Laurel Fire Department loses a former chief; other local news
By Tony Russo and Andrew Sharp
Here's a look at news and events from around southern Delaware this week.
Former chief spent a lifetime serving at fire department
The town of Laurel this week is grieving the loss of former Fire Department Chief William Hearn, “Bill” to his friends.
Jack Northam, one of Hearn’s closest friends, joined the LFD in 1968, five years after Hearn himself began volunteering. Northam’s daughter Stacy (now Northam-Smith) grew up hanging around the firehouse. When her father died in 1997, she “adopted” Hearn.
“Billy has always been very involved with the fire service. Up until December when he went out as president, he was always there,” Northam-Smith said. “He was always taking care of everything, and it's going to be such a loss, not just for those of us in the fire company, but the whole community.”
Hearn touched people’s lives beyond the role he played as chief and then as president of the fire company. The Laurel firehouse is as much a meeting place as a public safety building. Few people have planned their wedding or another event at the firehouse without experiencing his help and advice, whether they were known to him before their first meeting or not.
Hearn saw it as part of his duty, but also his pleasure, to help people. It was that disposition that endeared him to so many.
“I can remember as a young adult, probably, oh, my gosh, I was like 20 or 21 and Billy was still chief. I started showing up at a lot of the fires and taking pictures, and that was back in the days when we had to take them to drugstore to get them developed,” Northam-Smith said.
“I would get the pictures developed and take them off, put them in the radio room for all the guys to see. Billy wound up getting me a coat that said, ‘LFD Photographer’ on the back. He even gave me a plate for the front of my car so I could jump the line and get closer to the fire.”
It wasn’t the coat she valued so much as the recognition. Hearn excelled at understanding where people needed help or encouragement and provided it whenever he could.
When we’re gone, it is the stories about how we touched other lives that survive us, and there are thousands of stories about lives Hearn touched.
“He and his wife, Bonnie, she was in the auxiliary and has been for many years and she was a past president. The fire company, aside from their own family, has really been their life,” Northam-Smith said. “I feel that my life is that much better because we've had such a close relationship all these years. He has been a role model for so many. It wasn't for the glory or the fame or anything else. He did it from the heart and because he wanted to serve his community, a true volunteer.”
A celebration of life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 27 at the firehouse.
– Tony Russo
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Classical string quartet performing free concert in Georgetown
The New York-based Harlem Quartet, which has been featured on national TV, toured internationally, and played for Barack and Michelle Obama, will play a free show in Georgetown on Friday, March 25 at 5:30 p.m.
It’s a result of a partnership between Georgetown’s First State Community Action Agency and Coastal Concerts, with support from the Longwood Foundation.
The ensemble plays classical string quartet music along with modern works including jazz and Latin styles. They’ll perform at First State Community Action Agency’s Georgetown office in its large conference room.
Fast internet slowly rolling out
Remember that effort to bring broadband internet to every home in Delaware? The state announced that construction is set to begin in the next few weeks after the awarding of $56 million in grants to Comcast, Verizon and Mediacom. The companies will provide a minimum 25 percent match for the grants.
The work will roll out over the next three years, and install wired internet with a minimum of 100 megabits per second download speed and 20 megabits per second upload speed.
To keep up with project progress in the future, visit the Delaware Broadband Map.
Voting bill could affect towns like Greenwood and Bridgeville
In many Delaware towns and cities, people who are registered to vote with the state are not able to vote in municipal elections unless they also register with the town. Some municipalities have been dropping that dual registration requirement in favor of simply requiring that people be registered with the state (Seaford, for one). Greenwood has been looking into it.
Now, all that may be changing statewide. Senate Bill 233 would end municipal level voter registration except in the case of nonresident voters.
The bill recently passed the Senate and is now in a House committee. Downstate, it has the support of Rep. Bryan Shupe, whose district is in the Milford area.
Claire Snyder-Hall, executive director of Delaware Common Cause, applauded the bill for removing barriers to voting, saying in a statement, “It is our position that people registered to vote in Delaware should not have to register twice to have their voices heard in local elections.”
Amity Coffee watch
Amity Coffee in Greenwood has been closed for months while work progresses on a new location on Market Street. The owners still haven’t announced an opening date, but did announce this week that they are having a moving day on Saturday, bringing in equipment out of storage. This seems like a hopeful sign in Greenwood’s coffee scene.
Why no gas tax cut in Delaware?
Note: This has been updated with lawmakers' plans to send payments to residents.
If you’re wondering why Maryland residents get cheaper gas thanks to a temporary suspension of the gas tax in that state, and Delaware residents don’t, it’s because political leaders here say state law wouldn’t allow such a move.
The snag in the idea to suspend the gas tax is a little complicated, but the gist is the money from the tax is used to pay for road projects, and the law doesn’t allow decreasing the tax while that money is being used to pay off transportation bonds.
Rep. Danny Short of Seaford and Rep. Tim Dukes of Laurel said in a press release that they supported, instead, giving every legal resident of the state $100, including children. Democrats and Republicans eventually agreed on a plan to send $300 to every resident who filed a 2020 tax return.
Tongue-twisting festival planned in Milford
The Bug and Bud Festival, whose founders apparently did not try saying the name three times fast when they came up with it, is coming back to Milford. The event will be April 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Downtown Milford Inc. says. Per the city’s website, the festival celebrates the state bug, the ladybug, and Arbor Day. Alternatively, they could have called it the “We Just Want To Have A Festival Festival.”
A 5K run and “bunny hop” is scheduled for April 9 in Bridgeville. (Turns out there’s no rule against hopping for an entire 5K.) The library is hosting the Operation Rabbit Run 5K Run/Walk that Saturday at 9 a.m., rain or shine. It starts at the Bridgeville Library. Registration is $25 until April 2, $30 after. The student rate is $20 with an ID, and there’s a free kids run for ages 10 and under starting at 8:50 a.m. Sign up here.
Proceeds benefit the Woodbridge High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC Program and Delaware State Police’s Camp Barnes. The camp is free and open to all state residents ages 10-13 (until registration fills up). Proceeds also help Communities in Schools with supplies for Woodbridge students in need.
Hear Vietnam War experiences
A Vietnam War veteran and a writer who helped document war experiences will appear at the Laurel Public Library on Tuesday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m. The library said veteran Rick Lovekin will share combat experiences, and Nancy Lynch will read letters from her book “Vietnam Mailbag.” Lynch was a columnist for the Wilmington Morning News during the war, and her popular column of the same name as the book featured letters from service members overseas. https://www.facebook.com/VietnamMailbag/
Book club kicks off
A book club for men age 18 and older is starting up at Greenwood Public Library. The Gentlemen and Scholars Book Club is for men to “discuss books and other manly things.” At the first meeting on April 12 at 6 p.m., they’ll talk about what participants have been reading and decide on future books to read and discuss. The promotional image features a man with a pipe, but smoking is not required.
Milford man shot dead by police after chase
Dewey Beach Police fatally shot an armed man on Saturday after confronting him multiple times at the Starboard Restaurant, Delaware State Police said. State police are handling the investigation.
Investigators said Starboard staff notified Dewey police around 1:15 a.m. about a man leaving the restaurant with a gun. When officers got there, the man, later identified as Rodney K. Robinson II, 21, of Milford, fled on foot and got away. Then about an hour later, police got another call that Robinson was back at the restaurant in an employee-only area. Dewey Beach officers again went to the scene and Robinson fled again, eventually running into an alley.
Police did not give any details about what led to the shooting in the alley, only saying that “a single gunshot was fired” by an officer who had been on the force for a year and a half.
Robinson fled after being shot, and was eventually found unconscious with a wound to the upper body behind a building along Route 1, police said. He was pronounced dead at Beebe Healthcare.
Police are still investigating and the officer has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome.
Overpass work slated to begin soon
The Department of Transportation has picked a contractor, Adel Construction, for the new overpass planned for the intersection of Route 16 and Route 1 near Milton. Utility work at the site has been underway since the fall, and road and bridge construction is supposed to begin this spring just in time for summer traffic. DelDOT’s target end date for the work is 2025. It’s one of a number of overpasses going in on Route1 and Route 113.
Excitement over Surf Bagel coming to Milford
The news that Lewes' Surf Bagel will open a new site in Milford has been generating buzz downstate. The Cape Gazette has a writeup you can read here. The Delaware Business Times wrote last year about SoDel's hopes to open more Surf Bagel locations, including possibly northern Delaware.
Dish of the week
By Edgar Diaz
Pizza waffles and pizza waffle pizzas
Super quick, easy to make, and kid approved!
For pizza waffles, get a can of refrigerated crescent rolls, a jar of marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and some pepperoni.
Cut the dough into four rectangles. Put mozzarella cheese and pepperoni on one side of the rectangle. Fold the dough over the filling, and crimp shut.
Cook in a waffle iron for 2-5 minutes until browned to your liking.
Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.
For pizza waffle pizzas, take the pizza waffles out of the waffle iron about a minute early. You want the color to be lighter, because you’re going to put them in the oven in a minute.
Top with marinara sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and whatever other toppings you want.
Place on a baking sheet, and broil in the oven for 1-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.
Follow Edgar Diaz on Instagram @diptoe