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January 1,  2006

  No one outside the corporate hierarchy here and in Charlotte, N.C., is privy to how much of an impact Bank of America's acquisition of M.B.N.A. -- which was effective on Jan. 1 -- will have on Wilmington and environs. And they're not talking. Even state officials attempting to come up with the required projections of revenue on which to base the budget for the coming fiscal year have not been able to pierce the green-and-gray cone of silence. Delaware Economic & Financial Advisory Council was told at its recent meeting that there is not sufficient information to allow for even an educated guess.

It has been announced that the combined company's credit card operation will be based in Delaware and that there will be additional jobs in that unit. But there is a general assumption that they will be more than offset by the number of jobs transferred to other locations or eliminated.

What is known, of course, is that the area is in for its second significant cultural shock in a generation. M.B.N.A. supplanted Du Pont as the state's number one employer a few years back. Well before that it was recognized that the Du Pont way of life was no more. M.B.N.A. never had a chance to replace that with its corporate ethos. Even those not actually on the payroll knew enough to understand in a general way what was being talked about when folks at a cocktail party mentioned 'textile fibers' or polymers. Who much cared about 'affinity cards' or electronic transfers?

A still formidable remnant of what used to be remains at 1007 Market and the oval still shines nightly atop the fortress-shaped building the company no longer owns. It's unlikely a few years hence that the bank's downtown complex will engender comparable nostalgia. Even the former Public Building and courthouse will be remembered for past roles and scarcely associated with its present owner.

  In the expanse of former farmland designated as the future site of 'Waterfarm Two' stands a derelict building which Councilwoman Patty Powell said symbolizes county government's benign neglect of an area she considers a proverbial best-kept secret. "Nobody will take me up on my invitation to come down here and let me show them what we have," she said.

'Down here' is the about a third of the county which lies -- to use the common expression -- 'below the Canal'.

Powell, who grew up in what was then a predominantly rural area and graduated from Middletown High, has a strong devotion to the area. While it is not uncommon for a

Councilwoman Patty Powell (center) said that if the building (above left) was located anywhere else in the county it would be considered worthy

of historic preservation. Although residential development is fast taking the land, there are still working farms (right)  which  need  saving.

legislator to have an affinity for the district he or she represents, Powell's borders on a crusading spirit. Each time a reference to a county service or project is made during a Council meeting, she presses the official making it to be specific about where her area fits in.

The area has been promised parks, libraries and an expanded sanitary sewer system. So far, she said, there is more promise and little reality. A park pavilion is an open shelter; a playground is a single climbing structure; and a regional library is, at best, several years away from being built.

Meanwhile, about 8,000 houses are on the verge of being built in communities for which development plans have already been approved. Powell is concerned the commuters and retirees who'll live in them will arrive from an area which extends beyond the state long before the amenities to which they are entitled do.

  In a speech delivered as Iraqis prepared to go to the polls, President Bush said he didn't believe a civil war would break out in the country. But some observers believe it has already begun -- a quiet and deadly struggle whose battle lines were thrown into sharp relief by the highly polarized vote results.  MORE

  Postage rates will go up by 2 an ounce for first class mail on Jan. 8 with a possible further increase a year later. While the U.S. Postal Service touts the fact there hasn't been an increase in 3 years, there has been a steady escalation over the long haul.


Postage rate history

  Jul. 1, 1885 2 Aug. 1, 1958 4 Mar. 2, 1974 10 Feb. 17, 1985 22 Jan. 10.1999 33  
  Nov. 3, 1917 3 Jan. 7. 1963 5 Dec. 31, 1975 13

Apr.. 3, 1988

25 Jan. 7, 2001 34  
  Jul. 1, 1919 2 Jan. 7, 1968 6 May 29, 1978 15 Feb. 3, 1991 29 Jun. 30, 2002 37  
  Jul. 6, 1932 3 May 16. 1971 8 Mar. 22, 1981 18 Jan. 1,.1995 32 Jan. 8, 2006 39  
          Nov. 1, 1981 20          
2006. All rights reserved.

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