HURLOCK — James Chaney, partner in C&J Deli and Market on Main Street in Hurlock, appeared before the town council at the April 10 town meeting to ask for help. For a few years the building was unoccupied and the parking lot unmonitored. With parking space in the downtown area at a premium and no one to stop them, drivers had used the lot in lieu of public parking areas. It was not a major problem. However, when Mr. Chaney and his partner Charlene Wheatley opened their business last month parking became a big problem.
Mr. Chaney said, “It’s gotten pretty ugly. People literally park in front of the pumps and block the driveway. I need that property for my customers. I want them to have a safe place. I’m concerned about accidents since there are some blind spots. I’m asking for help to solve the problems.”
“Customers Only” signs are posted but ignored.
Police Chief Les Hutton explained, “By state law we can’t enforce private parking. But, he’s right. It’s very frustrating. They’ll park right on the sidewalk. They park where they want.” He added, “He’s (Mr. Chaney) done everything he can do. Some people don’t know and some people don’t care. Some people have no idea what the colors mean. They don’t understand yellow means ‘no parking and blue means handicapped.’ The signs are right in front of your face when you pull up there.”
Mr. Chaney wants to work with the town and “put our heads together to solve the problem.”
On a lighter note Mr. Chaney said, “We plan on doing some (car) Cruise-Ins this summer.” The first one is on April 29 starting at 4 pm. They will be held monthly on the 4th Saturday from May through September.” Mr. Chaney explained, “We may need to use Mill Street and the bathrooms at the train station. I hope we get approval for that and get support from the town.” The council approved his requests unanimously.
Police Chief Les Hutton announced that Hurlock police officers will carry epinephrine injectors, EpiPens, to administer to those with life threatening allergic reactions. They already carry Narcan to administer for opioid, like heroin, overdoses. But, noted Chief Hutton, “If a 5-year-old gets stung by a bee and starts having a reaction when we get there we can’t do anything. We have to wait for an ambulance to arrive.” A pen costs $110 and each car will be equipped with two: One for juveniles and one for adults. “The County (officials) thought it was an outstanding idea and we are still working through the particulars.”
Town Administrator John Avery reported on the long-awaited demolition project that includes five buildings on Main Street and one on Maryland Avenue. The town applied for two grants: One under the Department of Housing and Community Development and one under Recreation and Parks for demolition of blighted properties and creation of the Veterans’ Memorial Park.
Submitting federal and state grant applications triggered review by the Maryland Historic Trust (MHT), a state agency, who said the town had to offer mitigation because the properties were considered historically significant. Mr. Avery said, “The federal grants say we have to meet federal requirements which is where the historical review came into play. They think that at least two of the houses and maybe three of them will not meet the criteria for demolition under the federal review.”
Mayor Joyce Spratt and Mr. Avery discussed the issue at length and, after consulting with the agencies involved, recommended backing away from the grants and financing the work with town funds. The administrator said, “We believe we can get quite a bit of the labor done at a very low cost and maybe get some help on the dumping fees at the landfill. That was also a recommendation from Recreation and Parks. Also, having those grants hanging out there and not getting anything complete would interfere with getting any other grants at this point.
During the public session former councilman and former police chief Michael Henry asked if the town funds the project do the MHT mitigation requirements still apply. Mr. Avery answered, “We thought there was an historic district created in 2001. But it is actually a list of historically significant properties and they don’t come under the purview of the MHT. They only got involved because we asked for federal and state funds.”
The self-funding would require a budget amendment in the current fiscal year. Mr. Avery said, “I think it’s the only way we’re going to get done in time for Fall Fest this year. The money is there. This process has been very lengthy and very time consuming. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time documenting these houses, estimating repair vs renovation costs, and gone room by room with every item in every room. There are other things we could have had finished by this time – the website for example.” The council approved a motion to self-fund the demolition projects.
Habitat for Humanity Choptank plans to build three homes on Jackson Street lots. The site work has begun and bids were received to begin the water and sewer main extensions and hook ups to the planned new properties. Shore Real Estate has done the site work up to now and their bid of $22,901, the lowest of the four received, was selected. The other bids were $28,400, $40,500, and $47,522.
Resident Monroe Quailes and Ethics Commission chairman said during public comments “I’m here again to talk about the Ethics Commission.” He noted he does not know who is on the commission or when the group is required to hold a meeting and said, “it seems to me that they should at least attend a council meeting sometime so people know who they are.” Councilman Charles Cephas suggested he meet in person with Mayor Spratt and Mr. Avery to discuss the Ethics commission and get the information he needs.
Mr. Henry asked about a sign on the railroad tracks saying “D Rail.” Resident Paul Grahe noted the sign was first placed near the Perdue grain mill but has now been moved slightly down the track from the train station. All rail traffic from the D Rail sign to Cambridge has been permanently halted by the Department of Transportation railroad division. Mr. Henry asked “Is there any concern that the sign will move farther up the track in the next several months” and interfere with the Fall Festival train rides? Mr. Avery said he would investigate with the railroad.
In his final comments, Mr. Henry said, “There are many rumors going around and I want to clear those up. Several times a week I get asked ‘I hear you’re running for mayor. I hear you’re running for council. Are you going to run?’ I am not going to run for mayor. I will be running for the district 1 council seat. I just want to clear that up.” And so the political season begins.
Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.