County digging deeper into on-staff ‘soil scientist’ certification

GEORGETOWN – Concern unearthed during a change order request has Sussex County government digging deeper into exploring the possibility of having a “soil scientist” on staff.

Discussion on that issue arose April 21 in County Council’s 4-1 approval of a $10,000 change order in conjunction with ongoing construction of Sussex County Emergency Medical Services new Paramedic Station 105 on county-owned land at the South Coastal Wastewater facility site near Bethany Beach.


In mid-March during construction, soil for cement placement for the 3-bay garage area and hot mix asphalt for the new station’s driveway was deemed unsuitable, according to Anthony Digiuseppie of the County Engineering Department.

Soil scientist evaluation through Hillis Carnes Engineering Associates, a geo-technical firm out of Delmar, MD, recommended a blend of unsuitable soil with Portland cement for the bases.

“Why wouldn’t this type of work be done before even bidding the thing out? Why wouldn’t you have soil tested before …,” said County Council President Michael Vincent, R-Seaford.

According to Mr. Digiuseppie, soil tests weren’t required due to storm-water design for the project. “We didn’t have any infiltration; all of the storm-water was discharged into a tax ditch,” said Mr. Digiuseppie, noting that soil borings were previously performed for another project, expansion of the county’s waste-water facility, located a couple hundred feet from Medic 105’s new location.

“I do think we should maybe consider some of this soil boring sampling on some of these projects before the fact,” said Mr. Vincent.

“Any time we are disturbing something we ought to be making it basically … standard operating procedure,” said County Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View.

“This (unsuitable) soil wasn’t throughout the whole site; it was only in specific areas,” said Mr. Digiuseppie.

“It might be a good practice to do soil testing. I can’t believe it’s that expensive,” said Mr. Cole.

“I can’t either,” said County Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, who voted “no” to accept the change order request. “I am wondering way you just didn’t pour six inches (of concrete) I just believe putting all of this under it … it’s just ridiculous. I’ve poured a lot of concrete. It’s very foolish spending in my opinion.”

Cost for soil scientist services was $1,200, Mr. Digiuseppie said.

“I don’t what it requires for somebody to become a soil scientist,” said Mr. Cole. “With our staff that we have, is it possible for somebody to go off and become certified as a ‘soil scientist’ and then we’d have one on staff. Because we do a heck of a lot of projects and I just think after a while with the amount of work we do a soil scientist on staff might not be a bad idea.”

“And it may be some individual that is already currently working for the County that could be further trained,” said Mr. Cole, who asked County Administrator Todd Lawson and County Engineer Michael Izzo to “look into that and see if there is any merit to something like that.”

“We can look into that,” said Mr. Lawson. “We are going to be hiring some project engineers here in the near future, and perhaps that is something that we could look into as part of their specific qualifications.”

“It could be quite a bit of savings … when we start doing these projects,” said Mr. Cole.

“Maybe …,” responded Mr. Lawson. “an employee plus benefits is quite an expensive proposition.”

Lease extended

With new site construction about 70 percent complete as of April 21, Medic 105 will remain stationed at its current leased site near Roxana.

County Council on April 14 approved a second lease amendment that will enable Medic 105 to remain at the Roxana Road base on a month-to-month basis.

Weather-related delays in construction and an issue with soil remediation precipitated the request for an amended lease agreement with the property owner, Lawrence C. Kelley.

“We’ve had some construction delays due to the terrible winter season that we had, and some other issues that happened on the site,” said Bob Stuart, Sussex County EMS Director. “We have spoken with the landlord … and they are agreeable with the extension.”

Under the lease amendment, the County will pay monthly rental $1,406.89. Medic 105 has been stationed at the leased Roxana Road site since the fall of 2009.

Medic 105’s primary coverage area encompasses the southeastern portion of the County, including Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, Millville, Ocean View, Selbyville, Frankford, Dagsboro and Roxana.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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