Sussex County Council to seek new tenant for airport restaurant

Sussex County Council on Dec. 11 agreed to amend a lease for the restaurant at the Sussex County Airport, extending the lease for three months, at $1 per month, so it will stay open until March 31, 2013.

Deputy County Administrator Hal Godwin explained that the restaurant operator, Paul Buchness, had informed him he would not be renewing his lease as of December 2012. Godwin explained to the council that that they had spoken about a compromise to keep Buchness as a tenant that would reduce the rent to $1 for the next three months and pay the electric costs.

Council members also expressed concern about what happens next.

“It’s a bad economy and a tough location,” said Councilman George Cole. “What do we do if we don’t find somebody [before March]?”

He said the airport in Salisbury had replaced their restaurant with vending machines, and as a larger airport than Georgetown, it “still can’t get support.”

Cole said the amended lease agreement was probably “as good as we are going to get,” but he said the County should be looking at a “plan B” should keeping it as a restaurant be deemed too financially unreliable.

“I’m not willing to subsidize an operation like a restaurant,” said Cole.

Godwin said he had spoken with five local restaurateurs, and two had expressed interest in seeing a Request for Proposals and discussing possibly renting the property.

“We do have interest, and I have only talked with five. But it is not a slam-dunk. It’s not on a highly visible corner with a McDonald’s across the street.”

The county council voted to allow Godwin to issue a RFP, with proposals due back by Jan. 25, 2013.

In other news, the county council this week also awarded a bid for supplemental cooling at the Emergency Operations Center, for $476,685. While the bid came in quite a bit higher than was expected, Steve Hudson, the County’s director of technical engineering, explained that his original cost estimate was based on the first engineering firm’s speculations, which was a more basic system.

“Please explain to us why we were told $250,000, and now it’s close to five,” said Council President Michael Vincent.

Hudson said the second engineering firm, who designed the project, designed a more “elaborate type system,” and two internal systems were actually needed. That required a building addition, which Hudson said came in at $150 per square foot, as opposed to the $90 he had estimated.

“It will have a brick exterior, so it will match the character of the building.” He explained later that the brick costs $10,000. “And we must relocate a water line, so that was an added expense.”

When asked, EOC Director Joe Thomas said it seemed like the most practical way to go, “based on the vital-ness of that building. We have had two hurricanes in two years,” he noted.

He also said there was a possibility that FEMA would match up to 50 percent of the costs.

Vincent said they would be seeking compensation for the existing system, because of it not “working like it’s supposed to.”

The county council also voted on Tuesday to rezone 8 acres of land on Pyle Center Road from an AR-1 agricultural residential district to a B-1 neighborhood business district.

John M. Gilman, owner of the property, explained that, in order to receive financing, his bank wanted him to be able to rent out the upstairs portion of the building for office space, to generate revenue. In order to do so, he explained, he needs the flexibility of a B-1 zoning. He said 16 neighbors within a one-mile radius of the property had signed a petition agreeing with his request and explained that there are 31 businesses within the same one-mile radius, some with a higher, C-1 zoning.

The council also approved a bit of “housekeeping” for a conditional use east of Irons Lane Road and north of Old Mill Road near Clarksville, in an AR-1 district, for the relocation of an access easement to a borrow pit.

They had approved the borrow pit earlier this fall, but the applicant, Banks Family Farm Preservation Trust, had to have another public hearing because the easement had to be moved five feet because of a utility pole.