Not many changes in this year’s Hurlock budget

Hurlock, Maryland
HURLOCK — At the June 8 Hurlock Town Council meeting, Mayor Joyce Spratt presented the FY2016 budget ordinance for council approval. Town Administrator John Avery noted it was “similar to last year with a few changes.”
Mr. Avery explained that the addition of the capital outlay for the police department was in the FY2015 budget. The water main replacement budget of $1,110,000 added to the capital budget brought the total budget to $7,176,944. The new police station and the water main replacement require a transfer of $329,519 from the contingency fund with USDA fund replacement for both. Remaining contingency funds total $94,481. The budget includes a 2 percent across the board increase for town employees. “The mayor and I have negotiated health insurance for this year which will be slightly less than last year but budgeted for $373,000,” the same amount as the previous year. The budget reflects $38,000 in grant money for the renovation of property in town including the demolition of two properties and development of a small park at the corner of Main and Oak streets as a step towards beautification of Main Street.
One of the larger increases is in the waste water treatment plant budget. The blowers have “issues,” according to Mr. Avery. Last year’s budget included $30,000 for equipment repairs. However, replacement costs for each of 5 U.S. manufactured, 30 percent more efficient new blowers, are about $50,000 each. Equipment repairs increased to $130,000 for gradual blower replacements over six years. Administrator Avery noted an increase in debt principal and bond amortization for the police department.
Councilman Cephas moved that $20,000 be included to provide down payments on homes and/or property for police officers, firefighters, and other municipal workers in Dorchester County and the town of Hurlock. He felt it would enhance the town’s visibility and could be used as a recruiting tool. He said the state would match the amount through its Housing and Community Development agency. However, the motion died for lack of a second.
Mayor Spratt explained that Nanticoke Health Services plans to expand. The highly rated hospital hopes that towns with Nanticoke health centers will contribute to a fundraising campaign. They have raised $5 million of a $7.5 million goal. The town’s budget includes a line item of $2,000 for community contributions and Mayor Spratt asked the council to consider a $1,000 donation to Nanticoke show the town’s support. But noted it is “just a suggestion.” She requested a clearer understanding of what the council feels falls under the category.
The budget passed with 3 votes and an abstention by Councilman Cephas.
An anti-urination ordinance, #2015-5, introduced on May 11 prohibits urination and/or defecation on public property. The penalties for a municipal infraction are $25 for the first infraction; $50 for each subsequent violation. Amid a few audience snickers, the ordinance passed unanimously.
Mr. Merriken presented ordinance #2015-7 for introduction of interim financing from Hebron Savings Bank of $1,396,000 for construction of the new police department. On completion of the project the interim financing will be repaid with funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The ordinance passed unanimously.
In public comments, resident Monroe Quailes asked why the newly formed Ethics Committee has not met. Mayor Spratt noted there have been no complaints to bring to the committee but the group could meet if it wished. Mr. Merriken said he “believes” there is a requirement in the charter that a meeting and some training should occur.
Blanche Powell said she has difficulty hearing at the meetings. “I get a few words here and there when you conduct your business” but when the council members speak to each other she cannot hear and suggested a microphone for each council person so she and others can “participate” in the town’s governance.
Cederick Turner announced that Ministers & Citizens will hold its annual Juneteenth Celebration for youth on June 20 at Prospect Heights park beginning at 1 pm. The public is invited.
In her report Mayor Spratt praised the ball tournament hosted by the Tri-City Little League attended by about 1,000 people.
-She noted that she does not attend private meetings concerning the state of the town and feels that anything to do with town business should be discussed at the town office. “That’s exactly why we have agenda requests.” That way, she explained, the whole council can hear comments and suggestions instead of just talking to her.
Town Administrator John Avery reported that the bids for the water main replacement ranged from $1.2 mil to $2.1 million dollars. He is waiting for the engineer’s comparison of the four bids. There are a number of options in the bids and he wants to ensure that all the items are the same and then will bring the numbers to the council.
Police Chief Les Hutton noted that the past two weeks “have been slow.” Calls included: 2 assaults, 2 verbal domestics, 1 drug arrest, 1 malicious destruction of property, 1 miscellaneous complaint, and 1open container. The police department is involved in Narcon training to counter heroin overdoses but is waiting for a legal opinion regarding safety issues. “We will take the training but not carry the kits.” Assistant Fire Chief David Carrier said, “I wish I could say that we’ve been slow.” Since the last meeting there have been: 15 medical responses, 11 fire responses, 2 structure fires, 1 standby, 1 motor vehicle collision, 4 medical assists, 3 automatic fire alarms. In two weeks the volunteer company will put our $254,000 air mask into service.
Councilman Murphy moved for a closed session to discuss personnel finances.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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