining $124,000 in mortgages will expire in 2016.
The vote came after a report from Finance Director David Baker on the status of the county's pension fund investments, which showed a 2.5 percent drop in the first quarter of 2001 due to the decline in stock prices.
Baker said that despite the drop in value, the finance department believes the stock investment program remains the best investing vehicle for the pension fund because it has averaged a gain of 11 percent a year since 1994 for a total of $6.8 million in earnings for the pension fund.
"This is a long-term investment," said Baker of the investments, which put 60 percent into stocks and 40 percent into bonds. "You have ups and downs in the stock market. Overall, it's done very well."
In addition, Baker told council that the three mangers of the pension fund investments have all exceeded the Actuarial goal of a return of 8 percent per year.
Wilmington Trust, Baker said, has averaged 9.2 percent per year, Fidelity Investments has averaged 10.3 percent a year, and the State of Delaware's Local Government Retirement Investment Fund has averaged a return of 12 percent a year.
Baker also told council that the upcoming Fiscal Year 2002 Budget will include a hike in the pensions for paramedics and 911 dispatchers from a multiple of 1.66 of their annual salaries to 2.00.
He and County Administrator Robert L. Stickels said they are proposing the hike to try to stem the 30 percent turnover rate the county has been experiencing in those departments.
Baker explained that under the current formula, paramedics and dispatchers would only receive 42 percent of their annual salary as their pension after 25 years and that the employees who have left have said they would like to receive 50 percent of their annual salary after 25 years. The current formula would require them to work for the county for 30 years to receive 50 percent.
Stickels added that the county expects that the increase in the multiple will actually pay off for the county because it should result in fewer defections, which require between $25,000 and $30,000 in training for replacements.
Finally, Baker told council that another change would be proposed in this year's budget for the county's group hospitalization plan.
Currently, long-time county employees who retire before age 62 do not receive hospitalization in retirement while employees who work fewer years but retire after age 62 do receive that benefit.
As examples, Stickels told council that 25 employees who have worked less than 15 years will receive hospitalization under the current plan while another employee who had been with the county 27 years retired before the age of 60 and received no benefits.
With the new program beginning July 1, existing county employees could choose to stay with the current plan or switch to the new plan. New employees would only be able to use the new plan.In Other Business ...
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