Sussex County Delaware

Council Approves
New Council Districts

 
Sussex County Council ...

Phillips to Represent
Delmar to Fenwick

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher

Graphic: Click the map below for a larger version on the Sussex County Council web site.

After much discussion about political motivations, Sussex County Council unanimously approved the redistricting of the county's five councilmanic district at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2001.

Sussex County Council Election DistrictsCouncil approved the new districts 4-0 following a public hearing. Council must redraw its councilmanic districts every 10 years following the U.S. Census.

State law requires that all districts be within 5 percent of each other in terms of population. In the 2000 census, Councilman George Cole's district had grown to 39,000 residents, or nearly 20 percent above the ideal balance of 31,300 residents per district.

The major changes in the new election districts involve Council member Vance Phillips' district and the addition of a third council member for the coastal zone.

A Republican, Councilman Phillips' district had been largely in the southwestern corner of the county but it now stretches from Delmar in the west to Fenwick Island and South Bethany in the east.

Phillips, with Fenwick Island and South Bethany, joins council members Cole and Lynn Rogers as representatives of coastal towns. Cole represents the coastal communities of Bethany, Dewey and Rehoboth beaches and Rogers represents Lewes and part of Rehoboth.

In terms of population, District No. 1 (Dale Dukes) will have 29,836 people, District No. 2 (Finley B. Jones) will have 31,245, District No. 3 (Rogers) will have 31,581, District No. 4 (Cole) will have 31,368, and District No. 5 (Phillips) will have 32,608.

Although the new district lines were approved unanimously, they faced scrutiny from Councilman George Cole, Wolfgang VonBaumgart of the Sussex County Chapter of the Independent Party of Delaware, and Greenwood resident Dan Kramer.

Cole, a Republican, mostly questioned if politics had entered into the redistricting plan. The plan was drawn up by county attorney Eugene Bayard, Richard Carter, the chief administrative official to the Delaware Senate Majority (Democratic) Caucus, and Ken McDowell.

Cole said it was important for the public to understand that politics does enter into redistricting plans but his opinion wasn't shared by Councilmen Phillips or Lynn Rogers or Council President Dale Dukes.

"I feel it was done fairly," said Dukes. "There were no political ploys in this thing."

"If it were political, this would have put Mr. Cole in a district with a bunch of developers and he'd be out," said Rogers.

Dukes further stated that drafters of the new lines could have pitted two councilmen against each other if they were truly interested in partisan politics.

VanBaumgarten, meanwhile, stated the Independent Party of Delaware's position that the council should be increased to seven members and that district lines should be redrawn along natural eco-systems to better create districts whose constituents hold similar interests.

County Administrator Robert L. Stickels, in response to a question from Kramer, said such an increase in council members, plus support staff for the additional council members, would cost the county $250,000 a year.

VanBaumgarten, looking at the five white males on council, also questioned why district lines couldn't be redrawn to assure that council better represents the diverse population of the county including women and minorities.

Stickels questioned why such concerns hadn't been raised during the redistricting process when council had posted the new maps on the Internet and in the county adminstration building lobby.

Cole, for his part, said he was fine with his new district's lines but just wanted the public to understand how the process works.

In Other Business ...
  • Councilman Finley B. Jones missed the meeting to attend to personal business.

  • Council approved one-time septic installation charges for the Holts Landing Sanitary Sewer District. The county is purchasing the sewer system of Utility Systems Inc. and adding it to the Holts Landing district on Nov. 1.

  • Council approved a request to post notices for annexing The Reserves subdivision of Abraham Korotki into the South Bethany Sanitary Sewer District and the Ocean View Expansion of the Bethany Beach Sanitary Sewer District.

  • Council approved a beneficial acceptance for the Wolfe Point subdivision now that the pump station and force main are complete there. Council also approved a construction administration and construction inspection agreement for Bethany Bay Phases 1.2B and 1.6.

  • Council heard information on a proposed refinancing of General Obligation Bonds issued in 1993. County Finance Director David Baker told council that the refinancing would drop interest rates on the bonds from 5.15-5.5 percent to 2-3 percent and would save the county $200,000. The county will also save $34,000 by doing the refinancing now rather than waiting until April 15, Baker said. Baker said he would prepare an ordinance to authorize the refinancing for next week's council meeting.

  • Council approved the 2002 Holiday Schedule for the county. Scheduled holidays will be the same as in 2001.

  • Council proclaimed Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2001, as Jason H. Deibel Day in honor of Deibel earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Deibel has been in Boy Scouts in Georgetown since 1991.

  • Council approved grants of $300 for the Millsboro Chamber of Commerce's Christmas Visions '01 Parade and $250 for the Junior Miss Sussex County Pageant.

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