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WEEKEND #03, 2015
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Local high school grads caught in Dewey's largest ever
June bug roundup
Sophisticated surveillance involved undercover agent to help obtain search warrant
It will probably go down as the largest police operation in Dewey Beach history.
"Operation Party Crashers" got into full swing Tuesday night with a police presence never seen before in the popular beach town.
Members of the party-crashing task force searched for the new high school grads — better known as June bugs — attending parties with the intent to consume alcohol and/or drugs.
Law enforcers from the Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement (DATE), state police, Rehoboth Beach, University of Delaware and the State Fire Marshal joined Dewey Beach officers while they aggressively patrolled Dewey as well as surrounding areas for underage troublemakers.
They watched for teens wandering the streets and listened for the sounds of partying. With the command post at the Rehoboth Beach firehouse on Coastal Highway, officials looked for June bug movements on Dewey's video camera system and quickly dispatched teams, including undercover officers, to closely investigate activity.
In a new twist, like a page from the DEA surveillance manual, DATE agents used a decoy/undercover informer in an attempt to infiltrate underage drinking parties. The plan was to send a young woman, actually a DATE agent, into the area and hope that she gets invited into the party where she would document and report her findings.
The weather Tuesday night into Wednesday was poor and resulted in few arrests, same for Thursday night. In many cases, officers say the teens were already suspicious of increased police activity. Rodney Avenue near the police station was clogged with police vehicles and even the majestic state police horse-mounted patrol was visible throughout town along with University of Delaware police on bike patrols. Clearly something was up.
But, Wednesday night into Thursday morning, the day following Cape Henlopen High School graduation, the task force struck pay dirt. Officers stumbled across a party at a house on Collins Avenue on Dewey's southern edge.
While officers monitored the Collins Avenue house from unmarked vehicles parked along the dimly lit street, a decoy got invited into a party in a rear garage apartment of the ocean block home. Once inside the packed apartment, police received reports of not only underage drinking, but also reports that the alcohol was being furnished by one or more adults. The fact that an adult was involved seemed to immediately peak police interest as a high-value target.
For more than an hour, the surveillance team monitored the situation while continuing to collect intelligence to build its case with the undercover agent. DATE officers then went for a search warrant, something which police say is rarely done for June bug alcohol parties. Once they obtained the warrant, officers made entry, and searched the dwelling including the garage.
The undercover plan worked. Lt. Kevin L. Jones, from the Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement, said Friday evening that his agency cited 28 underage persons at the party for consuming alcohol. In addition, a DATE news release says the owner of that residence, Mark L. Woodruff, 50, of Dewey Beach, has been charged with providing alcohol to minors. His daughter was also one of those cited.
Lt. Jones and other law enforcement sources say the persons involved at this residence were all from the Rehoboth-Dewey area. Other than the Collins Avenue party house, Lt. Jones says the task force made 16 additional arrests elsewhere in the area for underage possession or consumption of alcohol.
In one instance, Dewey Beach police confiscated this cache of liquor and a sandwich bag of what is supposedly marijuana from a group on Saulsbury Street. They were actually cooperative college students and narrowly missed being arrested.
Some people look at it [underage consumption] as a rite of passage, Lt. Jones says. "But it is not that simple," he states, noting that teens tend to drink to excess because of lack of experience and peer pressures. That can lead to all sorts of tragedies, he warns.
Because of social media, Dewey Mayor Diane Hanson observes, when grads have a party, it can "become a very big party quickly and in an unintended way. Things can get out of control and property can be severely damaged, fights occur and intoxicated kids can do stupid things. Many people in Dewey, including myself, do not rent our properties in June to avoid this type of problem." She said she was pleased with the increased enforcement.
Dell C. Tush, a former Dewey Beach mayor, who has had significant trouble with June bug tenants already this season, says she too supports the added police presence. "I think this enforcement program has been advertised extremely well and all of the young people I have spoken to knew it was going to happen because they had seen it on TV."
Operation Party Crashers included a significant publicity campaign with this slick movie-style promo poster as well as this highway message board along Coastal Highway.
Weeks ago, Lt. Jones said, DATE reached out to Dewey and state police to form the partnership to combat the chronic problems the Dewey area has had with June bugs.
The University of Delaware, Rehoboth Beach and the Fire Marshal Office also joined the task force. Some funding for the initiative comes from the Office of Highway Safety. But Lt. Jones says most of the agencies simply rearrange officers' schedules so they can participate at targeted times.
Hopefully next year, Lt. Jones added, people will remember what happened this year and it will cut way down on future trouble with June bug parties.
"It is surely the largest police presence I have seen in my 30 years in Dewey," says Steve "Monty" Montgomery of the Starboard. "As a business owner and Dewey guy, I understand the point they are trying to relay to parents and kids," Montgomery says, noting "that Dewey is not the place to come if you are not 21 years old to 'party using alcohol' after graduating."
"While the business community has done more than anyone to try and bring balance to this town with family activities throughout the calendar year," Montgomery points out, "there are still not many activities on a daily basis for those under 21 years of age other than our fabulous beaches."
Lt. Jones says the operation will continue for the rest of the month with the emphasis on the peak June bug weeks. Grads from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania high schools are expected in the next few days. We will see if they have gotten the message.
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COASTAL HWY BIKE CRASH CLAIMS LIFE OF FOREIGN STUDENT
A woman from Ukraine was struck and killed this past weekend after she had been riding a bicycle across Coastal Highway at the intersection of the Rehoboth Food Lion shopping center. The bicyclist, identified by police as Nadiia Misa, was unresponsive when taken to Beebe Hospital. Medevac helicopters were not flying because of the foggy weather. Police say she died the following morning still at Beebe Hospital.
The accident was reported around 8:50 p.m. Friday on the southbound side at Miller Road outside Rehoboth. Police say Misa was crossing Coastal Highway in an eastbound direction at the intersection. As she crossed the southbound lanes of Coastal Highway, she was struck by a 2005 Chrysler Crossfire driven by Daniel L. Furr, Jr., 30, of Dover. A police news release says Furr had the green traffic signal.
Police say Furr brought his Chrysler Crossfire to a controlled stop in the southbound bus lane. No charges have been filed according to the state police.
Police say she wore no helmet and the bicycle had no light.
The roadway is still unusually dark despite the over-head lighting in this area. With the mist and glare, it makes it even more difficult for drivers to identify obstacles. The speed limit is 45 m.p.h.
The manager of the Lewes Food Lion says he is urging his foreign workers who ride bikes to wear reflective safety vests and helmets in addition to using lights at night.
The Pedestrian Safety Task Force Report released last year made several recommendations including lighting and mentions outreach to foreign exchange students.
In past years, foreign exchange students have often become victims of serious biking accidents. Last August, Andreea Beatrice, a foreign exchange student from Romania, was critically injured while riding a bicycle on Coastal Highway near the Kmart.
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ONE DEAD, ONE CRITICAL IN POCOMOKE CITY FIRE
One man perished and another is in critical condition after a house fire Saturday morning in Worcester County, Maryland.
Pocomoke City firefighters were dispatched to 900 Market Street for a house fire shortly after 5 a.m. Upon arrival, fire was reported to be on the first floor extending to the second floor with occupants possibly trapped.
Rescuers pulled a 27-year-old man from the first floor of the home and took him to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury. He was later taken to Bayview in Baltimore. While searching the home, firefighters also discovered a second victim deceased on the first floor.
Initial reports suggest that the fire started in the kitchen, possibly from unattended cooking.
The names of both victims are being withheld pending notification of family members.
Stockton, Girdletree and New Church firefighters assisted with the suppression of the fire. Firefighters remained on the scene for about five hours. Worcester County Criminal Bureau of Investigations and Pocomoke Police Department are assisting the Worcester County Fire Marshal's Office with the investigation. Officials ask anyone with additional information to contact Chief Deputy Matthew Owens at 410-632-5666.
Photos courtesy Christopher Casale
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WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE REHOBOTH 9-1-1 CENTER?
Later this month, Rehoboth Beach property owners will vote on a referendum that could authorize funding for a replacement city hall which would include new space for the police department and its existing 9-1-1 call center.
City officials are eager to replace the aging facility, bringing it up to modern standards of other emergency call centers. Should Rehoboth Beach property owners support the referendum, Tammy D. Ketterman, the city's 9-1-1 center manager, has a plan in place that she is eager to start implementing.
The Rehoboth Beach 9-1-1 center is one of nine public safety answering points (PSAPs) in the state that receive 9-1-1 calls. The only other 9-1-1 facilities in Sussex County are Seaford and the county's Emergency Operations Center in Georgetown.
When people dial 9-1-1 from a telephone in the 226 or 227 exchanges, the call is routed automatically to this Rehoboth Beach call center. Cell towers in those areas are also forwarded to Rehoboth Beach. The area served is roughly from the Indian River Inlet north to Route 24 and west along the bay to Angola.
Ironically, all of Delaware's nine PSAPs use the same computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software from New World Systems, with the exception of the fire/EMS computers in Georgetown. That means messages between the fire/EMS dispatchers at the Georgetown call center and elsewhere must be made by telephone. But, ironically, state police dispatchers in that same building use the same New World software as the other PSAPs.
The city received 636 9-1-1 calls during the month of May, Ketterman says. That does not include calls from the non-emergency number, 227-2577. But of those 636 9-1-1 calls, 197 calls, about 30 percent, were transferred to another call center, typically the one in Georgetown, she said.
During the month of May, the Rehoboth Beach 9-1-1 center dispatched 422 police calls, 311 EMS and 67 fire/rescue incidents. The center is staffed by two dispatchers around the clock with the addition of Ketterman during the day shift.
In Ocean City, all 9-1-1 calls in Worcester County are answered at the emergency services center in Snow Hill. If the call is for police, fire or EMS in Ocean City, it is transferred. This also includes fire/EMS calls in West Ocean City which are handled by Ocean City firefighters.
Ketterman, who has worked for Rehoboth 9-1-1 since 2004, says she hopes property owners will vote "yes" and she promises to make the transition for emergency dispatching as smooth as possible. The county will provide two dispatch positions at the Georgetown 9-1-1 center where Rehoboth Beach dispatchers will report for an estimated 22 months while the new building is under construction. They would anticipate moving sometime this September.
Rehoboth's proposed 9-1-1 facility will add one additional dispatch position, which includes an additional 9-1-1 phone. She says the state has agreed to purchase a new CAD system for the city. This should be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2016, regardless if the city builds a new city hall.
Both Ketterman and Lt. William Sullivan say by having its own 9-1-1 center, Rehoboth Beach is able to manage emergencies better. Rehoboth Beach police, for example, are dispatched to all EMS calls in the city limits. Lt. Sullivan says that the police department's average response time is about 90 seconds.
By contrast, state police only respond to selected EMS calls elsewhere in the county and their response times are much longer. So if the Georgetown facility were responsible for notification of Rehoboth Beach police, they fear it would take longer if they were even to receive that notification.
The Rehoboth Beach 9-1-1 center does provide a significant amount of service to those callers from outside of town. While the Rehoboth Beach fire company covers the entire calling area, police calls for those areas not in the city limits are routed typically to Georgetown for the state police or occasionally to Dewey.
So who pays to maintain the 9-1-1 center and how much? When considering factors involved in a 9-1-1 facility, such as salaries, training, computer and radio equipment, Ketterman says that it is difficult to determine precisely how much the center costs the city property owners.
Its primary source of revenue is the 9-1-1 fee on the telephone and cellular bills of which Rehoboth Beach receives a portion from the state. Ketterman assures city residents that the improved service the city receives by having its own 9-1-1 center outweighs the cost incurred by its property owners.
Staff in the current building complain of mold, mildew, cooling/heating troubles, water leaking into the basement electronics room and elsewhere, lack of changing facilities, low basement ceilings with trip hazards, lack of critical security features and windows with standard glass that make the center vulnerable. Ketterman says they have to use sandbags to prevent the electrical room from floods.
Ketterman says the city can only "band-aid so much." But if property owners do not support the referendum, they will likely remodel the existing facility the best they can.
The proposed new city hall and ocean outfall projects come to a referendum vote on June 27. The Rehoboth Beach Homeowners' Association has posted a Q&A covering the issues. This brief document includes a list of all components of the $18 million cost and information about funding sources within the city's budget along with links to a video tour of the existing facility, drawings of the proposed new buildings and a detailed slide show on funding.
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FRANCE HONORS LOCAL WW II VET, TOM CREEKMORE
Thomas (Tom) Creekmore was just 17 years old when he was riding streetcars all over Washington transporting loads of money while working for the Washington Savings & Loan at 9th and K Streets.
He had turned 19 when he was drafted into the Tank Corps in January, 1943. Born in Portsmouth in 1923, on December 7, ironically what would become Pearl Harbor Day, his father had taken the family to Arlington during the depression.
Creekmore started working in the banking industry in Washington, D.C. at such a young age. He soon took a management job in the airline industry at National Airport. He became the first person hired by Pennsylvania Central Airlines when the company moved to National Airport.
When drafted, Creekmore started in the Tank Corps, but aviation remained in his blood. He volunteered for the Army Air Corps. He had married his high school sweetheart in October, 1942. But when he received his marching orders, Creekmore told her "I'll be back in 90 days, or not at all."
He served in the 305th bomb group of the 8th Army Air Force at the Chelveston base in England where he flew 19 missions in 42 days. Creekmore says typically 30 missions would have been considered a completed tour.
His B-17 crew dropped bombs on targeted areas from 25,000 feet, first over Germany, then, toward the end of the war, over German-occupied targets in France. The B-17s originally had a 10-man crew but later they had only eight.
As the radio operator on the plane, Creekmore was responsible for maintaining long-range contact back to England. While the plane's pilot had short-range voice radio capability, they relied on him to monitor bases in England in case they were recalled or the aircraft needed to determine its location. He would lower a long wire antenna beneath the bomber and establish communication using only Morse code.
"He took part in a lot of missions in Rhineland and central Europe at that time," says a spokesman for the French Embassy, "but also in some in France, especially in the west near Bordeaux. On the 15th of April, he became a member of a bomber crew in charge of dislodging German forces still present in Royan (France) in the Gironde estuary." Thanks to his radio skills, Creekmore enabled the crew to return to its base in England after the navigator lost his hearing during this operation. The last bombing mission was days later on April 25.
The video of Consul General Olivier Sérot Almeras presenting Creekmore with the medal has been posted to Youtube. He says in French: In the name of the President of France, I induct you into the Order of the Legion of Honor. "I had a big lump in my throat," Creekmore recalls. "At that point, I became a 'Chevalier' of the Legion of Honor."
"Through his general attitude and his bravery during the very hard fighting he took part in, Mr. Creekmore undoubtedly participated in the allies' victory, as demonstrated by the honors he received from the United States military authorities," says a statement from the French embassy. "It therefore seems to me he meets all qualifications for the rank of Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor regarding his contribution to the liberation of France during World War II."
Creekmore eventually moved to the Delaware shore in 2003 after losing his second wife and has lived here ever since. He says less than five percent of the vets he served with are still alive and every 8th Air Force veteran he locates says they are the last of their crew. He met Rita D'Ascenzo after coming to Rehoboth and they have been together for the past 12 years.
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DEADLINE TO FILE FOR R.B. COMMISSIONER RACE, 4:30 P.M.
State says deadline on Saturday at noon is unacceptable
A Rehoboth Beach tradition has perhaps come to an end. The city charter states that the first Saturday of June is the deadline for filing to run for city commissioner. But ironically, says Donna Moore, election ex officio, state law Title 15 mandates that the municipalities accept petitions to at least 4:30 p.m. on the day of deadline. She said the city discovered that when submitting the documents for this year.
Since the administrative offices in Rehoboth Beach close at noon on Saturdays, this has forced the city to accept petitions to run for commissioner through 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 8. Moore says since the Saturday deadline is specified in the city's charter, it would have to be changed by the commissioners, if they desired to address the issue.
Voters already know, however, that there will be an election this year in Rehoboth Beach thanks to Mark Betchkal. He has filed to run for one of two commissioner seats along with their incumbents, J. Patrick Gossett and Willis Sargent.
Betchkal says he first came to Rehoboth Beach in the summer of 1982. Since 2007, his home has been at 98 Sussex Street. Betchkal owns an ad agency, Yes Marketing LLC, that specializes in the marketing needs of nonprofit societies and trade associations in science and engineering.
One reason Betchkal decided to run for office, he says, is because in two of the past five elections, no election was held because there were no challengers. "I feel strongly that there is a lot we citizens need to discuss and the forum for that discussion is an election," Betchkal notes. "At this moment," he continues, "big issues are on the table. The best way for the city commissioners to know where the voters stand on those issues is an election."
Betchkal was born in Chicago and earned a master's degree from the University of London, London School of Economics and Political Science after he received bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin.
He's had homes in Washington, D.C., Takoma Park, Rehoboth Beach and Spring Lake (just outside town).
J. Patrick Gossett
Comm. Gossett says he enjoys "serving my community, feel I bring value to the job, and a sense of accomplishment." Gossett says some of the accomplishments during his current term on the Commission include: Hiring of a new city manager in a nation-wide search, which he managed as the chair of the Personnel Committee; and completion of the first citywide reassessment since 1968.
The Mayor and commissioners have managed the finances of the city well, he says, and the city is in good financial standing. In his next term he says he would like to use his experience to continue to serve the best interests of the city, noting that of concern right now are the ocean outfall and city hall project. "Related to the City Hall Project, we need to do a complete staffing analysis, and we are about to institute updated back office computer systems, as I have advocated for several years," he states.
"But the big issue facing us now is that the city is at a crossroads for the future." The key issues, he says, include ways to prevent over-development and unsustainable density and how to preserve the character of our neighborhoods and green space in the city. "These have been my priorities since I first served on the Planning Commission in 1998, and in my two terms as City Commissioner," he adds.
"In the last year or so," he continues, "an increasing number of residents have come to the Commission asking that we take action to prevent the building of additional huge homes which are out of step with the character and scale of our neighborhoods. Many of these are operating as commercial businesses in a residential zone, an issue I intend to take on by presenting clearer definitions of permitted uses in commercial or residential zones. Many citizens believe we are at a tipping point between quality of life and the character of the city on one hand, and overbuilding on the other. I completely agree," he adds.
Gossett says "We should be measured by quality of life issues, including: livability, a vibrant business community, welcoming and safe neighborhoods, environmental health - especially beaches, parks and trees."
"Those are all the things that Rehoboth Beach is known for and I want to work to maintain this special sense of place that we have," he concludes. "From time to time, people come up to me and thank me for serving on the Commission. In order for me to continue to serve the City, I ask that you support me with your vote on August 8."
Sargent expresses similar concerns, citing the emergence in "our residential neighborhoods of large, high-occupancy houses, many with pools, is a serious threat to the charm and tranquility that residents have a right to expect. So far the commissioners have addressed many issues related to noise, zoning and pools, but we need to do more to protect our town in the long run. I believe we need to have effective laws that limit the number of occupants in homes that are rented and we need to discourage investors from building houses that are essentially commercial operations."
The city will hold a special election on June 27 for borrowing of money for the ocean outfall and the city hall projects. See the city website for details.
Rehoboth Beach will hold its annual municipal election on Saturday, August 8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To be eligible to vote on August 8, voters must register on or before Friday, June 12. Registration info is also at this link.
LIFE IN 1930's DELAWARE; R.B. MUSEUM EVENT
Retired Delaware educator and author Dr. Carol Psaros will introduce her book Chicken and Mosquitoes: The Art of Uncertain Times: A Delaware Love Story this Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m. at the Rehoboth Beach Museum.
A Delaware native, Dr. Psaros will talk about life in 1930's Delaware, focusing on the Civilian Conservation Corps Mosquito Control Camps and the infancy of the Sussex County broiler industry. Dr. Psaros will highlight iconic locales such as Carey's Camp, Riverdale, Oak Orchard, Rosedale beach and the Seaford Nylon Plant. The book also remarks on the early works of painter Jack Lewis and his lifelong friendship with Jim, a young man forced to drop out of college and join "Roosevelt's Tree Army" in order to survive.
The museum is at 511 Rehoboth Avenue. Reservations are required for this event. Please call 302-227-7310 to reserve a seat. The presentation is free for members. Non-members are asked to make a donation.
Dr. Carol Psaros began her career teaching English, health and physical education at Dover High School. From there, she grew her experience as an educator teaching both at the high school and community college level. Further, she went on to become a public school administrator and at the time of her retirement in 2000, she was the Assistant Secretary of Education for the State of Delaware. Dr. Psaros is also the author of Come Back to Bethany, which tells the story of three different centuries of families living in the Bethany Beach area.
Graphic courtesy R.B.H.S.
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CARDBOARD STILL GOING IN TRASH AT R.B. CONVENTION HALL
This has been ongoing for years. The city leaves a trash truck at convention hall for groups using the facility. Despite the fact that recycle bins for cardboard and other materials are just across the parking lot, they toss it all into the trash truck.
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REHOBOTH BEACH BABY BLUE
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OCEAN VIEW HOUSE FIRE--- Bethany Beach firefighters were sent to assist Millville firefighters with a house fire on Katie Street in Ocean View around 5:23 a.m. this past Tuesday. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. See the BB VFC website for photos.
Photo courtesy Bethany Beach VFC
NEWS RELEASES / NEWS REPORTS:
Public asked to report sick or dead wild birds for 2015 West Nile virus monitoring
Prime Hook Refuge work to start in June
Cape pier to reopen, Milton pier to close
Piping plover chicks popping out all over at Cape Henlopen
Commissioners to blame for Rehoboth's problems (Wash Blade editorial)
Washington, D.C. gays visiting Rehoboth are "a whole component by themselves" (editorial)
Sussex realtors oppose Rehoboth pool ordinance
Sussex realtors in opposition to Rehoboth pool ordinance
Rehoboth pool, noise ordinances seen as 'tipping point'
Rehoboth Beach EMS administrator talks ambulance road safety
Rehoboth Beach funding for the proposed city hall
Early data shows good trend with pedestrian accidents; O.C.'s 'Walk Smart' campaign continues
Rehabbed seal release marks a milestone for aquarium program
Rescued seal pup will be released into the wild after weeks of healing
Aquarium says seal pup healthy again, ready for release
Report a problem from the palm of your hand, Ocean City launches 3-1-1 app
Coast Guard medevacs man 50 miles off Ocean City, MD
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