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RG# 6140


RG 9015-028-000: Walnut St, Milford

Milford was formed from two communities, one on the north side of the Mispillion Creek and one on the south linked by a bridge over the creek near its headwaters. On the north, the establishment of a town was spurred by the Reverend Sydenham Thorne who had built a dam and established a grist and saw mill around 1780. He encouraged a nearby plantation owner, Joseph Oliver, to lay out building lots near Oliver’s store located on the road accessing communities to the north. By 1787, the first town street, Front Street, was laid out paralleling the Mispillion, and soon as many as eighty buildings could be found along the north banks of the creek. Town lots were established in South Milford around 1840 but it was the arrival of the railroad in 1859 that had a major influence on spurring development of the South Milford community. In the nineteenth century, the Town would flourish becoming a commercial center for the surrounding agricultural community.


1800 – 1849

In 1807, An ACT directing the manner of choosing commissioners to regulate, repair and light the streets in the town of Milford and for other purposes was passed into law. Although this Act did not specifically set up a municipal corporation, it did call for the kind of actions that were part of early municipal incorporation laws, and it is recognized by the City of Milford as the date of their first incorporation. It included the general boundaries of the Town which were indicated to be on the north side of the Mispillion Creek. It also called the election of five Commissioners, an Assessor, and a Treasurer. The Commissioners were to engage a surveyor to survey and plot the Town, to name its streets, and to record the plot with the Recorder of Deeds in Kent County. The Commissioners were given the power to oversee and repair the streets, as well as the power to light them and remove all nuisances which might prevent residents from using them. The Assessor was to assess the citizens of the Town in order to levy a tax to be used to repair the streets and for any other purpose which would contribute to the prosperity of the Town.1

A year later, an amendment to 1807 Act indicated that the electors of the Town’s officials were to be white male freeholders of the Town who were 21 or older. The amendment also repealed the requirement to light the streets and included additional duties of the Assessor and the Treasurer.2 In 1823, the section of the 1807 Act regarding the abatement of nuisances was repealed and re-written.3

In 1829, An ACT directing the manner of choosing commissioners to regulate and repair the streets of Milford and for other purposes (lighting the streets has been eliminated) declared all earlier Acts null and void, but indicated that the plot of North Milford which had been recorded with the Kent County Recorder of Deeds remained in full force as a survey of the boundaries of the Town. This Act functioned as a re-incorporation outlining the regulations governing the Town’s Commissioners although once again no municipal corporation was formed. There was to be elected five Commissioners, an Assessor, an Inspector of Accounts, a Treasurer, and a Constable, all to serve one-year terms. Electors were free white males who were the possessors of lands or tenements and over the age of 21 years. The Assessor was to make an impartial assessment of the real estate of the Town’s eligible electors in order to levy a tax that would provide the Commissioners with funds to repair the streets of the Town, but these monies were not to be used for the public highway which was to be cared for by Kent County. The Treasurer was to collect the taxes and the Inspector of Accounts was to review the Commissioner’s expenditures. The Town Constable had the same responsibilities and duties as a Kent County Constable. The Commissioners were given the responsibility to build a temporary jail and the Constable was to make use of this when citizens did not keep the peace. The Act specifically called for the Constable to enforce the recently passed law which prohibited swine from running at large. The Town’s citizens were given the right to kill poultry that were running at large.4  

In 1830 a supplement to the 1829 Act amended those who were eligible to vote in Town’s elections. In addition to the free white males, white unmarried females of age 21 and over who were freeholders in the Town were now eligible to vote. All voters must have paid their Town taxes for the preceding year. The language contained in this Act indicates that the Town is considered to be incorporated.5 A 1935 law amended the 1829 Act by providing for the elimination of the position of Town Constable and the assignment of their duties to the Constable of Kent County who could appoint a deputy to carry them out.6

In 1841, An ACT to amend the act entitled Act directing the manner of choosing commissioners to regulate and repair the streets of Milford, and for other purposes replaced both the 1829 and 1830 Acts and all amendments to them. The 1841 Incorporating Act declared the Town which still only included lands on the north side of the Mispillion to be incorporated. The Act called for the election of five Commissioners, a Collector/Treasurer, and an Assessor. Electors were those eligible to vote in general elections in the State. The elected Commissioners were to choose from amongst themselves, a President who was to preside over meetings and a Secretary. The primary duty of the Commissioners was to oversee the streets, funding their repair, and keeping the streets and gutters clear of obstructions. The assessment of a general tax, which was to be imposed in an impartial manner, was to be used to defray the expenses associated with repairing the streets. The Commissioners were also required to establish a place to impound any swine found running at large, and to create a temporary jail for citizens of the Town who disturbed the peace. The Deputy Constable who was appointed by the Constable of Kent County was to assist the Commissioners in keeping the peace. Citizens of the Town continued to have the right to shoot poultry that was at large.7

The Incorporating Act of 1841 was amended in 1847 when the Commissioners were given the power to suppress riotous and noisy assemblages or gatherings of Negroes, Mulattoes or other persons in the streets at night or on the Sabbath day within one mile in all directions from the bridge over Mispillion Creek. Different punishments could be meted out depending on whether the person was free or was a slave or apprentice. This law contains the first mention of the village of South Milford, calling for the Constable for Sussex County who was residing there to ensure that the provisions of the law were enforced within the village.8


1850 – 1899

In 1851, a law declared that the provisions in North Milford’s 1841 Incorporating Act which gave residents the right to shoot poultry running at large was extended to the area which included South Milford. The same year, the Commissioners of North Milford were authorized to install curbs along Front Street between East Street and West Street and on Walnut Street to Second Street. The cost of this was to be paid by the adjacent property owners who were to pave a five foot wide, brick walkway along the street fronts of their properties. If this work was not carried out by the property owner, then the Commissioners could undertake it, selling the property owner’s real estate and/or their personal goods to replace any costs incurred by the Town. The Commissioners of North Milford were also allowed to regulate the ornamental trees along the streets.9 In 1853, a law provided for Commissioners to be appointed to oversee the improvement of the state road at the southern end of the Milford Bridge over the Mispillion with funds for this work being provided by road taxes from Cedar Creek Hundred. They were to carry out any repairs deemed necessary in order to make this part of the road permanent and were also to pave with brick and lay curbs along the west side of the road. In the same year, the Town of North Milford began to control dogs by levying a tax on their owners, $1 for male dogs and $3 for female dogs, and the Sussex County Assessor was instructed to impose a similar tax within one mile in all directions from the bridge over Mispillion.10 In 1855, the laws regarding taxing dogs that had been passed in 1853 were repealed, and a new law set the amount of the tax at fifty cents for one dog and $1 for each additional dog. Also in 1855, the Commissioners of the Town of South Milford were authorized to expand their responsibilities to all roads open for public use within a half mile of the bridge over the Mispillion. To assist them in accomplishing this, they were to be allocated $75 by the Levy Court of Sussex County from the road taxes of Cedar Creek Hundred. 11 In 1861, all prior laws relating to fines for possessing dogs were repealed. In the same law, the Commissioners of North Milford were given the right to regulate and abate all nuisances with regard to buildings, enclosures, or pens which were noisome or have offensive smells, as well as the power to regulate chimneys and stovepipes in order to prevent fires, and the power to prevent fast driving or racing of horses as this could endanger Town residents.12 In 1863, the Milford Mills which had previously been exempted from taxation by the Town lost their exemption.13 An 1865 law instructed the Commissioners of the Town of South Milford to ensure that the residents kept their sidewalks in good repair.14 In 1866, the Town Commissioners of North Milford were to ensure that the owners of property along North Street between Front and Causey (4th) Street and along Church Street between Front and Third pave their sidewalks with brick and curb the streets. The Commissioners could complete this work for owners who did not comply and then place liens on their property and goods to recover the costs.15

In 1867, a law was passed called An Act to Incorporate the Town of Milford in which the corporate name was the “Commissioners of the Town of Milford.” The corporate boundaries as outlined in the Act were entirely on the north side of the Mispillion. Five Commissioners, an Alderman, an Assessor, and a Treasurer were to be elected to serve one-year terms. The Commissioners were to choose one of their members to serve as President, who would preside at Commission meetings as well as a Secretary. The Commissioners were to have oversight over the roads and streets, regulating their use and repairing them as well as opening new streets when petitioned to do so. The Town’s residents were to be taxed in order to provide funds to carry out the repairs on the streets, with Kent County providing assistance in the form of an annual allocation of $150. The Commissioners could also demand that the owners of property adjoining any street provide sidewalks and curbs at the property owner’s expense. If they refused, then the work would be carried out by the Town and the property owner charged to recover the costs. The Commissioners also had the power to make regulations and ordinances for the governance of the Town and provide sanitary measures for the health of the citizens. They were also to abate any nuisances that might exist in the Town. Anyone found to be not in compliance with the Town’s ordinances could be brought before the Alderman who was to be considered to have the same powers as a Justice of the Peace. Along with a Bailiff who acted as a Constable, the Alderman was to maintain peace in the Town, suppressing riotous acts and assemblages, and preventing bonfires, the firing of guns and setting off of fireworks. The Assessor was to assess all real estate as well as charge a per capita tax on all white males above the age of 21. The 1867 Incorporating Act did not specify a maximum tax to be levied on the Town. The Commissioners were also empowered to borrow money and issue bonds for the purpose of repairing the streets provided that the sum did not exceed $1,000.16

The first amendment to the 1867 Incorporating Act was passed two years later, in 1869. The 1867 Incorporating Act had required that most of the elected officials be freeholders in the Town, but this requirement was eliminated for the Alderman.17 In 1871, the Commissioners of the Town of South Milford were directed to lay sidewalks and curbs along South Front Street between the State Road (Walnut Street) to Franklin Street.18 At the time, the area located east of the State Road and south of South Front Street was well established because shipyards had been built there starting a century earlier. The area west of the State Road was just beginning to be built up since the first town lots were not laid out until c. 1840. In 1873, the 1867 Incorporating Act was amended for the Town of North Milford to set $1,250 as the maximum amount which could be levied on the Town, and also to direct that the Town’s finances be audited.19 An 1875 law indicated that the Levy Court of Sussex County was to allocate $100 to the village of South Milford to assist them is maintaining the streets. Also in that year, a law revised the 1867 Incorporating Act to require that all those who could vote for the elected officials must be current in paying their taxes and to authorize the Alderman to annually appoint two residents to act as auditors.20 A law in 1879 made revisions to the procedures associated with paving the sidewalks.21 In 1881, a law increased the tax that could be levied annually to no more than $2,000 and indicated that there would be no discrimination when assessing taxes. In addition, the Levy Court of Kent County increased their annual allocation to repair the streets by $50.22 An 1883 law required all five Commissioners (an increase of two over the 1867 Incorporating Act) to be freeholders in the Town.23 The final amendment made to the 1867 Act was in 1885 when the maximum amount of taxes to be levied annually was increased to $3,000.24

In 1887, the Town of Milford was re-incorporated in the corporate name of the “Town Council of Milford.” The Town’s boundaries were expanded so that they now included land in both Kent and Sussex Counties. As the Town had enlarged considerably, so too the Town’s governing body was larger. The Town Council consisted of a President and six members who would serve two-year terms. Three of the Council members were to be elected from North Milford and three from South Milford. A Secretary was to be chosen from one of the six. While all must be residents of the Town, only three were required to be freeholders. Also elected were an Alderman, a Tax Collector, a Treasurer, and an Assessor. The Council was given the power to oversee the roads and was to receive an annual allocation of $250 from both Kent and Sussex Counties in order to accomplish this; however, the maintenance of bridges and certain highways were to remain the responsibility of the counties. The procedures for laying out new streets were outlined as were those for paving sidewalks. The responsibilities of the Council to make ordinances to govern the Town were not changed from the 1867 Incorporating Act, nor were those of the Alderman and Bailiff in keeping the peace. The Assessor and the Treasurer’s duties and responsibilities also remained the same; however, an increase in the maximum tax of $3,000 annually had been approved in 1885 and the 1887 Incorporating Act reflected this amount. It was specifically stated in the Act that all arable land was not to be taxed for Town purposes, and those tax exemptions could be given to manufacturers for a period of ten years. The ability of the Town to borrow money was retained, and the amount was increased to $2,000. The amendment to the 1867 Incorporating Act which called for auditing the Town was also retained. New provisions were added at the end of the Act which required that the Town Council grant license to circuses, theatrical companies or minstrel shows; that canning businesses and manufacturers of phosphates and fertilizers or manures must obtain permission from the Town Council in order that the Town’s residents would be protected from fire and have their health safeguarded; and also, that the Town Council was to appoint a three-person Board of Health.25

In the same year as its re-incorporation, the Town of Milford, after referendum approval, was authorized to borrow $20,000 in order to provide pure water for domestic purposes and fire suppression; lay mains and laterals and install fire hydrants for distribution; establish a waterworks, and purchase carriages and hoses to suppress fires. Water rents were to be charged which would support the operating costs of the water system. The municipal bonds would be redeemed by a special tax that established a sinking fund used to pay the interest each year.26 It is likely that the Town did not move forward under this law because just four years later, in 1891, another law authorized the Town to borrow $40,000 to be used for the waterworks and to establish an electric light plant to provide light for all Town streets and for public use. In the same law, a Board of Light and Water was established to oversee the construction and operation of the waterworks and the light plant. The Board’s five Commissioners were elected to serve five-year terms with one Commissioner being replaced each year. The election of the Commissioners and the referendum on the borrowing of the funds for these utilities were all by weighted vote with each voter (both male and female) being given one vote for each $1 or partial $1 paid in Town taxes. Also in 1891, dog owners were required to register their dogs who would then be tagged; untagged dogs could be caught, impounded and then sold or killed.27 In 1893, the amount of taxes levied annually was increased to be no more than $4,000. The Town was also authorized to borrow $4,000, an increase of $2,000. Several other technical corrections were made to the 1887 Town Incorporating Act and to the Incorporating Act for the waterworks and electric plant.28 Two years later, in 1895, the maximum allowed tax to be levied was increased again to $6,000. In the same law, a discount of 3% for early payment of taxes was instituted. In addition, the Town Council was authorized to prohibit the opening of bucket shops, racket shops, transient stores, pool halls or billiard rooms.29 In 1897, among other minor amendments, the 1887 Incorporating Act was revised so that the position of Assessor became appointed rather than elected and assessment of the Town was to be carried out every fourth year rather than annually. In another law passed that year the Town borrowed $42,000 with which to redeem the bonds that had been authorized in 1891. Issuing these new bonds did not require referendum approval.30


1900 – 1949

A number of changes were made to the 1887 Incorporating Act in 1901 including the elimination of the requirement that Council Secretary be a Council member; authorization for the Town to borrow up to $8,000 with which to repair the streets; and the institution of a penalty for late payment of taxes. Also part of this law was a requirement that all property owners on Walnut Street from North Second Street to South Second Street must connect to the sewer, and also that any new construction in this area may be required to be brick, stone, and other non-flammable material.31 The last amendment made before the Town was once again re-incorporated was in 1903 when the Town borrowed $20,000 to be used to extend and improve the sewer system. The Town was required to levy a special tax with which to repay the interest and principal on the bonds issued.32

The Town of Milford was re-incorporated in 1907 as the “Town Council of Milford.” The corporate limits had not changed in the twenty years since the previous re-incorporation, nor had the structure of the government which still included a President and six Council members. Both men and women could now vote in elections for the Council, the Alderman, the Tax Collector, and the Treasurer. The 1907 Incorporating Act closely mirrors the previous one in many of its provisions. It renews the Town Council’s authorization in overseeing all streets, alleys, gutters, and sidewalks. A new position is created by this act, that of Supervisor of Streets. The Act provided The Town with the right to borrow up to 8% of the assessed value of the real estate to order to make repairs to the streets. The specific powers that had been part of the 1887 Incorporating Act remained, but this Act also provided the Town with the power to grant building permits as was the right to permit or not allow certain types of building materials. Amendments to the 1887 Act had determined that assessments would take place every fourth year and that the Assessor would be appointed by the Council. Also, the formation of a Police Force now replaced a Bailiff, but their duties and responsibilities were the same. The maximum tax that could be levied on the Town was increased to no more than $9,000 annually with no mention of an exemption for arable land but retaining the exemption for manufacturers. Relief for early payment and a penalty for late payment of taxes were included in this Act.33

Over the next twenty-four years, the 1907 Town Incorporating Act would be amended a number of times, as were amendments to the 1891 law establishing a Board of Light and Water Commission. In 1907, a law provided all citizens of the Town, not just freeholders, with the right to participate in the elections for the Board of Light and Water Commission. Their votes were no longer weighted to one vote for each $1 in taxes, but allocated one person with one vote, just as in the general elections.34 In 1911, a law provided for the Town’s general election and the election of Board of Light and Water Commissioners to be scheduled so as to take place at the same time and place. Also in 1911, the maximum tax that could be levied annually was increased to equal 1½% of the assessed value of the Town’s real estate.35 In 1913, a law made a number of amendments to the 1907 Incorporating Act among which were: increasing by one in the number of Council members who must be freeholders; appointing rather than electing the Alderman; authorizing up to $4,000 for the Council to construct or purchase a municipal building; allowing telephone, telegraph, and trolley poles to be taxed; increasing the amount of money that could be borrowed to repair streets to not more than 10% of the assessed value of the Town’s real estate; increasing the fine for non-compliance with ordinances; prohibiting the sale of any article which the Council deems to be against the peace, health or morals of the Town; increasing the number of members of the Board of Health from three to five; and making changes in the sections of the 1907 Act which related to oversight of the streets. Also in 1913, the Town borrowed $30,000 to repay the interest generated by the bonds that had been issued to repair the streets and to establish a sinking fund in order to redeem them.36 In 1919, the Town of Milford was authorized to sell the water and light plant and all equipment and then to contract with the purchaser to supply water and electricity to the Town’s residents with the money received from the sale to be used to repay the bonds used in financing the construction of the plants. As the sale was evidently not eminent, in another law that year, the Town was authorized to borrow $20,000 for water, light, and power purposes to be paid to the Board of Light and Water Commission. Repayment of this debt was to be by a special tax and this action required referendum approval.37 In 1921, females were made subject to assessment.38 In 1925, a number of bonds were refunded and re-issued including those from 1897 and those from 1919. This necessitated issuing new bonds for $25,000 and $20,000. In addition, $40,000 in new bonds were to be issued to extend the sewer system. A special tax was to be added to the general amount of tax levied each year on the Town’s taxpayers in order to have sufficient funds to repay the debt.39 A law in 1927 revealed that the Town’s boundary had been expanded. Also in 1927, the Town was authorized to borrow $30,000 with which to improve the water and light plant. It is possible that the 1919 law which had required referendum approval was not approved as the referendum for this action was by weighted vote.40 In 1929, a revision to the 1919 law allowing Milford to sell its light and water plants provided any funds remaining after all bonds are repaid to be placed in a permanent trust to be managed by the Town of Milford Trust Fund Commission. Interest from the Trust was to fund improvement of the streets, but the principal was to remain intact. In the same year, the Town was authorized to borrow $24,000 with which to refund bonds issued in 1927. In addition, another law made a number of amendments to the 1907 Incorporating Act among which were changes that provided for general assessments to take place every three years, rather than every four years.41

In 1931, a Charter and a municipal corporation were established in the name of the “City of Milford.” The territorial limits matched those established by law in 1927. The City was divided into four wards, two in Kent County and two in Sussex County with the state road known as Walnut Street separating the wards in each county. The City possessed powers such as were awarded by the State of Delaware to all municipal corporations. The structure of the government changed with this Charter. There was now a Mayor and eight Council members. Two members of the Council were to reside in each ward. The Council members were to serve staggered, four-year terms. The Mayor was to be elected at large to a two-year term. Those who had resided in the City for six months, were over 21 years of age, and not delinquent in paying their taxes were eligible to vote for the Mayor and Council. The Council was to meet at least monthly and would determine its own rules of order with a quorum being a majority of the members elected. The Council was to appoint City officials including a City Manager, Secretary, Treasurer, Alderman, Acting Alderman, Auditors, Board of Health, City Solicitor, Board of Assessors, and Police Force. The duties and responsibilities of each City official were outlined in the Charter. Despite the fact that a 1927 amendment called for assessments to be held every three years, the Charter indicated that it would be every four years. The assessment was to be fair and impartial. Real estate, all residents over 21, and telephone, telegraph, power poles or similar erections were to be assessed a tax while farmlands were exempt unless they were laid out in building lots and front on a public street. The limit of general taxation was set at $50,000 annually, but an amount needed to pay the yearly interest on outstanding bonds and monies for the sinking fund to redeem the bonds when they came due was to be added to this. Delinquency in paying taxes would cause a lien to be placed on the taxpayer’s property. In addition to all of the powers outlined in prior Incorporating Acts, the City of Milford was given the power to condemn property and to acquire land in order to provide sites for public buildings, parks, sewers, sewage disposal, and other municipal purposes. It could also adopt measures appropriate for protection against fire and appropriate money for fire equipment for use by a volunteer fire company. It could adopt zoning to protect against fire and prescribe the use of certain building materials and methods of construction in order to prevent fire hazards. The Charter contained expanded sections on building permits, licensing, trees, and sewers and sewage disposal, as well as allowed for the appointment of a City Zoning Commission. The City was also given the power to borrow money and issue bonds for any public purposes including those related to any public utility (electricity/ gas/water/sewer) improvement of streets, and any permanent municipal improvement. This bonded indebtedness was not to exceed, in aggregate, 15% of the value of real property within the City. They also had the authority to float debt, not to exceed $10,000 in aggregate, in anticipation of revenue.42

The next re-incorporation of the City would not take place for thirty-nine years. A law, passed in 1933, did not specifically alter the Charter; it allowed for the City to build a bridge over the Mispillion at Washington Street.43 However, the many laws that followed did amend the 1931 Charter. In 1935, Milford was authorized to borrow $124,000 with which to redeem and refund outstanding bonds. A tax was to be levied in order to repay the principal and interest on the newly issued bonds.44 In 1937, the City of Milford was authorized to transmit electric current and water from its plants to areas beyond the City’s limits.45 In 1941, the Town’s boundary was once again revised, and the Council was given authority to change street names. In addition, the City’s election procedures were revised.46 In 1943 a law was passed to change the start of the City’s fiscal year to October 1.47 In 1945, the position of Vice-Mayor was created, to be filled from members of the City Council. In addition, minor changes were made to the section of the Charter which dealt with the Assessor and assessments.48 In 1949, the City was authorized to establish a pension plan for its employees. The City could also levy sewer tax to be not more than 60% of the water bill on all who were connected to the City’s sewer system.49


1950 – 1999

In 1951, the maximum tax to be levied was increased to $100,000 annually.50 A law passed in 1955 made a number of amendments to the Charter among which were revisions to eligibility for elective office and minor changes to the election process. In the same year, a law increased the amount of funds which could be floated as a loan against anticipated revenue to $25,000, in aggregate.51 A law in 1957 made revisions to the Alderman’s duties as well as made changes to the part of the Charter which addressed fines and imprisonment.52 In 1958, the Charter was revised to increase the level of compensation of the Mayor and Council.53 In 1961, the timing for appointing City officials was revised.54 These were the final amendments made before the City was once again re-incorporated.

In 1970, the City of Milford was re-incorporated, consolidating all of the amendments made to the 1931 Charter into a revised Charter. In format, the 1970 Charter mirrored in many ways mirrored the 1931 Charter. This Charter did contain an expanded territorial boundary; this necessitated revising the description of the wards. There were a few changes contained in the Charter; these included eliminating the Board of Health; increasing in the length of time between assessments to not less frequently than every ten years; and allowing for the annexation of territory. In addition, the cap on taxes was increased to $150,000 annually, and the total amount of indebtedness allowed in anticipation of revenue was increased to $100,000.55 No amendments to the 1970 Charter were made before it was replaced by a new Charter seven years later.

In 1977, the City of Milford was re-incorporated. The new Charter began with a description of the territorial limits of the City and its four wards. Annexation was allowed with two sets of procedures included; one was to be used if all property owners favored annexation and the other if at least five but not all property owners favored annexation. This Charter included no changes in the City’s boundaries, but it did allow for the possibility that a fifth ward would need to be created at some time depending on the amount of land that was annexed. Because of the allowance for a possible fifth ward, the Charter called for the Council to be not more than ten members. The Charter provided for all those who were over 18 to vote for the City’s elective offices. The Mayor and Council terms were decreased to two years. While the Mayor presided over Council meetings, they were unable to vote on Council matters. Among the powers vested in the City Council were its right to acquire real property for public purposes; to transmit electricity, gas and/or water from plants owned by the City; to enter into contracts to purchase supplies or for other public purposes; to borrow in anticipation of revenue a sum not exceeding in the aggregate two times the previous year’s revenue with re-payment within two years; and to establish and maintain a pension system for their employees. This Charter called for the appointment of a City Manager and outlined their duties and responsibilities. The City Manager was assigned to oversee all of the City’s administrative departments. The Charter also established a City Planning Commission which was to advise the City Manager on any matter affecting the physical development of the City as well as on its Comprehensive Plan. The limit of taxation for current expenses was annually not to exceed 2% of the assessed value of the City’s real property. The City was also given the power to borrow money and issue bonds. The maximum amount to which the City could be indebted was not stipulated, but the process did require referendum approval.56

Only two laws amended the 1977 Charter. The first, in 1989, revised the conditions under which the City was required to carry out competitive bidding for contracts, and revised the process of offering certificates of indebtedness.57 The second law, in 1990, included a number of changes. Revisions were made to the boundaries of the four wards; the minimum contract which would require competitive bidding was increased again, to $10,000, and a new power was authorized allowing the City to levy a real estate transfer tax.58

Milford was again re-incorporated in 1999. The City’s territorial limits now include four parcels which had been annexed in the last twenty-eight years, and the four wards are amended to include the annexed land. The provision in this section for adding a fifth ward was deleted, but the possibility was still referred to elsewhere in the law. The City continued to have the ability to annex additional land. The structure of government was now listed as a “Council-Manager” form. Election procedures were now in accordance with state law and include absentee balloting. Eight Council members formed the legislative branch of the government while the Mayor serves as the City’s executive. The Mayor presided over meetings of the City Council but has no vote except in the case of a tie. The City Manager continued to serve as the City’s Chief Administrative Officer. In describing the City’s administrative departments, the Charter included the duties and responsibilities of the City Solicitor, the Police Department, the City Jail, the City Alderman, the Finance Department, the Planning Department, and the City Planning Commission as well as addressing the comprehensive plan and its implementation. The specific powers of the City remained largely unchanged. The limit of taxation for current expenses was to be at a rate which, by estimation, would produce a sum not exceeding 2% of the assessed value of real property. The City continued to be authorized to borrow money with no cap set on the amount of borrowing. Authorizations in the Charter which do not require a special election were the power to re-finance municipal bonds, and the power to borrow on a short term basis with a pay-back period of up to five years.59


2000 – Current

The 1999 City Charter was revised only once, in 2008, to allow for the establishment of Tax Increment Financing and Special Development Districts.60

The most recent re-incorporation of the City of Milford took place in 2010. No longer are the territorial limits described in the Charter; reference is made to maps recorded in the Kent and Sussex County Recorder of Deeds offices. The boundaries of the four wards are also not described with reference made to the “Official Ward Map, Milford, Delaware.” In the section in which the wards are described, this Charter specifically references the possibility that the boundaries of the wards could be changed either by the addition of a fifth ward, annexation or reapportionment. The process for annexing land into the City is revised providing a more active role in the process to the Director of the City’s Planning Department. The City’s election process is governed to a great extent by state law in order to standardize municipal elections. Both the Mayor and Council members continue to serve two-year terms. Meetings to consider ordinances and other actions are held monthly. The duties of the Mayor and Council are not significantly changed, nor are the specific powers of the City. The other parts of the Charter also remain largely unchanged except for being updated with the one amendment passed in 2008.61 

Over the last eight years, three laws have amended the Charter. The first, in 2011, changed the date of the election.62 The second, in 2017, contained numerous revisions among which were: eliminating the provision for a possible fifth ward in the section of territorial boundaries; the revision of the procedures on annexation including establishing a process for de-annexation; incorporating minor changes to the election procedures and process; allowing the city to enter into private/public partnerships; allowing the City to organize a fire department or providing funds for  a volunteer fire department; allowing for claims of liability in cases of workplace injury; revising the guidance on conflict of interest for City employees and elected officials; providing for the adoption of a code of ethics; revising the procedures for the removal of the Chief of Police; eliminating the position of Alderman; revising the procedures for selling land in cases of tax delinquency; revising the procedures for special elections related to bonded indebtedness; increasing the term for short term borrowing to five years; and numerous other technical corrections.63 A law passed in 2018 authorized the City to impose a lodging tax of 3% of the room rent.64

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see



View selected photographs of Milford



CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 4 Del. Laws, c. 40 (1807) [pp. 103-07]

2 4 Del. Laws, c. 72 (1808) [pp. 725-27]

3 6 Del. Laws, c. 185 (1823) [pp. 302-03]

4 7 Del. Laws, c. 202 (1829) [pp. 441-47]

5 8 Del. Laws, c. 28 (1830) [pp. 54-55]

6 8 Del. Laws, c. 342 (1835) [pp. 383-84]

7 9 Del. Laws, c. 317 (1841) [pp. 366-73]

8 10 Del. Laws, c. 170 (1847) [pp. 165-67]

9 10 Del. Laws, c. 483, c. 506, and c. 575 (1851) [p. 474, pp. 497-99, and p. 575]

10 11 Del. Laws, c. 42, c. 48, and c. 97 (1853) [pp. 35-36, p. 47, and pp. 88-89]

11 11 Del. Laws, c. 264 and c. 290 (1855) [p. 292 and pp. 319-20]

12 12 Del. Laws, c. 24 (1861) [pp. 33-35]

13 12 Del. Laws, c. 282 (1863) [p. 301]

14 12 Del. Laws, c. 578 (1865) [p. 675]

15 13 Del. Laws, c. 36 and c. 38 (1866) [pp. 32-34 and pp. 37-38]

16 13 Del. Laws, c. 176 (1867) [pp. 169-180]

17 13 Del. Laws, c. 481 (1869) [p. 523]

18 14 Del. Laws, c. 121 (1871) [pp. 146-47]

19 14 Del. Laws, c. 534 (1873) [p. 588]

20 15 Del. Laws, c. 15 and c. 163 (1875) [pp. 34-35 and pp. 286-87]

21 16 Del. Laws, c. 110 (1879) [p. 162]

22 16 Del. Laws, c. 496 (1881) [pp. 658-59]

23 17 Del. Laws, c. 185 (1883) [p. 366]

24 17 Del. Laws, c. 567 (1885) [p. 822]

25 18 Del. Laws, c. 161 (1887) [pp. 269-85]

26 18 Del. Laws, c. 174 (1887) [pp. 302-07]

27 19 Del. Laws, c. 232 and c. 234 (1891) [pp. 460-66 and pp. 467-69]

28 19 Del. Laws, c. 757 and c. 758 (1893) [pp. 1075-76 and pp. 1076-77]

29 20 Del. Laws, c. 107 (1895) [pp. 169-70]

30 20 Del. Laws, c. 543 and c. 544 (1897) [pp. 651-53 and pp. 654-55]

31 22 Del. Laws, c. 182 (1901) [pp. 372-73]

32 22 Del. Laws, c. 428 (1903) [pp. 896-99]

33 24 Del. Laws, c. 210 (1907) [pp. 507-27]

34 24 Del. Laws, c. 211 (1907) [pp. 528-29]

35 26 Del. Laws, c. 231 and c. 232 (1911) [p. 530 and p. 531]

36 27 Del. Laws, c. 241and c. 242 (1913) [pp. 697-705 and pp. 706-12]

37 30 Del. Laws, c. 141, c. 142, and c. 143 (1919) [p. 319, pp. 320-23, and pp. 324-27]

38 32 Del. Laws, c. 136 (1921) [p. 407]

39 34 Del. Laws, c. 137, c. 138, and c. 139 (1925) [pp. 347-49, pp. 350-52, and pp. 353-55]

40 35 Del. Laws, c. 114 and c. 115 (1927) [pp. 345-46 and pp. 347-50]

41 36 Del. Laws, c. 174, c. 175, and c. 176 (1929) [pp. 533-34, pp. 535-37, and pp. 538-42]

42 37 Del. Laws, c. 162 (1931) [pp. 563-604]

43 38 Del. Laws, c. 111 (1933) [p. 454]

44 40 Del. Laws, c. 170 (1935) [pp. 645-47]

45 41 Del. Laws, c. 154 (1937) [p. 452]

46 43 Del. Laws, c. 171, c. 172, and c. 173 (1941) [p. 752, pp. 753-54, and pp. 755-57]

47 44 Del. Laws, c. 138 (1943) [p. 452]

48 45 Del. Laws, c. 184 and c. 185 (1945) [p. 729 and pp. 731-34]

49 47 Del. Laws, c. 94 and c. 231 (1949) [p. 148 and pp. 478-79]

50 48 Del. Laws, c. 76 and c. 171 (1951) [p. 169 and p. 496]

51 50 Del. Laws, c. 134 and c. 135 (1955) [pp. 224-28 and p. 229]

52 51 Del. Laws, c. 255 (1957) [pp. 531-32]

53 51 Del. Laws, c. 336 (1958) [p. 728]

54 53 Del. Laws, c. 224 (1961) [p. 623]

55 57 Del. Laws, c. 726 (1970) [pp. 2034-73]

56 61 Del. Laws, c. 156 (1977) [pp. 489-535]

57 67 Del. Laws, c. 13 (1989) [p. 17]

58 67 Del. Laws, c. 428 (1990) [pp. 907-10]

59 72 Del. Laws, c. 148 (1999) [pp. 211-39]

60 76 Del. Laws, c. 199 (2008) [vol. II, pp. 17-18]

61 77 Del. Laws, c. 405 (2010) []

62 78 Del. Laws, c. 3 (2011) []

63 81 Del. Laws, c. 136 (2017) []

64 81 Del. Laws, c. 416 (2018) []

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at


Town/City of Milford records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Board of Light and Water Commission Journal (1891-1916): 6140-000-000
  • Treasurer’s Journal (1881-1936): 6140-000-001
  • Alderman’s Court Docket (1937-1956, 1958-1963, 1965-1966): 6140-000-002
  • Light and Water Commission Ledger (1892-1903): 6140-000-003
  • Minutes of the Commissioners/Town and City Council (1867-1902, 1921-2005): 6140-000-004
  • Board of Light and Water Commission Minute Book (1891-1898): 6140-000-005
  • Board of Light and Water Commission Account Book (1891-1894): 6140-000-006
  • Board of Light and Water Commission Annual Financial Reports (1893-1894): 6140-000-007
  • Audit Reports (1935, 1946-1947, 1949-1954, 1956-1989, 1991-1995): 6140-000-008
  • Scrapbooks (1952-1994): 6140-000-009
  • Annual Tax Books (1952-1959): 6140-000-010
  • Annual Financial Statements (1952-1962): 6140-000-011
  • Planning Commission Minutes (1983-2014): 6140-000-012
  • Board of Adjustment Minutes(1953-2008): 6140-000-013
  • Waste and Wastewater Project Files (1963-1996): 6140-000-014
  • Streets and Stormwater Project Files (1963-1996): 6140-000-015
  • Electric Department Project Files (1978-1996): 6140-000-016
  • Assessment Records (1954-1990): 6140-000-017
  • Flood Mitigation Plan (2002-2005): 6140-000-018
  • Planning and Zoning Project Files (1997-2004): 6140-000-019
  • Subdivision and Annexation Files (1999-2008): 6140-000-020
  • Building Applications and Permits (2008): 6140-000-021
  • Easement Files (2001-2002): 6140-000-022
  • Building Files (1993, 1999-2006): 6140-000-023
  • Zoning and Rezoning Files (1998-2005): 6140-000-024
  • Voter Lists (1898): 6140-000-025


jnl / October 18, 2018 | April 15, 2019

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