2015 Year in Review: Rewind

By Mike McClure

This week the Seaford Star begins a two week look back at 2015 with snippets of top stories, starting in December and going back. This week's stories are from December-July and were written by Lynn Parks, Tony Windsor, and Tony Russo

Perdue Agribusiness chooses to relocate to Delmar (11/26)- Perdue Agri-Business announced recently that it will move its headquarters from Salisbury to Delmar, Del. That was despite an announcement in 2010 that it would move its headquarters to Seaford, and despite what Mayor David Genshaw called a "full-court press" on the part of the city to convince Perdue Agri-Business to follow through on its earlier commitment.

"We really pulled out all the stops and put everything on the table to get them here," Genshaw said. That included showing company representatives prime downtown real estate, such as the property where construction of the Residences at River Place apartment complex recently started and the just-sold power plant property. Both of those tracts front the Nanticoke River.

"Perdue always said that they were interested in being on the water," Genshaw said. "They wanted that 'wow factor.'"

But in the end, the decision came down to distance. Perdue simply wanted its new headquarters to be close to its current digs in Salisbury, to cut down on employee commute time.

"Their decision had nothing to do with what we did," Genshaw said. "It was all about the distance."Consultant says Bridgeville has a lot of room to expand economically (7/9)- A consultant hired by the town of Bridgeville to come up with a vision for the community had good news for its residents: Based on demographic information about the people who are a part of the community and their spending habits, Bridgeville could support several more businesses in its downtown.

The challenge, Ben Muldrow told more than 100 people last week, is to convince business owners to set up shop there.

"The good news is that there is money on the table that can support the businesses that you want to see on Market Street," Muldrow said. "The bad news is, you have to get information out to folks to convince them that it is worth it to take the risk."

Seaford Chamber holds inaugural First Saturday (11/12)- Every weekend, Tom Dayball travels from his home in Pasadena, Md., to Seaford, to visit his girlfriend, Charlene Petrie. And nearly every weekend, they end up driving to neighboring towns in search of something to do.

"We really want to spend our money here in town," Dayball said. "But we always find ourselves leaving Seaford. We love it here. We love the people here. We just wish that there was more to do."

Things were different this weekend. Dayball and Petrie, along with Petrie's sister and brother-in-law, Donna and David Sattelberg, Seaford, attended the inaugural First Saturday in Seaford, held downtown and sponsored by the Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce. Shortly after noon, they were gathered around a small table, enjoying food and beer and listening to the band Charlie and the Arthritics.

Even though it was raining – their table was one of several that were under tents that were set up for the event – they wouldn't have missed it, Petrie said.

"We are trying to do local stuff," she added. "We were so excited to be able to say, 'Let's go down to High Street and spend a few hours.'"

Nanticoke holds dedication for Health Pavilion (11/19)-

At Friday's dedication of the Nanticoke Health Pavilion in Seaford, Nanticoke Health Services president and CEO Steve Rose said that the building is "more than just bricks and mortar."

"This is a new model for patient-centered care," he said. "What we are doing here is very innovative. It's a great thing for Seaford and a great thing for western Sussex County."

Gov. Jack Markell, who also attended the dedication, went even farther. "This is the holy grail of what's being talked about all over the country," he said. "A lot of people from a lot of places will be visiting you to check out what you are doing."

The new Nanticoke Health Pavilion Seaford is on Nanticoke Health Services' Mears Campus, at the corner of Herring Run and Bridgeville roads. The two-story, 33,000-square foot building was added onto the medical clinic that was already on the campus.

The health pavilion is embracing the practice of "integrated healthcare." As such, it houses a number of services, including primary care, obstetrics, gynecology, gastroenterology, general surgery, nephrology, pulmonary medicine and urology. Also located there are diagnostic imaging, lab and rehabilitation services. All of the personnel there, including the doctors, are employees of Nanticoke Health Services.

Patients there will have one electronic record, accessible by all of the doctors. Each doctor has a medical assistant, but other than that shares nursing and support staff. Each doctor also has a small personal office, but uses common examining rooms.

Doctors will be able to discuss their patients face-to-face, Tom Brown, senior vice president of Nanticoke Health Services and president of the Nanticoke Physicians Network, said. The family practice and ob-gyn offices opened last week "and we are already seeing those conversations taking place," Brown added.

That kind of care encourages patients to follow through on doctor's instructions, Brown said. It also helps them to better manage their health.

"We will see lower costs, improved patients outcomes and improved patient experiences," Rose predicted.

Markell repeated that prediction. And he added: "We believe that when healthcare is done right, you can do that. This is a huge step in the right direction."

Residences at River Place breaks ground (10/8)- Construction of a new apartment building in downtown Seaford is underway. A groundbreaking for the Residences at River Place at the foot of South North Street was held Tuesday morning, under bright blue skies.

"Look at this view!" said developer David Perlmutter, standing near the edge of the Nanticoke River and addressing about a hundred people who attended the groundbreaking. "Could you ask for a better view? I don't think so. This is a place where people will want to live, relax and enjoy themselves."

Perlmutter is developing the property, along with his sister and brother-in-law, Faith and Warren Diamond. When completed, the Residences at River Place will have two buildings with 72 apartments.

The first residents are expected to move in early next summer.

"We are very excited about this property and about the revitalization of downtown Seaford," Perlmutter said. His group also plans to construct an office building near the Residences as well as storefronts, restaurants and a hotel in Seaford's downtown. "This is an exciting opportunity for Seaford."

Seaford was one of three cities chosen last year in the inaugural round of the state's Downtown Development District program. Development and renovation projects in its downtown can receive a reimbursement from the state of up to 20 percent of the project cost.

The Residences was the only large (costing more than $250,000) Seaford project to be approved for reimbursement. Perlmutter will receive a state reimbursement of $671,000 at the conclusion of construction.

Gov. Jack Markell, who attended the groundbreaking, said that the downtown development reimbursement plan is working as it was intended. In its first year, 2015, the General Assembly allocated $5.6 million for it. That has resulted in $114 million in private investment, Markell said.

"We are trying to get a good return on taxpayers' dollars," he added. "With a relatively small amount of taxpayer money, we are attracting a lot of other investment."

Seaford residents pass solar park referendum in landslide (10/1)- The city of Seaford is on its way to getting its first solar park to generate electricity. Voters on Monday gave the city the OK to borrow money from the state to build the facility, which will provide power to Seaford's wastewater treatment plant.

The vote was 102 for the proposal and 23 against.

The city now has the public's permission to borrow $1.658 million from the state, which has agreed to forgive nearly a third of the loan, $500,000, once the project is completed. The 20-year loan will carry a 2-percent interest rate.

The 474-kilowatt solar park will be built on two acres next to the city utility building on Herring Run Road. In its first year of operation, it is expected that the park will generate about $119,000 in revenue.

After expenses, including payment on the debt, about $40,000 of that will be profit.

More than half of the expected revenue, $62,000, will come from purchases of the solar park's power by the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, the city's power provider.

Under state law, a certain portion of that corporation's power has to be "green," or generated without using fossil fuels. Other city members of DEMEC, including Dover, Middletown, Milford and Newark, already have solar plants.

The city has negotiated a 20-year contract with DEMEC for the purchase of the solar-generated power.

The remaining revenue, $57,000, will come in utility savings. The solar plant will provide about half of the power that is used by the city's wastewater treatment plant.

On Tuesday morning, assistant city manager Charles Anderson said that the city will now solicit bids for construction of the park. He expects that work on the park will start early next year.

For 15th year, volunteers meet at St. John's UM to help children receive school supplies (8/27)- Last week, for the 15th year in a row, volunteers met at St. John's United Methodist Church in Seaford to fill backpacks with school supplies to be distributed to children in need. It was part of a program inaugurated by Ruth Rhoades.

Rhoades' reasons for starting the movement are tied to a childhood trauma associated with school supplies. As a child she lacked the fancy writing paper required for an assignment and turned her work in on plain ruled paper. The essay was discarded and she was sent to the principal for failing to do her work.

The principal was fair and Rhoades was excused from the punishment. But she remained struck by the idea that something as simple as school supplies could be the difference between success and failure, depending upon a teacher's whim.

When the opportunity to launch a school supplies fundraiser presented itself, Rhoades was happy to run it.

Over the years, other churches in the region signed on and today there are about a dozen that participate in every school district in Sussex County. Each district has a home base where volunteers pack the backpacks. For example, in Seaford it is St. John's and this year in Laurel it was Centenary United Methodist Church.

The supplies donated to the cause are all distributed to the schools in the particular district, so Seaford schools benefit from all of the donations to Seaford churches, similarly with Laurel, Bridgeville, etc.

Son of presidential candidate lends support to new western Sussex initiative (8/20)- The son of Republican Presidential front runner candidate Dr. Ben Carson, made a stop in Seaford recently to lend his and his father's support for a new revitalization initiative that seeks to help bolster a "reinvention" of the western Sussex area.

Murray Carson, one of Ben and Candy Carson's three sons, came to Seaford to participate in addressing this year's graduating class of the Minority Engineering and Regional Incentive Training (MERIT) program. The program has been offering pre-college educational support for minority students in Sussex County for over 40 years. The group meets at the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club each Saturday morning.

While he was growing up, Murray Carson and his brothers, Rhoyce and B.J., traveled to the Seaford area with his father and mother while Dr. Carson gave keynote addresses for a variety of projects, including the capital campaign to build the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford.

The three Carson children attended the MERIT program during the summer and oftentimes spent weekends with John and Linda Hollis in Seaford. John Hollis, retired Seaford educator and the founder of the MERIT program, was instrumental in introducing Dr. Carson to Sussex County and recruiting him as a major speaking draw for several of the fundraising events that helped the capital campaign to build the new Boys & Girls Club.

As a MERIT alumni, Murray Carson was asked to speak to the graduating class. He and his wife, Lerone, decided to spend the night and attend the "Think Big" event held at the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club the next day. The event, organized by Hollis, is an attempt to unite local government, business, civic and educational leaders in a common goal to see the western Sussex community experience a revitalization.

"We seem to exist in a cycle of doom," Hollis said. "All we ever hear about are the negative issues that plague our local communities. While these may be real, there are also some really good things happening and people need to know about these things and build on the positives."

Seaford Presbyterian celebrates 50th anniversary (8/20)- Half a century ago, there was no Presbyterian Church in Seaford. Not that there weren't Presbyterians.

"There were many," says Seaford resident Ken Bryson. "But they were going to the Methodist church, the Baptist church, the Lutheran church and the Episcopal church."

That changed on May 2, 1965, when the brand new Seaford Presbyterian Church held its first service at Darby's Chapel, now the Cranston Funeral Home, in west Seaford. Two months later, the fledgling congregation, which included Bryson, a charter member, purchased land along alternate U.S. 13 for construction of a church building. Groundbreaking was July 9, 1967, and the building was completed in Dec. 1967.

This year, the church is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. Members have sponsored activities centered on the number 50–collecting 50 backpacks for the local Head Start program, for example, picking up 50 pounds of trash along area streets and roads, and, in October, committing 50 acts of kindness. This fall, the congregation will hold a golden anniversary dinner at the Nanticoke Senior Center and a special worship service featuring a Seaford native who grew up in the church and who is now a minister at a Presbyterian church near Raleigh, N.C.

20th Annual AFRAM Festival takes place in Seaford (8/13)- Lynne Betts wouldn't miss the annual Eastern Shore AFRAM Festival. "I've been to nearly every one of them since it started," said the Seaford resident, standing near a line of colorful tents where jewelry, clothing, handbags and African drums were being sold. "There's a strong sense of community here. That's what I enjoy."

This year, accompanying Betts and her family as they walked around the festival grounds, was Kristen Arant, a.k.a. the Drum Lady, founder of the Young Women's Drumming Empowerment Project in Washington, D.C. Arant was due to go on stage in a couple of hours and she was enjoying the small-town feel of the festival.

"This is a small venue in a nice community," she said. "All the people we've met are friendly. And coming to Seaford gives us an opportunity to get out of the city." The dance troupe, affiliated with the Akoma African Drummers, usually plays in the D.C. area.

This was the 20th year for the Eastern Shore AFRAM. "Festivals like this are of value to help us figure out where our roots are," Arant said.

"It's also important for people to get together so that they feel good about who they are, and to be educated about all the different kinds of people who live here," added Jane Dusenbery, Seaford.

New nonprofit is answer to refugees' prayers (7/16)- A Seaford couple has been successful in accomplishing something that they have been praying for since fleeing their native Pakistan in 2011.

Parvez and Neelam Choudhry brought their family to the United States after several assassination and kidnapping attempts by the Islamic extremist Pakistani Taliban in their native home in Lahore, Pakistan. Parvez Choudhry was targeted by the Taliban because of his work as a Pakistani attorney who defended Christians and people of other minority religions in Pakistan who had been charged with activities considered by extremists to be evidence of "blasphemy." This is punishable by lengthy prison sentences and potentially death. Many of those charged are killed while awaiting trial, or otherwise exposed to Islam extremists who mete out vigilante justice in the name of the Islamic faith.

In Pakistan, the National Commission for Justice and Peace reports that more than 1,300 people have been charged since the blasphemy laws were established in 1986. Those found guilty of the most serious blasphemy charges of defiling the Quran face a life sentence. Those found guilty of making remarks defiling Muhammad face the death penalty. There are currently 19 prisoners serving life terms and 14 on death row. Fifty of the accused have been murdered before trial, and over 60 have been murdered just based on an allegation. Credible death threats have sent thousands fleeing the country even after acquittal of charges.

Recently, it was announced that a special non-profit organization, "Save the Persecuted," has been formed to give the Choudhrys a platform to work full time to change the laws in Pakistan and defend the accused while giving material support to the families, and to help refugees through the resettlement process.

Since coming to the United States, where they have now settled in Seaford, the Choudhrys have worked to share their message of concern for those being persecuted around the world because of their Christian faith. Many from their homeland are awaiting asylum in countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand.

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