With little discussion, Sussex County Council approved a staff recommendation of spending a surplus of $854,000 remaining from the 2012 fiscal budget.
During the Feb. 5 meeting, council voted to allocate $350,000 to 11 independent libraries and $150,000 to the county's emergency housing repair program. The remaining $350,000 will be returned to the general fund to pay for additional Delaware State Police troopers.
The police funds will supplement the $1.7 million budgeted to provide four more troopers for a total of 44 additional state troopers allotted to Sussex County.
At the direction of County Administrator Todd Lawson with the assistance of County Librarian Kathy Graybeal, the county's library advisory board determined distribution to the libraries based on need. The Lewes Library was at the low end with $12,250 while libraries in Seaford and Laurel were at the high end with distributions of $59,500. Rehoboth's library will receive $24,500.
Lewes will use the money for its capital campaign and Rehoboth will use the money to upgrade its HVAC and phone systems.
Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, said he was disappointed that a council member was not involved in the library discussion. “We are talking about a lot of money,” he said.
Brad Whaley, director of county community development and housing, said the waiting list for home repair funding continues to grow; it's more than 1,250 homeowners. The additional $150,000 for emergency repairs will help fund more than the 140 home-repair projects the department normally completes, he said. Depending on the cost of projects, the additional funds could provide repair work for 20 to 30 more homes.
Together with federal funds, the department will have more than $1.3 million to cover home repairs for low-income residents this fiscal year. County council had already included $70,000 for emergency home repairs in the budget.
Whaley said repairs would include emergency roof work, heating system repairs and construction of handicapped ramps with a cap of $7,500 per job. “We will work off the list we have now because a lot of people are waiting,” he said.
During a previous council discussion on the surplus, Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, requested staff look at allocating funds to the Sussex County Conservation District to help alleviate some of the ongoing drainage issues in the county. Lawson recommended that council review that issue during fiscal 2014 budget discussions.