Head Start building proposal receives more favorable reception this time

By Lynn R. Parks

An area businessman's request to be allowed to use his office building for a Head Start preschool got a better reception from the Seaford City Council Tuesday night than it did two weeks ago, the first time it appeared before council. At that earlier meeting, the request by Keith Culver for approval of preliminary plans for the Head Start at 517 Bridgeville Highway died for the lack of a motion. At that time, city building inspector Josh Littleton said that Culver's plan was essentially dead. But city solicitor Jim Fuqua determined following the meeting that because Culver was asking for approval of preliminary plans that had already been through the city's planning and zoning commission and board of adjustment, his request before the city council required a vote. Tuesday night, he got that vote. And it was unanimously in favor of allowing him to proceed. But, city manager Dolores Slatcher cautioned Culver, "this was just one round." The plans will appear again before the planning and zoning commission and will also come back to the city council for final approval. Both the commission and the council will hold public hearings on the plan. "This is not a done deal," Slatcher added. At issue is whether there is enough room at the facility to allow children to come and go safely. The building sits just 34 feet from the roadway and is near the busy intersection of Bridgeville Highway and Norman Eskridge Highway.

"I don't reject the need for this program," councilwoman Leanne Phillips-Lowe said at Tuesday's city council meeting. "But it is such a busy place there, and the building is very close to the roadway. Would the children be safe?" Gary Johnson, property manager for the Telamon Corporation, which would run the Head Start facility, replied that the facility planners had worked out how the children, most of whom would arrive by bus, would get into the facility. The bus would pull into the front parking lot and sit parallel to the road, its door facing the building door. Children, guided by the bus driver, a bus aide and staff members, would get off the bus and walk directly into the building. At the end of the classroom session, the bus loading procedure would be accomplished in reverse. "The children wouldn't get off the bus and get on the bus by themselves," Johnson said. "That's our policy at all our facilities." Any parent dropping off a child would park in the side parking lot and use a side entrance, Johnson said. The project has already been granted a variance by the city's board of adjustment because the building's lot size, 6,000 square feet, is substantially smaller than the 15,000 square feet required by the city of day-care centers. Culver also received a special-use exception from the board to allow the day care in an area that is zoned for commercial use. Both the board of adjustment and the city's planning and zoning commission had concerns about limited parking at the site. There would be seven parking spaces on the site; Culver has easements from a neighboring property owner to allow parking on an adjacent property. The center would serve 30 children, 15 in a morning session and 15 in an afternoon session. Most recently, Culver's building, where at one time he had an insurance office, was used by CDI Head Start for administrative offices.

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