Legislators give updates at Milford luncheon

MILFORD — Legislators gathered at Rookery North Wednesday afternoon with Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford members with lunch and updates on their mind.

Newly appointed president of the chamber’s executive board Cheryl Doucette introduced the panel, adding that the ease of access to local legislators is a benefit to the Milford area.

Delaware Senator Gary Simpson; Representatives Harvey Kenton, Dave Wilson and Charles Postles; Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson; Kent County Economic Development Director James Waddington and Milford
Mayor Bryan Shupe were in attendance for the event along with local business owners and managers.

“I think we’re blessed to have small businesses here, but also two of the larger employers in the district: Bayhealth and the Milford School District,” Sen. Simpson said starting off the panel.

Sen. Simpson updated the crowd on topics he thinks will “come to the forefront of the [legislative] session fairly early this year,” including recreational marijuana, prevailing wage, right to work zones, electric rates restructuring and the local minimum wage structure.

Many of the legislators spoke on prevailing wage, a pre-determined hourly wage for contracting work such as construction, as an up and coming hot topic.

“The public doesn’t realize what prevailing wage is costing us,” Sen. Simpson said. “If we didn’t have it, one of our schools would be free.”

Mayor Shupe later touched on
prevailing wage, also, adding that he only recently came to realize the impact prevailing wages have on a small community.

Calling it a “real life scenario,” he
touched on an upcoming project on Airport Road.

“It will cost more money to complete that project; it could be as expensive as $300,000 more,” he said. “I want to see that wording overturned.”

As a member of the 12-person finance committee with other legislators, Rep. Kenton spoke on finances during the luncheon.

“I’m just starting my fourth term in office. I do not take it lightly. I thank you for that opportunity to serve,” he began.

The committee consists of six legislators each from the senate and house of representatives. Seven of those are from New Castle County, four are from Kent County and one, Rep. Kenton, is from Sussex County. Eight are democrats and four are republicans, he added.

“We have a $2.2 billion projected [state] budget with up to $300 million or more in defi cit. One-third [of the budget] is for education, one-third is for Medicaid and one-third is for everything else,” he said. “Come June 30th, we will have a $43
million grant in aid package.”

He gave accolades to the next speaker, Rep. Wilson, for “championing” farm land preservation at 3 a.m. last year just before the budget was approved to ensure funding.

“Every time I walk into legislative hall, I think about the people that took their time to send us to office,” Rep. Wilson added, echoing Rep. Kenton’s comments.

“Small business is the back bone of our state,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for Milford. I’m a native Milfordian. The first night of my life I spent in Milford Memorial Hospital.”

He spoke to the group about prevailing wage, the Downtown Development District and the budget.

Rep. Postles called himself the “new guy at the table” as he was just elected to office for the first time this past election season.

Exciting developments in his district, he said, include Milford’s Downtown Development District designation, the newly opened overpass at Thompsonville Road, construction to be completed around the area and the raising up of The Turf Sports Complex just north of Milford.

“Those fields will be available for local teams and schools to use,” he said. “It’s a tremendous asset to the community. Milford is the closest largest town to
the sports complex.”
Rep. Postles said growth for the area could include hotels and restaurants to accommodate the tourist spot once it’s completed.

Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson and Kent County Economic Development Director James Waddington both spoke to the group about the benefits of the Downtown Development District designation Milford now touts along with matching grants Available from both counties. They also spoke about businesses offering their own local benefits.

“Bayhealth,” Mr. Lawson began, “is the single largest investment. It’s something I think will impact generations to come. We’re just glad they chose this side
of the Mispillion.”

Mayor Shupe spoke to the group last, beginning with the accomplishment he’s most proud of this year: Becoming a new father..

He spoke of progress at the new Bayhealth campus located in the southeast quadrant of Milford, along with the current facility.

“It’s not as easy as turning off the Clark Avenue facility one day and turning the other on the next,” he said. Bayhealth has now given 19 tours of the current facility to a variety of businesses.

He spoke of new businesses possibly benefi ting From the Downtown Development District grant opportunities including Touch of Italy and the former
Lou’s Bootery, recently purchased by Dan Bond who also owns The Towers just a block away.

Riverplace, hoped to be a mix of retail, restaurants and residential, is also in the very beginning stages, according to Mayor Shupe. It would be located along
the river where the basketball courts are and water facility was before it was recently moved across town.

“We’re looking to replace the basketball courts and ideas to increase recreation on that site,” he said. “I don’t want people to forget what we already have here in town: two dance schools, parks & recreation department, Boys & Girls Club and the dog park. You can travel a mile around Goat Island and experience gour different ecosystems.”

Developments in the downtown area also include changes at Davis, Bowen and Friedel, Inc., which, “has made a commitment to move in [former Milford
Skating Center],” Mayor Shupe said, adding that the business plans to make façade improvements to the building.

The city of Milford is also working with DelDOT to work on a comprehensive plan for Front Street, he added.

“We’re excited for the opportunities ahead for Milford,” Mayor Shupe said.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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