The Board of Directors of Directors of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, Inc. (“CCOBH”) is calling upon the Delaware Economic Development Office (“DEDO”) to rescind the grant money given to The Pilot School not for economic development, but rather for a road improvement project, despite the fact that The Pilot School is and has been committed to staying in Delaware.
This summer, the Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee, which oversees taxpayer funds for the purpose of improving infrastructure for economic development in the state, voted unanimously to approve The Pilot School’s application for funding a road improvement project for Woodlawn Road. The Board notes that the Pilot School had already agreed to stay in Delaware, and to provide the economic benefits that the school provides in the State years before the Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee voted to grant to approve $847,707.00 in taxpayer funds to be used for the infrastructure needs for the Woodlawn Road Improvement Project.
The Pilot School had, almost five years ago, entered into an agreement to purchase the land it needed from Woodlawn Trustees along Woodlawn Road in order to build a new school. The Pilot School recently achieved the funds it needed to begin building that school, but had not successfully raised the funds needed to undertake the road repairs required to safely transport the students to and from the new school site. Rather than have the project placed in DelDOT’s Long Range Transportation plan, or have the Markell Administration or the General Assembly include the funds in the annual capital budget, an application was made earlier this year to the Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee to use their limited economic development funds to undertake this project. The application was tabled earlier this year, for unknown reasons, but was brought up again for consideration and approval in July.
CCOBH believes that the Committee should use their limited funds for the purpose of either retaining businesses that are threatening leaving or to entice businesses that might be interested in moving to Delaware, rather than to simply gift funds for businesses that have already committed to staying here in Delaware, and is calling upon DEDO to rescind the funding so that the limited funds can be used for true economic expansion purposes. No new jobs were created or saved by the grant of this funding. The funds lost here by this gratuitous grant are now not available for a true economic development project which would improve job growth or ensure job stabilization in the First State.
CCOBH is also troubled by the approval process used for this grant, and believes that the entire approval process was tainted by a conflict of interest and should be rescinded. The Director of DEDO, Alan Levin who serves as a member of the Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee and as its Chairman, allegedly recused himself from the matter. He also serves as the Chairperson of the fundraising committee of The Pilot School that was seeking the funds to pay for the school and the Woodlawn road improvements. This is a clear conflict of interest. The minutes of the meeting of the Committee show that while the Director did not actually participate in the pro forma vote, he all but did so as he conducted the meeting of the Committee, directed the discussion and was the chief cheerleader for the application. CCOBH notes that such action was not consistent with a true recusal, and was particularly problematic given the dual nature of the Director’s role in the application.
CCOBH does not object to the need to make sure that Woodlawn Road is improved, or to the actual project that is proposed to improve that road for safe use by the school and students, but rather objects solely to the manner in which the funding for this project was obtained from the State. CCOBH believes either that the applicant should pay for the road improvements, or that all road improvements needed by all of Delaware’s schools should be paid for by Delaware taxpayers through a vote of its elected officials in the capital budget process rather than through other State funding mechanisms which arguably might be available.
A copy of this Statement was mailed to DEDO and emailed to the News Journal.