Hurlock Council deals with topic of community donations

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The Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz Charles Colbourne graciously accepted a Key to the city from Hurlock Mayor Joyce Spratt for his role of Grand Marshal in the town’s annual Christmas Parade.

HURLOCK — At the Jan. 12 council meeting Hurlock Mayor Joyce Spratt presented Keys to the City to three residents who contributed significantly to the town’s day-long Christmas celebration. Charles Colbourne served as Grand Marshal of the Christmas parade; Jeff Fletcher was the Town Marshal; and Jeff Smith received the honor for the Christmas spirit he shows yearly with impressive displays. Ms. Spratt said “More people decorated than ever before.” Winners of the Christmas decorating contest included: 1st place, Karen Dyda; 2nd place, Donald Franz; 3rd place, Ginny Kienast.

In her report, the Mayor said that Emma Ross, the 6-year-old whom the town has enthusiastically supported in her struggle with cancer, will have a wish come true. The Make a Wish Foundation granted her desire to visit Disney World.

There was confusion about the council’s responsibility after Ms. Spratt read two requests for contributions to community organizations. The first was from Middle School Principal Vaughn Evans for a new program for middle school students on Saturdays from 1-3 p.m. The December to March basketball program is open to middle school students only but Mr. Vaughn hopes to eventually include elementary and high school youngsters. While not asking for a specific amount, he hopes to raise $2,500 “to fill his budgetary needs.”

The North Dorchester High School after-prom committee also asked for a contribution.    Councilman Earl Murphy said the issue of donations to community organizations was presented before he joined the council but he had heard previous discussions at town meetings. The issues concerned how to make those donations, how the money would be used, and was it part of the budget. He said based on those discussions he would contribute $50 from his own pocket but would not move for the town to do it.

The issue of contributions by the council to local organizations was raised in an Aug. 12, 2013 meeting after the elementary school asked the council to purchase school supplies for needy children. At that point then-councilman Chris Adams offered $100 of his own. Councilman Cephas added at the 2013 meeting that he “recalled the council saying it would not give money to outside causes” because everyone who asks would then be entitled to a donation. He added at the August meeting that “if there is a change in strategy or policy it’s one thing; but if it’s not then each one of us could give money.”

Asked by the Mayor on Jan. 12 if there was a budget item for contributions, Mr. Avery said there was a $2,000 line item called “Community Contributions.” After determining that an amount is available until the end of this fiscal year, Councilman Murphy then moved to donate $300 to each request.

The motion died for lack of a second. Councilman Durham asked the council to consider donating the entire amount to the town’s volunteer fire department towards purchase of its new ladder truck.

Director of Economic Development Keasha Haythe and New Business Development Manager Susan Banks presented the department’s FY2014 annual report. Ms. Haythe emphasized that her role is to retain and expand current business and cited Protenergy and Amick Farms as expansion examples that created 85 jobs. Through retention successes, 800 jobs were retained. Her department made over 200 calls on businesses seeking to develop a Mid-Atlantic presence.

Susan Banks focuses on attraction and retention. She said there are currently two prospects interested in Hurlock. “We target specific industries,” she explained, “and I e-mail them, call them, and hound them and hound them.”

Ms. Haythe noted, “We work closely with the Mayor and John Avery on any prospects for Hurlock,” to which Town Administrator Avery added, “We have an open line of communication. Most job creation comes from the expansion of existing companies so that is number one.”

Choose Dorchester, a color publication produced in coordination with the Dorchester Banner, details Dorchester County business opportunities. Ms. Haythe noted it “Showcases what is going on in the county to attract new businesses and residents,” and offered the magazine to all interested residents.

In his report, County Councilman Rick Price said he will advise north county residents when a public hearing regarding the proposed vertical expansion of the Beulah landfill will be held. The hearing is part of the solid waste management plan which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. He noted that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will have its own public hearing on the issue of changes to the solid waste management plan before any additions are made to the landfill.

Mr. Avery explained the reason for a Saturday water shut-off that concerned residents.  He noted a severe water main break in an 8” main occurred Saturday afternoon that required the shut-off after an attempt to isolate and repair the leak had not worked.  Final repairs were completed 11:30 p.m. He noted the public works department “Got a lot of help. The Mayor put out a Facebook notice; Fire Chief Jason Trego contacted 911 for reverse 911 notifications to residents; Councilman Earl Murphy answered numerous phone calls in the office. Following repairs the water pressure was slowly raised. Mr. Avery said it was “so cold the tools were freezing on the roadway.”

He announced that effective Jan. 16, Route 392 will be closed from 7 a.m. until the following Wednesday evening to replace the rail crossing. Traffic will be detoured.

Engineering work on the water main replacement project is almost ready to go out to bid, according to Mr. Avery. The council unanimously approved his proposal to apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a loan or grant to fund existing projects.  The pre-application and application require additional engineering and a $25,000 environmental study. A funding request to the state’s Department of the Environment (MDE) was denied.

The meeting moved to closed session to obtain “legal advice pertaining to real estate and financial matters concerning Waterland Fisheries.”

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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