Rep. Trey Paradee proposes compromise for Kenton vets initiative

This editorial was published in today's Delaware State News

By Rep. Trey Paradee, 29th District

On Monday, I attended a Kenton Town Council meeting where the proposed watch-repair school for disabled veterans was discussed. I have received several calls and emails from constituents who are concerned about the fate of the Kenton school building and property.

From the beginning, I have been supportive of this project and am a co-sponsor of the legislation that would allow it to proceed, Senate Bill 153. However, I also share some of the concerns of the community and am working hard on a solution that will move the project forward.

Plans would require the town of Kenton to grant several acres of property and the former school building to the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative (VWI). The building and property are owned by the town and represent significant value to Kenton as open space for local children and a community-event venue.

If the property is transferred to VWI, the group would make a significant investment to improve the building and operate a school to train disabled veterans for careers in the art of watch repair.

At the meeting, VWI chairman Sam Cannan spent over two hours discussing the project with members of the community and addressing their concerns. The majority of those in attendance wanted to find a way to make the project successful for the sake of helping those who have given so much in service to our country. We just need to make sure that we do this the right way.

Therefore, I will propose the following additions to Senate Bill 153 with the intent of fostering consensus among the town of Kenton, its residents and VWI:

• The property must be used for the exclusive purpose of teaching watch-repair skills to disabled veterans who have been honorably discharged;

• The property cannot be sold or transferred to another individual, business, or entity;

• The property cannot be used as collateral or encumbered by any liens or mortgages;

• The school building may not be demolished;

• VWI must retain its nonprofit status;

• If VWI has not begun or ceases training disabled veterans for a period exceeding 18 months after Dec. 31, 2017, the property shall revert to the town of Kenton free of any and all encumbrances and with all improvements that may have been made. This contingency would give VWI a full five-and-a-half years to get the project up and running and require them to keep the program running, at the risk of losing the property;

• VWI shall be responsible for all legal costs associated with transferring the property back to the town of Kenton in the event that the school ceases to operate;

• VWI will provide meeting space for the Kenton Town Council at no cost to the town.

The residents of Kenton want to help disabled veterans, but they do not want to give away a significant asset only to see the property developed or used for some other purpose.

So far, my efforts to move this project forward in a responsible manner have been met with favorable comments from members of the Kenton Town Council, Mr. Cannon of VWI, veterans and area residents. I am happy to support this project.