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Milford Beacon
  • Supporters rally for Kent County Regional Sports Complex

  • Area residents hoping to see construction of a multi-million dollar sports complex near Frederica found out Tuesday night that they may have to fight a battle on two fronts.
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  • Area residents hoping to see construction of a multi-million dollar sports complex near Frederica found out Tuesday night that they may have to fight a battle on two fronts.
    “The problem isn’t as simple as them beating on legislators to get them moving on a $23 million project,” Raymond Harbeson, a retired DelDOT chief engineer, told about three dozen people who attended the inaugural public meeting of the Friends of the Kent County Regional Sports Complex. “The better idea is for them to enact new revenue that will move the project forward.”
    The meeting at Frederica Fire Hall was organized by retired Delaware State Police trooper Bob Murphy of Milford in the hopes of organizing supports of the $23-million sports complex proposed for construction off of northbound Del. Route 1 in Frederica.
    Construction of the complex, which has been on the drawing boards since 2010, was scheduled to get underway in 2014 in conjunction with an overpass project that would provide easier access from southbound Del. Route 1 to the facility, which is planned just east of the highway’s northbound lanes.
    That overpass would replace the current intersection of Frederica Road and Del. Route 1.
    However, the Delaware Department of Transportation delayed those road improvements until 2017 after the agency’s new software – which rates projects according to safety, congestion, environmental impact, revenue generation and other factors – dropped the overpass project’s ranking from a top ten state priority to one of its lowest.
    Since then, DelDOT has refused to reverse that decision, despite pressure from state legislators, the Greater Kent Committee and the Dover/Kent Metropolitan Planning Organization and others.
    Tuesday’s meeting served as an hour-long informational session in which the facilities supporters were told they not only must not only convince DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt to rethink the project, but state legislators also must be pressured to reverse legislation that has drained away money intended for transportation construction.
    Harbeson told the group that in the early 1990s the state began tapping the transportation trust fund to pay DelDOT’s everyday operating costs. State legislators never reversed what was supposed to be a short-term measure and continued to use the trust fund to shore up state finances, he said.
    Over the years, most efforts to get legislators to increase revenue through additional taxes and increased fees have failed as well, Harbeson said.
    As a result, there isn’t enough money available to meet both the state’s general fund obligations and to pay for all of the transportation projects, including the Frederica interchange, despite promises and plans made in the past, Harbeson said.
    “The general fund keeps falling short, and there really is no general fund money to absorb [transportation expenses] right now,” he said. “It’s hard for the legislature to do [the overpass project] when they can’t even find the money for the general fund.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The only way to put money back into the transportation trust fund is to raise fees and taxes, he said.
    State Rep. Donald Blakey (R-Camden) called the evening an “eye opener” and said he wished the meeting had been held while the legislature still was in session.
    But he told those at the meeting that they still had time to work the problem and motivate supporters before the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
    Murphy promised to do just that.
    To learn more about the Friends of the Kent County Regional Sports Complex, email Murphy at friendsforkcrsc@aol.com.
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