Levy Court reconfigures law enforcement grant, approves bond refinancing

By Leann Schenke
Posted 6/25/21

DOVER — Kent County Levy Court approved a new way to disseminate its police enforcement grant during a Tuesday meeting, after determining that the previous method of doing so was based on inaccurate information.

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Levy Court reconfigures law enforcement grant, approves bond refinancing

Posted

DOVER — Kent County Levy Court approved a new way to disseminate its police enforcement grant during a Tuesday meeting, after determining that the previous method of doing so was based on inaccurate information.

After being presented with three options, the commissioners approved divvying up the money based on an equal share and credit per uniformed officer. The vote was 6-0, with Commissioner Glen Howell absent.

Each police department in the county will be given a base of $20,000 and the remaining $80,000 will be divided up depending on how many officers each agency employs — or about $385 per uniformed officer.

In May, Levy Court approved allocating $300,000 of its unrestricted funds as grants to support law enforcement — $100,000 for Delaware State Police and the remaining $200,000 divided between municipal departments depending on how often they provided emergency response assistance to DSP during 2020.

Data used to split up the funds would be pulled from the Delaware Information and Analysis Center.

However, Levy Court President Terry Pepper said Tuesday, through calls with local police chiefs, he found the information from the center did not reflect the work the agencies performed.

“From what I found, none of the information was accurate,” Commissioner Pepper said. “We could not obtain accurate information on how many times each local jurisdiction left their town limits to assist state police.”

County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange outlined the three alternatives.

The first was dividing the money equally between the 12 agencies in the county, or $16,666.67 per agency. This option was endorsed by the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council.

The second was to consider the county’s three part-time agencies as one full-time agency and then divide the money by 10, resulting in $20,000 per full-time agency and $6,666 per part-time agency.

The third option was the one approved by the commissioners, with $385 given per uniformed officer.

Also during the meeting and following a public hearing, Levy Court approved an ordinance that authorizes issuance of a Kent County refunding revenue bond not to exceed $3.5 million for Campus Community School to refinance its high school facility.

Charter School Inc. operates Campus Community School’s facility at 350 Pear St. in Dover.
The ordinance was approved in a 6-0 vote.

Emilie Ninan, an attorney with Ballard Spahr who serves as bond counsel to the county, attended the meeting virtually to address any questions. Heidi Greene, head of school for Campus Community, also attended virtually.

There were no questions from the public during the hearing.

During a prior business meeting, Ms. Ninan said this ordinance would refinance Campus Community School’s 2011 bonds, which the county approved at that time. As interest rates have seen a reduction, Campus Community is seeking to refinance for debt service savings.

“They expect the interest rate to be cut in half, so this would give them quite a bit of savings,” Ms. Ninan said.

She said if Levy Court serves as a “conduit issuer of bonds,” the county will not see any added debt amounts.

“The bonds are sold on the credit of the borrower, in this case the school, and you are just facilitating their ability to access the tax-exempt market,” Ms. Ninan said.

She added that there is no limit on the amount of bonds the county can issue to nonprofits.

“The reason the school qualifies for tax-exempt bonds is because they are a … nonprofit,” Ms. Ninan said, adding that the county approved a similar bond for Delaware State University.

Commissioner Allan Angel noted from his time serving on the board of education for the Capital School District, there might be a fee Levy Court received for issuing bonds on behalf of charter schools.

Ms. Ninan confirmed this, saying it’s a quarter of 1% of the par amount of bonds — or the amount of money that bond issuers promise to repay bondholders at the maturity date of the bond. In this case, the fee would be $87,500.

Commissioner Angel asked how that fee would be allocated within the county’s budget.
Mr. Petit de Mange said that typically, it would become part of the general fund revenue — unless the council created a specific use for it.

Also during the Tuesday meeting, the commissioners heard from Lucreatia Wilson about preserving the Star Hill Museum/African Methodist Episcopal Church’s collection through the formation of a Kent County museum.

Ms. Wilson — curator, historian and founder — said the collection started out as an exhibit 33 years ago. She said her mother was a historian who taught her the value of knowing one’s history.

“You have to know your history,” Ms. Wilson said. “If you don’t know your history and if you don’t know the history of your ancestors and the path they took, the things that they went through, then how can we know where we’re going and what path we’ll take?”

Ms. Wilson said she would like to see a museum established for the younger generation to know their history, as she retires from her work preserving the Star Hill collection.

Commissioner Eric Buckson asked how Levy Court can help her preserve the items. Ms. Wilson said she is considering putting the collection into storage by the end of the summer.

Commissioner Buckson suggested that Ms. Wilson display the items in the Levy Court building. She said that is something “to think about.”

The commissioners also considered sending county staff to help Ms. Wilson catalog the items in the collection.

Mr. Petit de Mange said there are fiscal aspects to consider if the county were to create a museum, like the cost of repairing a historic building to use as the facility and the cost of hiring a curator.

When asked how many items she has, Ms. Wilson guessed close to 50 that show what it was like to live during times of slavery and what enslaved people had to endure in pursuit of freedom.

“(The collection) focuses on what (enslaved people) had to go through,” Ms. Wilson said. “I will be the first one to tell you, they would shoot me, they would throw me to the wolves. They had to go through the woods sticking close to the water and ... prepare themselves for leaving. They had to cover themselves with garlic, with onions, with peppers. Anything that smells really bad to keep the dogs off their trail.”