Following an election in March for Blades Town Council, incumbents Donald Trice and Pierre Gaither and newcomer Nancy McAdams were sworn in at the council meeting held April 11.
Councilman Russell Joseph, who has served the town for 51 years, had planned to be present to tender his resignation after six months’ absence due to poor health. However, he was admitted to the hospital earlier that day. Mayor Robert Atkinson will interview potential replacements to be appointed to serve out the remaining year of Joseph’s term.
Michael Smith was nominated and approved to continue as vice-mayor. Atkinson recommended Smith because of his experience and what he has accomplished in the town.
Craig Eliason was quickly approved to continue as town solicitor and Weaver Appraisals will continue as town appraiser.
Police Chief Paul Anthony, whose new contract was to end in May 2025, is retiring at the end of May of this year. “After 37 years of public service, 34 as a police officer, it’s time,” he said.
Atkinson commented, “Paul has done more in some areas than we could have hoped for.”
A search has already begun for a new chief, and there are two applicants so far. Anthony also is continuing to seek new applicants for patrolmen. Two recent hires were not able to complete training.
Questioned on how long the town can afford a part-time police department (with Delaware State Police responding with town officers are not available), the council is divided. Mayor Atkinson said, “We’ll do what we can. My choice is to maintain a department.”
Vice-mayor Smith said, in his opinion, small towns could save a ton of money by having a county-wide system with one chief. As it is, small towns must compete with cities in the area which can pay higher salaries.
According to the mayor, the difference between what Blades and Seaford offer has quadrupled in recent years, even after pay was increased as much as possible in Blades. “Starting pay for State Police officers is $26,000 more,” he added.
Police Commissioner Don Trice said he is talking to county councilmen and state representatives “to see what they can do to help us out.” The police department has requested $6,500 from the State Aid To Local Law Enforcement Committee (S.A.L.L.E) and Emergency Illegal Drug Enforcement Programs (E.I.D.E) in the second round of funding.
There have been complaints about BB guns. Chief Anthony asked residents call 911, not his office, to report any suspicious person or activity.
It was again announced that town clean up would be held at the park on April 23 from 7 a.m. until noon. Dumpsters will be available to residents only for trash and yard waste, according to rules of Delaware Solid Waste Authority.
Town Administrator Lisa Marks reported work on the Water Treatment Plant Project is scheduled for completion June 24. She also reported the Summer Food Truck will be serving lunches again in the Blades Park this summer.
A single bid to cut the grass at the cemetery this season was received from Bennett’s Lawn Service for $450 per cut every 10 days.
The town has requested funding from DNREC’s 2022 Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Trails Grant Program for additional picnic tables for Blades Park.
Parks and Cemeteries Commissioner Pierre Gaither said more picnic tables will be ordered and that at least two of them would be accessible for wheelchairs. He also noted that it may be necessary to raise rental fees for the park. “The town is losing money every time we rent it out,” he said.
Gaither further reported that a sunken grave at the cemetery has been filled in and trash cleaned up. Grave sites in the existing area have sold out. Sites in the new area will now be offered for sale.
A first reading was heard on a resolution to change water rates. The only change is for the minimum rate for water service, which would increase from $30 per month to $35.
The mayor explained that increased costs due to the addition of a second filtration system, including chemicals and electricity, make the increase necessary. “We’re not looking to make money on the water service, but to break even,” he said. “We have one of the most reasonable rates for water in Delaware.”
Trice distributed to the council draft copies of the town charter with proposed changes. McAdams, who serves on a charter committee with Atkinson, Trice and Pierre and Patricia Gaither, commented, “The committee needs to go through the entire charter. It was written in 1974… We will go through the whole thing, figure the cost (since every change involves legal fees), then bring the changes to the council.”
After council approval, the changes would go to Dover for approval at the state level.