New Castle County Council approves funding for paramedics, police training, more

By Rachel Sawicki
Posted 1/13/22

NEW CASTLE — In its first meeting of the new year, the New Castle County Council approved a slew of new ordinances, including several with six- and seven-figure funding for the Department of …

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New Castle County Council approves funding for paramedics, police training, more

Posted

NEW CASTLE — In its first meeting of the new year, the New Castle County Council approved a slew of new ordinances, including several with six- and seven-figure funding for the Department of Public Safety. Two council members were absent.

Council approved $1 million in funds from the Grants-In-Aid bill for an Emergency Medical Services realignment and building capital project. These funds will be used to purchase, construct and renovate paramedic stations in New Castle County which will aid in the expansion of service and/or relocation of existing stations to better serve the public. The funds were approved 11-0.

Additional assistance temporarily authorizing the addition of 10 paramedic positions to the FY2022 Approved Operating Budget was approved 11-0 to allow for the continued hiring of pre-certified paramedics while the paramedic academy is in training.

The upcoming class of New Castle County paramedics will begin instruction later this month and will take at least 18 months to complete their training, which the ordinance says precludes the division from continuing to recruit and hire pre-certified paramedics. However, there is a need to temporarily overfill the authorized paramedic strength by 10 positions.

An approved amendment to the grants budget will allocate $121,530.88 in federal funding to the Holistic Officer Wellness Grant. The ordinance says this funding will be used by the New Castle County Department of Public Safety, Division of Police, to support an enhancement to officer mental health and wellness through education and training.

The goals of the initiative will be to improve officers’ ability to cope with trauma, increase awareness of officer responses to trauma and reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues. The voting count was unanimous, with 11 in support.

An additional $198,701 was appropriated to the Community Oriented Policing Services De-Escalation Training Grant to support scenario-based de-escalation training for New Castle County police officers. The legislation reads that the council determined the program funding will “substantially advance, and are reasonably and rationally related to, legitimate government interests (i.e., promoting the health, safety, morals, convenience, order, prosperity and/or welfare of the present and future inhabitants of this State).”

Another approved appropriation of $179,385 from the Justice Assistance Grant — which was awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance to the New Castle County, Department of Public Safety, Division of Police — will support police overtime, specialized police training, the purchase of a police K-9 and recreational equipment for police officer wellness.

The ordinance says the JAG program is the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions and provides New Castle County with critical funding to support a range of police-related programs.

The COPS grant and the JAG grant were both approved, 10-1, with the dissenting vote from District 10 Councilman Jea Street.

Mr. Street also voiced opposition to an ordinance that would establish stormwater maintenance districts.

Ordinance 21-144 says the county is required by federal and state regulations to implement and fund a program of stormwater controls. But, in order to establish, operate, enhance and maintain an effective and efficient stormwater management system, and ensure its continued operation, the rest of the council voted to establish stormwater maintenance districts.

“This is a landmark piece of legislation and we have been chasing the stormwater pond issue in this county government as long as I’ve been in service now,” District 8 Councilman John Cartier said. “For 17 years, and I can remember the early days in 2004, chasing down the road stormwater ponds figuring out who owns what, it was a big problem … This stormwater district legislation will remove a giant burden on all these volunteers that have to maintain these ponds.”

Mr. Street, however, said he has recollections of children drowning in stormwater ponds in recent years. He added that he has expressed concern over their maintenance and fencing around the ponds for safety.

“When you take on the maintenance, what about the liability?” Mr. Street said. “Anybody naive enough to think that when you sign an agreement and you agree to the maintenance, that you have no responsibility for liability, you can make that assumption until you get sued. Y’all go ahead and run this through. I’m not supporting it.”

District 6 Councilman David Carter said he thinks that doing the maintenance themselves actually reduces liability.

“It’s fairly limited as long as you’re following regulations,” he said. “So I’m not concerned. I think this has been a huge burden on so many communities. I think this is just a much better way. There are a lot of efficiencies that come to doing it this way. It is long overdue, and I’m glad we are going in this direction.”