Sussex County Council ...
At Long Last, Sewer
Coming to Ellendale
By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher
GEORGETOWN -- After a 15-year struggle, central sewer is finally coming to Ellendale.
At its regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2001, Sussex County Council voted unanimously to approve a construction bid and a new financing plan that will reduce the annual cost of central sewer service to Ellendale residents to $435.
Council approved a construction bid of $4,469,787.69 from George & Lynch Inc. of New Castle to bring the total estimated cost of the project down to $11.4 million, according to Sussex County Engineer Michael Izzo.
Izzo said the project would begin in either late January or early February of 2002 depending on the weather.
County Administrator Robert L. Stickels reminded council that it rejected bids in May that would have put the cost at more than $12 million and the annual charge at more than $700.
To get the annual cost down to $435, though, council also approved a $500,000 grant from the county's retained earnings from its realty transfer tax revenues.
In addition, Stickels said the county will continue to seek additional grant funding to reduce the annual cost to the $399 per year approved by Ellendale property owners in a 1999 referendum.
Harold L. Truxon and Joseph Conaway, representing different groups of Ellendale property owners, both told council they were satisfied with the $435 figure and trusted that county staff would continue to purse grants to further reduce the annual charge.
"We thank you for Ellendale's big Christmas present," said Truxon after council's vote. "We've been waiting 15 years for this."
In answers to council's questions, Izzo said that the county continues to be presented higher bids than expected due to the glut of work available and the scarcity of companies to do the work.
The county received only one other bid for the Ellendale project from Teal Construction Inc. of Dover, which came in at $4.622 million.
Both bids came in higher than the engineering department's projection of $4.13 million. Izzo noted that the original estimate for the entire project was only $7 million compared to the $11.4 million the county has approved.
"We have a small contractor pool and a lot of work and that puts the county in competition with other projects, so the prices are going up," said Izzo. "Kent County is seeing the same kind of bidding environment and Ocean City is going through a re-bidding for the same reason."
Izzo said the engineering department is also ready to solicit bids for the second of the project's for phases for pumping stations and pipe.
County Bond Rating ...
County Finance Director David Baker informed council that the county has received a superior bond rating from Moody's Investor Service.
In discussions of the refinancing of industrial revenue bonds last week, Baker told council that Moody's has given the county a AA-2 rating.
Baker said Moody's cited the county's lack of debt, the county's use of the realty transfer tax to pay down debt and pay for capital projects rather than recurring expenses, and that the county's property based revenue as reasons for the high rating. Moody's said the county's property based revenue streams are less susceptible to an economic downtown than other forms of revenue.
A complete report is available on the county web site at http://www.sussexcounty.net.
Baker said the county chose the Baltimore firm of Farris, Baker and Watts to underwrite its refinancing of $10.25 million in bonds. Baker said the county's initial savings would be $349,000. He said the bonds sold at up to 10 percent on the initial day of trading.
In Other Business ...
- County Administrator Robert L. Stickels reminded council of upcoming Comprehensive Land Use Planning meetings in preparation for updating the plan by October 2002. The next meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 12, for the communities of Henlopen Acres, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, Ocean View and Millville at the Bethany Beach Fire Hall (moved from the South Coastal Library). County staff will meet with officials from those towns from 3:30-5 p.m. The public is invited to present their own comments from 5-7 p.m. and hear a formal presentation from county staff at 5:30 p.m. The last meeting will be at the Millsboro Civic Center on Thursday, Dec. 20, for the communities of Fenwick Island, South Bethany, Selbyville, Dagsboro, Frankford, Millsboro and Delmar.
- Stickels told council that the Miller Creek Sanitary Sewer District referendum passed 196-111 on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2001. The Miller Creek district will serve developments north of Little Assawoman Bay and south of Ocean View, including Plantation Park, Malcolm Manor, Ocean Air and the Raymond Banks subdivision. The system will eliminate 483 on-site septic systems. The project will cost $9.7 million. Stickels said the assessment charge will be $7.94 per front foot. The annual service charge will be $225, bringing annual charges for a 75-foot improved lot to $820.50 per year. The one-time connection fee will be $1,650. Council now has 30 days to approve the project.
- Council unanimously approved a request from the state to reassign remaining funds from its $15 million Volume Cap Allocation in 2001 to the state housing authority or its economic authority. Stickels told council that the county receives $15 million each year for industrial revenue bonds for capital projects and that the county typically reassigns any money left over to the state. The county then receives another $15 million at the start of the year. Stickels said the county used $4.5 million this year for the airport hangar project and will reassign the remaining $10.5 million to the state. Stickels added that Kent and New Castle counties also receive $15 million each year, as well as the City of Wilmington.
- Stickels reminded council that the deadline for the contest to develop a new economic development slogan to replace the county's 16-year-old slogan, "Sussex County Means Business", is Dec. 16, 2001. Details are available at www.sussexcounty.net. The contest is open to students in grades K-12.
- Council heard the following proposed ordinances:
- A conditional use in an AR-1 district for a used car and tire sales business on 19,500 square feet in Broadcreek Hundred;
- A conditional use in an AR-1 district for a medical and office building on 1.2 acres in Indian River Hundred;
- A conditional use in an AR-1 district for a landscaping business on 100.5 acres in Baltimore Hundred;
- Amending an AR-1 district to C-1 on 12.1 acres in Little Creek Hundred;
- Amending an AR-1 district to an MR-RPC on 219.42 acres in Baltimore Hundred, the request of Bunting & Gray LLC;
- Amending an AR-1 and GR district to an MR-RPC in Broadkill Hundred on 103.0 acres, the request of Ocean Atlantic Associates LLC;
- Amending an AR-1 district to C-1 in Northwest Fork Hundred on 63.7 acres, the request of Ellen E. Passwaters;
- Amending an AR-1 district to B-1 on 19,198 square feet in Baltimore Hundred;
- Amending an AR-1 district to MR-RPC on 17.85 acres in Baltimore Hundred, the request of Gulfstream Development Corporation
- Council unanimously approved the following grant requests:
- $300 to the Delmarva Heat girls' softball team;
- $500 to the Delaware Nature Society's Abbott's Mill scholarship and education fund;
- $300 to Laurel student Kyle Boyce, who has been selected to represent the United States in the People to People Student Ambassador Program in Australia in the summer of 2002.
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