Some of the top stories. A new hospital, the departure of the city manager and a special state title for the high school wrestling team made Milford news.

End of an era

For the sixth year in a row, the Milford High School wrestling team captured the Division 2 state dual-meet championship with a 37-30 victory over Caravel Academy Feb. 9. However, the win marked a new era for the wrestling team and the Milford sports program.

While the wrestlers are still competing for another state title, the Division 2 streak won’t continue because the Bucs’ sports programs moved to Division 1 for schools with larger enrollments, now that Sussex Academy and Early College High School have been admitted to the Henlopen Conference.

Starting with 2019 fall sports, the Bucs are in the Northern Division of the conference for larger schools, while Sussex Academy and Early College High School have been added to the Southern Division. In state tournaments, if the sport has split competitions for Division 1 and 2, Milford will be in Division 1.

Bayhealth opens new hospital

The big story for this small city happened in early 2019, when Bayhealth Sussex Campus Hospital and Outpatient Center opened Feb. 5 at 100 Wellness Way.

“We’re very excited about what we’re bringing to Sussex County,” Bayhealth President and CEO Terry Murphy said at the time.

Highlights of the much-anticipated, state-of-the-art hospital include 128 private patient rooms, six operating suites, 30 emergency department bays and a 70,000 square-foot outpatient center.

“We’ve been able to redesign from the ground up,” Murphy said. “Every part of this facility, from the patient experience to the workspaces.”

The outpatient center includes a full-service, Penn Medicine-affiliated cancer program, with space for medical and radiation oncology.

Design is focused on safety and standardization and is the result of input from nurses, doctors and administrators. An innovative “nurse server” is located conveniently outside each patient room, where a nurse can access all necessary medication and supplies for each patient. The hospital also features a pneumatic tube system – something you might recognize from your local bank drive-through.

Easy navigation was a design priority; care was taken to separate patient and staff areas. Each patient room is equipped with a fold-out couch for visitor comfort with natural light wherever possible. The cafeteria includes indoor and outdoor dining.

A three-story, 90,000 square-foot Nemours office is also being built on campus. According to Murphy, pediatric physicians and other specialists will offer services there.

Repurposing former hospital

In June, Bayhealth completed the sale of the former Milford Memorial Hospital, 21 West Clarke Ave., to Nationwide Healthcare Services.

A skilled nursing facility will occupy space on the first and second floors of the former Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital. A federally qualified health center will move into the former cancer center. A childcare center will move into one of the campus buildings and the former hospital fitness center will be expanded into an outpatient rehab gym.

“I’m ecstatic to be able to get started on converting the site and preparing to take the delivery of care in Milford to the next level,” said Nationwide Chief Executive Officer Meir Gelley. “The Milford region is growing rapidly and we want to be in position to provide the latest services the population is demanding.”

City manager resigns

Milford City Manager Eric Norenberg resigned, effective Dec. 31, over a difference of opinion with city council.

In his letter of resignation, Norenberg said, “Recently, it has become apparent that the Milford City Council has a vision for the future that differs from mine and I respect that. It is one of the important hallmarks of the council-manager form of government, that the city council sets the vision and policy for the community and the city manager administers the city, carrying out those policies.”

He said the mayor and city council accepted his resignation. 

“The city has a great team of coworkers serving the community with dedication and pride each and every day. I wish each of you all well and thank you for the privilege of working with you,” Norenberg said in his letter.

Norenberg started as city manager Jan. 1, 2016 after working as Oberlin, Ohio city manager for eight years. Before that, he worked for Mesa, Arizona as special assistant to the city manager and acting director of the Convention and Community Center.

In his letter, he said he’s been honored to serve in Milford and he highlighted accomplishments of the city during his tenure, including:

Developing the city’s first strategic plan using resident survey data and community meetings to engage the community in the process, securing the Downtown Development District designation to aid in the revitalization of Milford’s residential and commercial core, obtaining an Opportunity Zone designation to spur investment in a key section of downtown and to jumpstart reinvestment in an older industrial area and ensuring the update of the comprehensive plan with community and stakeholder input.

Implementing automated side-loading refuse/recycling collection, energy efficiency programs, an automated meter infrastructure system and updating city codes.

Addressing deficiencies in the collection of back taxes and fees by changing the rules and procedures and aggressively pursuing delinquent accounts, leading to the collection of $387,000 out of nearly $500,000 in delinquent taxes through a combination of payment plans and monition sales. 

Starting an employee safety committee, regular training in safety and human resources for employees, a reward and recognition committee, adding vision coverage for employees and starting a drug-testing program to ensure the safety of the public and employees.