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Government & Politics

Council discusses Washington Street apartment complex

by Terry Rogers

 

 

Residences on the Mispillion Riverwalk View

On Monday, Milford City Council heard a presentation by Keith Fisher and David Perlmutter of Milford Development Associates LLC who answered a Request for Proposal (RFP) from the City. Based on the 2015 Master Plan created by Arnett Muldrow & Associates, a proposed mixed-use development along the banks of the Mispillion River across from arenas which would be called RiverPlace, was included in large-scale projects proposed in the Downtown Master Plan. The development was also included in the City’s Downtown Development District Application, identified as a Key Priority Project.

“Around the same time we submitted our Downtown Development Application, we were introduced to David Perlmutter by Senator Tom Carper and then-Governor Jack Markell,” Rob Pierce, City Planner, said. “Because we had the master plan downtown, we put out an RFP to engage developers because we could not just pick one person to deal with. We had to open it up to solicit proposals from anyone. The Planning Commission also prepared zoning amendments for this area for this project to work.”

According to Pierce, the initial proposal was for a five-story mixed-use project with commercial on the first floor and 40 market-rate apartments above. The proposal included many amenities for residents, including rooftop terraces and a fitness center. There were also two additional retail buildings proposed along the Riverwalk.

“We had some height problems under the C-2A zoning code,” Pierce said. “In addition, there was some missing detail work because there were too many unknowns at the time, including what the impacts of the flood plain, well-head protection area and other easements which would determine the footprint of the building. The project stalled due to cost issues and other projects the developer was completing. In 2018, we reviewed the Riverwalk Rebirth plan and saw that this property had potential for recreational use. Those would include a playground, splash pad, public restroom and expanded areas for the Milford Farmer’s Market.”

Residences on the Mispillion Rear View

Pierce explained that Perlmutter reached out to the City in the spring to discuss development of the property. Perlmutter provided an updated proposal that included one, four-story building containing 28 apartment units and a swimming pool for residents. The new proposal is limited to unprotected lands owned by the City and would not impact the existing park system. However, the new proposal contains no commercial use in the building or on the site. This would not meet the requirements of a mixed-use development required under the zoning created by Planning and Zoning. Pierce felt it would be beneficial to bring Perlmutter and Fisher before Council in order to ask any questions they may have regarding the project.

“I was on Planning and Zoning when we talked about this,” Councilman Andy Fulton said. “As I recall, we looked on it favorably because it had the retail component to it. That was one of the things that really excited us on Planning and Zoning, the mixed-use aspect.”

Councilman Mike Boyle felt Council did not need to discuss the project but should focus on whether they intended to use the Riverwalk Rebirth plan or not. He did not feel it appropriate for Council to approve a project before Planning and Zoning had a chance to review it.

“I think we need to decide we follow this plan,” Councilman Boyle said. “As I recall, this was supposed to be a mixed-use facility and it looked much better than this. Are we just going to throw the plan out the window and give up some prime real estate? We will put this monolith here and we are stuck with it.”

When Fisher addressed Council, he stated that the feedback they had already received was very valuable, pointing out that the developer loves to create mixed-use developments.

Location of Residences on the Mispillion

“That is in their wheelhouse,” Fisher said. “This is a significant reduction in what is available as far as real estate. We could possibly look at a Phase 2 which would include mixed-use. You are correct, it is prime real estate. The developer wants to do a high-end, luxury, gated community. It would bring a tremendous amount of support downtown that needs as much help as it can get.”

Perlmutter explained that when he realized they were dealing with a smaller piece of land, they developed the residential unit only which was similar to something they did in Seaford. He felt this would work perfectly as a Phase I with other phases following.

“As we worked that avenue, we could move into Phase 2 for retail,” Perlmutter said. “This would be a gated, private community that would enable people to walk downtown. We are not here just for this little piece of land. We want to do what we have done in Seaford. We have invested $15 million along the riverfront in Seaford and we feel we could be a vital player in doing the same for Milford.”

Councilman Todd Culotta echoed the sentiments of Councilmen Boyle and Fulton, stating that this was not what was conceived in the Riverwalk Rebirth plan. He pointed out that retail would only take up the first floor and if adding floors was necessary, Council could discuss that but a residential building did not seem like the right thing for this property.

“It is already difficult for the retailers you have downtown,” Fisher said. “We don’t want to create the brand new shiny thing that would be competition. We would love to add a 10-foot higher building an d make the first floor retail. Adding retail on the first floor creates a security buffer.”

Councilman Fulton pointed out that not having commercial in the project would create a deadzone during celebrations. He stated that the petting zoo for downtown celebrations was in that area, that there were vendors placed there as well as many functions at the library.

“It is as if you are reading my mind, Councilman Fulton,” Councilman Jason James said. “Once we do this, we take away an area that is used by all the citizens of Milford. By not including retail, this space would only be for the benefit of the residents of the complex, Where would the basketball courts go? The basketball court is used by multicultural groups and it is a gathering place.” Pierce explained that the basketball courts could be moved to Franklin Street, about a block and a half away, near the Parks and Recreation Building. It could also remain where it is based on the current footprint of the building.

Councilman Dan Marabello questioned whether the façade provided in the current plan was conducive with the downtown area as the Riverwalk Rebirth plan showed buildings that were brick. Pierce stated that the drawings presented were conceptual and that Council would not be approving the final plan tonight, only allowing staff to continue discussions with the developer.

“These are the type of speculators we need to attract to Milford,” Councilman Culotta said. “The feedback from what I see is that we want some type of mixed use and we can look at being flexible for them to make an investment.”

Mayor Archie Campbell read a message he received from the Mayor of Seaford who was very pleased at the work done by Perlmutter’s company. He also pointed out that the buildings in the drawings appeared to be five stories which would not be permitted under current zoning. Councilman Culotta suggested changing the zoning if that was necessary to make it feasible.

“We really don’t want to go down that track,” Councilman Boyle said. “We can’t just throw the plans away because someone comes in with something different. If you dismiss the C2A in this area, what you are doing is hampering our long-term ability to build an attractive and vibrant Riverwalk. A big apartment building is not going to bring people downtown. I suggest we table this until after our Council retreat that is scheduled in the next few months.”

Councilman James agreed, stating that the retreat is meant to discuss Council’s vision for the City.

“At the retreat, we will talk about green space, what we want our parks to look like, how we want downtown to be,” Councilman James said. “This I s definitely something we need to discuss before we make any decisions.”

Council voted unanimously to table the discussion about the project until after their retreat which may be scheduled in January.

Categories
Government & Politics Police & Fire

Timeline for police station referendum set

by Terry Rogers

 

 

Milford Police Department Proposed Site Plan

On Monday, September 28, Milford City Council approved a timeline for a referendum designed to cover the cost of a new police station. The referendum for the new station was originally planned for April but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had worked with Richard Y. Johnson for a budget for this project around this time last year,” Brendan Frederick of Becker Morgan, the company hired to design the police station, said. “At that time, the number was $18,429,000 for everything in the building. We had to push the referendum due to the pandemic and we needed to know what impact that would have on the price. RYJ believes that we only need to increase the total by 3 percent, which raises the price to $18,917,800. There are still a lot of things we can do with the design to adjust the costs but wood prices have soared astronomically over the past few months. We just felt we needed to look at this as you are looking at completing design and starting construction in 2021.”

Mayor Archie Campbell questioned the increase in price as well as whether there is any information on what the interest rate on the bonds to build the station might be. Frederick explained that the increase is known as an escalation factor and that once the bid is accepted, a contractor is committed to finishing the building at that price.

“Normally, we estimate a one year delay as adding 5 or 6 percent,” Frederick said. “RYJ felt comfortable with 3 percent. If you delay another year, however, you could be facing another 3 percent, or you could face 5 or 6 percent. There is no way to know at this time.”

City Finance Manager Lou Vitola explained that the interest on the bonds is not based on whether the City borrows $18 million or $19 million but on how the market is, how the bonds are sold, the date they are issued and other factors. Vitola explained that with a project like this, the City needs to look at whether there is an adequate revenue stream to cover the bonds, not the interest rate. He suggested that the City did not want to keep putting off the police station until the interest rate drops.

The timeline begins with Council issuing a Resolution for Issuance of General Obligation Bonds on October 12, 2020. City Manager Mark Whitfield explained that the resolution would ask for $20 million in bonds be issued with maturities not to exceed 30 years. It is estimated that the cost of the bond issuances would be between 1 and 2 percent. In terms of property tax increases, if the bonds were issued for a term of 30 years with an interest rate of 2.41 percent, property owners could see an increase of $19.15 or $230 per year on their tax bill.

Once Council authorizes the issuance of the bonds, there would be a public hearing and vote on the resolution on November 9, 2020. The bond referendum allowing the public to vote on the referendum would take place January 20, 2021.

“What is our backup or alternative plan?” Councilman Andy Fulton asked. “I don’t think our community has any anti-sentiment toward police but if there is any, I hope that would not come out in a referendum.”

Whitfield explained that if the referendum failed, the City would have to gain an understanding of what caused it to fail.

“Is it the tax increase? Is it the cost of the building?” Whitfield said. “We would need to go back and see why the referendum failed. We could then tweak our message and go forward with another referendum.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the proposed timeline.

“I vote to approve the timeline subject to more discussions with the finance committee,” Councilman Dan Marabello said. “I approve the timing, but I am concerned about the bonds.” Councilman Todd Culotta commented that it was unfortunate the pandemic delayed the voting but he feels the new police station is very important to Milford.

Categories
Government & Politics

Drago runs as County Council write-in candidate

by Terry Rogers 

 

Patti Drago, Write-In Candidate for Sussex County District 3

Patricia “Patti” Drago recently registered with the Delaware Department of Elections to run as an official write-in candidate for the District 3 seat on Sussex County Council. In the recent Delaware Republican primary, Mark Schaeffer defeated incumbent Irwin G. “I.G.” Burton by a narrow margin. Since there was no Democratic candidate registered to oppose Schaeffer, Drago felt anyone who could not vote in the primary would have no voice in who represented them on County Council.

“I am not affiliated with any political party,” Drago explained. “Delaware has a closed primary system. The result meant that the primary winner would fill the seat and that more than half of district voters, including me, would have no voice in who would fill that seat. I believe Sussex County is at tipping point and that our future will hang on the five individuals who fill those County seats. I thought I.G. was the right candidate. I didn’t vote for him when he first ran but he won me over with his Council work, his willingness to collaborate to find solutions and his sincere interest in finding fair and balanced solutions. I didn’t always agree with the outcomes, but I respected his commitment and process. So, I started a petition, a first for me, to persuade him that he had support and ask him to file as a write-in candidate. When he decided not to enter, after serious thought and discussion with my husband, I decided to jump in. It was a difficult decision, but the right thing to do. I am blessed to have the values, skills and experience to serve taxpayers well as we work to solve current issues while preserving the rich history and traditions of Sussex County.”

Drago has been married for 19 years to Rich Weissman, a United States Air Force veteran who retired as a captain. Drago is also retired after working for more than 25 years in the commercial insurance business as an investigator. Drago says that Weissman brought “four children and five beautiful grandchildren into her life.” She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and earned a Bachelor of Arts from State University of New York at Stony Brook, working while she earned her degree. She earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law and worked her way up in the commercial real estate industry to become CEO, leading teams through good times and crises, Drago stated. In 2014, the couple settled in Lewes, falling in love with Sussex County. She currently volunteers with the Historic Lewes Farmers Market where she serves on the Advisory Board. She works with the Cape Community Coordination for COVID, handling internal communications, researching reports on Sussex County topics and maintaining the Facebook page. Drago assisted with the Delaware Botanic Garden at Pepper Creek in Dagsboro, serving as the business manager for one year.

“I do think that County Council has made good progress in several areas. I don’t want to see that progress backslide,” Drago said. “Our issues are complex and take time to resolve. Council members hold the whole County’s interests in trust. They sometimes come across as five silos, each working and advocating for the particular interest or area they represent. That may be okay for some issues but can result in net harm to the County as a whole for some of the more critical issues facing us. I’m not saying it’s easy, but would like to see a more effective balance between representing district and County-wide issues, a strong effort to identify collaborative solutions and a recognition that each of their decisions affects taxpayers outside of their district and the future of the county as a whole. The County also needs a steady and consistent hand implementing the County Comprehensive Plan. That plan is a roadmap to guide decision-making on many of the issues facing us. It needs to be followed.”

In the area of economic development, Drago feels County Council decisions affect the very qualities that make people want to live and work in the County. Her view is that if the qualities are damaged, economic prosperity, jobs and land values will also become damaged.

“It’s all tied together,” Drago said. “Something I want to learn more about is what efforts are underway at the County level to recruit businesses to our area. I’m aware of the Sussex County Economic Development Office and I would assume there is a collaboration with the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and Southern Delaware Tourism, but this subject is too important to delegate entirely. Council should be involved in determining how we can diversify our economy. The pandemic has shown us just how vulnerable we are economically. My career was all about risk management, diversification and response to misfortune and disaster. I have a lot to offer here. Council can also identify and explore economic opportunities to build bridges and partnerships. I’d like to learn more about what is already being done before commenting further.”

One of the challenges Drago faces in the race is educating Sussex County voters how to use the write-in candidate option when they go to the polls or submit a mail-in ballot. Her campaign team has developed a one-page instruction sheet that they will post on the campaign website.

“I think most people are going to say ‘is that all?’,” Drago said. “At the polls, the machines have a write-in button at the far right of each seat for the election. You click that button, a keyboard comes up, the voter types in “Patricia Drago” and darkens the circle to select the choice.”

Drago believes this election is not about political parties or static views but should focus more about local issues that effect everyone.

“It’s not about viewpoints for me,” Drago said. “I don’t come to issues with preconceived notions. For me, it’s about how we approach the issues to find the best solutions or decisions. I listen. I do my homework. I understand the landscape and I recommend decisions, building alliances as necessary. I work hard to protect what works and fix what doesn’t. We have something special here in Sussex. We need to hold on to that while managing growth responsibly.”

Categories
Government & Politics Headlines Health

Delaware prepares for resurgence of COVID-19

Delaware promises to be fast, transparent and data- and science driven if a potentially dangerous resurgence of COVID-19 occurs, according to a state government report released Wednesday.

“This crisis is with us and here to stay for a while, so we all need to continue to work together and stay diligent,” according to the report, from the Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee, created June 1 by Gov. John Carney’s Executive Order 39

The report often calls for supporting, leveraging, maximizing, mitigating and communicating. It also repeatedly expresses concern for “Delaware’s Black and Latino populations as well as [those] in high- risk and congregant settings (e.g., poultry plants and long-term care facilities).”

Workers in Delaware’s six poultry plants were hit hard this spring, but “the state did not see a single positive case among poultry workers through most of July and August,” the report says. 

Long-term care facilities were also hit hard early, and they’re still a concern. The state Department of Health on Friday said it was investigating outbreaks at Kentmere Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Wilmington, Cadia Healthcare Silverside in Brandywine Hundred and Country Rest Home in Greenwood. The state’s guidancee for such facilities was updated last week.

The report has 48 major recommendations, with dozens of subsidiary recommendations. They include: 

  • Expand Delaware’s approach to collecting and reporting COVID-19-related data to increase transparency into the status of the disease and the rationale for the state’s decisions. 
  • Increase the number of tests conducted, support existing contact tracing efforts and remove barriers to testing. The state launched a contact tracing app, COVID Alert DE, on Sept. 15. 
  • Push healthcare providers and long-term care facilities to have a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment.
  • Temporarily reduce regulations and accelerate state payments “to contractors to help drive growth to increase near-term business liquidity and drive longer-term growth.
  • Provide grants to public K-12 schools for eligible expenses, including PPE.

The report describes some efforts by dollar value, including the $100 million DE Relief Grants program, which began grant distributions in September.

The state in September launched the Nonprofit Support Fund, which will provide $25 million to community organizations that provide social and jobs services.

The state has allocated $40 million for renters and homeowners at risk of losing housing and $20 million to increase broadband access so critical to online learning.

The committee had three subcommittees (health, equity and business) and 46 members (eight members of the public and the rest political, business and healthcare leaders). 

It was co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, who has a doctorate in health policy and nursing administration, and  Secretary of State Jeff Bullock.

Since March 11, the state Department of Health has logged 20,085 positive cases and considers 10,517 of them recovered.

Categories
Culture Government & Politics Headlines Health

State pushes flu shots in bid to keep people out of hospitals

The state of Delaware is urging Delawareans to get their flu shots this season partly because a mix of flu cases and COVID-19 could fill hospitals and strain the healthcare system.

In Gov. John Carney’s weekly COVID-19 press conference Tuesday, Carney said he was going to “take one for the team” by getting his flu shot during the press conference. He didn’t have to roll up his sleeves, though.

He wore a short-sleeve Delaware blue shirt from the state Department of Agriculture and a University of Delaware blue mask when he was stuck by Dr. Karyl Rattay.

“Ouch,” he said, then said that the shot didn’t really hurt.

“Flu season has officially started in Delaware,” Rattay said during her portion of the program. “With Covid-19 still with us, it’s more important than ever to get your flu vaccine.“

Last year, she said, more than 7,000 Delawareans were officially diagnosed with the flu through laboratory testing. Only a fraction of people who get the flu are officially tested and many more thousands have it.

During the last flu season, which stretches from about Oct. 1 into the spring, 400 people were hospitalized and 11 died, Rattay said.

“Every year when we get to the peak of our influenza season, our healthcare systems are maxed out,” Rattay said. 

“If we have a normal flu season, we can have hospitalizations in the 400 to 500 range,” Carney said. “The high point at hospitalizations for COVID-19 was at 337. Today we’re at 64.”

If a peak number of flu cases occurs during a surge of coronavirus cases, which are expected as the weather cools and people begin to move activities indoors, hospitals could be overwhelmed.

Already, the state is seeing the number of coronavirus cases tick up, with a 7.2 percent positive rate over seven days. The state wants that below 3 percent so that schools and businesses can fully reopen.

The state also reported 109.3 new cases a day in a seven-day average. The state wants that at 10 or less to reopen.

Rattay stressed that it’s important to do everything possible to have a limited flu season this year, especially as the number of coronavirus cases has ticked up.

“We are hoping and praying that we have a very mild influenza season,” Rattay said. 

And some health officials say that’s possible, because people are more aware of infection control methods.

Rattay also warned that if someone were to get either the flu or COVID-19, he or she would be more likely to get the other. 

“This double whammy could be very problematic for individuals who get both infections,” she said.

Rattay said that while both the flu and COVID-19 have similarly broad upper respiratory symptoms such as coughing and a runny nose, flu symptoms come on more suddenly. Another difference that distinguishes the two is that the loss of taste and smell is only a symptom of coronavirus.

“Of course, with COVID-19 there are many people that don’t get symptoms at all,” Rattay said. 

Getting the flu vaccine reduces the risk for more severe illness and decreases the risk of hospitalization from influenza. 

People in high risk categories, such as those with chronic conditions and pregnant women, are all encouraged to get the flu shot. 

Shots are available from private doctors, pharmacies, federal clinics and Public Health clinics, which will have 8 DPH flu shot events across the state. 

Rattay urged Delawareans to get their flu vaccines before the end of October, but the earlier the better. It takes two weeks to become effective, she said.

So far, there has been no confirmed cases of the flu in the state.

Categories
Culture Government & Politics Headlines Health

State requires long-term care facilities to return to weekly testing

Delaware is investigating the cause of outbreaks of COVID-19 after more than 100 positive cases among residents and staff in three long-term care facilities, two of them in Wilmington.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, said Tuesday during Gov. John Carney’s weekly COVID-19 said that because of the infections, the state is now requiring all long-term facilities to test all staff members members once a week for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The state had allowed homes that didn’t have a positive case in two weeks to go to a biweekly schedule. 

In addition, in the affected facilities, staff must be screened for symptoms at the start of their shifts, and residents must be screened once a day.

The three facilities and numbers of infected include:

  • Kentmere Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Wilmington; 28 residents and 24 staff members 
  • Cadia Healthcare Silverside in Wilmington; 19 residents and less than 10 staff members 
  • Country Rest Home in Greenwood; 18 residents and 14 staff members 

The infections are not a result of visits from outside because none of the facilities have allowed it, Rattay said.

The facilities all had adequate personal protective equipment, she said, and no long-term care facility has recently asked the state for help with any.

State epidemiologist are investigating the sources of the infections.

The state also is requiring the three facilities to hold infection control training again.

“There’s a lot of new staff in a lot of these facilities so, again, we’ve just got to make sure as we enter into the flu season that everybody really, really knows how best to prevent infection,” Rattay said.

Categories
Culture Government & Politics Headlines Health

Murals around state create trail of interactive street art

Newark artist Natalia Ciriaco “was inspired by the beautiful landscape, and the important elements that represent the town” in creating her mural that’s part of the new Delaware Discoveries Trail.

“I wanted the mural to fit in Wyoming, and for people to feel like they were part of the town,” said Ciriaco, a Newark Charter art teacher and Delaware’s Art Teacher of the Year in 2015.

That’s why her interactive street art incorporates peaches, sunflowers and the railroad.

The trail, the Delaware Tourism Office’s fifth thematic way to explore the state, has been in development for over a year to boost off-season visitation and draw younger travelers. Its debut in a time of coronavirus restrictions adds a chance to promote it as a socially distant outdoor activity.

The trail was launched Sept. 21, featuring nine pieces of street art intended for selfies. To encourage the sharing, when visitors take photos in front of at least four pieces and upload them at the Delaware Discoveries Trail, they get a free paint pour kit developed with the Developing Artist Collaboration.

“It’ll be fun to see how creative people will be” with photos, said office director Liz Keller.

Officials hope for comments like this, from Ohio photographer Debbi Bollman on Instagram: “Big Chill Beach Club in Bethany Beach. I made a special trip here specifically to see the mural by the amazingly talented @kelseymontagueart and it did not disappoint! Little did I know, this place is really cool – great atmosphere, a view of the Indian River Inlet Bridge at sunset, and an awesome mural by @paulcarpenterart as well!” (Paul Carpenter’s mural in the club is not part of the trail.)

The locations were picked to be scattered around the state and showcase different fun things, such as breweries, places to eat, historical sites and scenic spots, Keller said.

The artists were picked by whose work matched the location. One artist (Christian Kanienberg) was selected through a contest, and the rest were selected with the Developing Artist Collaboration. 

Five artists are from Delaware, and Kelsey Montague is internationally famous, Keller said. So famous that people have waited an hour to pose in front of a Montague work in Nashville, she said.

“Art can spark joy and bring people together,” Montague said in a statement. “I hope my work encourages people to explore the great outdoors.”

Montague loves to create butterflies, and many of the photos on her Instagram account show happy people and pets centered between the wings.

The project cost $100,000, mostly to pay artists, which Keller called important in today’s economic doldrums. The office already has requests from more locations and more artists to get involved.

What you’ll see

The office commissioned six artists to paint nine pieces of outdoor artwork at these locations:

  • Big Chill Beach Club, 27099 Coastal Highway, Bethany Beach. The trail’s “brightest and beachiest,” by Kelsey Montague.
  • Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Refuge Entrance Road, Smyrna. A butterfly just outside the entrance pavilion, by Montague.
  • Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal, 43 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes. “An underwater sea adventure,” by Christian Kanienberg of Bellefonte.
  • DE Turf, 4000 Bay Road, Frederica. Soccer-themed piece on the athletic complex’s main building and visible from Del. 1, by Michael Johnson of Lewes.
  • Delaware Art Museum, 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington. A peacock-inspired rainbow of colors, by Laura Erickson of Rehoboth Beach.
  • Delaware Children’s Museum, 550 Justison St., Wilmington. A floral map of the world that’s the most intriguing of the nine, by Erickson.
  • Hagley Museum and Library, 200 Hagley Creek Road, Greenville. A floral work, not attached to a building, on Workers’ Hill near the picnic pavilion, by Leah Beach of Dewey Beach.
  • Mispillion River Brewing Co., 255 Mullett Run St., Milford. “Tap-centric artwork,” by Johnson.
  • Wyoming Town Hall, 1 Railroad Ave. Homage to old-time farming, by Natalia Ciriaco of Newark.

Most sites are free to visit. Hagley charges admission. The Big Chill Beach Club is in the Delaware Seashore State Park, which charges an entrance fee March 1-Nov. 30. 

The tourism office encourages people to view its Go-to-Guide for how to #ExploreSafelyDE. 

The office’s other trails are the Delaware Culinary Trail, the Delaware History Trail, the Delaware on Tap Trail and the Delaware Outdoor Trail.

Categories
Government & Politics Headlines Health

Court denies GOP’s bid to stop vote by mail ballots

NOTE: This story has been updated to add Gov. John Carney’s response.

The Delaware Court of Chancery on Monday denied the state Republican Party’s move to stop voting by mail.

The party had asked the court for an injunction to prohibit the Department of Elections from mailing vote by mail ballots for the Nov. 3 general election.

The court said in its ruling that its decision was largely based on deference to the General Assembly‘s discretion in determining the need for vote by mail.

The GOP in its filing had called the law allowing voting by mail unconstitutional.

“While we argued that the fact that every polling place will be open and therefore there was no disruption of any government operations as it related to the election on Nov. 3, the court determined that the discretion remained with the General Assembly to determine the need for an alternative means of voting other than absentee or in person,” Delaware’s Republican Party said in a press release Monday night.

Opinion on the issue of mail-in ballots, also called remote voting, is split along partisan lines. Democrats say they are needed to allow people to vote without fear of being infected by COVID-19 at a polling place. Republicans have maintained that anyone who didn’t want to vote in person could use an absentee ballot and the mail-in voting was unnecessary.

Republicans nationwide have claimed the mail-ballots could lead to widespread fraud in the general election.

“We will respect the decision of the court and fashion our get out the vote effort around vote by mail in addition to absentee and in person voting,” the GOP said in its press release.

Delaware Democratic Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm late Monday said in a statement, “Delawareans shouldn’t have to choose between their health and their vote and today’s Chancery Court ruling affirms they won’t be forced to this November. Today the Court ruled the General Assembly was well within its rights to extend mail voting to all Delawareans in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis.”

He said the Republic lawsuit was “a politically motivated effort to undo that legislation” and “without legal merit.”

Gov. John Carney said Tuesday during his weekly coronavirus press conference that the court made the right decision.

“The idea that we would make it somehow harder for people to vote is beyond my comprehension,” he said. 

A record number of voters cast ballots in the Sept. 15 state primary, largely because of the high number of absentee and mail-in ballots. There was a record 32 percent turnout, with more than 76,000 votes cast by mail. Democrats cast 63,315 of their 121,343 ballots by absentee or by mail, and Republicans cast 13,069 of their 56,186 votes that way.

Delaware’s vote by mail law only covers elections in 2020 — which allowed the state to use federal CARES money to pay the $829,000 cost — and expires in January. Gov. John Carney last week said during his weekly COVID-19 press conference that he wanted voting by mail to continue and would encourage the Legislature to make it permanent.

The Republican lawsuit was one of three filed recently against the Delaware Department of Elections.

Still in front of the courts is an ACLU of Delaware lawsuit that seeks to ensure that absentee and vote by mail ballots are counted if they were mailed on time but are received by mail within 10 days of the election. Now, they must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

On July 29, the US Postal Service warned many states, including Delaware, that voters who mail ballots for the general election should do so by Oct. 27.

Carney said during his press conference Tuesday that as of now, the 8 p.m. deadline will stand.

In another suit, Va’Shun Turner, a Wilmington councilman who lost the race to be city treasurer, filed a suit alleging “several irregularities and misconduct,” according to a copy posted online by WDEL.

Turner is concerned that polling sites were moved at the last moment, disenfranchising voters of color. He’s also worried about fraudulent ballots.

Categories
Culture Government & Politics Headlines

U.S. v. Russia: ‘Weird World War IIl,’ conceived by a Delaware editor

Delaware native Sean Patrick Hazlett feels he’s “the one person in the world” who could conceive and edit an anthology about a third world war, a weird American-Soviet war that involves the astral plane, parallel dimensions and the Moon.

The book jacket promises “haunted Cold War visions.”

Hazlett pitched the idea in 2017, spurred by political upheaval that continues today, and the book is published by Baen Books this month, a time that his blog calls the California apocalypse.

“Man, I couldn’t have picked a better year to release an anthology called ‘Weird World War III,’ ” he said.

From noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 3 Saturday, he’ll be signing copies, along with T.C McCarthy, one of the book’s 19 writers. Between Books 2.0 in Arden is hosting the outdoors, socially distanced and masked signing across the street in the parking lot of Jupiter Records, 2200 Marsh Road, Brandywine Hundred.

“It’s H.P. Lovecraft meets Tom Clancy,” Hazlett said as he gave the elevator pitch for his first anthology as an editor, referring to the horror and thriller masters. 

Back in 2017, he recognized that “Russian influence was in the zeitgeist,” and he hopes the short stories “evoke the feeling of growing up during the Cold War, in a bipolar world, where the consequences were existential.” 

Hazlett started writing fantasy when he was in fifth grade at St. Joseph’s in Aston, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Salesianum School in 1994 and wrote a novel while serving in the Army.

“I really enjoyed creating worlds,” he said, citing ones with complex, Tolkienesque backstories. 

He lives in California. His parents, Ted and Ann, and siblings, Brendan and Erin, live in Delaware.

‘Weird World War III’ focuses on a conflict between the U.S. and Soviet Union.
‘Weird World War III’ focuses on a conflict between the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Hazlett’s MacGyver-like background that grounds the fiction in the anthology includes four college degrees in four subjects (history, electrical engineering, business administration and public policy) from two prestigious universities (Stanford and Harvard) and work with a future U.S. secretary of defense on strategic options for confronting Iran’s nuclear program.

His stint in the Army included working as an intelligence analyst focusing on strategic war games and simulations for the Pentagon, plus “playing laser tag with real tanks on a base the size of Rhode Island.” 

McCarthy has an equally impressive background, including a doctorate, a Fulbright fellowship, work as a weapons expert in the CIA and expertise in future warfare.

Hazlett is vice president of corporate finance in the Silicon Valley, and in the interview he dropped multiple references to weird but true things, like the danger of shotguns to dirigibles and Nazi soldiers on methamphetamine.

As the editor, he asked the writers to considers the effects of an epic war between the United States and the Soviet Union, between the 1945 end of the second world war and the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union. Some tales took liberties with that time frame.

“How would the world have changed?” he writes about the book on his website. “What wonders would have been unveiled? What terrors would have haunted mankind from those dark and dismal dimensions? Come closer, peer through a glass darkly, and discover the horrifying alternative visions from some of today’s greatest minds in science fiction, fantasy and horror.”\

“Weird World War III” is dedicated to Mike Resnick and Jay Harting.

Resnick is a contributor to the book and mentor in writing and editing. He died earlier this year.

Harting was killed by a suicide bomber in 2005.

“Jay graduated from Salesianum with me in 1994,” Haslett said. “He also served with me in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fort Irwin, California. I dedicated the book to him because he gave his life for his country in Iraq.” 

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Here’s where to be tested for COVID-19 the week of Sept. 28

With Delaware COVID-19 infection rates higher than they were a month ago, health officials are urging people to be tested whether they have symptoms or not.

One reason: People who test negative help pull the state’s average down, which moves the state closer to reopening. Another: People who test positive let the state see where problems might be and help tackle them.

The state has seen a total of 20,085 positive cases since March 11. The seven-day average for the percentage of persons who tested positive dropped slightly last week to 6.7% as of Thursday. The state would like it at 3%, and it was trending down last month.

The number of new daily cases each day this week has remained elevated. In addition, 53 people are hospitalized, down five from 58 reported the previous week. Eleven of the hospitalized are critically ill.

A total of 631 Delawareans have died due to complications from COVID-19.

Testing in Wilmington

Permanent sites including Walgreens and others are listed in the box below.

Traveling testing sites include:

  • Monday, Sept. 28: Latin American Community Center, 301 N. Harrison St., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. By appointment only. Call 302-320-6439.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 29: Frawley Stadium north parking lot. Frawley Road and Shipyard Drive, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Drive-thru/walk-up). Register in advance at delaware.curativeinc.com
  • Tuesday, Sept. 29: Kingswood Community Center, 2300 Bowers St. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. An appointment is recommended. Call 302-428-6586.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30: Eastside Charter School, 3000 N. Claymont St., 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Walk-up only) Register in advance at delaware.curativeinc.com
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30: Kingswood Community Center, 2300 Bowers St., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. An appointment is recommended. Call 302-428-6586.
  • Thursday, Oct. 1: Judy Johnson Park, West 3rd and North DuPont streets, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Walk-up only) Register in advance at delaware.curativeinc.com
  • Thursday, Oct. 1: Kingswood Community Center, 2300 Bowers Street, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. An appointment is recommended. Call 302-428-6586.
  • Friday, Oct. 2: Latin American Community Center, 301 North Harrison St., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. By appointment only. Call 302-320-6439.
New Castle County permanent COVID-19 testing sites

New Castle County

Permanent sites including Walgreens and others are listed in the box below.

Traveling testing sites include:

  • Monday, Sept. 28: Middletown High School, Middletown, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register at delaware.curativeinc.com
  • Tuesday, Sept. 22:  Frawley Stadium north parking lot. Frawley Road and Shipyard Drive, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Drive-thru/walk-up). Register in advance at delaware.curativeinc.com
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30: East Side Charter School, 3000 N. Claymont St. Wilmington 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Walk-up only) Register at delaware.curativeinc.com
  • Thursday, Oct. 1: Judy Johnson Park, West 3rd and North DuPont streets, Wilmington, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Register at delaware.curativeinc.com
  • Friday, Oct. 2: Seeds of Greatness Church, 828 Frenchtown Road, New Castle, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

New Castle County permanent COVID-19 testing sites

State-sponsored testing

Permanent sites are listed in the boxes in this report.

Here’s also a link to find testing around the state of Delaware.

Sussex County permanent COVID-19 testing sites