Seaford to hold elections; solar park construction to begin

By Lynn R. Parks

There will be an election for Seaford City Council this year. On Tuesday, Dan Cannon filed to run against incumbent Leanne Phillips-Lowe. Cannon is a familiar face at city hall. He has challenged the city council on several issues, primarily involving access to information and the budget. In May, the council voted to start allowing a public comment session at its meetings, something that Cannon had pushed for. While the frequency of those public comment sessions has been reduced – in December, the council voted to allow them only once a month – Cannon still attends meetings and speaks whenever allowed. Among the goals that Cannon outlined in a letter that he sent to area newspapers is the replacement of current top management personnel at city hall. Other goals: mandatory customer-friendly treatment of citizens by city employees, cutting what he calls "Cadillac spending," lowering electric, water and sewer rates, restoring public comment sessions to all city council meetings, requiring police officers to wear body cameras and promoting the revitalization of the Seaford School District. He also said that he would "protect the First Amendment free speech rights of city employees outside of work." In January, the council approved a policy that forbids employees from making comments on social media websites that reflect negatively on the city and its officials. Phillips-Lowe first came to the city council in 2006, when she was tapped to fill the seat left vacant after Councilman Ed Butler was elected mayor. She ran for reelection in 2007, defeating challenger Ruth Matthews, and again in 2010, defeating challenger Doug Lambert. In 2013, no one filed to challenge her. She has served as council liaison with city administration and is currently liaison with the police and fire departments. She is also vice mayor. The election will be Saturday, April 16, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in city hall. As of Tuesday evening, Mayor David Genshaw, whose seat is also up for election, was running unopposed. Council seats are for three years; the mayor serves for two years. Residents have until 5 p.m. Friday to file as candidates. Filings have to be completed at city hall, in person.

Solair to handle Seaford project Solair, a Millsboro-based company that installs solar electricity-generating systems, will build Seaford's new solar park. Cost will be $1.584 million, a little less than the $1.658 million state loan that the city has secured for the project. The solar array will be constructed in the yard of the city's utility building on Herring Run Road. Work is expected to start in the spring and to be completed in late July or early August. At Tuesday night's city council meeting, assistant city manager Charles Anderson said that the 688-kilowatt solar park is expected to generate nearly $2 million in income for the city over the next 20 years. Much of that profit will come from sales of the plant's green energy credits to the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, which provides power to the city. Delaware utility companies are required by law to use renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, for some of the power they provide. To meet the goal, utilities can buy equivalent amounts of renewable energy credits from companies that generate power using clean sources. The profit also includes savings that the city will realize on its power bill. The solar park is expected to generate enough electricity to power the city's wastewater treatment plant. Solair had the lowest of three bids on the project. An engineer with Pennoni, the engineering firm that the city has hired to oversee the project, recommended that the Millsboro firm be selected to do the work. "We did a thorough review of all three bids," Brian Turner said. "The Solair proposal meets all of the specifications and requirements of the bid." Construction of the solar array will cap a six-year process. In September 2010, city manager Dolores Slatcher suggested that the utility building yard would be a good spot for solar panels. In 2012, the city accepted a $25,000 state grant for design of the plant. In 2013, it hired Pennoni. The project hit some snags along the way, in particular when the city asked for bids and only one, for too much money and failing to meet the specified requirements, came in.

But after the state agreed to extend the time that the city could claim the loan, the city pushed ahead. In a September referendum, residents of Seaford gave the city the go-ahead to borrow the money. The 20-year loan will carry a two percent interest rate. In addition, the state has agreed to forgive nearly a third of the loan, $500,000, once the project is completed.

Lot in industiral park sold Seaford will be paid $10,000 for an acre-lot that it owns in the city's industrial park. The lot is being purchased by E&D Holdings, which owns the building on the north side of the property. Assistant city manager Charles Anderson told the city council Tuesday night that the property is not of much value to the city. Building code requires that lots in the industrial park be at least two acres to be developed. At one time, the city thought that the lot would be used for a road giving access to the park from the west. That is no longer a possibility, Anderson said, as houses have been built on the west side of the park. In a letter to the city, E&D Holdings co-owner Frank DiMondi said that the business has a plan for expansion. The property will "likely play a role in aiding our ability to meet the new stringent stormwater regulations," he wrote.

Seaford purchases truck Seaford's code department will be getting a new truck. The city council Tuesday night agreed to the purchase of a 2016 half-ton pickup from Hertrich Fleet, Seaford. Cost is $18,623. That includes a trade allowance of $900 for a 1998 pickup that currently is used by the city's parks department. For its sacrifice, the parks department will get a 2004 Chevrolet pickup that the code department currently uses. That truck, with 42,000 miles on it, "still has a lot of life in it," building official Josh Littleton told the city council. Hertrich's bid to sell the truck was the lower of two bids the city received. I.G. Burton offered a 2016 half-ton pickup at $21,051, which included a $200 trade allowance for the 1998 truck. The city council also approved bids for lawn maintenance on city properties this summer. Olsen Enterprises, Georgetown, will take care of the landscaping along High Street over the next three years for $9,800 a year. Designscapes, Seaford, will cut the grass at the five city buildings. Cost will be nearly $25,000 in 2016 and 2017 and $26,000 in 2018. The city has the option to terminate the contracts after one year if it so chooses.

Citizen concerned over stormwater Property owner Scott Trice expressed concerns at Tuesday's city council meeting about possible development of land across from his home. Trice lives at the corner of Virginia Avenue and North Pine Street, near the Central Elementary School. He is worried that if property on the opposite corner is developed, chronic flooding in his yard will be even worse. FRE Investments, which owns the property across from the Trice home, asked permission to divide it into three lots, 9,067 square feet, 4,818 square feet and 4,540 square feet. Trice spoke during a public hearing on the request. "If we get six inches of rain, I'm under water," Trice told the city council. He said that even though new houses have been built in his neighborhood over the last decade, the stormwater management system has not been improved. "I would like to see a better plan for stormwater," he said. Building official Josh Littleton said that no building plans had been submitted to the city for the property. If that happens, he said, the Sussex Conservation District would be responsible for making sure that stormwater is handled properly. But, assistant city manager Charles Anderson added, buildings that are less than 5,000 square feet receive just a standard permit from the conservation district. Only buildings larger than that get specially-designed plans. Anderson said that he will ask the state to clean out a catch basin in the area, in hopes that that will get water flowing better. In the end, the council approved FRE Investments' request to divide the property into three lots. Littleton said that the new lots meet the requirements for the zoning code in the area, which is for medium-density residential development. Mayor David Genshaw told Trice that the city will contact him to discuss management of stormwater in the area.

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