Dover's Legislative Hall fire ruled accidental

By DJ McAneny 9:31am, October 9, 2015
Thursday's scene at Legislative Hall following Wednesday's fire/(Joe Irizarry/WXDE)
The fire that caused "extensive damage" to Legislative Hall in Dover Wednesday has been ruled accidental by the Dover Fire Marshal's Office, officials announced Thursday.

According to City of Dover spokesperson Kay Sass, the October 7, 2015, structure fire at 411 Legislative Hall began at approximately 2:17 p.m. when combustibles in the attic were ignited by an exhaust pipe extending from an emergency backup generator in the basement, which was undergoing a full-load test.

A Capitol Police officer and Little Creek firefighter were injured during the incident. The officer was treated and released at Kent General Hospital, while the firefighter was treated on scene by medical staff and released, Sass updated.

The Delaware State Office of Management and Budget was working with contractors to determine the extent of damage sustained in the fire, while city and state officials continue to "establish occupancy for the building," she said.

New Castle County Police: 36 grams of marijuana found in Dover man's lunchbox

By DJ McAneny 3:05pm, October 8, 2015
Daniel Schonert/Courtesy New Castle County Police
A 27-year-old Dover man was arrested after police allegedly discovered 36 grams of marijuana in a lunchbox during a traffic stop, New Castle County Police announced Thursday.

According to authorities, Daniel Schonert was stopped in the area of Route 9 and Terminal Avenue on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, after committing a traffic violation.

Officers said they detected a "strong odor of marijuana," coming from the vehicle, and located the marijuana "in and around a lunchbox," in the vehicle, along with a scale and more than $260 in cash.

Schonert was charged with possession with intent to deliver, possession of paraphernalia, and numerous traffic violations. His cash was additionally seized, and he was released on a $3650 unsecured bond.

Punkin Chunkin canceled again

By Kelli Steele, Delaware 105.9 9:44am, October 8, 2015 - Updated 1:48pm, October 8, 2015
The 2015 Punkin Chunkin has been canceled.

The organizing committee announced the cancellation Thursday. It had been scheduled for November 6 to 8 at Dover Downs.

The board said, despite its best efforts, they have not been able to find a willing insurer to adequately protect the host venue, the organization, fans and spectators.

"Certainly, for the past several months, we've been working daily with a variety of insurers nationwide, down as far as in the Midwest and New England and down into Florida," said Punkin Chunkin Committee President Ricky Nietubicz.

Last year's event was also canceled. Organizers had hoped to bring it back this year.

The board thanked its volunteers and the patience of the teams, fans, prospective hosts at Dover International Speedway, vendors and sponsors through what it described as a difficult time.

"We were committed to it," Nietubicz said. "It was something that, unfortunately, we got to this point in the game, because we were very confident that we would be able to locate (coverage)."

Punkin Chunkin, in which contestants launch pumpkins with a variety of homemade contraptions, began in Sussex County in 1986. Organizers began looking for another site last year after a Sussex County farmer said he would no longer make his property available. That decision came after a lawsuit was filed by a Punkin Chunkin volunteer who was seriously injured in an ATV accident while working the 2011 event.

State Senator Brian Pettyjohn (R- Georgetown) was vocally disappointed in the organization not being able to find coverage, and said the good that resulted from the event typically offset would should have been easily remedied concerns.

"They put a lot of money back into the community. I think they did over $100,000 to charity, $50,000 in scholarships and--using numbers from the Delaware Economic Development Office--about $1 million into the economy from this event," Pettyjohn said. "And now, it's gone for a second year in a row."

Customers who purchased tickets to attend the event will see a 100-percent refund on their credit cards within 7 to 14 business days. Questions can be directed to 800-441-7223.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

University of Delaware cuts ribbon on JP Morgan Chase expansion on campus

By Tom Lehman 6:36pm, October 8, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
Officials from the University of Delaware and the state on Thursday cut the ribbon on the expanded JPMorgan Innovation Center, which has tripled in size since opening in 2011.

The 13,000 square foot facility allows space for 90 undergraduate students to participate in internships with JP Morgan Chase. Ten doctoral students also participate in programs at the center, which is adjoined to Purnell Hall on the school's campus.

Nancy Targett, UD's acting president, called the structure a "gem" on the campus because it reflects the school's ability to offer programs that help students gain valuable experience that can be used in the workforce.

"It helps them to apply what they learn in the classroom to what they're going to encounter in the world," she said.

Gov. Jack Markell (D) also lauded the center, saying it allows Delaware to retain out-of-state talent from a pool of students that come from across the region. Hundreds of UD graduates have gotten entry-level jobs with JPMorgan Chase through internships or other programs offered at the school.

"They can do--literally--world class work, some of the most exciting work going on in the industry, and have the wonderful lifestyle that's afforded here in Delaware," he said.

Mike Zbranak, the Managing Director for Global Technology at JPMorgan Chase, said the partnership with UD and the state has been beneficial because it allows Delaware to act as a technology hub.

"There are very few of them around the world," he said.


You can contact Tom Lehman at Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

2 Delaware businesses recognized for being 'warrior friendly'

By Amy Cherry 1:48pm, October 8, 2015 - Updated 2:00pm, October 8, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry talks with Brian Potts, owner of Phoenix Restoration, about his willingness to hire veterans.
Two Delaware-based businesses were recognized for their efforts to hire veterans.

Click here to listen

Many veterans returning from combat and tours of duty abroad have a difficult time readjusting to civilian life.

It's also often hard for veterans to find a job.

But two local businesses--one large and one small--were praised for their willingness to help the men and women who serve our country.

"To me, it's a no-brainer," said Brian Potts. "They're out there protecting our freedom--I never realized the need. And what we do, as far as Phoenix, it's a perfect fit--the mindset's there, the work ethic's there."

Potts founded Phoenix Restoration--a fire, water and smoke restoration company--in Newport in 2005. He's hired three veterans and plans to hire three more in interviews next week.

"It blew my mind...I never knew the challenges that they had," explained Potts. "I'm awestruck that nobody else is doing this."

Potts pointed to a veteran named Ben who's helping his company grow.

"He came off annual training...he basically worked for two weeks and was on-call. We got five emergency calls that week--never complained one time, never," said Potts.

Potts's company was awarded the first-ever Warrior Friendly Business Award from the the Joint Military Affairs Committee of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce.

Brian Potts, founder of Phoenix Restoration, poses with the Warrior Friendly Business Award he received from Governor Jack Markell.

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The groups came together for the creation of the annual award, which will be presented to one small business and one large business which has demonstrated outstanding leadership in hiring or offering job readiness initiatives for service members and veterans.

"We are fortunate, in Delaware, that so many employers have stepped up, and if you look at the national rankings...our unemployment rate for veterans has fallen (by about half) over the last few years," said Governor Jack Markell.

The Christiana Care Health System won the award as a large employer which has hired 60 veterans the past two years and is on pace to repeat that accomplishment for the upcoming year.

"I think our efforts were good, and it was the thing that we should be doing, but until I realized some of the challenge that our veterans and our military face, I really didn't understand the extra effort that we should be putting into this," said Audrey Van Luven, chief human resource officer for Christiana Care.

An excerpt from the student code of conduct detailing the violation and punishment.

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She said Christiana Care has continued to hire veterans because of their amazing values.

"The teamwork, the excellence, integrity, discipline, loyalty--what employer wouldn't be proud to have those individuals in their workforce?" she asked. "To me, this was a great opportunity to be able to marry talent with needs."

"We talked about the three-legged stool: our service members, their families, and employers--this is a key component. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart," said Adjutant General Frank Vavala of the Delaware National Guard.


Contact Amy Cherry at or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

Court tosses out Delaware stormwater rules

By Associated Press 9:26am, October 9, 2015
A Superior Court judge has tossed out a massive rewrite of Delaware's stormwater and erosion-control regulations.

Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves ruled Wednesday that the Department of National Resources and Environmental Control provided "illogical" justifications for failing to include many technical but critical details, including failing to hold any public hearings on the 2,000-page regulations.

State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro), who played a central role in organizing the lawsuit challenge before his election, said the decision was far-reaching and demonstrated that state agencies cannot change regulations informally.

Collins said the department's regulations were costly and hindered economic growth.

Department Secretary David Small said in a statement Thursday that the decision was based on procedural issues, rather than on the merits of improving water quality.

Newark man charged in connection to shooting of unoccupied vehicle

By DJ McAneny 2:47pm, October 8, 2015 - Updated 2:52pm, October 8, 2015
Michael G. Cyhan/Courtesy Newark Police
A 24-year-old Newark man has been charged in connection to a September incident in which shots were fired into an unoccupied vehicle.

According to Newark Police, Michael G. Cyhan, of Willow Creek Lane, was arrested on Wednesday, October 7, 2015, and charged with firing upon an unoccupied vehicle on Westfield Drive on September 15, 2015.

He was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, and criminal mischief less than $1,000. Cyhan was committed to the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in lieu of $15,250.

Netflix raising US price for most popular video plan by $1

By Associated Press 3:33pm, October 8, 2015
Netflix is raising the price of its Internet video service by $1 in the U.S. and several other countries to help cover its escalating costs for shows such as "House of Cards" and other original programming.

The new price of $10 per month for Netflix's standard plan won't affect most of the service's existing 42 million U.S. subscribers.

Subscribers who have been with Netflix since May 2014 will still pay $8 per month under a two-year rate freeze adopted when the company last raised its U.S. prices by $1. Customers who signed up since the last price increase will pay $9 per month until October 2016.

Netflix Inc. is charging new subscribers more in anticipation of its programming costs rising from $3 billion this year to $5 billion next year.

Blue sky and red ice at Pluto, NASA spacecraft discovers

By Associated Press 3:49pm, October 8, 2015 - Updated 9:31am, October 9, 2015
This image released by NASA on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, shows regions with exposed water ice highlighted in blue in this composite image taken with the New Horizons spacecraft's Ralph instrument. The image combines visible imagery from the Multispectral Vi
The sky over Pluto may not be sunny but it's undoubtedly blue.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft discovered Pluto's blue sky during the historic flyby of the icy dwarf planet in July. The images of Pluto's atmospheric haze were beamed down last week and released by NASA on Thursday.

Scientists said the particles in the atmospheric haze are actually red and gray. But the way the particles scatter blue light is what has everyone excited. Principal scientist Alan Stern calls the blue sky "gorgeous." The blue tint can help scientists understand the size and makeup of the haze particles surrounding Pluto, where twilight constantly reigns.

In another finding Thursday, scientists have uncovered numerous ice patches on Pluto's surface. The exposed water ice appears to be, mysteriously, red.

PETA offers to help save Jersey shore's elephant landmark

By Associated Press 9:31am, October 9, 2015
(Courtesy of Lucy the Elephant's Facebook page)
An animal rights organization is offering to help save a giant wood and tin elephant if it can send a message about the plight of the real-life creatures.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Thursday it will pay for some of Lucy the Elephant's estimated $58,000 in repairs in exchange for using the Margate landmark as a "spokes-elephant" for elephants forced into circus work.

The 134-year-old Lucy attraction needs crumbling wood replaced and a new coat of paint.

Richard Helfant, head of the organization maintaining Lucy, says he wants to hear more about PETA's proposal to see how it would reconcile with Lucy's National Historic Landmark status and a desire to keep the attraction a "happy place" for youngsters.

The Save Lucy Committee has sold T-shirts and used crowdfunding to raise money.

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