The General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 with candidates vying for local, state and federal offices. Former Milford Mayor and small business owner, Bryan Shupe, is challenging Donald Allen for the 36th House of Representative seat which was vacated when Representative Dave Wilson chose to run for the seat vacated after Senator Gary Simpson announced his retirement earlier this year. Questions that are on the minds of voters were asked of both candidates with Shupe’s responses below.
Born and raised in Milford, Bryan and his wife Sherry are parents to 2 y/o Evelyn and owners of two small businesses in Milford; Fur-Baby Pet Resort and MilfordLIVE.com. A two-term Mayor for Milford, Bryan is also active in community organizations including the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club, Downtown Milford Inc., and Milford School District.
Q: There have been many efforts to repeal or adjust the prevailing wage rules in Delaware. Do you support the repeal of prevailing wage or would you like to see it continued in its current format? What are your reasons for supporting or repealing prevailing wage? How do you feel prevailing wage hurts or helps trades in this area?
A: As the Mayor of Milford I personally saw the effect that prevailing wage can have on small towns in Delaware like Milford. As we developed a plan to rebuild Airport Road — a project long overdue — the Council bid the project to Diamond Materials and Davis Bowen & Friedel which estimated the construction to be $2.4 million. After the City scheduled a date to begin construction, we received a letter from DELDOT stating that since part of the project received of CTF funds from our local legislators, the entire project would need to use the prevailing wage formula. With local contractors already selected for the project and no changes to the construction, the project would have cost the City an additional $300,000 to be in compliance with the State mandate. Our State legislators were able to move legislation through to exempt CTF funds from prevailing wage and the City is grateful for their efforts that saved our taxpayers over $300,000. With such a large increase in just one project on a single road, this increase alone could have easily resulted an increase in taxes for Milford residents if the State mandate was added to the project – and would have resulted in the same people doing the same work. This same scenario has been played out across small towns in the State of Delaware.
In the past there has been too much politics on both sides of the discussion and I believe that a non-partisan, third party should analyze prevailing wage in its current form and make a recommendation to the General Assembly. This money belongs to hardworking taxpayers, and we need to spend it in the most efficient way possible. There are reforms needed to the prevailing wage system in Delaware to ensure both respect for workers and respect for taxpayers.
Q: Bayhealth’s new Sussex campus is expected to be completed in 2019. This new campus is expected to bring significant growth to the area. What growth do you support in the area and how would you, as a state legislator, assist Milford and Sussex County in guiding that growth?
A: While I was the Chair of the Economic Development Committee for the City of Milford and ultimately Mayor of Milford, I was fortunate enough to play a role in the Sussex Bayhealth Campus. As the original plan called for constructing two stories on top of the Milford Memorial Hospital, the leadership team at Bayhealth approached the City to help facilitate a plan that would create a new hospital that could serve all of Kent and Sussex Counties, enhance the quality of healthcare in Southern Delaware and act as a catalyst for economic growth for additional sectors of our economy. We have already experienced economic growth from this effort, as Nemours Pediatric and Senior care will expand their specialty healthcare services in a second building on site. Also, Nationwide Health Services will rehabilitate the current hospital on Clarke Avenue as a wellness village for senior care. As a State Representative, I will continue to support economic growth as we work alongside our current employers to meet their needs for expanding their workforce and seek new employers to bring quality jobs to our communities. As a State Representative, I will work closely with residents, local municipalities, businesses and DELDOT to rebuild and reimagine our infrastructure and transportation systems to handle the positive growth. As Mayor, we worked with DART to ensure a new public bus route that includes an inner loop for residents. I will work to expand these routes to connect our local neighborhoods with Bayhealth Sussex Campus. I will also look at ways to create safer roads for the 36th District as we expect residential and commercial growth to continue.
Q: One of the biggest issues facing the Milford area is mid-to-high level jobs. What would you like to see happen at the state level to bring more of these types of jobs to Delaware?
A: One of the most critical investments we can make in the lives of our local families is creating an environment for economic growth. With quality employment, our families can be self-reliant and control their own future. In our district, the investments made by Bayhealth Sussex Campus, Nemours Pediatric & Senior Care and Nationwide Health Services are all part of a collective effort to grow the local economy. As Mayor of Milford, I had the unique opportunity to work alongside our large and small employers and understand their challenges to job growth. A concern repeated across all sectors and sizes of business is the availability of a growing, strong workforce with the opportunity for continued education. In addition to increasing the quality of our great local public schools, we need to focus on vocation education and training, providing opportunities for our local residents to compete in this evolving economy. Investments in education and training of our local workforce, through community partners such as Delaware Technical Community College, University of Delaware and Delaware State University, will drive the desire for current employers to expand and new employers to relocate in Sussex County. Economic development incentives are a useful tool to attract more businesses to our area, but long-term investments and planning in education of our local workforce will create an environment where businesses are asking us what they can do to create jobs here.
Q: There is a strong push in Delaware to legalize recreational marijuana. Do you support legalization or oppose it? Please give your reasons for either supporting or opposing the legislation.
A: I am open to considering this issue, and have studied the impact of legalization in Colorado, Washington and other places. In my opinion, HB 110’s lack of a field test for sobriety which prevents the police from ensuring the safety of motorists and denies employers the ability to determine whether employees are under the influence of marijuana at any given time, especially those who employ truck drivers, delivery drivers or other automotive-based jobs, will need to be addressed before legalization of recreational marijuana is passed by the General Assembly.
Q: With some areas near Milford dealing with unsafe water quality, what ideas do you plan to bring to the state to address unsafe water? How do you think the state can better protect water quality throughout the area?
A: Clean water is a necessary part of life. Everyone should have clean water, and as your State Representative, I will work tirelessly to see that any water issues in the rural areas of the 36th district are resolved. As Mayor of Milford, I worked with other stakeholders to improve Milford’s infrastructure to supply clean water to over 10,000 residents. Understanding that aging infrastructure and proposed growth were both challenges to the water and sewer systems, our team developed a plan to rebuild and rehabilitate the existing wells, treatment facilities and water towers, and used allocated reserves to build new pump stations and a water tower in the projected growth areas. In addition, we helped create a new ‘smart grid’ that allows the City to proactively monitor water quality and quantity daily. We built a financial plan that ensures that new growth pays for future demands they place on the system, and we facilitated a new semi-annual flushing program of the entire system.
The growing challenges with our water supply in the rural areas of the 36th District are not due to underfunded agencies, but simply that DNREC has not done its job to protect the residents of Sussex County. DNREC has a $100 million plus annual budget, more than $60 million a year for the Environmental Protection Department and millions just for water protection alone, but the agency has failed to perform its core mission: environmental protection. Only after residents and the media took a stand for the protection of their own water sources did the agency begin to move forward on its responsibilities as an oversight agency. This is wrong, and I will strive to see that it is corrected.
I have a record as the Mayor of Milford of ensuring that residents are protected when there is a threat to their safety or quality of life. Our team took on the challenge of unsafe and hazardous rental properties in our town and created a system to enforce the laws that are in the City Municipal Code, without raising taxes. Working alongside community members, landlords and renters, our city has seen major investments in the safety and quality of our housing stock through the work of the planning department, private investment and grant programs. I will bring the same approach to the water issue in Sussex County.
As your State Representative, I will be a voice for our community to demand clean water and ensure that DNREC enforces the laws that are in place. When people violate the laws protecting our water supply, they need to be held accountable. I will hold DNREC accountable to the residents of the 36th District and work with all stakeholders to develop a plan for future water protection as development and growth continue. A focus on prevention is needed as we expect to see continued growth in our district.
Q: In addition to drinking water quality, many of the waterways in the Milford area, including the Mispillion River, do not meet Clean Water Act standards. What are your plans, if elected, to begin cleaning up the waterways in our area?
A: Recently The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, a federal bipartisan effort, moved forward in the U.S. Senate aimed at making key investments in clean water systems. I will work with federal, state and local partners to utilize this and similar legislation to address our water concerns in 36th District, and I will be an advocate for funding to meet the needs of our local residents.
Q: With growth comes the need for more housing. Currently, there is a clash between the need for additional housing and the need to preserve agricultural lands. How should the state assist in balancing the need for housing with the need for agriculture? What ideas do you have to help balance these needs?
A: The balance between development and preservation of land needs to be determined by the residents of each community. In creating a Master Plan for the City of Milford, our residents helped the City design a plan for strategic growth in both commercial and residential areas, while preserving agricultural and natural lands. In Milford, our residents made it loud and clear to our elected officials that they wanted commercial growth around the hospital and in downtown to continue while they believed east of Route 1 should remain residential and agricultural land to protect the surrounding farms and natural resources. This was reflected in our Master Plan for growth that will help shape the next decade in Milford. Each community in our District will be different, and the residents of each community should have the opportunity to express their concerns and ideas for growth. I will work alongside residents, businesses and communities of the 36th District as the State of Delaware, Sussex County and towns plan for growth.
Q: Road repairs and infrastructure are in need of repair due to significant growth. How would you address funding these repairs? Would you support an increase in the motor fuel tax or another type of mileage-based tax to fund the repairs? Please explain why you would or would not support this type of funding.
A: Over the last four years, the City of Milford and its state and federal partners have met large infrastructure challenges — including Airport Road, the Route 1 & 14 Overpass and the 113 Railroad Crossing. Prioritizing the rehabilitation of city-owned roads, the City of Milford finalized a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan that will be used to meet growing transportation needs. This strategy created a construction timetable for roadways based on their structural condition, while taking political decisions out of the process. Ever conscious of our responsibility to taxpayers, we practiced fiscal prudence through resourcefulness, strategically planning across departments in coordination with planned repair or replacement of underground water, wastewater or storm water lines. This effort will save the City time and the taxpayers money as the same roads will not be ripped up multiple times to address different concerns. At the State level the same can be done — through smart fiscal policy including the budget smoothing process — to fund improvements without an additional tax on residents of Delaware.
As we take a look at major infrastructure improvements in our District we must ensure that they meet the needs of the local community. As Mayor, I worked closely with DELDOT to ensure that the overpass at Route 14 and 1, which is slated to be completed in 2019, serves local needs in several ways. The plan calls for a connector road behind Royal Farms as part of the project that will allow safe passage for high school students and staff as it takes away the dangerous crossing on NE 10th Street that has seen several fatal crashes. The main roadway also connects with NE Front Street, which will drive traffic into the downtown area to support small, local businesses. In partnership with DELDOT, the City conceived of a creative branding opportunity on the overpass wing walls that signifies to travelers that this is more than an exit off a busy highway — it is an entrance to a unique and special place.
As your State Representative, I will use the knowledge and partnerships I have made as Mayor to help rehabilitate our aging transportation system. During the campaign trail, neighbors of the Sandstone development in the 36th District shared with me their concerns about the conditions of their roads. Talking one on one with neighbors, I knew this was an issue that could be solved by connecting them with the correct resources. Working alongside their State Representative, we came up with a plan and weeks later their roads were under construction. I will continue to work with local municipalities, neighborhoods and individuals to identify challenges and help develop a plan that best fits the needs of the local communities. I know how the system works, and I will be prepared on Day One to serve the people of the 36th.
Q: Local residents have demonstrated that they are unwilling or unable to support tax increases to build new schools in Milford, despite overcrowding in classrooms. What changes would you like to see made regarding school funding at the state level that may address class sizes above 25? What state regulations would you like to change to help districts better plan for growth?
A: Local residents deserve to have a voice on voting for or against local referendums that are anticipated to result in an increase in their taxes. I believe that taking away this decision from our local residents could fuel major tax increases without local residents having a voice. Although some people call for funding equalization across school districts I do not believe this proposal will result in increased funds for the school districts in the 36th District. As we see with State transportation funding, which functions in a similar way, most of the money is filtered into New Castle County and leaves Sussex County with a void of State funding with local municipalities having to foot the bill. The Milford School District, for instance, does not have the ability to pay for the needs of other school districts in northern Delaware.
As public schools prepare for growth, the General Assembly needs to take an intimate look into funding for education in the State of Delaware. Taxpayers’ money needs be prioritized to reach the classrooms and have a positive effect on students, teachers and our local families.
Directing that money to local school districts must also be coupled with ability for those local school districts to make decisions on where that money is spent. This will allow more local control by individuals who understand the unique challenges of their communities and allow the public more oversight of where that money is spent.
State mandates including State Testing are taking valuable time and resources from the teachers and making it difficult for them to educate our children in a way that prepares them for life after high school. We need to make policy decisions on education funding that allow Delaware, not the federal government, to make decisions on the future of our education system.
We also need to realize that funding is only part of the solution. Funding has increased year after year, and yet the challenges remain. But here in Milford, we have a success story. While some single out Milford for its lack of financial resources, they fail to recognize the human resources that we do have. It is those dedicated teachers, support professionals and administrators that led Milford High School to its recent recognition as a Top Five high school in Delaware by US News & World Report. Maybe our education issues can be best solved by putting great people in place, building great school cultures, and getting bureaucracy out of the way.
Q: People are becoming more active, walking and using bicycles as methods of transportation. If elected, how would you work to add more bike and pedestrian lanes on local roads to encourage more people to use this type of transportation? What obstacles do you see to create more multimodal infrastructure? How would you try to overcome these obstacles?
A: As our towns continue to grow in the 36th District we must ensure that our areas are connected in ways that promote healthy lifestyles and alternative modes of transportation. These assets can add to the sense of place in a small community and create a destination for those seeking a more active lifestyle. As the Mayor of Milford, our team worked with DELDOT to plan new multimodal paths along NE and NW Front Street, the main east to west corridor through town. Planned to begin construction in 2019, larger bike and pedestrian paths will be installed for use by locals and visitors. We also installed bike alert signs in our downtown area at crosswalks to provide a message to vehicles that the safety of our families on foot and bicycle is a top priority. This effort is also being enhanced by education from city officials and local small businesses like LifeCycle in downtown Milford. Our waterways are another great resource that the City of Milford and its people have chosen to enhance. Rehabilitating the Mispillion Riverwalk pedestrian and bicycle paths, constructing a public kayak launch and opening Goat Island Nature Preserve have allowed residents the opportunity to become more active on and around our waterways right in their own backyards. With State and local partners, we created a new DART bus route that includes an inner loop for residents that will also allow families that live in surrounding neighborhoods to enjoy our natural resources and roadways as well. As State Representative I will work with each town and neighborhood to identify their needs for more multimodal infrastructure and connect with the municipalities, county and state officials to facilitate a plan to ensure more methods of transportation.
Disclaimer: Bryan Shupe is the current owner of MilfordLIVE, a business he started in 2010.
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