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MORNING STAR • SEPTEMBER 4 - 10, 2008

Laurel Council discussion about grass ordinance gets a little testy By Tony E. Windsor Members of Laurel’s Town Council seemed to become somewhat frustrated as the issue of the town’s system for notifying property owners about the need to cut grass was discussed. During the Tuesday, Aug. 2, meeting of Mayor and Council, Councilman Chris Calio expressed his concerns to Town Code Enforcement Officer, Paul Frick, about the need for the grass to be cut on the property of the proposed Village Brook West development near Discount Land Road. “The grass on the property at Village Brook West is so high you could lose a small child in it,” Calio said. “I think the [town] ordinance says we notify property owners when the grass gets six-inches high.” Frick responded that he had called the property owner and was promised that the grass would be cut. However, thus far the property owner has not taken care of the grass, so he will be sending out a certified letter making him aware that if the grass is not cut, the town will do it and charge him. Calio asked if the town made phone calls to all residents regarding grass needing to be cut. Frick told Calio that he has

done it in previous cases, but not necessarily all cases. Calio said he feels this is an issue of fairness. “We need a policy that is cut and dried,” he said. Town Manager Bill Fasano said that when the town has easy access to a property owner calling them is “the courteous thing to do” rather than sending a letter. Calio told Fasano that if the town is going to call one property owner it should call every property owner. Fasano reacted to Calio’s comment stating, “This is a small community. We don’t have 50,000 residents.” Calio said the size of the town was not the issue. “If we are not going to give everyone the opportunity of a phone call, then where is the fairness?” Fasano said that there is a difference between the law and policy. “Part of enforcing the law is the administration of policy,” he said. “When we are able to make a phone call, we do. That is part of administering policy.” Calio then questioned Fasano about the meaning of his statement. “Are we now saying that town codes are not law,” he asked? Frick said in the past he has used phone calls as a way of helping to “foster good working relationships” with property own-

Laurel to discuss repayment of $2.5 million loan to Delaware By Tony E. Windsor The Town of Laurel is poised to borrow $2.5 million from the state to improve its municipal water distribution system. During the Tuesday, Sept. 2, meeting of Laurel Mayor and Council, Town Manager Bill Fasano said that the town has been offered a 25-year loan with no interest. “We are the only municipality in the state who has been offered this type of no interest loan, so we should take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “We need to find a way to pay it back in a way that is fair to the community.” Fasano said the Laurel Finance Committee will be meeting to discuss how the loan should be paid back and it is anticipated that full recommendations should come before council by the Monday, Sept. 15, meeting of Mayor and Council. The water improvements include enhancing the water pressure throughout the town by installing larger water pipes. This, according to Fasano, is not only an outstanding opportunity for Laurel residents, but also an answer to a safety concern involving the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department. “These improvements are a matter of public safety. We want to make sure we have sufficient water pressure for adequate fires service, as well as for our residents,” he said. Public Works Supervisor, Woody Vickers, said there are water pipes in the town that have pipes that are four inches in diameter, but over the year build up in the pipes have narrowed them to a width of 2 and a half inches. He said the plan is to replace the 4-inch pipes with at least 8inch pipes, or 10-inch pipes in some cases. Councilman Donald Phillips, chairman of the Finance Committee, said he agrees with Fasano that the town is fortunate to have gotten the opportunity for a no-interest loan from the Delaware Office of

Drinking Water. “If you consider a zero interest loan in comparison to a loan that has four percent interest, it is like getting the work done for half the money. Having a traditional four percent interest would mean an additional $1.5 million we would have to repay,” he said. Fasano added that the loan runs for five years without the town having to make any payments. In the sixth year the town will start paying back the state at a flat $100,000 per year. “Over the course of the 25-year life of the loan we will see a difference in the value of the dollar, so eventually this $100,000 payment will gradually become more affordable,” he said. Along with having meetings with the Finance Committee to determine the proper path forward for repaying the $2.5 million loan, the town will also be meeting with representatives of the State Office of Drinking Water. The issue will most likely come back before the Mayor and Council during the Sept. 15 meeting.

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ers, especially contractors who are working for developers. He said, however, he wants to make it clear that everyone gets the certified letter when the grass needs to be cut. Fasano said by making phone calls the issue of the grass can be addressed before a letter is needed. “It costs five dollars to send out a letter. If we can get the problem taken care of with a phone call, we are actually being good stewards of the tax payers’ money,” he said. Fasano then told Calio that he needed direction on how to proceed with notifying residents about high grass. “If you want to dictate policy, then you need to give some direction. I will be happy to do whatever it is you want,” he said. Calio said he does not care how the town addresses the grass issue, he just wants it to be done in a uniform manner to assure fairness. “It is unfair for anyone who gets a notice without the benefit of a phone call,” he said. “Whether it is a call or letter, I really don’t care how you do it. I just want it done in a fair way. That’s all I am getting at.” Mayor John Shwed said he understands where Calio is coming from. “I get phone calls from residents who have received a certified letter about cutting their grass and the want to know why they did not get a phone call. I think Mr. Calio is sincere about his concern. It is possible that the town staff could get distracted by other responsibilities and not be able to make a phone call. All I am trying to say is let’s do whatever we can to make sure everyone gets treated fairly,” he said.

Frick said in the past, the town has knocked on the door of a resident who is not in compliance with the grass cutting ordinance. If no one is home they would leave a notice on the door knob. However, the notice most generally would be ignored and the town would wind up sending out a certified letter. “Like I said I am only trying to foster good working relationships by given the courtesy of a phone call when I can,” Frick said. “I assure you that from now on I will follow the code to the letter, regardless of what it costs the town. From now on we will not waste time making phone calls.” Councilman Don Phillips said he agrees that Laurel is still a small town and he sees no reason why when it is available, a phone call cannot be made to discuss the need for compliance to the town’s codes. “I think we can call a property owner, but also send the letter,” he said. “I think the phone call will soften the impact of the certified letter. These people will understand you are simply following procedure.” Council President Terry Wright said he would like to see the phone calls remain part of the process of notifying residents about being in compliance with town codes. “I think we need the phone calls,” she said. “I would like us to try and not become that big machine that has no personality.” The discussion of the issue ended without any action being taken outside of Frick’s comments about not making phone calls in the future.

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September 4, 2008_L  

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