Laurel officials are essentially drawing a line in the sand as it pertains to an agreement with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), which stipulates that once the state does street repaving, or patch work on state-owned roadways, the town must pick up the bulk of maintenance costs.
Town Manager Jamie Smith brought the issue before Laurel Mayor and Council during its Tuesday, Feb. 16, public meeting. She explained that DelDOT is prepared to do street repaving of Brooklyn and Madison Avenues and because these streets are in the town limits, it is necessary for the town to sign off on an agreement for the work to begin.
Smith said the agreement stipulates that once the repaving is complete, the town agrees to assume responsibility for all future maintenance “from curb to curb.” The agreement states, “All other maintenance shall be the sole responsibility of the town. Such maintenance includes, but is not limited to all curbs and sidewalks, existing or reconstructed under this project, cleaning, ice control, and policing of sidewalks, cleaning and policing of the travel ways resurfaced, or reconstructed as part of the project, and surface cleaning of the storm water installations.”
She said one of the most concerning parts of the agreement comes with expecting the town to handle storm water maintenance, which may become a significant issue when the state starts expecting towns to cooperate with the EPA initiative known as MS-4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems). The MS-4 project calls for municipalities to develop and implement a comprehensive Storm Water Management Program (SWMP) that includes pollution prevention measures, treatment or removal techniques, monitoring, use of legal authority, and other appropriate measures to control the quality of storm water discharged to the storm drains and result in access to waterways, including Broad Creek and the Nanticoke River.
Because the DelDOT agreement expects the town to do maintenance along state-owned streets, which includes storm water maintenance, Smith worries about the pending financial impact on the town. “If we sign this agreement for Brooklyn and Madison Avenues, I am sure we will be expected to do the same for every state road in town. The residents of these streets pay state taxes and for the state to throw this cost back on the town is not fair. If the state would agree to give us more street aide, that may make a difference, but otherwise, I do not feel this is fair to the town,” she said.
Smith expressed her concerns to DelDOT representatives and inquired as to what would happen if the town refused to sign the agreement. “They (DelDOT) sent me a memo and a portion of the agreement highlighting the wording that states without the town’s signature, the repaving project will not be done,” she said.
Smith told the council that she has enlisted the help of State Rep. Tim Dukes and State Sen. Bryant Richardson to look into her concerns and is waiting to hear what they may have to say about the issue. “We typically street sweep and snow plow the state roadways as a courtesy, but my major concern is the expectations regarding storm water,” she said.
Public Works Director James Foskey told the council that when the town performs any emergency street work on state-owned roadways such as Brooklyn Avenue, he has to get a DelDOT permit and adhere to state specs for all the work. “Brooklyn Avenue is one of the worst streets in town,” he said. “If I have to go in there and do some emergency patching, it has to be done to state specs. The typical patch will cost $25,000. I do not think it is fair for the town to be expected to front that kind of money,” he said.
Mayor John Shwed told Smith he would recommend she not sign the agreement until hearing back from Dukes and Richardson.
“I would like for you to work with our two state representatives to see what they can do to get DelDOT to back off from this requirement. I would like for you not to sign the agreement until we hear from Rep. Dukes and Sen. Richardson stating that we have no choice,” he said.
Council President Chris Calio said he does not need to hear back from the state legislators, because he opposes the DelDOT agreement. “I will not vote to sign off on that agreement regardless of what Dukes and Richardson say,” he said. “It is wrong and I am not going to support it ever.”
Calio went on to suggest that the town include in the next water bill the names and contact information for state representatives and DelDOT officials so they will know who to contact when their roads do not get repaved.
Shwed said it was clear to him what is happening in regards to the street agreement. “The state is trying to save money in its budget and pushing the costs back on the towns,” he said.
Smith said she will continue to work with Dukes and Richardson in hopes of getting DelDOT to change the agreement so that the town will not be responsible for the maintenance of the state-owned roadways. Until that time, she will not sign the agreement.