After what felt like an endless winter of snow-covered roads, icy sidewalks, cold, dreary days and, to the chagrin of parents everywhere, more than a few days of schools being closed, spring begins today, precisely at 12:57 p.m. It is a time of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal and regrowth.

No doubt you have considered starting projects inside and out-of-doors. Lawns will soon need tending. Attics, basements and garages can finally be freed of items no longer needed.

The Laurel Department of Public Works can be of assistance in your effort, in a number of ways.

Yard waste, defined on the department's website as "normal lawn and garden debris such as leaves, brush, grass clippings, twigs, pruning and small branches (not more than three inches in diameter and not longer than 6 feet)," should be placed in large, compostable brown bags available at most hardware stores and other retail outlets. You may also make use of cardboard boxes, or any reusable container such as trash cans.Take note that plastic bags are no longer acceptable for the disposal of yard waste.

If you are in possession of larger household items or unwanted furnishings, they will be collected on most Wednesdays. Fees may apply.

To schedule a pickup or to inquire about costs, call 301-725-0088. After normal business hours, you can leave a message. Email requests for pickup can be directed to dpw@laurel.md.us.

Plan now to take advantage of free disposal of electronics and paper shredding, which will occur on April 19 at 305-307 First St. from 8 a.m. until noon. Local businesses and households are encouraged to take part in this cost-free event. Upon arrival, you will be asked to show proof of city residency.

For other valuable information concerning services provided by the Department of Public Works, go to cityoflaurel.org/content/public-works.

Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, Towne Centre at Laurel is on schedule to see its first store open for business Friday, March 28, as Burlington Coat Factory resumes operations. Burlington was the last store standing at what was the former mall.

Other retailers and restaurants will open throughout the summer and fall. When all is said and done, the total space will offer 400,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment.

Mike Sellner posted a timely reminder on social media that is worthy of repeating. If you haven't done so, replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors. That task should be completed twice annually.

This small, but important effort, may one day be a life saver.