Troop 5 making move to Visitor’s Center spot
By Tony E. Windsor
The Delaware State Police Troop 5 building in Bridgeville has had its share of hard knocks. Since it was built three vehicles, including a tractor and trailer truck, have struck the 1940s Troop 5 headquarters.
It has been remodeled on two different occasions and in recent years state police officers have taken on the responsibility of volunteering time and talent to make structural and aesthetic repairs in an effort to save money. Though it certainly has held up over the years and provided a home for the state police, one Delaware legislator says “enough is enough.”
Rep. Ben Ewing, himself a former Delaware State trooper who served at Troop 5 in the mid-1950s, made it a point to stop in to see the troopers before making his trips to Legislative Hall in Dover.
In the last few months he began to see things that troubled him. “I would go into the building and find the Troop Commander with a hammer and nails doing repairs to the building,” he said. “I found out that he had also gotten some of his off-duty officers to come in and make repairs because the troop budget did not have money allotted for this kind of work. They were so ashamed of the condition of the entrance way to the building that the officers remodeled it at their own expense.”
Over the years, Troop 5 has had to undergo special adjustments to make way for the more advanced, specific law enforcement initiatives. Ewing said that early in its history Thurman Adams, Sr., father of State Sen. Thurman Adams, Jr., who was at the time a member of the Governor’s Rural Highway Commission, worked to see that Troop 5 had an indoor shooting range to help officers maintain firearms certification. In the past decades the shooting range was taken out and replaced by offices to accommodate the need for such law enforcement initiatives as drug enforcement.
Major Randy Hughes, the former Troop 5 commander, who is a skilled carpenter, took Ewing on a tour of the building and showed him where some of the structural deficiencies, including a leaking air conditioning system, were creating problems for the operations at the building. “I felt this was just unacceptable,” Ewing said. “Here we had the State Police Troop in this condition and just down the road there was this beautiful building sitting vacant.”
Ewing was referring to the former Delaware Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center, located on U.S. 13 North, just a few miles south of Troop 5. The building was developed in the 1990s as a traveler’s center, but in recent years abandoned by the chamber and ownership taken by the state of Delaware.
Ewing felt that this would be the perfect home for Troop 5, so he went to work to see what it would take to make it happen. Ewing gathered members of the Bond Bill Committee and the Joint Finance Committee and took them to Troop 5 and gave them the same tour he had been given by Hughes. After the legislators saw the conditions of the building, Ewing escorted them to the Visitor’s Center.
Hughes had spearheaded an effort to develop plans that showed how the Visitor’s Center could be converted into a new home for Troop 5.
At the same time the legislators were touring the buildings, Ewing arranged to have representatives from the Sussex County Council on hand. The county was pondering ways to better serve the western Sussex County corridor with paramedic services in an effort to improve response time in medical emergencies.
County officials liked what they saw when they toured the Visitor’s Center. It was decided that the five-acre site along U.S. 13 would be ideal to construct a garage and office for a new Paramedic Unit to supplant the existing medics in the Blades Paramedic Unit.
County Administrator Bob Stickels said the new Paramedic Unit at Troop 5 will be a great benefit to the people of Sussex County. “The demographics show a need for gaining assistance for the unit already in place in Blades,” he said. “This will help to alleviate delays in response time and better serve the western Sussex corridor from Bridgeville to Laurel.”
The county is providing $1.1 million to offset the $3.1 million conversion project that will make a new home for Delaware State Police at Troop 5. Having the state police and the paramedics located together close to the intersection of Rt. 404, is something that Ewing feels is perfect for the growing area. “This will be located just across from the site proposed for a new 2,500-unit gold community,” Ewing said. “It is simply ideal.”
Hughes is excited about being involved in the Troop 5 project and is working closely with architects French & Ryan and helping to design the troop and is also working with county code officials to assure proper permit requirements are met to get the facility completed.
Hughes sees the project as something that did not come anytime too soon. “Sometimes there are projects pushed because they are something that someone may want more than it is actually needed. This new troop home is something we needed, not just wanted,” he said. “This is an excellent opportunity and a wise use of taxpayers‚ money.”
Hughes explained that the facility will also have a landing pad for the Delaware State Police Medivac Unit and other aviation resources, and in conjunction with the Sussex County paramedics units; it will serve as a public safety complex.
Ewing said along with serving as the home of the Delaware State Police at Troop 5 and the Sussex County Paramedics Unit, the facility would also remain a travelers‚ center and allow information, rest rooms and maps for motorists traveling along U.S. 13. It is hoped that the new Troop 5 facility will be completed by late 2004.