Dover City Council, in a split vote Monday night, decided to go ahead with a recommendation to demolish a now-closed recreation building at Dover Park.
The 5-3 vote – with Councilman David Anderson absent due to military service – upheld an Oct. 28 Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee decision to tear down the building. The city's attempts to raze the structure had garnered protests from several groups on the east side of the city.
However, the council's vote also earmarked $80,000, part of the money that could have been used to renovate the building, for future improvements at Dover Park. Those improvements could include construction of a new recreation building.
Councilman Sean M. Lynn, whose district includes Dover Park, voted against the demolition, saying that while he was in favor of setting aside money for future work, he felt doing so without a proper framework for how the money would be used was not a good idea.
"Frankly, I'm just not comfortable with it," Lynn said, adding the demolition was a disservice to both the community and to his district.
Councilman Wallace Dixon, however, voted in favor saying that if left standing the vacant building would attract illegal activity.
"One of my reasons for demolition is I don't like empty buildings where criminal acts could take place," he said.
In other business, council was asked to spend $6,000 for an economic inclusion study to be conducted by the Delaware State University Center for Economic Development and Trade. The study, as set forth by Delmarva Black Chamber of Commerce Chairman Clayton Hammond II, would examine ways of addressing the apparent disparity in economic opportunity between the black community and the rest of the city.
The $6,000 price tag will pay for two DSU graduate students to conduct the study.
Past efforts at economic development seemed to have ignored that sector of the population, Hammond argued, a point contested by Economic Development Director William Neaton and Downtown Coordinator Ed Perez.
There have been numerous programs to improve such opportunities, Neaton said, including a recent $90,000 planning grant to address problems in depressed areas of the city.
In moving to approve the request, Councilman Tim Slavin said he felt the city could benefit from the research.
"I believe it's an important piece of information to help us," he said.
"In all honesty, it will help us solve a problem that we have. Doing nothing is not an option."
Voting 6 to 1, council approved the study, which could begin within the next two months.