Brief Hurlock meeting crammed with lots of business

Hurlock, Maryland
HURLOCK — By Hurlock standards, the Town Council meeting on June 22 was very brief. It was, however, chock-full of business. In her report Mayor Joyce Spratt explained why June 12 was a big day for Hurlock. Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot spent the day touring and talking with elected officials and citizens. He toured North Dorchester High School (NDHS), led a roundtable discussion, participated in a symbolic groundbreaking for the new police station, toured Amick, and saw the solar array at the waste water treatment plant. In a follow-up thank you letter to Mayor Joyce Spratt, the Comptroller said he was “impressed with Hurlock’s vibrancy.”

Mr. Franchot explained that his visit to NDHS corroborated his belief that “there is a positive correlation between the quality of a school facility and the quality of the academic activity that takes place within it. I remain hopeful that there can be a positive outcome for the students.”

During his Amick visit he was surprised to learn that the company has an 85 percent employee retention rate. He also noted that many of the 1,200 workers are “making good money.” The visit to the processing facility was an impressive eye-opener for the comptroller.

In his report, Town Administrator John Avery said that the Maryland Department of Transportation will hold a pre-construction meeting on July to discuss the repair of three grade crossings. At the town meeting on July 27 representatives from the State Highway Administration will discuss a traffic light installation at Rtes. 392 and 331.

Several pieces of business were concluded at the recent meeting. A financing bond ordinance for the new police station, introduced at the previous meeting, was unanimously approved by the council.
Ordinance 2015-8 addressed the issue of planning commission meetings by amending Article 5, Sect. 5-2 of the charter to change the frequency of commission meetings to quarterly or as often as required with the stipulation that the commission chairperson can cancel a quarterly meeting if no business is on the agenda.

Habitat for Humanity, Choptank, received a unanimous resolution of support to approve a project that expands its self-help housing project across three communities (Hurlock, Cambridge, Easton). The group’s strategic plan includes new construction and renovation projects that will be sold with low interest mortgages to qualified low income buyers.

Resolution 2015-4 passed unanimously to approve an application for state financing of strategic demolition of some blighted homes and other Smart Growth impact fund projects. Following its inclusion in the Sustainable Communities initiative, Hurlock is now eligible for other funding programs.

Resolution 2015-5 also passed unanimously. The town will apply for a community legacy project to improve the looks of some downtown buildings including renovating several facades buildings.
Mr. Murphy reported that the War Memorial Park committee will finalize its design. The projected maximum cost for the park is $10,000. He hopes much of the cost will be covered by donations. The project has already received some funds.

Councilman Murphy also expressed hope that council members thoroughly read the documentation they receive and ask for clarification when necessary before making decisions. He asked that they “make decisions for all the right reasons.”

Councilman Charles Cephas responded, “If I vote on something I’ve already done my homework. Before I make a decision I do what I’m supposed to do.” The exchange seemed to refer to the June 8 meeting where a rancorous and often confusing issue was brought to the council. Oxford-Chase Development asked to rezone two properties on S. Main St. before it would purchase the properties to construct a Dollar General store. The request was narrowly defeated but not before people on both sides of the issue expressed passionate opinions.

During public comments a lengthy discussion ensued about the appearance of Main St. when resident Paul Bovankovik noted there are volunteers who will help the town clean up. He asked who on the council is considered the “contact person” for a Main St. initiative and Councilman Cephas said it was Councilman Jerry Rhue. Mr. Rhue emphatically denied being the contact person and said he resigned the appointed post, noting “After last week’s meeting (06-08-15) I’m not in charge of it.” Following the rezoning defeat Mr. Rhue expressed profound disappointment in the vote.

Mayor Spratt reiterated that town officials are working hard “to get every penny” from the state to improve the town’s appearance.

In his comments, Councilman Cephas said the town needs a discussion about race. “It’s hard to see that we still live in a time capsule with so much hate. He was disturbed to learn that a council member told the community that he was against the Dollar General. “That is not true,” he said. “I am 100 percent for it.” He noted he looks “at everything that’s been put before me.” Community members spoke against the rezoning and he respected their opinions. “I vote for my convictions,” he explained.

Cats and the territories they occupy continue to be a contentious issue. Resident Pat Eskridge complained about the number of cats that come on her property. Mayor Spratt noted, “We can’t just go out and catch people’s cats.” After Councilman Murphy described the town-supported Snip/Tuck neutering program last year where 75 cats were caught, neutered, and returned, Ms. Spratt added, the town “can’t be the cat police.”

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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