By Tony E. Windsor

Laurel Mayor and Council has joined other elected bodies who are now using technology to hold public meetings. In an effort to address town business and maintain necessary transparency, the council held its most recent meeting via “Zoom Meetings,” a cloud-based computer service that enables video and audio group meetings.

Because the service does not require those who opt to join the meeting to have a Zoom account, any member of the public can access a meeting with desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Laurel Council uses technology to hold public meetings.

The meeting held Monday night, April 20, was short and addressed two “old business” issues regarding requests for property annexations. One annexation request is for a property owned by Atlantic Shores LLC, located at 10185 Woodland Ferry Road. Owners are requesting the property by annexed as “commercial-business” district use. During the Monday night meeting, a second reading was held at the annexation approved.

The second annexation request was submitted for a property located contiguous to the existing corporate limits of the Town of Laurel, located at 10692 Georgetown Road. The parcel is being requested to be annexed as a commercial business district use. This request was also approved during the recent council meeting.

In other businesses, it was reported that work continues on the Records Mill Dam Bridge project, which started in early March. According to the Delaware Department of Transportation, the project seeks to do upgrades to bring the dam into compliance with state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) dam safety regulations. This includes:

• Installation of a sheet pile wall along Willow Street to provide overtopping protection during extreme flood events.

• Removal and replacement of the existing outlet works

• Clearing and grubbing the upstream and downstream embankment slopes.

• Reconstructing Willow Street to improve vehicle access through the site in accordance with DelDOT standards, including traffic signage, guardrail, curbing and sidewalks.

• Concrete repairs to the interior of the Willow Street box culvert.

The project has forced the closing of a portion of Willow Street with detours provided via Front Street and Delaware Avenue. DelDOT is scheduling the project to continue through early fall. Laurel Town Manager Jamie Smith said once the Mill Dam project is complete, work is planned for upgrades to the Delaware Avenue Bridge.

Members of the Laurel Council also took time to express urgency in the need for residents to remain vigilant during the COVID 19 health crisis and adhere to the health and safety precautions being implemented including social distancing. 

Laurel Mayor John Shwed said the council meeting on Zoom Meetings is a way to ensure the town continues to run as smoothly as possible. “As long as we are smart and adhere to precautions such as social distancing, we can keep the town as safe as possible. This applies to economic development. Whatever we can do, we want to do it safely,” he said.

Councilman Jeff Hill, who is also a member of the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department, said he appreciates the efforts of the Town Manager and all of the municipal staff for their work in “keeping the town running” during the COVID 19 crisis. “We all know it’s tough out there,” he said. “Believe me; I deal with it every day on my end of it. Everybody please be careful and wear your masks, maintain hygiene and do not go out unless you absolutely have to. This COVID 19 is spiking here is Sussex County. I would say by the end of the week we will catch up with, if not surpass New Castle County in the number of COVID 19 cases we have here in Sussex County.”

Beginning in March the town took precautionary measures in response to the COVID 19 crisis. The Town of Laurel buildings and offices have been closed to the public. This includes Town Hall, Town Administrative Offices, Public Works Building, and Water and Wastewater Treatment Facilities.  

According to the Town of Laurel’s website, “The Town Manager, in consultant with the Mayor and Council, will evaluate continued office closures as needed, and will determine when the buildings will reopen to the public.”

 Town of Laurel Alderman’s Court continues to serve customers. Payments can be made online at Town of Laurel Police Department, Water and Wastewater crews will continue to respond to calls. Contact non-emergency police dispatch at 302-855-2980 and after-hours utilities emergencies at 302-236-6299. In the event of an emergency, call 911.

 Laurel residents are encouraged to use the Town’s website ( payment portal option for making utility billing payments. Payments can also be made by mail, drop box located at the Town office or by phone. 

Town staff will continue to work on site while offices remain closed to the public.