Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – January 26, 2024

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – January 26, 2024

It’s clear to all it’s an election year on the national front with a disturbing Biden-Trump rematch inevitable on the presidential level, but there will also be much decided on the local front this fall with the first filings taking place already.

It’s a mid-term election as far as the Worcester County Commissioners and other notable county positions, like State’s Attorney and Sheriff, are concerned with no terms expiring. Unlike most governments, the county does not stagger its commissioners’ terms. All seven county commissioner seats begin and end at the same time and it’s always been the case. It’s worth a look at some point because it allows for a major change in direction, experience and philosophy after one election.

Unlike the county, the Board of Education’s elected seats are staggered. The school board seats up for grabs this year are Districts 2, 3 and 5 currently held by Donald Smack, Dr. Jon Andes and Elena McComas, respectively. The elections are officially non-partisan but be sure politics will play a role in these races. For many years, the school board elections were yawners but we saw in 2022 and the days since it’s a different day in local school politics, and contested races are expected. Andes, the long-time superintendent of county schools, kicked off the filings this week seeking another term as the District 3 representative. The South Point resident is a strong board member, bringing a wealth of expertise and experience to the board. It was a mild surprise to see him file so early, as speculation had been he might be moving on after one term. In 2020, Andes easily won the seat, formerly held for decades by the late Sara Thompson.

Also serving in a staggered term capacity are Ocean City Mayor and Council members. The mayor’s seat is up for grabs every two years actually, and there’s no indications Mayor Rick Meehan is ready to step away after 18 years as mayor. Meehan was first elected to the council in 1985 and became mayor in 2006. Council seats up for election in November will be those held by Peter Buas, elected in 2020 to his first term; John Gehrig, who has served on the council since 2016; and Frank Knight, elected in 2020. It was learned this week there will be at least one newcomer featured on the ballot in Ocean City as Montego Bay resident Larry Yates has filed. Yates is a retired police officer, having served with the Maryland State Police and the Rockville City Police.

Also staggered to prevent a wholesale change in leadership in one year are the Town of Berlin seats. On the ballot for the October election will be the seats of Mayor Zack Tyndall and Council members Jack Orris and Shaneka Nichols.

Offshore wind continues to be a hot topic as the effort continues to move ahead through the regulatory process. It seems as if it’s only a matter of time before wind turbines are seen off our coast, but the process remains extensive and complicated in the meantime. Despite the local concerns, including those aired during a congressional hearing last weekend in Ocean City, the federal government seems intent on approving any regulatory obstacles ahead for the planned wind farms.

An interesting part of the process has been the concept of a community benefits package in exchange for a commitment to support offshore wind or at least not openly criticize it. It seems like a bribe of sorts, but it’s countered as a way for the developer to help mitigate any negatives associated with the project’s infrastructure in Delaware.

US Wind is the company in control of an 80,000-acre lease area in the Atlantic Ocean off Delmarva. US Wind’s two projects – MarWin and Momentum Wind – would build wind turbines within sight of the coast while delivering clean energy to the shore. The projects remain in the regulatory process with federal approval expected sometime later this calendar year if all plays out as expected.

Late last year US Wind presented the Delaware Association of Coastal Towns (DACT) with a community benefits package that would give each participating town $2 million over a 20-year period in $100,000 annual increments. The payout is contingent upon the feds approving the offshore wind projects and a lease agreement being reached with the company to bring underground cables onshore in coastal Delaware. Henlopen Acres, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and South Bethany are considering the packages while Lewes and Fenwick Island said no thanks. After an unanimous council vote to not hire a consultant to work on the deal, Fenwick Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said, “Fenwick declined to be involved with hiring a consultant to negotiate a community benefits package with the wind farm companies. We believed as advocates for our community we need to be able to speak freely, openly and without restriction to question the wisdom of moving forward with wind farms off our coast.”

In what amounts to just an ongoing back and forth playing out all over, a statement from the company in December read, “US Wind’s projects are likely to be among the first wind projects in operation in the mid-Atlantic. The projects will sell carbon-free power into the regional power grid, and this new source of power generation is projected by US Wind to lower regional energy prices and capacity charges by up to $253 million over 20 years. US Wind will also invest more than $200 million in transmission system upgrades, most of which will occur in Sussex County, Del.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.