Major changes are coming to Farmington

FARMINGTON — Farmington is a small town with big ideas.

The Kent County town of about 115 residents and 0.1 square miles recently decided they needed a facelift and have been working hard to accomplish a few large projects to make it happen.

“I’ve been on town council for a couple of years before stepping up as mayor. I saw we weren’t doing a lot of change; we were pretty stagnant. So, I decided to run for mayor and make changes, mostly for property values,” Mayor Richie Smith said.

“Property owners needed to pick up the slack and clean up, so we started with a community-wide initiative with clean up days first so we can take some pride in our community.”

Once community members invested their own time and energy into their town, Mayor Smith said he knew they were ready for more. It was time for the council to act.

“We wanted to show the town that the council was making progress, too. So we started our Main Street initiative,” he added.
Together, the council started to raise the funds needed to renovate their historic schoolhouse and build a pavilion, basketball court and playground for residents of all ages and demographics. They also created a new road in town in memory of former Mayor Marvin Smith, Mayor Smith’s grandfather. To seal the deal, they also obtained a historic marker for the town and dedicated a new town of Farmington seal.

“We’re working together to improve the look around town and improve people’s general impression,” Mayor Smith said.

“People ride by and think it’s a hole in the wall, but people live in that town. They have feelings. We wanted to pick ourselves up a little bit. That was the whole point of the Main Street initiative to let the people know the town cares.”

The park, previously an empty lot near the old schoolhouse, now has the sidewalk, basketball court and a parking lot for residents and visitors to enjoy. A community garden is also in the park now thanks to a Lake Forest School District student. The pavilion is located across the street.

Playground equipment will be purchased one piece at a time as funds become available. It currently has a jungle gym and a swing set; the town hopes to add a slide and a handicapped- accessible toy.

“This is going to promote community fellowship. Everyone can interact with each other and walk the sidewalks together,” Mayor Smith said. “The council is not giving up on the town. We saw the direction we were going, and we wanted to change that. We wanted to change the outlook of the town and the community members’ pride in the town, giving them something to puff their chest out about.”

While they wait for more funds for playground equipment which is in the second of five stages, the town is also fundraising so they can renovate the historical schoolhouse once used to educate every child in Farmington.

The schoolhouse is more than 100 years old with all the problems a century-old building can handle. Although the council used to meet inside the building, they have had to move their meetings to the Farmington Fire Hall where Mayor Smith volunteers as the deputy chief.

“The roof is falling in, the floor buckled … We only use a portion of the building now because that’s all that’s usable. And there are no bathrooms or handicapped access,” he added.

To make Farmington’s projects possible, funds were found at the county and state levels. The Farmington Asphalt Plant donated an asphalt top for the basketball court instead of donating $1,000 a year to the town, according to Mayor Smith.

Some of the applications for state and county funds, however, needed something the town lost some time ago — a town seal.

“We had a seal a long time ago, but we’re not sure where that went or what that configuration was. I thought that was pretty awful for our town to have no seal. It shows us off and says, ‘Welcome to Farmington, here’s what we’ve been doing,’” Mayor Smith said.

Angi Hicks, a graphic designer for Independent Newsmedia and cousin of Mayor Smith, was asked to design the seal. In the seal, she included a red firefighter’s hat next to a wooden barrel of peaches and under a golden torch, which was laid on top of an open book surrounded by railroad tracks, highlighting Farmington’s storied past involving local produce, volunteerism, education and commerce.

The historical marker also speaks to the significant stories of the town’s past.

“At one point, we were actually considered larger than Harrington as far as commerce,” Mayor Smith said.

“We had vegetation and crops, a peach can factory, a peach basket factory and the railroad in Farmington was one of the larger stops in the area. We would compete back and forth with our canning and produce. We were competitive until we had a major fire in town in 1914. The fire took a major toll on us. It reduced our size, our population, we lost a lot of our commerce and people moved away.”

The town of Farmington has a lot of history despite its short 58-year past. It was first settled in 1851, according to the historical marker, as Flatiron.

“In 1855, the Delaware Railroad built a station at a crossroads in the community near the home of Governor William Tharp. Then a post office opened in 1858, the town was officially renamed Farmington,” the historical marker now reads. Farmington was officially incorporated by the state in 1909.

“There were even universities in our town where people came to become doctors and lawyers. We have a history that we’ve lost that we want to retouch. We think reaching back and reminding our residents of what they used to be can give them pride in the future,” Mayor Smith said.

The town of Farmington is still raising funds for the schoolhouse renovations. So far, they have raised $5,000 out of about $300,000 needed. Donations can be sent to 98 School St., Farmington, DE 19950.

“It’s amazing to see the outreach we’re getting from people. The basketball court cost about $40,000. The park cost about $20,000. And it’s important to note that none of this was out of Farmington taXpayers’ pockets. Everything came from county and state money that we solicited for,” Mayor Smith said.

“There’s money available if you have a council that’s aggressive enough to go out and look for it with visions and goals for their community.”

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