Council honors employee, Native Americans

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Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper Department of Corrections long-time employee Nellie Harris received a commendation following her retirement after 31 years of service.

CAMBRIDGE — It was a one of those quiet moments when the County Council honors a well-respected and beloved employee. At the Nov. 3 Dorchester County Council meeting, Nellie Harris received a commendation for her 31 years of dedicated service with the Department of Corrections. Newly-retired, Ms. Harris said, “I have enjoyed working for the county for all these years as a correctional shift supervisor.” She noted she “will miss everybody.” Warden Steve Mills said, “I’ve worked with Nellie for 26 years and it’s been a pleasure and an honor. I wish I had more like you. I’m going to miss you.”

November is national “Native American Heritage Month.” The County Council paid homage to the indigenous people who reside in Dorchester County by joining the nation in celebrating the contributions made by Native Americans whose history is woven into the county’s fabric. Respects were paid to recently deceased Chief Sewell Winterhawk Fitzhugh, head of the Nause-Waiwash people who descend from the original Nanticoke of the Eastern Shore. Their name is a reference to two Nanticoke ancestral villages. Rich traditions handed down by the country’s first Americans continue to thrive today.

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Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper November was proclaimed Native American Heritage Month at the Nov. 3 Dorchester County Council meeting with particular honor paid to the Nause-Waiwash people.

“Lest we forget” the 10 county residents who “brought democracy to Dorchester County” in 1985, Dr. Carl Barham and retiring state delegate Rudy Cain donated two mementos to the county. Dr. Barham presented two historical pictures symbolizing the local leaders who brought about voter reform at local and state levels. He said, “I am very proud to dedicate a picture that symbolizes local leaders about 27 years ago” who changed at-large voting to district voting. He thanked the current council for being the first council to publicly recognize the men who made that change.

A picture of the Freedom Ride participants honors the 10 men who spearheaded the drive to change the state’s Constitution. A second picture features the 40,000 lb. monument, erected in 1987 on Route 16 just south of Preston Auto, dedicated to those men, including: George C. Jones, Charles F. Hurley Sr., Don W. Bradley, Oliver Harding, Richard Harding, William Reid, Edward Conway, William O. Corkran, Leon Medford, and Gregory Meekins.

Delegate Cain thanked the council and said “This council assisted me in getting my teeth in politics. It’s time for me to thank you for making my 16 year tour of duty a success.”
The Tourist Area and Corridor (TAC) signing program offers signs along selected state maintained routes to provide direction and information for Maryland attractions like museums, visitor center, cultural exhibits, campgrounds, etc. Steven Holley, an engineer with the State Highway Administration (SHA), explained the department’s plans to increase the number of signs in Dorchester County. While the TAC program has been in the county for several years, SHA plans to install 23 new signs: 9 on state roads, 10 on county roads; and 4 on local roads. State funding pays for the signs but SHA needed permission from the council to erect them on county roads. The council unanimously approved the project.

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Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper Two commemorative portraits were donated by Dr. Carl Barham and presented by retiring state Delegate Rudy Cain and Dr. Barham to the County Council. Ten men were driving forces in successfully changing the “at-large” voting system to a district system that better reflects local populations.

The Safe Streets Initiative originated at a state level to promote collaboration and information sharing between all levels of government to reduce violent crime. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) partners with local jurisdictions and a variety of agencies to focus on a core group of offenders who commit most of the crimes. Dorchester County became the 9th Maryland Safe Streets site on July 1, 2014. The 2012 statistics indicate that the county had an increase in total crime for three years in a row with a 16.2 percent increase in violent crime. That is what Safe Streets focuses on.

Nancy Shockley, executive director of the Local Management Board, updated the council on progress of the Safe Streets Initiative. She said, “I am proud to say that we did receive funding and have been working diligently for the last three months. Members of the team include: State’s Attorney’s office, Cambridge and Hurlock Police Departments, Sheriff’s Department, MD State Police and its Warrant Task Force, Division of Parole and Probation, the Dorchester County Detention Center, Emergency Services, plus other government and state partners as well as the Department of Juvenile Services.

During the past three months the group has worked on: Identifying and prioritizing offenders; identifying and prioritizing offenders’ warrants; and, establishing a prosecution strategy. Funds of $148,920 from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control supports a part-time coordinator, overtime for a criminal analyst, a part-time state prosecutor, overtime for all law enforcement agencies, and equipment and software. Thus far they have identified the top 25 offenders and reviewed all open warrants. Ms. Shockley noted it takes about 2 years to see a reduction in violent crime.

Grants monitor Cindy Smith reported that a housing study is planned to determine the quality of housing in the community. The goal is to gather information, measure the housing needs of the community, and develop a plan to assist citizens in upgrading their homes as necessary. Students from Salisbury University will conduct the study. The first phase is a “windshield inspection.” The second phase is contact with occupants whose homes require upgrading. Ms. Smith said there are many funding sources and low interest loans available through several sources.

Members of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), including Deputy Secretary of Transportation Wilson Parran, presented the draft Consolidated Transportation Program for FY2015-2020.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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