Commentary: Unicorns, Bigfoot and a beach house

What do unicorns, Bigfoot and a beach house all have in common? If the beach house is owned by Delaware Tech as claimed by Jim Stewart in a letter to the editor appearing in last month’s Delaware State News, then each are nothing more than fairy tales and figments of imagination.

I thought we put to bed the discredited rumors and false accusations of mismanagement as the cause of Delaware Tech’s deferred maintenance crisis in my response to a previous letter to the editor. Imagine my surprise when I read an even more ridiculous letter submitted by Mr. Stewart. Not only did he repeat the same previously discredited accusations of mismanagement, but he added some truly bizarre claims of the type one would expect to find in the National Inquirer rather than the Delaware State News.

Brian Shirey, Esq.

A beach house? Is he serious?? That someone would embarrass himself and lose all credibility by making such a foolish statement when the facts are so easily verifiable is astounding. That it was made by someone who professes to have been a former state official responsible for the management of state facilities is truly appalling. Why would he speak with such reckless disregard for the truth? Especially in today’s day and age when information is so easily available to anyone with internet access and honest motives. Is he trying to deliberately mislead people into thinking Delaware Tech’s board and administrators created the deferred maintenance crisis through mismanagement and neglect, or is he just too lazy to do the slightest amount of homework?

Leadership at Delaware Tech began sounding the alarm about our deferred maintenance issues over 12 years ago when the backlog was starting to accumulate. Various legislators have attempted to find a solution to our deferred maintenance problem over the last 12 years which included the establishment of a task force in 2007 and the introduction of legislation to create a community college infrastructure fund in 2007, 2008, 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Does Mr. Stewart not know that Delaware Tech is a state agency and was totally dependent on state appropriations for our deferred maintenance needs until the enactment of SS2 for SB 50? Is he unaware that all financial transactions of Delaware Tech go through the state’s accounting system, and our books and records are routinely audited by the Office of Management and Budget like all other state agencies? Doesn’t he know that the College is fully accountable to the General Assembly, which exercises oversight and approval of all of our capital and infrastructure spending through the annual bond bill process? Is he even aware that all of the College’s budgets are available online through the Office of Management and Budget website so he can see for himself that the College’s finances are transparent and well-managed?

I will not take the time to repeat the information in my response to the prior letter to the editor except to say that anyone familiar with third grade math understands how quickly a deficit accumulates when a $12 million annual need is funded at less than $5 million per year on average. Our board and administration — particularly our facilities staff — should be commended for continuing to provide thousands of Delawareans with the training they need to get good paying local jobs despite all the challenges presented by leaking roofs, crumbling sidewalks and parking lots, and antiquated HVAC systems.

Delaware Tech has been diligently making its case for the resources and bonding authority needed to tackle our infrastructure needs for the last 12 years. During that time the problem has grown from a $30 million dollar problem to a $100 million problem. And it may have grown to a $200 million problem if it wasn’t for those legislators who understand the unique and critical role Delaware Tech plays in Delaware’s economy and the lives of Delawareans throughout the state. Had they not been willing to ensure their constituents’ access to the American Dream there’s no telling how bad the situation would have become. Instead, their commitment to Delawareans led to a compromise that will finally treat the College like other state agencies when it comes to our capital budget, rather than lumping us with other publically funded institutions of higher education with different missions and access to different resources. We will be forever grateful for their commitment to Delaware and for the impact their courage and perseverance will have on the lives of Delawareans today and in the future.

Brian D. Shirey, Esq. is general counsel for Delaware Technical and Community College.

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