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Lewes, Delaware
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January 16, 1998     Cape Gazette
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January 16, 1998
 

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18 - CAPE GAZETYE, Friday, January 16 - January 22, 1998 Henlopen Acres marina project advances to next phase By Jen Ellingsworth The Henlopen Acres' marina renovation project, an endeavor that has been hampered by finan- cial woes and contamination, will finally set sail with construction in the very near future. At the first quarter meeting of commissioners held Friday, Jan. 9, Town Manager Jennifer Burton reported that the Acres will be given a release from the Delaware Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), indicating the state will close the file deal!ng with contamination of an underground gasoline tank at the marina. She said DNREC officials con- ducted two water and two soil samples at the site on Dec. 23, and found "a minimal amount of gas." That information comes after the agency conducted testing in Octo- ber 1997 and determined that the contamination was seven times more concentrated than prior sam- plings. The area was treated with a bioremedial treatment and close- ly monitored. At the time, DNREC officials said those results weren't unusual in such cases and that the "seven times" amount referred to only one constituent (or chemical com- pound) of gas, and was not an in- dicator of an overall contamina- tion. According to communica- tions with town officials, the latest test results indicated the contami- nation is so insignificant it will not interfere with the renovation of the marina. "The specialist said they must've literally hit a hot spot,, said Burton. "The Acres will be given a release from DNREC to close the file due to the small amount of contamination found there." She said the release does include provisions that if the town decides to construct in the area it must conduct subsequent samples. Henlopen Acres Mayor Thomas Lewis asked commissioners for permission to consult with the en- gineering firm of Larry Whitlock Associates of Salisbury, Md., to discuss the terms of cdnstruction. Bid packages will be advertised in the near future, said Burton, and applicants will be reviewed by commissioners. ?/special meet- ing about the status of the marina is forthcoming. Lewis, who said the pending construction will only involve the necessary repairs - but no major changes - to the marina, added that the town is now ready to pro- ceed with Phases IV and V of the project, which both involve con- struction. The total estimated cost of the marina renovation project is be- tween $250,000 and $300,000. The town will now be able to foot the bill for the renovation because of a federal decision to shift a boundary line near the marina. Under the "Land and Water Conservation Act," a grant estab- lished by the federal government in 1983, the town was given $99,000 for the purpose of reno- vating the marina. The agreement also established boundary lines for the marina property and two adjacent lots. Since then, the town proposed that the boundary line of the western side of the pub- lic marina - the lot farthest from the ocean - be moved 100 feet to Jen EIIIngsworth photo The Town of Henlopen Acres is moving forward in its ef- forts to renovate its marina. the left so that it would be sold and the money be used to upgrade the facilities. The town received a matching grant from a 21 st Centu- ry fund in the amount of $78,000, but hasn't found a way to raise the balance. The sale of the lot is the only solution commissioners have come up with to raise money for the project. Burton reported at the town meeting that the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation has decided to grant the Acres' re- quest to amend the boundary lines and allow the town to go ahead with the sale of the property. While the asking price hasn't yet been named, commissioners directed Town Attorney Tempe Steen to go forth with legal pro- ceedings of the sale of the proper- ty. 'Criminal By Kerry Kester Superior Court in Sussex Coun- ty is beginning the new year with a "Criminal Blitz." Judges T. Henley Graves and William Swain Lee cleared the court's cal- endar of its civil cases for the month of January, to concentrate on lowering the criminal caseload, which by the end of 1997 was the highest criminal caseload in its history. "We had to put the criminal docket on a diet - to get it down," said Graves, who added the two judges determined in midsummer that they needed to address the Criminal case backlog. In a normal month, the court usually schedules approximately 80 criminal proceedings. This month, the court has 120 cases scheduled. "We're like the air- lines," said Graves. "We over- book, because there will be a lot of pleas and continuances." At the end of the year, he said, there were 358 criminal cases pending. "That's about 75 higher than this time last year, and that's higher than we've ever had." Graves said the problem is not that the court is less productive. "We just have more filings. Our numbers keep going up and up." There appear to be three prima- ry reasons for the increased crimi- nal filings: a population increase, violent crime rate increase and more police protection. In September 1997, Superior Court President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely sent a letter to Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey, noting that because of the increased criminal filings and heavy case- loads for Superior Court judges, the court needs to add more blitz' underway in judges to its statewide staff. Ridgely's letter stated that since 1986, "total case filings are up 174 percent in Sussex," and "the number of pending criminal cases in Sussex and Kent has tripled." Graves said that in 1996 alone, the percentage of Sussex County filings rose more than 10 percent, and when data becomes available for 1997, he expects that percent- age to be even higher. Ridgely's letter contained other alarming statistics pertaining to Sussex County: "Sussex County has the highest violent crime rate of Delaware's three counties (8.2 per 1,000 population)." He also noted the population in the county is expected to increase 27 percent by 2020. , Graves said increased police personnel has also led to increased arrests and court filings. In addi- tion to municipal and state fund- ing increases for more police offi- cers, the Biden Crime Bill, from which Delaware saw its first gain at the end of 1994, has allowed Sussex County police agencies to place more than 30 additional po- lice officers on the streets: re.ore than 12 in state police units and 20 in municipal departments. Needed: judge, space "We want speedy trials," said Graves. However, he said, "there are not enough trial days in a week." Only Mondays through Thursdays are scheduled as trial days, so Fridays will remain free for other court proceedings. Es- sentially, that leaves only 17 to 18 days per month available for trials - both civil and criminal, said Graves. With only two judges and only 34 to 36 days per month available Sussex as courts for trials, keeping up with the caseload is extremely difficult, he said. "That's why we're hoping to get another judge." Graves added that he's been told both Sussex and Kent counties have "positive environments" to qualify for more judges. If the governor and legislature agree with the judicial recommen- dations, they could put forth a bill that would allow for an increase in the number of Superior Court judges from 17 to 19, with Sussex and Kent counties each getting one. Graves said that if such a bill is proposed and approved during this legislative session, the new judges could take to their benches as early as January 1999. Adding another judge to Sussex County's Superior Court, howev- er, presents another problem: space. The courthouse now has two Superior Court courtrooms, and it has two offices for judges. Last year, the state purchased the courthouse from the county and appropriated $250,000 for renova- tions. "The necessity of addressing the lack of adequate physical fa- cilities for the Delaware courts has reached urgent proportions," stated Veasey in his commentary in "The Annual Report of the Delaware Judiciary, 1996." Veasey also noted that it is "im- perative that we go forward with the renovation of the Sussex County Courthouse..." Judge Lee said plans have not been finalized, but one proposal shows adding one courtroom for Superior Court and redesigning office, jury and other courthouse space. Lee said plans also call for relo- cating Chancery Court to the for- cope with case backlog 1996 1995 Percentage iii, iii 725 679 +6.8% i ii i il 755 662 +14% [iNiN0000iiiiiii F; j i:ii!i'ii ii': ::i  i : 5,572 4,919 +13.3% [ .................................... Souicei ;;Statistical Report of the Delaware Judiciary, 1996" Note: Statistics reflect fiscal years beginning July 1. mer Family Court building. That move would also include provid- ing more suitable chambers for the chancellor. Lee said the timeline for finaliz- ing plans and initiating construc- tion is unclear, but if the legisla- ture goes forward with increasing the number of Superior Court judgeships and the Sussex County construction project is not com- pleted, Lee said the new judge could still begin working. The Chancery Court move, he explained, is a priority. Lee said that project is expected to begin, and perhaps be completed, this year. Once that court is relocated, the new Superior Court judge would have the Chancery Court space available. However, Lee said, if that pro- ject is not completed, creative scheduling and artful office de- sign is an option. For example, he said, there are days and times when the Court of Common Pleas on the first floor is available. Lee said he and Graves would also willingly relinquish the judges conference area outside their offices to provide space for another judge. In order to increase the Superior Court judgeships, there must be an Continued on page 20