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A post-pandemic Dover

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Is Dover ready for another outbreak? That’s a question that Councilman Tim Slavin asked his fellow council members to consider when talking about reopening the city in a meeting April 27.

“We’re going to have to emerge from this a different society,” Slavin said. He suggested the city government make changes. For example, he said Dover should reassess how it collects trash during a crisis, a service that is limited now to keep workers and the public safe.

Councilman Ralph Taylor suggested adding handwashing stations to the downtown area and allowing stores to conduct business on the sidewalks. Councilman David Anderson said the city could consider partnering with the county to create a way for businesses and churches to collectively buy personal protective equipment like masks or gloves.

Still, some were resistant to the conversation. Before Delaware can consider reopening its businesses, Gov. John Carney said the state must meet certain criteria, including a two-week decrease in the percent of positive cases.

Councilman Matt Lindell said he thinks it’s too early to start talking about reopening, and all efforts should be coordinated with county and state officials.

“We’re just adding on to the uncertainty by talking about the things we don’t know about,” he said. “It’s good to discuss, but at this point, we’re talking about way, way down the road.”

Councilman Fred Neil disagreed. “I think it’s a good idea even though there’s a lot of things out of our hands,” he said. “To have this discussion now is merely a start.”

Much of the discussion revolved around public safety. Taylor said a post-pandemic Dover will need more police officers to enforce social distancing rules due to ongoing panhandling and nuisance problems downtown.

“When we open up the city, we don’t have the manpower currently to do everything that needs to be done,” Taylor said. To solve that, he suggested the city revise their memorandums of understanding with agencies like the Delaware State Police, Delaware Capitol Police and Delaware State University Police to support Dover police officers.

Dover Chief of Police Thomas Johnson said there are many factors to consider when changing these MOUs, such as worker’s compensation and other liabilities.

“If you start to talk about a scheduled presence, I would not be surprised if I was asked how that would be subsidized by the chiefs of those various entities,” Johnson said.

More council news

  • Dover's cash receipts are $1.8 million (about 14%) less than what they were this time last year. Collections January through March dipped because of business closures, layoffs, reduced hours and less use of city utilities, City Manager Donna Mitchell said. The city uses this cash flow to pay vendors and employees.

"It is our hope that more people really put a good faith effort towards their utility bills in these trying times," Mitchell said. "We are not disconnecting or charging late fees, but it may be very difficult for some to catch back up if they don't start making payments. Some of this money will still be captured when current unpaid bills are paid, but the reduced usage will be lost revenue."

  • Council approved the annexation and rezoning of a two-acre property at 679 Horsepond Road. The owner, JACJIM LLC, wants to expand the business and add a building.
  • A special council meeting is scheduled for May 4 to hear from the candidates for city council president. As of April 28, the candidates were incumbent Bill Hare and Roy Sudler.