I-495 Closure Update




Auditor's report: State travel policy complex, not followed
By Amy Cherry

Updated Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 4:29pm

Top state officials aren't complying with state travel rules, according to a new report.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.

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Auditor Tom Wagner's report finds the state's travel policy is bureaucratic and cumbersome, and he's calling for changes.

"A travel policy should be concise and it should say, you know, 'These are the things you can do. These are the things that ya can't do,'" he said.

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He says that complex process led to several top state officials, including Governor Markell, not following it. The report also uncovered largely that vital, out-of-state travel authorization forms weren't being filled out.

"Fundamentally, that's an extremely important form to have because it sets the state for why and who are doing the traveling," he explains.

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He's calling for a more concise process and giving state officials the benefit of the doubt.

"I don't think that it was malicious that it wasn't used. I think, in a lot of cases, people just didn't realize that that form needed to be used," he said.

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The report also details state credit card expenditures and reimbursements made for trips State Treasurer Chip Flowers made to Alaska and Seattle that have come under the microscope.

Wagner cited issues with extended stays for some of those trips and issues with former deputy treasurer Erika Benner, who charged thousands in dollars in personal expenses to her state credit card.

"Like we said all along, Ms. Benner did what she did, and the appropriate disciplinary actions were taken, and she's no longer with the office. It was not a major crisis or catastrophe; we recovered the money, after I was notified," Flowers said.

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Flowers says auditor's report reveals he did nothing wrong.

"The report clearly cleared my name, which is very important because as we stated all along that I never used my state credit card for anything inappropriately. There were no personal charges, and I think the public was misled in a variety of ways by The News Journal, and I think that was wrong, and so the auditor's report proved it," Flowers told WDEL.

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The report also found Governor Markell upgraded to preferred or priority seating on nine trips, but Wagner says he's not concerned.

"The governor had a last-minute trip to go on, and I think they had to buy a first class ticket to get him on the plane, I mean, when you're the governor of a state, sometimes your travel plans had to be made at the last-minute or they get changed," he said,

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In a written statement, Kelly Bachman, press secretary for the governor said the governor flew in "economy plus" airline seats because of limited availability seating at a cost of $200 total.

Bachman added that the governor didn't fill out travel authorizations reforms because he wasn't required to by the state Office of Management and Budget.

"After all that work, the Auditor concluded that state budget policies are too 'bureaucratic,' while simultaneously criticizing this office for not filling out more forms and second-guessing decisions like the Governor's gift of salt water taffy to Delaware National Guard troops serving in Afghanistan," she said in a statement.

The report found Markell put $128.50 on his state credit card to buy salt water taffy for members of the Delaware National Guard. Wagner called it a "worthy cause," but no different than buying a cake to recognize a state employee for decades of service.

John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party said, he wants to know where the oversight of OMB was on this issue.

"Add this to corruption at the Medical Examiner’s Office, campaign finance violations by leading Democrats, and the unwillingness of the Administration to accept responsibility for failed leadership when it come to the I-495 debacle. The list of failures of the one party Democrat controlled state government gets longer every day," Fluharty said in a written statement.

The governor's office also calls into question the timing of the report and its selective focus on the governor and DelDOT saying, "It is not hard to imagine that this review may have been motivated more by politics than by a good-faith desire to improve state travel policies."



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Re-alignment of southbound I-495 bridge span underway
By Frank Gerace

DELDOT says the process of re-aligning the southbound span of the I-495 bridge is now underway.

The agency released a statement Wednesday saying re-alignment is a "slow, methodical process" including jacking the bridge up at several points, putting metal shims into place, installing steel braces and tying steel cables down.

DELDOT says it's not possible to say exactly when the work will be done, but officials are confident that the southbound lanes of the bridge will re-open on or before September first, with the northbound lanes following suit two weeks to a month after that.




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William Penn earns 17th DIAA Sportsmanship Award
By Sean Greene

William Penn football earned praise from the DIAA Executive Director (PHOTO: WDEL File)
William Penn joined 16 other Delaware high schools in being named DIAA State champions in Sportsmanship for the 2013-2014 season.

The non-competitive award challenges schools to succeed in ten selected areas of sportsmanship including dealing with complaints, altercations that happen on-and-off the field, and organizing campaigns to promote sportsmanship and ethics.

The Colonials claimed their state-record 17th straight Sportsmanship Award, and Athletic Director Sabrina Perialas tells WDEL that everyone in the school has a piece in earning another banner.

"The whole school and the whole community have banded together to try to honor the creed of sportsmanship. Not only on the field or playing arena, but also in the community."

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Executive Director of the DIAA, Kevin Charles, says he's received calls in his office lauding the job William Penn's community competes at games, setting the bar for other schools in the state.

"I've had parents say to me: 'My child plays football as a lineman, and when they play William Penn he gets treated with respect. But when he plays other schools it's all dirty.' It's interesting to me to hear a parent of a student from another school say something about about a school."

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Perialas adds that competing students really are representing more than just themselves when they play.

"We challenge our student-athletes to make sure they honor the jersey they're wearing. We know that way back in 1972 that 'Mr. So-And-So' that might live in Penn Acres wore that number as well. We want them to wear that number with pride and dignity and represent their school."

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Tower Hill claimed their 9th honor, while Christiana, Glasgow, St. Mark's, Charter of Wilmington, and Sussex Central each won their first sportsmanship nods from the state.

The other winners (number of overall titles) were Sussex Tech (8), Concord (8), A.I. duPont (6), Caravel (6), Conrad (5), Woodbridge (4), Appoquinimink (4), Sanford (3), Smyrna (2), and Phillis Wheatly Middle School (6).

28 schools have claimed the award at least once since the award began being handed out 18 years ago.



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Wilm PD investigating shots fired incident
By Mellany Armstrong

Police are investigating a shots fired complaint in the 1900 block of W. 5th Street.

Officers responded to the block after receiving 911 calls reporting shots fired just after 6 p.m. Tuesday night. Officers located shell casings but as of this time no injuries have been reported.

Preliminary investigation suggests that four suspects, described as black males ages 16-18, were engaged in an argument in the block when shots were fired by an unknown individual.

The investigation is ongoing.



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Decomposing remains discovered near BJ's
By Michelle Provencher

Updated Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 8:31pm

Human remains are unearthed in some woods outside a BJ's Wholesale store on Kirkwood Highway.

State police report a landscaper was working near the wooded area behind the warehouse retail chain, located at 2131 Kirkwood Highway just west of Elsmere, around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Investigators say that's when the landscaper sighted a partially clothed decomposing body.

Troopers say they were unable to figure out the age or gender of the body, but they will know the identity after an autopsy.

The circumstances surrounding this death are still under investigation.



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UPDATE: Del. State Fair reports 25% growth in attendance from '13
By Mark Fowser

The Delaware State Fair says attendance for the recently-completed 2014 fair was up more than 25 percent from a year ago.

Fair officials say over its 10-day run, almost 282,000 people passed through the admission gates.

General Manager Bill DiMondi says the fair in Harrington benefited by almost ideal weather conditions on most of the days and nights.

Two of the headline concerts at the M&T Bank Grandstand were sold out, and one was a near-sellout.

Three offers are already in for artists to headline during the 2015 Delaware State Fair

Also this year, the midway carnival grossed more than $1 million, up 18-percent from 2013.




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WPD: Man arrested with gun, serial number scratched off
By Amy Cherry

A routine traffic stop leads to a weapons arrest in Wilmington.

Police pulled over Taryn Ross on the 200 block of Washington Street for not wearing his seatbelt.

Police say Ross was driving with a suspended license and had pot on his persons.

A search of the vehicle allegedly turned up a handgun with a scratched out serial number.

Ross faces charges of possession of a deadly weapon and drugs. He's free on $16,500 bail.



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Authorities say soldiers get $92M in debt relief
By The Associated Press

Updated Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 10:57pm

Thirteen states, including Delaware, have settled an investigation into improper lending.

A court agreement orders Rome Finance, based in California and Georgia, to shut down and provide $92 million in debt relief for more than 17,000 U.S. military personnel.

New York's attorney general says deceptive practices by the lender, included failing to accurately disclose charges and interest rates and helping retailers inflate prices with repayments taken from soldiers' paychecks.

Authorities say military personnel will keep financed merchandise like computers and gaming systems with their debts forgiven.

Other states included in the settlement are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont.



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Woman wanted for burglary, jewelry theft
By Amy Cherry

Updated Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 4:01pm

County police have released a sketch of a burglar--they're hoping you can help them find.

Police say earlier this month, on July 8, a woman broke into a home on the 300 block of Pentland Drive near the state line.

Police say the woman stole some jewelry and fled when she found a minor in the home.

Police are asking that if you can provide any details pertaining to this incident to please contact Detective D. Graham of the New Castle County Police Department at 302.395.8110



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Attempted robbery victim shot in broad daylight
By Michelle Provencher

A failed robbery attempt ends with a bang.

Wilmington police say they received calls reporting a shooting on the 700 block of Curlett Street around 1:25 p.m. Tuesday. There, they discovered a 28-year-old male victim wounded in the street.

An investigation suggests two suspects approached the victim and tried to rob him. One of them allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot the victim in the abdomen before taking off.

The victim is in stable condition at Christiana Hospital.

City police say the investigation is ongoing.



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EdWatch: Red Clay uses videoconferencing to teach foreign language
By Amy Cherry

Technology helps three high schools in Red Clay attend courses at the same time.

WDEL's Amy Cherry explains in this week's WDEL Delaware EducationWatch.

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Red Clay's only Italian teacher is a busy woman, but Holly Schnittger maximizes her time by teaching the foreign language to McKean High School, A.I., and Conrad Schools of Science all at once.

"It's interactive, so it's a distance learning lab so we're on video conferencing with the kids for the whole entire period," said Schnittger.

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The blended learning enable the district to open up foreign language to more students, and Schnittger can tell they're learning!

"One of my students at Conrad this year just went and studied abroad for spring break to Italy, and he came back and said that he was the one that was able to communicate to order in the restaurant to help everybody. He was the only one out of the class that had studied Italian, so it's absolutely amazing," she said.

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She says despite not being in the classroom with some of the kids, the distance learning lab is gaining traction, and the students' experience is just as good.

"I can work almost one-on-one with them, so even if they're in another school, we still can communicate really easily together," she said.

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Wilmington man pleads guilty in fatal shooting
By Associated Press

A man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death of another man during a robbery.

Twenty-one-year-old Zakee Lloyd of Wilmington entered the plea Tuesday just before jury selection was to begin in his trial in Superior Court.

Lloyd pleaded guilty in the shooting death of 51-year-old Manuel Oliveras on April 14, 2012 in Wilmington. The News Journal that he faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in prison at sentencing in November.

Shortly after Lloyd's plea, prosecutors said they dropped all charges against 20-year-old Wendell Smallwood, who had been charged with witness tampering in the case. Smallwood, a running back for West Virginia University, is a friend of Lloyd's.



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DelDOT talks to SuxCo about proposed country music fest
By Joe Irizarry

DelDOT talks about possible traffic issues that would come with proposed country music festival in Sussex County.

There would be three entrances to the event in Hartley, but Adam Weiser, a safety programs manager at DelDOT, says without meeting with emergency agencies, he can't provide a full analysis.

"Because we don't know how we're going to manage traffic; we don't know EMS and fire are going to respond to an incident in the event or outside the event, and if traffic's tied up on some of these local roads, they may not be able to respond, if they don't have provisions inside the event, staged, ready to respond to the area," said Weiser.

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Weiser says, typically, these events take a year to coordinate, but could be done quicker.

"As along as all the parties are willing to meet with us and work with us, we can make it work. We can meet monthly just like we have with all of the other larger events, develop a plan, tweak it, look at all the various scenarios, work with the community," he explains.

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Weiser adds if any road improvements need to be made, organizer and prominent businessman Alex Pires, would be asked to pay for them.

Last week, the community came out in droves to a zoning meeting to voice their concerns against the proposed music festival, citing noise as a major concern.



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Dewey Beach withstands legal challenge brought by shop owner
By Mark Fowser

Dewey Beach's actions against a local shop that was decorated with beach chairs, rafts and boogie boards are upheld by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark has ruled the store's owner wasn't persuasive in claiming Dewey Beach overstepped in repeatedly issuing fines over decorations.

Mayor Diane Hanson tells our sister station, Delaware 105.9, that Jeremiah's took its display too far.

"At one point during this whole dispute they had all three levels of their building covered completely. At another point they were blocking egress for handicapped ramps and the sidewalk."

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Store owner Jason Fruchtman felt the town's actions, which included fines, infringed upon free speech. He has 30 days to appeal.



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Man arrested on drug charges after traffic stop
By Associated Press

New Castle County Police say they have arrested a man on drug charges after a traffic stop.

Officers stopped a car they say committed a traffic violation on Monday at Bacon Avenue and North DuPont Highway. Police say drug paraphernalia was in plain view in the vehicle.

Authorities say a search turned up 130 bags of heroin, plus crack cocaine and marijuana.

37-year-old Troy Waller of Newark was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and other offenses.




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Driver killed in utility pole crash
By Michelle Provencher

Updated Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 10:50pm

A medical emergency may be to blame for a single vehicle crash that claimed the driver's life near Prime Hook Beach.

State police believe 56-year-old Michael Indellini of Townsend, suffered a sudden-onset medical condition while he was behind the wheel of his 1995 Ford F150 pickup truck Tuesday afternoon.

Indellini was driving northbound on Cods Road around 2 p.m. when his truck drifted off the road and collided with a utility pole, snapping the pole in half.

Troopers say Indellini was wearing his seatbelt and didn't have any obvious injuries at the scene, and that driving speed, alcohol and drugs are not factors in the crash.

His body has been turned over for an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

The area of Cods Road between Prime Hook and 13 Curves roads was closed for about three-and-a-half hours after the accident.



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Mets rout Phillies 11-2; Wheeler strong again
By Rachel Cohen/AP

David Wright, (5), Curtis Granderson (3) and Ruben Tejada (11) greet Mets Daniel Murphy (28) at the plate after Granderson and Tejada scored on Murphy's fifth-inning, three-run, home run. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Daniel Murphy hit a three-run homer to back up Zack Wheeler's sixth straight strong start, and the New York Mets routed the Philadelphia Phillies 11-2 on Wednesday afternoon.

The Mets sent 10 men to the plate in the seventh inning, scoring five insurance runs off the Philadelphia bullpen to take two of three in the series.

Wheeler (6-8) gave up two runs and seven hits with four strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in six outings in a row.

After the Phillies went up 1-0 in the top of the fifth, New York quickly responded - with Wheeler helping himself at the plate.



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