Another look back at our community in 2017

Date Published: 
January 5, 2018

People around the country are sure to have very different memories when it comes to 2017.


To some, it was a tremendous year of “draining the swamp,” “Making America Great Again” and turning over a new leaf in regards to how this country handles its business, both domestically and abroad. To others, well, it was a year of social and moral upheaval, widely-accepted racism and women standing up to oppressors, harassers and an out-of-whack system.

To me, well, it was another year of covering this area and trying to just keep our eye on the ball in regards to what we have to do here to keep our readers abreast of all things local. It was like any other year in a lot of ways, but also unique unto itself — just like every year to come before it since we started this paper in February 2004.

As I was combing through each issue of 2017 to put together this year in review, I was struck once again by just how many things transpired over the course of a single year. Here, I’ll show you...

• January kicks off the new year every year with celebrations and people jumping into frigid water, and 2017 was no different, with revelers splashing about in Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island last year.

We also saw Sussex County Planning & Zoning Director Lawrence Lank retire last January, after serving the County since 1969. A Pennsylvania couple had a great trip through our lovely community, as they purchased a Powerball ticket at the Selbyville Goose Creek store, and eventually accepted a cash payout of $72.1 million, or roughly half my annual salary. John Carney was inaugurated as Delaware’s 74th governor, and Mark Steele was tapped to be acting superintendent of the Indian River School District (IRSD) following his predecessor’s departure to take over as the top educator in the state.

On a personal note, I came inside one very chilly night and decided to look for Florida vacation deals. After getting a bunch of prices, I put on a flower-print shirt and turned up the heat to 92 degrees to just dupicate the experience of a Florida vacation at home. After receiving my electric bill a few weeks later, I turned the temperature back down and pretended to be on an Alaska cruise.

• February is the shortest month of the year, but it was long enough to exonerate some members of the American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro. After an initial investigation led to those members being charged with stealing money from the organization, further investigation discovered that there was no money stolen in the first place, as checks made out to “CASH” were intended for the building’s ATM. Maybe we should start with “further investigation” first.

The Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards took place again, with great effort from the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, and attendees were treated to stories of service, heroism and commitment from this area’s first-responders. This is annually my favorite event, and it is a stark reminder just how fortunate we are to have these folks watching our backs while the rest of us are sleeping in our warm beds.

The Town of Millsboro also announced they would be cutting impact fees more than 80 percent, trying to attract a little more business and growth. Spoiler alert: A common thread throughout 2017 is Millsboro succesfully attracting growth.

On a personal note, I got a box of chocolates from my daughter for Valentine’s Day. She ate every piece of said chocolate before I knew what happened. Therefore, her effort, while endearing and cute, does not count. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you justify eating your daughter’s chocolate the following Halloween when she goes to sleep.

• March was apparently quite the month in 2017. Following a harrowing chase that began in Maryland, involved several stolen vehicles and found its way to our community, an Ocean View police officer and Worcester County Sheriff’s Deputy had to shoot the suspect when he reportedly tried to run over the two officers in a vehicle.

G&E opened its doors in the former Harris Teeter building near Salt Pond, the Freeman Stage and Bethany bandstand schedules were both announced and the new Frankford Town Hall opened up in the old J.P. Court building. Following a 20-vote loss in a current-expense referendum the previous November, the District took another shot at it and saw it pass in the highest turnout in IRSD referendum history. Steele was officially declared the full-time superintendent for IRSD, and Bethany Beach began looking at some beach rules, including the use of umbrellas and tents.

On a personal note, the strangest thing continues to happen to me. Every year, on March 18, I wake up with a splitting headache and shamrocks painted on my forehead. My father has had the same issue for decades. Any suggestions?

• April showers bring May flowers, and in 2017 it also brought the announcement that Bennett Murray would be stepping down as principal at Indian River High School. The Springtime Jamboree, a traditional event of music and fun presented by the Hocker family, raised money for River Soccer, and the IRSD slashed $2.4 million from its budget.

After years of delays and extradition challenges, Matthew Burton confessed to the rape and murder of Nicole Bennett five years earlier, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his crimes.

On a personal note, I was disgusted that Burton would be seeing the light of day in a mere 30 years. Nothing clever to add to that.

• May means the beginning of the busy season around here, and all hands were still on deck to figure out how to make up for the IRSD budget shortfall without seeing teachers lose their jobs. The IRSD teachers and secreteries agreed to reduce their agreed-upon raises for the next three years to save jobs, and parents stepped up to save the Spanish Immersion program from the proverbial chopping block.

There was a huge fire at Bunting & Bertrand Poultry Equipment in Frankford, and Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett focused his attentions on illegal dump sites throughout the county. Arlett would continue to find himself in the headlines as 2017 matured.

On a personal note, I tried on my bathing suit for the first time in several months. In a related topic, I decided not to wear a bathing suit in 2017.

• June brings graduating seniors to the beach and this year saw a gigantic, humongous, colossal, fantabulous announcement from Beebe regarding their plans for a $180 million expansion of their services, including a year-round emergency room facility on Route 17.

The IRSD Odyssey of the Mind team finished in the top 10 of the world finals, proving them infinitely smarter than myself, and the Dinker-Irvin cottage was moved to its new home one lot away in Bethany, following controversy and litigation over its new digs.

On a personal note, I made it to the beach. Well, it was to get a pizza, but I could hear the ocean when I got out of my vehicle to grab my food. That counts.

• July is a month of steamed crabs, buttered corn and fireworks exploding high in the sky. In 2017, Millsboro saw their first fireworks show, and also saw German grocery store Lidl sign on to come to town. This joins agreements by Lewes Dairy, Farmers’ Bank, Royal Farms and Chick-fil-a. We told you Millsboro was growing.

Some motorists got irritated by Sea Colony reminding people that their favorite cut-through is a private road, but the thing is, well, IT?IS?A?PRIVATE?ROAD. Lauren Weaver took on the role as executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, and South Bethany police officers voiced some grievances with the town council over their pay structure.

On a personal note, I was pretty certain in July that the Baltimore Orioles were destined to win the 2017 World Series. We’ll revisit that later.

• Oh, August. The only month of the year that doesn’t contain a significant holiday is the only month of the year that has my birthday. Spooky, right?

The Senior League Softball World Series took place at the Pyle Center in Roxana, and some of the best young softball talent in the world was on display, and the host team from District III won the whole enchilada. Well, they didn’t actually win an enchilada. That would be a little random. But they did get a trophy, and the world saw them win on ESPN, so that’s pretty cool, too.

You know what else is cool? An eclipse. That’s what. And the nation stopped what they were doing to catch a peak last August, including a big crowd down at the Indian River Inlet.

Also in August, Selbyville’s Ana Calles, a rising junior at Indian River High School, was crowned Miss Hispanic Delaware 2017, which is also pretty cool — leaving August as a generally cool month, particularly when you consider how hot it is.

On a personal note, I decided to donate all future birthdays to anyone in need.

• September can be seen as the end of the season in our area, particularly in the beach towns, but there was a huge sign of rebirth in 2017 in Dagsboro, as volunteers sowed 17,000 plants at the Delaware Botanic Gardens.

We also saw the 40th Nanticoke Powwow take place, educating and entertaining guests on the traditions and culture of the Nanticoke people, and heroes took center stage at the beach with the celebration of Operation SEAs the Day.

Dagsboro Police Department Patrolman Tyler Bare was recognized with the American Police Hall of Fame Silver Star for Bravery for actions he took to rescue an animal control officer who was reportedly attacked by a dog, bringing pride to his department, town and the entire community.

On a personal note, I did not receive any awards for anything resembling bravery, but I did get back down to the beach. That pizza is really good.

• October is known for ghosts and goblins and playoff baseball. Interesting sidenote: The Orioles, in fact, did not even make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series. I decided this past October that I would never root for those bums again.

After much discussion, Frankford Town Council announced they would not be participating in a joint police force with Dagsboro because of cost concerns, but the Council heard later from Millville Town Manager Debbie Botchie, who shared her town’s experience in contracting police coverage from the Delaware State Police.

A 24-year-old Virginia pedestrian was killed by a vehicle on Route 1, just north of Fenwick Island, sparking renewed efforts to improve pedestrian safety.

On a personal note, my kid dressed up as Buzz Lightyear for her first trick-or-treat night. I went with middle-aged newspaper editor who still believes he is middle-aged even if the math doesn’t quite add up the way he’d like.

• November is all about the turkey and skjadsofa... Sorry, the drool on my keyboard made it hard to type there, as all I have to do is think about a turkey and everyal;ksd;jklfasjfa.

Regardless, there was plenty going on this past November, including Justin Oakley being sentenced to six months in jail for reportedly stealing more than $190,000 from the Millville Volunteer Fire Co. (MVFC) while he was in charge of the department’s books.

Yeah, six months. That doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent, does it? Regardless, that’s what he got, and the MVFC is left trying to repair its image and keep donations up so they can, you know, save our lives and all.

Mountaire once again pulled off its annual miracle of helping feed people who need a little hand during the holidays with its Thanksgiving for Thousands effort, and the Indian River school board openly decided to oppose the state’s new anti-dsicrimination policy, sharing an opinion with the parents who showed up to the board’s regular meeting in opposition.

On a personal note, did I mention the turkey? And the stuffing? And.jskaiofasioi?

• December brings the end of the calendar year and a host of religious holidays. It also brought some welcomed, though not entirely surprising, news that the Attorney General’s office had cleared the Ocean View police officer involved in the March shooting of any wrongdoing.

The Bethany Beach Town Council also voted to direct the Charter & Ordinance Review Committee to formulate a ban on canopies, tents and oversized umbrellas on the beach. Fenwick Island, fighting to help improve pedestrian safety in the town, received $70,000 from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) for sidewalks.

Lawyers began getting involved in a situation in Millsboro, as well-water became contaminated, allegedly from Mountaire. But the town also saw more growth as Allen Harim announced it was moving its corporate headquarters to town.

On a personal note, I’m really excited about the Orioles for next year. Forget what I said about never rooting for them again.