Mayor of Blades is proud of progress, construction

By Lynn R. Parks

Mayor B. J. Hardin is happy to see diminishing the rivalry that for so long divided his adoptive town and its neighbor to the north, Seaford. And he credits that which for so long kept the two towns apart: the Nanticoke. "The river, instead of dividing us as it has in the past, is now bringing us together," said Hardin, who moved to Blades in 1977 and who has been involved in town politics, either as councilman or mayor, since 1979. "I am thankful that at last, attitudes are changing." Hardin said that the recent Riverfest, which took place in both towns and which celebrated the river, is a good example of how the municipalities are working together. "It was bigger and better than any previous and I am hopeful that it will continue to grow," he said. The marina, currently under construction on the Blades side of the Nanticoke River, is another example of the two towns pulling together. Seaford's city government has been as supportive of the marina as Blades' and Hardin said that when it is completed this fall, the 87-slip facility will bring growth to both towns. "I envision people visiting the marina, going to the park, walking along the greenway and walking across the bridge to downtown Seaford," he said. "The whole area will benefit together, on both sides of the river." Of course, the park, planned for state land currently leased by the town, has yet to be constructed. The greenway is but a dream in Hardin's imagination. But Hardin, whose term is up in February 2003 and who is "leaning toward retirement," is hopeful. "If on my watch I can get a couple of these projects completed and a couple others under way, I will feel like I have left a legacy," he said.

Marine park Hardin said that the Nanticoke River marina, construction on which started in April, will be completed in October and will be ready for full occupancy next spring. Excavation of the basin is complete and workers are pounding in the pilings and sheet metal that will hold its banks in place. Flooding of the basin will take place in mid-August. The 15.3 acres on which the marina sits is owned by the state and is leased to the town of Blades. The initial 10-year lease is about to run out, Hardin said, and negotiations are under way for a 99-year lease. Once that is complete, Hardin plans to begin working toward getting businesses to come to the portion of the land that is on the east side of the Blades Causeway, opposite the marina. He envisions small shops on the land, which is bordered on the east by wetlands that lead to the river. As part of its state permit for construction of the marina, the Blades Economic Development Corporation is required to replace .64 acres of wetlands that were destroyed in the construction. That mitigation will take place on the property on the east side of the causeway, extending to the west the wetlands that are already there. They will become a part of the wetlands the town already owns and through which Hardin would like to see built a walkway to the river. "I would like to see this made into a wildlife refuge," he said. The walkway would begin where Hill Street currently ends and would culminate in a fishing pier, across the river from Seaford's canoe launch, and stands from which to view birds and other wild creatures.

Double the size Annexation of 37 acres six years ago nearly doubled the size of Blades. Mayor Hardin said that the annexation is beginning to pay off with construction in Little Meadows, a housing development off High Street. Several lots in phase one of the development have been sold, as has a speculative house being built by Mahetta Construction. Developer is Dave Webb, owner of Housing Unlimited. Selling price is about $23,000 a lot; like the rest of Blades, water is provided by the town and sewer service by the county, which pumps effluent to Seaford's treatment plant. Phase one of the development is made up of 32 lots. Phase two, which will extend Little Meadows south toward an extension of 7th Street, yet to be constructed, will have 33 lots. When 7th Street is fully extended, it will connect with the road that leaves US 13 south of Delaware 24 and goes past the center containing Webb's office and a new Maytag store. The center, as well as the empty lot to the south that extends to the Church of the Nazarene, was included in the annexation. Hardin said that the empty lot will be reserved for a commercial enterprise, while most of the remaining property is zoned for residential development.

School construction "Red hot in town right now," according to Hardin, is construction at the Seaford Kindergarten. At the conclusion of the $6.2 million construction project, started this spring and expected to be complete by September 2002, the school will be more than triple the size it is now. As it does now, Blades will provide the school with water. Sewer service will be provided by the county system. Hardin said that the town will have to upgrade several roads leading to the school, including 10th Street to accommodate the heavy trucks that will be hauling construction supplies. Hardin said that the town is discussing bus patterns with the school district. At issue is how a connection with 7th Street northeast of the school will be laid out. Hardin is pleased that the district is increasing the size of the one Seaford School District building in Blades. "It lets us know that there is an interest by the school system to continue to use the Blades facility," he said.

Possible acquisition The town in is negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding a lien that was placed on a building in Blades following a 1995 cleanup of hazardous waste. Hardin said that if the negotiations are successful, the town may then obtain the 6-acre property containing that building and several others. The property, at the corner of Blades Causeway and River Road, has been "virtually useless to anyone" since one building on it was contaminated with chemicals. With the EPA lien, the owner was unable to sell the property, Hardin said. Hardin said that if the town becomes owner of the property, several buildings, including the one that had hazardous waste in it, will be torn down. A large white block building, most recently a bread company warehouse, will be rented out and the town will use another building, formerly the home of Wright's Welding, for storage. With the destruction of the buildings, there will be room for commercial enterprises to set up shop, possibly including, Hardin said, a boat-related industry to go along with the marina.

Water plant Davis, Bowen and Friedel, the engineering firm for Blades, is fine-tuning plans for construction of a water treatment facility on 4th Street, next to town hall. Bids will be solicited soon for the facility, expected to cost about $1 million, Hardin said. The new plant will provide fluoridation treatment, required by the state, and will have new pumps to increase water pressure to adequately serve Little Meadows and other new construction. Hardin said that Blades is facing some problems, including absentee landlords who do not take care of their property as well as traffic: About 13,000 vehicles a day pass through Blades on alternate US 13. But he is optimistic that the small town, which dates to the mid 1700s and which now boasts an official population of 961, will work its way through them. "I expect to hear soon that property values are increasing," he said. "I can foresee entrepreneurs looking at some of our homes and saying, ‘What a great opportunity for a bed and breakfast.' "Blades could become a diamond city within the Diamond State."

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