Sussex County Council Pays Tribute to Retiring EOC Director & Introduces Perimeter Buffer Ordinance


EOC Director Joe Thomas / Image courtesy Sussex County Government

The Sussex County Council paid tribute to retiring Emergency Operations Center Director Joe Thomas. County officials say his last day on the job will be March 28th. He has been director of the EOC for the past 36 years and 3 months. During his time as director the County built a new state-of-the-art EOC complex in 2008 – then just last year opened a new 20,000 square foot expansion to house the County’s EMS offices. He also earned international accreditation as a police/fire/EMS dispatch center of excellence. Before becoming the Director of the EOC, Thomas was a part-time dispatcher – giving him a total of 38 years of service to Sussex County. County officials expect to fill the emergency manager position in the coming weeks and Thomas will assist part-time, as needed, during the transition.

County Finance Director Gina Jennings brought a Memorandum of Understanding for dog control services with the Office of Animal Welfare. The current MOU with the State expires in June. This new MOU continues the pricing structure based on a per capita distribution among the three Counties and City of Wilmington. The allocation is base on 2022’s population rather 2019’s population – which is about an 8% increase. There is increase in the cost for FY 2025. The current MOU costs Sussex County $887,901 and the proposed cost for FY 2025 is $1,046,174 – an increase of $158,273. Councilman John Rieley asked if the County can accommodate the increased cost in the FY 2025 budget and Jennings says that it is been accounted for. The funding for this comes from tax dollars. The Council approved the new three-year MOU with the Office of Animal Welfare with a unanimous vote.

Jennings also updated the Council on American Rescue Plan Act Grant funding. These funds need to be committed by December 31st of this year and Jennings says that some funds have been reallocated to meet the grant timeline requirements – specifically to some of the County’s successful low-income ARPA and Cares Act programs. She also is recommending a $750,000 grant to the Food Bank, which applied during the first round of grant applications. Jennings says the details have been worked out so that they can be awarded ARPA funding. The Council approved the allocation to the Food Bank of Delaware.

The County’s Community Development & Housing office will begin taking applications from groups that develop new or preserve existing affordable housing on April 1st. Developers, groups and other working toward increasing the stock of affordable housing in the County can apply for up to $500,000 in grants – with the promise that their projects will serve a defined customer base. Jennings says that $2-million in Federal ARPA funding to Sussex County will be available to applicants in this third round. For more information on the program, visit

The much-discussed Perimeter Buffers Ordinance was back before the County Council. Assistant County Attorney, Vince Robertson, tells the Council that this ordinance cleans up mentions of buffers scattered throughout the code, eliminates separate buffer requirements – giving ALL subdivisions the same perimeter buffer requirements and establishes a clear timeline for the installation of buffers and provides more clarity for ensuring that they are established and healthy. The perimeter buffer ordinance has been introduced and will not be scheduled for public hearing with the Planning and Zoning Commission and County Council in the future.

The Sussex County Council will be on Spring Break for the next two weeks and will return to the County Administration offices on The Circle in Georgetown on Tuesday, April 9th.