Freeman legacy ensuring brighter future
Lewes High School graduate and Apollo moon mission astronaut Ted Freeman’s status as a true Delaware hero took a giant step forward this week. Del Tech dedicated its new aviation powerplant education building at Sussex County Airport in Freeman’s name. The building will help the college graduate 24 certifiable technicians each year to serve the growing aviation industry in Sussex. The industry’s well-paid positions will allow more students to stay in their home county, raise their families here and contribute to their communities and economy.
A fatal but heroic jet-plane crash ended Freeman’s brilliant aviation career before the first moon mission for which he was training. But his achievements will nonetheless inspire hundreds of students in Del Tech’s aviation program to persevere and set their achievement sights high.
Gov. Jack Markell used the dedication occasion to celebrate the public-private partnership that funded the new facility. He noted such investments lay the groundwork for economic strength in the future. He also promoted his proposal to raise Delaware’s gas tax to help rebuild the state’s transportation trust fund.
That fund - designed to pay for capital transportation projects - was ill-advisedly depleted in the early 1990s to pay operating costs for Delaware’s Department of Transportation when the post-tech-boom recession squeezed state revenues.
Proceeds of the long-overdue tax increase could not only be used to begin addressing increasingly aggravating road problems such as we’re seeing on heavily traveled routes 9 and 24, but could also lead the way to the additional 500-foot extension of the runway at the Sussex airport. That extension would allow PATS Aircraft to bring in larger jets for outfitting in Sussex, resulting in hundreds of new jobs.
No one likes new taxes, but the proposed increase would generate revenues from residents and millions of annual visitors. That’s just plain smart. Delaware’s low property taxes will continue to attract new residents, but we have to keep up with the infrastructure that growth requires.
The increased gas tax could pay major dividends for our economy over the long haul. It deserves serious consideration by our legislators in the weeks and months ahead.