Kent County Levy Court allocates up to $150K for storm cleanup efforts

DOVER — While its use was to be determined, Kent County Levy Court commissioners approved allocating up to $150,000 to support recovery efforts from the destructive effects of Tropical Storm Isaias last week.

The funding, resulting from an emergency meeting on Monday night, will support the efforts of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization set to arrive in the area later this week to provide cleanup support and disaster recovery work.

Levy Court urged those needing assistance to call the toll free Crisis Line (1-844-965-1386) to report needs for debris removal. More information on Team Rubicon is online at teamrubiconusa.org.

Commissioner Jeff Hall noted that it may be two to three weeks before a determination on whether the state qualifies for federal natural disaster aid, and Levy Court is exploring possible options of utilizing the National Guard as well.

Mr. Hall described an urgency to identify funds and establish the authorization, and said County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange and Director of Finance Susan Durham “will develop the business rules in the coming days.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Petit de Mange said funds could also be used for unforeseen needs that may arise as the cleanup continues.

While Commissioner Eric Buckson said he supported providing funding costs, he wasn’t comfortable with the program’s uncertain framework and thus abstained from voting.

“I supported the meeting yesterday and I supported the creation of a fund,” he said on Tuesday.

“I think Levy Court failed to take the time it needed during yesterday’s meeting to make sure we put in the proper controls about who’s eligible, what’s eligible and where it’s eligible and when we failed to do that I was no longer in support of moving forward on the motion that was presented.

“But I remain convinced that we should participate in it, I absolutely do. I just don’t feel like we should have rushed it.”

According to Mr. Hall, the county has deployed community Dumpsters through Community Cleanup Initiative Program funds donated by State Sens. Colin Bonini and Trey Paradee, along with State Rep. Andria Bennett.

“That’s allowed us to deploy containers quickly and we certainly appreciate the assistance and partnership,” he said.

“Once Team Rubicon completes its operation in our area, we will adapt the county’s recovery response to the scope of the remaining workload. We’ll know more in a week or two.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Hall drove through the Fairfield and Highland Acres neighborhoods, along with Poplar Lane and Lake Drive, Manor Woods and Kent Acres.

“The value in visiting the affected area is to talk to residents, survey the damage, gauge which area are worst hit in order to triage the county response and develop a realistic recovery response,” he said.

“There are many agencies involved in that response and it requires careful coordination and a good understanding of what each agency’s role is so we’re not overlapping efforts.”

The allocation reinforced Woods Manor resident Dr. Natascha Ward’s impression that Levy Court’s support has been evident from “right after it happened to now.” She noted Mr. Hall’s visit and saw Commissioner Allan Angel passing by in a cleanup truck on Tuesday morning.

“The official response has been fantastic and reassuring,” she said.

Forced from her home when two trees fell through walls and heavy roof damage resulted from the storm, Dr. Ward and her family moved into her parents’ home. Minus online access there, however, it wasn’t clear how she’d continue teaching as the Capital School District resumed classes virtually.

Dr. Ward’s home base at William Henry Middle School was condemned due to storm damage as well, adding to the uncertainty.

Mr. Hall stepped forward to offer space in the Levy Court administration building, to which Dr. Ward responded “Oh my God, you just made my day. It was just one less thing I had to worry about and allowed me to stop trying to figure out just how I was going to handle it.”

The vacant space was provided in Levy Court’s Emerging Enterprise Development Center, which is set aside space within the county complex on Bay Road.