A year of highs, a year of lows

If we are to remember anything from 2006, it’s that anything indeed can happen. On the national level, we’ve seen Britney and K-Fed split, Monte Wisbrock’s dysfunctional St. Louis Cardinals become quite functional and win a World Series and we ended with the sad passings of James Brown and Gerald Ford. Locally, we also had a year of memories.

January began with seemingly normal people jumping into the ocean off Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Officials in Millville got a sneak peak at the plans for the Millville-by-the-Sea megaplex in the town, and members of the Indian River School District (IRSD) School Board mulled their move in a proposed lawsuit settlement with the Dobrich family. DelDOT announced that the new Indian River Inlet Bridge would most likely have a cable-stay design, members of the Bethany Beach Police Department discussed the possibility of unionizing and Sussex County Council adopted the Moderately-Priced Housing Unit program — though we’ve yet to see any moderately-priced housing units up to this point. Fenwick residents battled over a home size and lot coverage ordinance, Bethany officials discussed axing free handicapped parking, Phil Boesch resigned his seat on the Bethany Beach Planning Commission due to differences with town officials and Ocean View dissected plans on how to solve a town budget that had more money going out than coming in recently. The IRSD board revealed the specifics of their three-part referendum, students from the Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA) made their case known to the school board regarding proposed cuts to their curriculum and the county council prepared to deal with new groundwater protection regulations. Also, I was still very much enjoying the flatulence machine I received for Christmas. Though the people in my office weren’t sharing my frivolity.

February started with Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow, and the shadow of potential budget woes forced Ocean View officials to become conservative with the town’s transfer tax estimates. Bethany unveiled their 2006 budget draft, and Sussex County Council ended their moratorium on cluster developments. DNREC looked at a saltwater fishing license, Joan Bennett took Cliff Toomey’s vacant slot on the Millville Town Council and the CHEER Center held a Valentine’s Day event where couples could renew their vows. The town of Millville began plans for their Centennial celebration, Ocean View set forth on a plan that will balance the town’s budget by 2012 while facing opposition again on the new police station and local favorite lower case blues won the Battle of the Bands at Seacrets, in Ocean City, Md. One night, I ate a pot roast that was fantastic.

March brings neither showers nor flowers, but it did bring plenty of concern by business owners concerning the drastic hike in electric bills everyone knew was coming, while the Delaware Electric Cooperative pitched their prices. The IRSD referendum passed, local education icon Jackie Wilson announced her plans to run for a seat on the IRSD board against longtime incumbent Charles Bireley and the school board voted against accepting a settlement offer in the Dobrich case. Ocean View awarded the construction contract for their new police station, students in the IRSD celebrated the results of the Delaware Student Testing Program, Beebe Medical Center purchased a tract of land in Clarksville to construct a building to offer some year-round services to the community and a very frightening raccoon began making his presence known with authority at the Coastal Point. Ocean View passed their $4.9 million budget, the Point lost a beloved peer when Cape Gazette Reporter Jim Cresson died in an automobile accident and longtime Sussex County Administrator Bob Stickels announced he would be retiring. Delaware State Police busted a Frankford-area prostitution ring, Dagsboro officials significantly raised some of the town’s fees and Fenwick Island enlisted the help of other town’s officials regarding the creation of a town manager position. South Bethany proposed a $3.3 million budget, Fenwick looked for places to store garbage trucks and DelDOT unveiled preliminary plans for Route 26 improvements — though that’s come along about as quickly as moderately-priced houses in the area. Also, I had a tremendous St. Patrick’s Day celebration (in a related story, Jameson Irish Whiskey had a fantastic quarter, thanks in no small part to my rather heroic efforts.)

Unlike March, April does indeed bring showers. In our area, it also brought controversy as the IRSD was suddenly looking at a lawsuit from its insurance provider after rejecting a settlement offer in the Dobrich case and the Ocean View Town Council nearly imploded following a blow-up amongst members concerning the installation of a backup generator. Sussex County Council approved a bonus-density-for-cash program, which would reportedly serve as a funding mechanism for open-space preservation — though I personally saw it as more of a cash-grab by the council to allow people to ignore the land-use plan. Dagsboro got stuck in the mud over a disagreement between the town’s zoning map and the town’s Comprehensive Plan — and a proposed retail project got caught in the crossfire. Police nabbed two men shortly after the pair allegedly robbed the Wilmington Trust and First Shore Federal Banks in Millville, struggle over control of the Bethany Beach museum continued and the new Super Giant opened in Millville. The staff of the Coastal Point had great fun at my expense when they published an unflattering poem about yours truly while I was in Ireland, the concept for the Blue Surf redevelopment project in Bethany Beach was unveiled and Bob Cestone announced he would not be running for re-election in South Bethany. I got something stuck in my shoe one day — or it could have been in my sock, I never did find it. Man, that’s annoying.

May, oh May. Where do we begin? Well, the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce voted to form a commercial co-op, in an effort to help local businesses deal with the electricity price hikes. The IRSD board voted to hire a new attorney in their legal battles, while Charles Bireley held off the challenge from Jackie Wilson to keep his seat on the board and Randall Hughes won his re-election convincingly. Sam Harvey left the Coastal Point for new frontiers, the FAR controls on home size in Fenwick Island created a hailstorm of controversy and Millville celebrated 100 years of existence with a parade and party that will be talked about for generations. A dead fin whale washed ashore in South Bethany, Ocean View began kicking around ideas for a rental tax to make up for lost revenues in the transfer tax category and students from Indian River High School’s Business Professionals of America club won the national championship in Orlando, Fla. John Rubinsohn was voted in to replace Bob Cestone on South Bethany Town Council, and Marge Gassinger and John Fields won re-election. Also, I realized that I no longer fit into my rhinestone-studded thong, and went shopping for a new bathing suit.

My beloved Baltimore Orioles are infamous for their annual “June Swoon” — but not this season. They stunk from the first pitch of the year. June was also not so good for the CHEER Center, who heard that services could be cut because of level funding at the state level. On the bright side, the IRSD Odyssey of the Mind team won a world championship in Iowa, the Seaside Craft Show had a fabulous second event and David Baker was voted unanimously to fill Bob Stickels’ position as county administrator. Selbyville officials and Mountaire clashed on waste disposal, the Indian River High School Class of 2006 walked away with diplomas and former Fenwick Island Police Chief George H. Dickerson popped up as the new town manager of Milton. Contractors for a Cause had a spectacular gala to raise money for Justin’s Beach House, officials and residents in Bethany Beach battled over the practice of height restrictions and the town’s fire department opened the doors to its new building for an open house. Fenwick discussed a property tax hike to make up for declining transfer tax fees, the IRSD board came up with a plan regarding a new prayer policy and former Sussex County Sheriff Robert Reed had his actions censured by the Sussex County Chief’s Council. I moved into my house, but still hadn’t discovered what was in my shoe.

July is famous for family barbecues and fireworks — but fireworks were a no-show this year in Bethany Beach as severe storms kept them from ever taking place. However, there were fireworks in Ocean View, as Councilman Bill Wichmann was censured by his peers, and in Fenwick Island, as the controversial FAR restriction on properties spurred a survey to gauge resident’s temperatures on the proverbial hot potato. Allow us to announce that the Chamber announced they had enlisted 76 members into their co-op, Rep. Gerald Hocker announced he would indeed run for a third term and longtime Millville Mayor Gary Willey announced he would resign his post on Sept. 1. The CHEER Center got a much-needed boost when the state came up with more money for funding, curbside recycling became a reality in Sussex County and the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company had its 60-foot communications tower approved. Eight people filed for four seats on the Bethany Beach Town Council — insinuating that there might be fireworks in the town afterall this year. I stayed up late enough one night to discover what airs on Cinemax in the wee hours of the morning. I am never getting rid of Cinemax.

August burst onto the scene with the Senior League Softball World Series in Roxana, news that the Millville Volunteer Fire Department would be adding a substation on Omar Road, and five candidates filed for three positions on the Fenwick Island Town Council — making two local towns with significant elections this year. Bethany Beach adopted their commercial guidelines, a group of Clarksville residents banded together to try to fight the Home Depot store coming to Millville and two petitions began circulating — each taking a different stance in the IRSD lawsuits. Frankford Elementary School received a $10,000 grant after being named one of 16 Intel and Scholastic Schools of Distinction across the nation, debate over the role of the Sussex County Sheriff heated up as the election got closer and a fire gutted the home and business of Jennie Sulcoski in Ocean View. Shaun Lambert hit a deer with his car — a far cry from the brave hunting practices of his Eskimo ancestry.

September brings kids back to school, but it also brought a whole lot of local news this year. The election in Bethany Beach brought in new faces, a new mayor and the former mayor resigning his seat with another year left on his term — also, Steve Trodden left his spot on the Bethany Beach Planning Commission. Ocean View Town Manager Kathy Roth also announced she would be leaving her position — though for far different reasons as she accepted the job of budget and cost manager for the county. Popular local singer Michael Tracy White died, weeks after his 39th birthday, and a little something in all of us who ever saw him perform died as well. A huge storm hit the area Labor Day weekend, knocking down trees, and leaving me in my house with my visiting parents and no power. Thanks a lot, storm. Donald Minyon took a seat on the Millville Town Council, Lew Killmer got back on the Bethany Beach Town Council and Bob Maddex filed to go up against Hocker for his state representative seat. Did I mention that I was with my parents, with no power?

October brought along the changing colors of the leaves and ... oh, forget it. The dredging began on the Assawoman Canal! Sorry, that had been building for a long time. And, while October saw the much-delayed dredging begin, it also saw yet another delay in the Route 26 project, as federal funding went away because of a “misunderstanding.” Look, DelDOT, don’t misunderstand the following. Fix this ridiculous parking lot of a road now, before some yahoo gets a case of road rage so awe-inspiring ...

But I digress.

October also saw Wayne Lednum receive the prestigious Lighthouse Award from the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce for his selfless work in the community, and for the Chamber. Millville banned house moves (for about 17 seconds, before some started reconsidering the move), Fenwick took a big first step toward getting a Comprehensive Plan drafted and Stickels officially left his post in the county. Two Selbyville Middle School students were charged with using counterfeit $20 bills, Frankford residents got together to devise a plan for community involvement with the town’s drug problem and Bethany Beach Town Council opened the floor for public comments on each issue discussed in the council meeting. My new dog began eating everything in my home — food or not. I set her loose on my shoes, but even she couldn’t figure out what was stuck in there.

Harsh winds can sometimes gust in November, and this year they blew Sheriff Robert Reed right out of office, as Eric Swanson beat him in the election. Hocker and Sussex County Council Member George Cole each won their elections handily, but County Council Member Vance Phillips had to fight off a surprising challenge to keep his seat. The town of Bethany Beach scrapped its Streetscape plan, Selbyville awarded the town’s Routes 17/54 water and sewer infrastructure project to Underground Utilities and Millville established an annexation fee. The replacement plan for the Blue Surf was approved in Bethany Beach, Sussex County Council discussed establishing an impact fee with funds earmarked for the schools and the owner of a kennel was charged for not cremating a horse — even though he reportedly handed the ashes of the horse to the owner. The ... hey, what was in that bag anyway? Never mind. More November. Super Giant announced a plan to sell generic drugs for $3.99, green energy began being produced at Sussex landfills and Dagsboro prepared for a town council election. I ate a lot of turkey, watched a lot of football and whined about a lot of useless stuff.

December is normally a time of good tidings and cheer, but many of us felt a lot of heartache when developer and philanthropist Josh Freeman died in a helicopter crash, along with his pilot. If you ever need to know what people thought of Freeman the man, go to the archives on our Web site and read last week’s stories. May we all be remembered as warmly one day. Wind energy got back in the headlines as some local towns received presentations on the concept and product, Seaport Antique Village closed its doors after 37 years and the Sierra Club filed another appeal regarding the dredging of the Assawoman Canal. Millville approved a 114-townhome plan, Sea Colony property owners banded together to help fix their eroding beach and Dagsboro ended up not having an election, after one of the candidates was ruled ineligible. Bethany Beach and South Bethany voted to renew their contract with a beach replenishment lobbyist, holiday vandalism ruined some local beauty and the group Consumers for Alternative Power is back and better organized, hoping to secure lower energy prices for its members. As for me, well, I threw away those shoes and bought a new pair — only to realize the problem was on my foot.