Hurlock Council approves purchase of body cameras for police

MD-hurlock meeting 3x-111615

Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
Mayor Joyce Spratt announced that a special tree was planted and dedicated to the memory of Hurlock resident Vaughn Jacobs who recently lost his battle with cancer. Pictured from left, Tina Jacobs, Council Members Russell Murphy, Jerry Rhue, and Bonnie Franz; Mayor Spratt.

HURLOCK – At its Nov. 9 meeting the Hurlock Council supported the purchase of body cameras for the town’s police officers. The initial cost is $11,000 with a yearly maintenance and equipment updating fee of $7,500. The town applied for a grant to cover the costs but Mayor Joyce Spratt said that the state is “not giving any money because they are not sure if they want us to have them because of a couple of cases that are in litigation.”

The mayor emphasized the cameras are for officers’ safety and noted that Cambridge already has them. Hurlock has what the Mayor called “rinky dink ones that aren’t any good.” She said the $11,000 “is not a big amount to spend to save somebody’s life.”

Councilman Charles Cephas said policing is the same for small or large towns and cameras are now a big part of the national discussion. He noted that body cameras protect both officers and citizens as they ensure officer safety and create a record of events. He added that by saving one major lawsuit the money would be recouped.

Councilman Earl Murphy agreed. The cameras will “give the entire picture of an episode, not just pieces of it.”
After unanimous council agreement Police Chief Michael Henry was asked to proceed with the purchase.

Mayor Spratt met recently with representatives of VW Energy LLC. In April, 2015 the company constructed a 5-acre solar energy project at the town’s wastewater treatment plant and continues to maintain it. They are ready to begin Phase II of the solar projects geared to saving energy costs. Two locations are being considered: Property on Ennals road; and a project on farmland near the N. Main St. Park. Ms. Spratt noted the town will meet with Choptank and Delmarva Power before moving forward with the project.

The Mayor’s State of the Town address praised town employees and the volunteer fire department. She said the solar project at the town’s highly lauded wastewater treatment plant will save thousands of dollars yearly at “no cost to the town.” The new police building is proceeding and the old building will be a town and railroad museum. Two existing Enterprise Zones offer benefits to attract new businesses. She emphasized that nothing will be outsourced that can be done in-house and improvements to infrastructure are beginning.

Town Administrator John Avery was “proud to give the treasurer’s report. We have worked diligently to save and invest taxpayers’ money and get the best return on it in the safest manner possible. Public funds cannot be invested in anything speculative. The best return we could get through the state is .1 percent. Right now we have a number of accounts that are getting .25 percent and .19 percent which are fully insured over $250,000.”

Mr. Avery said the General Fund in 1880 Bank of Cambridge (former National Bank of Cambridge) totals $1.2 million. A money market fund has $250,000; Provident State Bank holds $867,000; and Hebron Bank offers a renegotiated .25 percent rate on $563,000. Mr. Avery said two accounts at SunTrust were moved to Hebron which offers insurance on funds over $250,000.

Available cash totals $2,928,000 much of which is earmarked for Main St. water main repairs. The town has a $1.1 million loan commitment from USDA and Mr. Avery “believes we’ll go beyond that and fund some extensions that are really in need. The infrastructure needs a complete modernization but this is the first step.” He added that major patching and resurfacing road work will be done in the spring.

In addition a dedicated library fund is in escrow. Mr. Avery noted that the bottom line is $2.9 million dollars of which 60-65 percent are contingency funds.

The Veterans’ Memorial Park, first proposed 8 years ago, is moving towards reality. Frank Fraley is receiving bids for concrete/masonry work and laser-etched black granite plaques representing each branch of service. Mayor Spratt said $3,700 has been donated for the project so far.

Council Member Bonnie Franz said the 2nd annual coat drive is slated for Nov. 21, 9 am-2 pm, at the community center (old library). To donate coats, books, and household items call the town office or Ms. Franz for information. Last year over 250 coats were distributed to residents in need.

Councilman Cephas expressed concern about numerous cancer deaths in north Dorchester. He considers it “an emergency situation” with eight deaths in one week and plans to meet with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and state environmental agency representatives. “I will be actively seeking answers as to how, where, and why so many people in our area are dying of cancer.”

Mayor Spratt said the Nov. 23 meeting is canceled. Dec. 7, 5 pm is the swearing-in for newly-elected councilman Russell Murphy and Dec. 17 is the next council meeting.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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