Delaware State Troop 7 is looking for a new home and has plans for a large, $13.5 million facility to replace the Route 1 facility that has housed the troop for the last 30 years.
Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, said the state is looking at two or three locations on Route 24 near Beacon Middle School.
Schwartzkopf said he doesn't know the exact location, but one potential site is adjacent to Cape Henlopen School District's new elementary school, across Route 24 from Beacon Middle School.
Jessica Eisenbrey, Office of Management and Budget manager of media relations, said the state has identified a possible location, but she was not allowed to give specifics on location or terms because the deal was in the very beginning stages.
Eisenbrey said settlement on the property is likely this summer.
The closest anyone has come to publicly saying where the new troop will be located came during a Sussex County Planning & Zoning meeting regarding a new housing development at Winswept Stables on Route 24 on Feb. 13.
At the meeting Frank Kea, CEO of Solutions, IPEM and designer of the development, said Troop 7's new home would border the proposed development to the east.
On Feb. 24, Kea said he had heard the new troop location is off of Mulberry Knoll Road on a property owned by local realtor Paul Townsend. The troop would be north of the new elementary school's proposed location. The school would have road access on Route 24 and the troop would have road access to Mulberry Knoll Road, Kea said.
Lawrence Lank, Sussex County Planning & Zoning director, said he couldn't confirm where the troop building might be built. He said it would have to go through a public hearing process, but at this point the county has received nothing.
“I have no idea. It's all scuttlebutt at this point,” he said.
State of the art facility
The state has been budgeting for a Troop 7 move for several years, putting aside a total of $2.25 million for land acquisition and design. In Fiscal Year 2012, $150,000 was designated for a new Troop 7 in the Bond Bill. In FY13, $1.6 million more was allocated. In FY14, it was $500,000. The total project estimate, based on square footage, is $13.5 million, Eisenbrey said.
The new state of the art facility will provide increased space to provide enhanced administrative offices, holding cells, and prisoner processing areas that are challenging at the troop's current site, said Sgt. Paul G. Shavack, Delaware State Police public information officer. A public community room is also proposed to facilitate local meetings, along with a larger entry lobby, he said.
“The completion of a new Troop 7 will help the state police employ the most efficient use of our resources and will enhance the effectiveness in responding to the needs of the citizens of Sussex County,” said Shavack. “The troop would also be relocated in order to be more accessible to the residential communities of Eastern Sussex County that it serves.”
Troop 7 covers the eastern third of Sussex County – an area larger than 450 square miles – and handled 24,769 calls for service in 2013. The troop's current base location, 18006 Route 1 in Lewes, was built in 1983 based on a manufactured home design and using residential construction practices.
The property houses a 6,000-square-foot troop building, maintenance garage and storage facility. Counting both police and civilians, the staffing level is in excess of 55 people.
The buidling was designed for a staff of about 35 employees, but staffing has increased to keep pace with the area's rapid growth and the population increase during the seasonal months, said Shavack.
Structural concerns have risen as settling occurred, and the facility is not in complete compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Shavack said.
Schwartzkopf, a former Delaware state trooper who was Troop 7 commander from 1999-2002, can remember thinking the building was outdated when he worked there.
“We all joked that the first big storm was going to blow it down. We never thought it was going to last this long,” he said.
Sussex County partnership
A relocation of Troop 7 could also lead to the relocation of Sussex County Paramedic Station 104. The station serves calls in Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, Angola and Milton. In 2013, the station responded to 2,832 incidents.
Todd Lawson, Sussex County county administrator, said the county wants to move the station from its current location behind Panera Bread, off of Route 1 in Rehoboth, west of Route 1.
Lawson cited two reasons for the move: The county wants to move away from leasing a property, and a move to west of Route 1 will allow for better maneuverability during the high-traffic summer months.
“There are times when we literally can't get out of the parking lot,” Lawson said.
The bulls eye for the new station is somewhere on Plantations Road or Route 24, said Lawson.
Preliminary discussions about a joint location for both state and county facilities are underway, said Lawson. If the partnership were to come to fruition it would be similar to the arrangement in Bridgeville, where Troop 5 and county Station 107 are located.
“Nothing official has happened. It's just talks,” he said. “But it is a good partnership for us, and it does make sense for both to be in one location.”
The design of the new paramedic station would mirror Station 106, which opened on Indian Mission Road near Long Neck in July. Lawson said the estimated cost of everything for a new station – land purchasing, design, construction and so on – is $500,000 to $750,000.