County aims for transparency with online access to meeting materials
Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson announced this week that county council meeting packets will be now be available to the public online. Interested constituents will now be able to view the council packets in full — including minutes from past meetings and how each councilperson voted on issues.
“This is about improving access and transparency to the public,” Lawson said. By making the packets digital, the information — which will join agendas, minutes and audio recordings on the county Web site — will be available to anyone with an Internet connection.
“The public wants to understand what their government leaders are doing,” Lawson said. “We believe, by making these documents available each week, anyone attending or watching council meetings will have a greater understanding of the issues before council and how they arrive at their decisions.”
The digital packets will be posted each week the county council has a scheduled meeting. Packets will be available by midday on Mondays, the day before council holds its weekly meeting, Lawson said. The packets will be in PDF form, and can be viewed and downloaded by going to the Agendas & Minutes section of the county Web site, at www.sussexcountyde.gov/docs/agendasminutes.
The Sussex County Council this week also approved wastewater agreements for the areas of Waters Run, north of Route 54; Warrington Creek in West Rehoboth; Forest Landing, at the intersection of County Road 368 and County Road 84); and Bay Forest Club in the Millville expansion of the Bethany Beach Sanitary Sewer District.
The county council also agreed to a lease agreement for Paramedic Station 104/100 in the Midway area. Robert Stuart, director of Sussex County EMS, said it would be another five-year lease but they could “get out of if” if the County was able to purchase land before then — an idea he said they were starting to entertain. The lease terms are that the County will pay between $32,280 and $38,400 to Colonial East, a Maryland limited partnership, annually over the next five years.
On the other side of the rental equation, as landlords, the County also agreed to a lease renewal for Georgetown Air Services. The lease is identical to the current lease, which is a five-year lease for $460 per month for 528 square feet of office space, with utilities being paid by the County.
Sussex County Council also heard this week from resident William Christy of Shawnee Acres in Milford, who asked about services for unincorporated areas. He said that, after an incident with a person on a four-wheeler in April, he got caught in the “jurisdictional nonsense,” about whether it was a Milford police or state police issue.
“The state police have never talked with me,” he told the council. “There has to be a better way, and we are not getting what we are paying for. I have never seen a Milford police office or state police officer patrol in my neighborhood, and crime is the fastest-growing in Sussex County.”
Asked by Councilman George Cole why he wouldn’t just annex his property into the town of Milford, Christy replied, “Pay $4,000 more, and that’s all I am going to get? No thank you.”
He also said he wanted to clear the air about rumors spreading online that the council had promised him a job as a deputy sheriff and then refused to hire him.
“I am a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force, and I care for my grandchildren, ages 4 to 6, full time. I don’t need the money or the aggravation or want it,” he said. “I just wanted to put on the record that I have never been interviewed by you and have never submitted an application. It’s ridiculous and doesn’t do anything to solve the issue,” he said of issues between the county sheriff and the council.
Council members said they would look into the incident with the state police and thanked Christy for his comments.
Also on July 17, the council fulfilled grant requests from the Town of Blades for a community night out, to the Apple Scrapple festival for expenses, to Changing Fates Equine Rescue for the purchase of land, to the Lewes Public Library for a creative artist conference, to Groome, Faith and Israel United Methodist Church for a community event, to Eastern Shore AFRAM Festival for expenses, to the Dewey Beach Police Department for a radar speed sign and to the Millsboro Art League for building improvements.
Those grants, and similar ones, were the topic of the final comments at Tuesday’s meeting. Don Iott, who said he was “campaigning for Ms. Deaver’s job,” told the council that he has spoken with members of 4,000 households in the district and many of them have issues with the councilmanic discretionary funds.
“My issue is with the discretionary fund,” he said. “People think the council is buying votes with it and, frankly, I agree with them.”
He suggested the council put the money into the Sussex County Disaster Relief Fund, rather than using it for individual grants.
“If the police want a night out, let them pay for it. I don’t want taxpayers to pay for their kegger — sorry,” he said. (The National Night Out is an event held annually in many communities across the nation, designed as a crime/drug prevention event involving police and residents, to “strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.”)
The council also heard on Tuesday from self-declared council watchdog Dan Kramer, who told them they are a “bunch of dang turkeys,” while also mentioning “scumbag churches and scumbag preachers.” He never mentioned a specific problem with the council’s actions, just reiterated his discontent.
“You all say you don’t discriminate. Well, I don’t either. When you die, on your headstone, it’s going to say you all are a bunch of dang turkeys.”