Wilmington police chief keeping mum on state panel's report until next week

By Tom Lehman 11:43pm, May 26, 2015 - Updated 2:47am, May 27, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
Wilmington's police chief offered little comment Tuesday night to members of a state commission on how the city would adopt a report from the panel that called for major structural and policy changes within the police department.

Police Chief Bobby Cummings, who is also a member of the Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission, shared few details on how many of the 111 recommendations outlined by consultants who evaluated city law enforcement would actually be adopted. The group was proposed by Gov. Jack Markell (D) to examine the deployment of officers and offer a plan to improve the agency.

Details on the police department's plan weren't divulged at the commission meeting as initially billed, Cummings said, because a press conference had already been scheduled for next week to discuss the report.

"We will come out with a definitive statement on this," he told a crowd consisting of a few dozen residents and local politicians at P.S. duPont Middle School.

Since the report has been published, Mayor Dennis Williams (D) has said not all of the report's recommendations will be adopted. He has also been critical of the debate surrounding the findings, saying at town hall meetings that they have become politicized and fodder for critics trying to attack his administration.

Doug Iardella, the city's Public Safety Liason and former city cop, said at least 76 of the panel's recommendations have been identified for adoption or are already being implemented. He also noted that there were some "good ideas" in the report that had not previously been considered, but also said there are other proposals that would be more difficult to accomplish.

"They involve money and contracts and things of that nature," he said.

Some panel members and residents who spoke at the meeting said they were disappointed in the lack of concrete details on the implementation process.

Cassandra Marshall, a commission member appointed by the governor and president of the Quaker Hill Neighborhood Association, said the lack of details was troubling. She said the lack of concrete information about the plan has led to rumors among officers about what might happen to their current assignments and already caused a proverbial "firestorm."

"They definitely have to do something. I'm surprised that they don't feel any urgency," she said.

Residents were critical of the administration and Cummings for coming to the commission meeting without any intention of discussing specific recommendations from the report.

Tom Baker of the Triangle Neighborhood Association said he was hoping to hear from Cummings about a possible return from the community policing unit, which had been reassigned to assist with Operation Disrupt, a recent deployment strategy that sent more officers into high crime neighborhoods in an attempt to cut down on violent crime.

"I think it is smoke and mirrors because we aren't getting any answers from the police chief," Baker said.

Cummings said in an interview after the meeting that the community policing unit will return in some form, but noted that the strategies used by that group of officers to build trust with residents need to become more pervasive throughout the agency.

"Everybody has a responsibility to be involved in community policing," he said.

State lawmakers who supported a resolution that helped create the commission through a joint resolution in the General Assembly also said they were unhappy with the chief's delay.

State Rep. Charles Potter (D-Wilmington North), the mayor's cousin, said residents should have been able hear about the plan Tuesday night and the Williams administration should "quit playing games."

"I'm disappointed that the chief can't discuss their plan," he said.

Others, like Rep. Gerald Brady (D-Wilmington West), were critical of the mayor and linked him to the postponement.

"There's only one thing at this point that's missing now that's needed to implement the changes and recommendations and that's a leader," he said.

Wilmington Councilwoman Maria Cabrera (D-At Large) also said during the public comment section of the meeting that the majority of her colleagues support the commission's findings and even pushed for money to be included in the budget to help implement some of the report's recommendations.

Cummings said he knows everyone won't be satisfied with the department's plan for adopting the report, but is optimistic for how members of the public will receive it.

"I think they're going to be very pleased with what we come up with," he said.


You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Wetlands proposed for 14 acres of brownfield site in Wilmington

By Shana O'Malley 12:56am, May 27, 2015 - Updated 1:05am, May 27, 2015
VIDEO: 14 acres of wetlands would help eliminate flooding in Southbridge
A wetlands project is being proposed in Wilmington's Southbridge neighborhood to help combat flooding.

The proposed 14 acres of wetlands are part of the South Wilmington Flood Mitigation Project, aimed at eliminating flooding in historic Southbridge, which is home to about 1,700 residents.

Jeff Flynn, director of economic development for the city of Wilmington said the project calls for a repairs to current storm water infrastructure and the creation of a separate storm sewer system under the Southbridge neighborhood.

"The rain waters and the flood waters, instead of being diverted into our current combined system, would be separated out, sent to the wetland where it would be stored and cleaned for eventual release back into the river," he said.

The land along A Street and Walnut Street is considered a brownfield site because of the industrial fill that was dumped into the marsh over the past 200 years.

Marian Young, president of BrightFields Inc., said they're currently conducting risk assessment studies of the land for the city and DNREC.

"One of the studies involves taking the soil that we're going to have as our surface layer and putting it into containers and introducing some worms into it," she said. "The worms will actually eat the soil and then they will be removed and tested afterwards to see what levels of contaminates are in them," she said.

The study will help them determine how much of the soil will need to be removed.

After the removal, a new soil mixture will be brought into the site and tolerant plants, trees and shrubbery will be planted so the area can be used as a public green space while containing flooding.

"The result will be a beautiful park with a walking trail through it," Flynn said.

The project is estimated at $25 million city already has about $15 million in state and local funds. Flynn said they're also hoping to receive some federal appropriations.

Rep. John Carney (D-Delaware), toured the future site of the wetlands as part of his weeklong review of areas in Delaware that are most vulnerable to climate change and sea level rising.

"What we looked at today was a longer-term solution that would help all the folks that live in that part of the city," Carney said. "It's something that's going to be increasingly important as the sea levels rise and as storm events happen more frequently."

Flynn said they plan to submit a permit to the Army Corps of Engineers within the next six months and construction could begin in about a year and a half.

SBA administrator visits downtown Wilmington

By Tom Lehman 5:01pm, May 26, 2015 - Updated 11:12pm, May 26, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
The chief of the Small Business Administration took a walking tour with Delaware's U.S. Senators on Tuesday in downtown Wilmington to meet with local entrepreneurs.

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SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet visited a number of female-owned small businesses along and near the North Market Street Corridor with Senators Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware). Among locations visited were businesses like La Fia, Fulcrum Pharmacy, Brew Ha Ha, and Entre Donovan before they were scheduled to meet with lenders for small businesses.

She said lending to Delaware women through the agency has recently grown by 22 percent, reflecting an overall growth across the nation in people who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs.

"This is a movement. It's an awakening," she said. "Even children want to learn about how to run their own business."

Coons noted during the tour that, while there have been some positive trends for small businesses in Delaware, there's still work to be done to improve access to resources. He said it would be important to encourage lenders to support more small businesses, like the ones seen on the trip.

"I wish I was able to show her three times (the number)--or ten times--of small business startups in Delaware," he said.


You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Study highlights parking concerns in Newark

By Shana O'Malley 2:38am, May 27, 2015 - Updated 2:42am, May 27, 2015
Newark officials heard the results of a parking study that was conducted by a consulting firm in April.

If business, residential and population numbers continue to grow, the city is going to run short of parking in the busiest areas of Main Street within the next five years, according to the report.

First District Councilman Mark Morehead called the report "incorrect" and "inadequate" because it did not count other available parking space in less populated areas of the city.

During Tuesday night's council meeting, residents also pointed out inconsistencies with the report conducted by Tim Haahs and Associates.

Residents also expressed concern about the cost of a new parking garage and what it would do to local traffic.

"Put a parking garage in one place and you're going to make our traffic issues much much worse," added Morehead.

The city paid $14,000 to for the report to determine if an additional parking garage is needed downtown.

Council did not take any action on the results of the report.

Firefighters battle brush fire at Rehoboth Beach

By Mark Fowser/WXDE 2:27pm, May 26, 2015 - Updated 4:13pm, May 26, 2015
A photo of the fire, tweeted out by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce
Firefighters battled a stubborn brush fire in the northern side of the Indian River Inlet near Rehoboth Beach Tuesday, but brought the situation under control by the afternoon.

Rehoboth firefighting crews responded to the scene late Tuesday morning, with assistance from additional area units. As of 3 p.m., crews had gained control of the situation.

The fire reportedly occurred on the bay-side of Route 1 in the area of Savages Ditch Road. Bulldozers were used to create "fire breaks" in an effort to contain the fire.

There was no reports of any injuries--nor any reports on what properties, if any, may have been affected. However, plumes of white and black smoke could be seen pouring into the air as firefighters battled the blaze.

WDEL's Road Scholar: Motorcycle safety awareness emerges from Delaware's collective "blind spot"

By Andrew Sgroi 1:44pm, May 26, 2015 - Updated 5:37am, May 27, 2015
Courtesy: Delaware Office of Highway Safety
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety, teaming with state and local law enforcement, used Memorial Day weekend as a starting point for a concentrated motorcycle safety awareness campaign.

Click here to listen

Dubbed as "Share The Road - Respect Your Ride", policing agencies across the state are patrolling high-crash roadways to ensure that both motorists and motorcycles are not just sharing the road, but observing safety laws as well.

The two-week enforcement does have some targeted locales not immediately thought of as problem areas, Highway Safety's Alison Kirk told Road Scholar.

"Camden, Clayton, Dover, and Milford," she disclosed, "even though they're small (in population), they do have data that supports doing some enforcement."

The proclivity for crashes involving two-wheels versus four-wheels occurs most at intersections, Kirk advised.

"We usually see high crash areas are within intersections, where a car will pull out ib front of a motorcycle rider."

Kirk offered it's often due to a motorcycle's predisposition to be easily obscured.

"It's very hard to see the riders on their motorcycles because they take up less space," she explained, "so sometimes you look and you just don't see them quickly."

The Office of Highway Safety has reminded motorists these tips to prevent a crash with a motorcycle:

Public service posting with an important reminder (Courtesy: Delaware Office of Highway Safety)

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Motorcycle safety, however, is not a one-way street. Motorcyclists themselves must also take precautions to remain safe on the road.

Since open-air travel is typically seasonal, Kirk suggested riders take a proactive approach.

"When you've had the winter off--or maybe you haven't ridden in years and you're getting back on it--(you) can be a little rusty," she said. "We do suggest just taking a refresher training course."

But, at the very minimum, riders should at least:


Contact Andrew Sgroi with Road Scholar story ideas to andrew@dbcmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @Cuse92.

Dover man charged with rape of teen relative while babysitting

By DJ McAneny 10:54am, May 26, 2015 - Updated 12:26pm, May 26, 2015
A Dover man was charged with the rape of a 13-year-old girl just after midnight on Tuesday.

According to authorities, the 50-year-old man was charged with first-degree rape, endangering the welfare of a child, child abuse, and incest.

Police said the suspect was taken into custody after the mother of the victim notified police of the sexual contact.

Because the suspect--who had been babysitting the girl at her Dover home at the time of the incident--is a relative of the victim, WDEL has chosen not to identify the suspect in order to protect the identity of the victim.

The suspect was committed to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in lieu $64,000 bond.

This article has been updated to further remove potential identifying information.

By Amy Cherry 10:06pm, May 26, 2015
Parents in the Capital School District, whose first language isn't English, can receive free help so they're better equipped to help their kids with their schoolwork.

Click here to listen

Education is like a three-pronged stool, made up of parents, students, and the school, according to Darren Guido, supervisor of instruction in the Capital School District.

"If our stool only has two of the three legs working..then it's really not a good system for the child," he said.

Strengthening that parental piece is a goal of the Capital and PolyTech School District's Family Literacy Program.

"It's unfair that some students get to go home to parents that can help them with their schoolwork, and we're just trying to level that playing field," he said.

Guido told WDEL that, even with 36 different languages being spoken throughout the district, they gather all of the "English as a Second Language" parents and children in one room, two nights per week, to learn together.

"Part of the work that the parents do is learning some strategies that they can use with their kids at home. So it might be a reading strategy to use," he explained. "Just to encourage the parents to read their kids, but then ask questions about what they're reading so they can interact with their child and the story at the same time."

He called the award-winning program "empowering" for parents.

"To know that when their kids are coming home from school, that they can help them with the work, it's just a big boost in confidence for them," Guido said. "Whether it's just talking about what they've done in school that day or having their parents read to them, we know that that's sound educational work.

The program, which won a Superstars in Education Award earlier this month, has helped 60 parents and 50 kids each year since 2010.

Postal Service introduces stamp featuring Delaware's State Butterfly

By DJ McAneny 4:04pm, May 26, 2015 - Updated 4:29pm, May 26, 2015
Delaware's State Butterfly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, joins a dozen new "forever stamps" announced Tuesday that will carry a full additional ounce of approved package weight.

Forever stamps--which are valid at any point at the price purchased, regardless of future price fluctuations--in this particular round of issuance now carry the authorization to send letters, postcards, and bulky or odd envelopes weighing more than one ounce.

"Additional-ounce Forever Stamps" can now send packages weighing up to three ounces, depending on the classification. For the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a package of up to two ounces is permissible, and the stamp carries a "Non-Machineable Surcharge" designation, which is an item requiring sorting by hand.

The Flannery O'Connor Forever Stamp

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The stamp is available for 71 cents beginning May 31, 2015. Tom Engeman, of Frederick, Maryland, was the artist and art director Derry Noyes, of Washington, D.C., the designer.

Additional designs include the Flannery O'Connor three ounce stamp, an emperor penguin additional ounce stamp, a wedding cake two ounce stamp, and coastal birds, designated for postcards.

WDEL's own in-house butterfly expert, Allen Loudell, flexed his own knowledge of the winged species and wanted to let readers know the butterfly depicted in the image is a female, as revealed by her blue banding.

Newark-area Wawa robbed at gunpoint

By DJ McAneny 10:54am, May 26, 2015
A Newark-area convenience store was robbed at gunpoint early Tuesday morning, Delaware State Police announced that same day.

According to authorities, two male suspects armed with handguns entered the Wawa at 274 East Chestnut Hill Road in Brookside and confronted two employees, a 44-year-old woman and 21-year-old woman.

After demanding cash from the registers and safe and receiving an undisclosed amount, the suspects fled in an unknown direction, according to police. There were no reported injuries.

The suspects were described as white males, approximately 6' tall, with thin builds and were last seen both wearing dark-colored pants and dark blue t-shirts, police said. Police said there was no surveillance video or additional description available at this time.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Delaware State Police at 302.365.8566 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.

Gold Alert canceled for missing Townsend-area man

By DJ McAneny 3:44pm, May 26, 2015
A Townsend-area man police were searching for over Memorial Day weekend has been found safe, New Castle County Police announced.

According to authorities, Richard Brown was found Monday.

Brown was located in eastern Maryland, authorities said, and was returned to his family.

Amtrak to install long-sought cameras in locomotives

By Associated Press 1:13pm, May 26, 2015 - Updated 11:12pm, May 26, 2015
Amtrak said it will install video cameras inside locomotive cabs that record the actions of train engineers. The move follows a deadly derailment earlier this month in which investigators are searching for clues to the train engineer's actions just before the crash.

The engineer, Brendan Bostian, suffered a head injury in the accident and has told investigators he can't remember what happened.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending that the Federal Railroad Administration require passenger and freight train cabs to have audio recorders since the late 1990s. They revised that recommendation five years ago to include inward-facing sound and video cameras.

The Amtrak train accelerated in the minute before entering a curve where it derailed. The crash left eight people dead and about 200 injured.

Taco Bell, Pizza Hut: Artificial ingredients getting booted

By Associated Press 9:28am, May 26, 2015 - Updated 11:01am, May 26, 2015
Taco Bell and Pizza Hut say they're getting rid of artificial colors and flavors, making them the latest big food companies scrambling to distance themselves from ingredients people might find unappetizing.

Instead of "black pepper flavor," for instance, Taco Bell will start using actual black pepper in its seasoned beef, says Liz Matthews, the chain's chief food innovation officer.

The Mexican-style chain also says the artificial dye Yellow No. 6 will be removed from its nacho cheese, Blue No. 1 will be removed from its avocado ranch dressing and carmine, a bright pigment, will be removed from its red tortilla strips.

Matthews said some of the new recipes are being tested in select markets and should be in stores nationally by the end of the year.

The country's biggest food makers are facing pressure from smaller rivals that position themselves as more wholesome alternatives. Chipotle in particular has found success in marketing itself as an antidote to traditional fast food, although some question the meaningfulness of some of its claims. In April, Chipotle announced it had removed genetically modified organisms from its food, even though the Food and Drug Administration says GMOs are safe.

Critics say the purging of chemicals is a response to unfounded fears over ingredients, but companies are nevertheless rushing to ensure their recipes don't become marketing disadvantages. In recent months, restaurant chains including Panera, McDonald's and Subway have said they're switching to ingredients people can easily recognize.

John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State University, said companies are realizing some ingredients may not be worth the potential harm they might cause to their images, given changing attitudes about additives.

Additionally, he noted that the removal of artificial ingredients can be a way for companies to give their food a healthy glow without making meaningful changes to their nutritional profiles. For instance, Coupland said reducing salt, sugar or portion sizes would have a far bigger impact on public health.

Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are owned by Yum Brands Inc., which had hinted the changes would be on the way. At a conference for investors late last year, Yum CEO Greg Creed referred to the shifting attitudes and the desire for "real food" as a revolution in the industry.

Representatives at KFC and Yum's corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky were not immediately available to comment on whether the fried chicken chain would also be removing artificial ingredients.

Pizza Hut says it will remove artificial flavors and colors by the end of July.

Taco Bell says it will take out artificial colors, artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup and unsustainable palm oil from its food by the end of 2015. It says artificial preservatives will be removed "where possible" by 2017. The moves do not affect fountain drinks or co-branded products, such as its Doritos-flavored taco shells.

Brian Niccol, the chain's CEO, said price increases are based on a variety of factors, and that the company would work to keep its menu affordable.

"I do not want to lose any element of being accessible to the masses," Niccol said.

When asked whether the changes would affect taste, a representative for Taco Bell said in an email that "It will be the same great tasting Taco Bell that people love."

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