Secretary mayor opposes Hurlock treatment talks

Hurlock, Maryland
HURLOCK — An unexpected appearance by Susan Dukes, Secretary mayor at the Aug. 8 Hurlock Town Council meeting, was a shocker. Speaking for her town commission and East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline and her commission, Mayor Dukes said, “I wanted to address the council and attendees about a discussion Mayor Spratt is having with the State of Maryland concerning our Twin Cities Waste Water Treatment Plant (TCWWTP) being put into the Hurlock treatment plant. These discussions are being done again without our knowledge, either town, and without our approval. In fact they are in opposition to our wishes which Mayor Spratt is aware of and has been for the last four years.”

“I was told by the mayor the other day that the state has contacted her but no one from the state has made any effort whatsoever to contact either Secretary or East New Market which I find rather confusing. The mayor will also not tell me who she is talking to from the state which makes it very difficult for Secretary and East New Market to get any answers about what’s going on with the funding for the new WWTP which we want.”

Ms. Dukes said she would like to sit down and discuss the “legitimate reasons” why the two towns do not want to be part of the Hurlock plant. “I am not sure how much the (Hurlock) council is aware of what’s going on with this issue.” She said Secretary would like to host a three-town meeting “to air this out and hopefully find a solution to get it settled once and for all.”

The meeting was originally scheduled for Aug 17 but has since been put on hold until more information is obtained. “I don’t know how much more adamant Secretary and East New Market can be to Hurlock that we do not want to become part of their WWTP. We have our own plant. We have been working for 10 years toward getting funding for that plant. Each time we seem to get where we need to be something gets in the way and it stops. We need to solve this once and for all and get Hurlock out of our issue.”

Ms. Dukes’ statement left the council, mayor, and attendees speechless. Ms. Spratt then invited the public to stay for a council work session, saying “There will be no public comment.” Asked why, she responded, “That was our decision. When asked if that would be true for all work sessions, she said that the decision to have or not have public comment after a work session will be made as each individual session is held. The council meeting adjourned; the work session began.

Hurlock Mayor Joyce Spratt raised an issue at the Aug. 8 Town Council meeting that was a subject of rancor and dissent in 2012. Not any more. Although the position of council president was eliminated from the town charter four years ago, its resurrection has recently been a topic of discussion at several meetings.

Mayor Spratt said, “We’ve talked about this (council president issue) back and forth, back and forth.” She recommended that based on his “experience and knowledge and intelligence” Ms. Spratt “would love” to see that position given to Councilman Charles Cephas. “Basically,” she explained, “it’s if I’m not here we’ve got somebody to run the meeting.” A motion to name the Rev. Cephas council president passed unanimously with Rev. Cephas abstaining. Following the vote, the new council president said he was “humbled by the council vote.”

Town Attorney Robert Merriken reminded the council that a February 2012 charter amendment dissolved the council president position and assigned the responsibility to the councilman-at-large. He noted that a new amendment is needed to re-create the position in the charter. In an interview with The Banner he explained that “it should be done before the position is officially filled.” He said the council must pass a resolution; a summary of the amendment must appear four times in The Banner (Dorchester County paper of record) over 40 days; and, at a required public hearing, the resolution can be adopted. He added that if the public is against a resolution it can vote to repeal the amendment by filing a petition for a ballot referendum although he said that is not an issue in this case.

While technically the position cannot be filed until the amendment is approved, Mr. Merriken said Councilman Cephas could assume the post under the charter provision that “the council can make its own rules of how they proceed and conduct themselves but they probably need a charter provision in place to make it more formal.”

Town Administrator John Avery reported that the water main replacement is “substantially done.” The project will expand to include Gay Street and will add another 250’ to the Poplar Street replacement which was an old, 4” iron line. An 8” replacement will be four times larger. He said, “I know it’s been an inconvenience to residents but thank you for understanding.”

Police Chief Les Hutton noted departmental activity was “kind of flat the last two weeks.” We had 1 theft; 4 malicious destruction; 2 warrants; 2 verbal domestics; and 1 assault. An “unusual incident” last week involved three teenagers and a stolen firearm. “It was taken care of. Hopefully they’ll (teens) get the message.”

Councilman Earl Murphy said he is the liaison with the board of directors for the much anticipated Veterans’ Memorial. The Memorial board of directors, including Frank and Fay Fraley, and Scott Lawrence, is seeking nonprofit status before fundraising begins in earnest.

Coordinator of the “Best Manicured Lawn” contest, Councilman Russell Murphy, announced the July winners: 1st prize went to Arnold and Marjorie Poole; 2nd prize was won by Kevin and Hope Roberts; and 3rd place was awarded to Richard Bennett.

During Public Comments, some residents complained about the town’s Food Rite and the need for another source of groceries. After a lengthy discussion about past efforts to bring Food Lion to town and continuing efforts to bring a grocery store here, Mayor Spratt said, “We’ve talked about this enough.” She suggested that council representatives talk directly with the owner rather than continue the discussion without him. She reminded the public that “he’s the man who opened up his grocery store” during a snow emergency and offered to feed people at the firehouse shelter. “I could walk in there tonight if there was a bad fire or crisis and ask for something and he would give it to us. Nobody wants to see Harry go out of business. But, good, healthy competition is good for everybody.”

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