Hurlock moves ahead with plans for Veterans’ Memorial Park

HURLOCK — The second Saturday of October 2017 promises a Hurlock Fall Festival like none other when the town officially celebrates its 125th anniversary. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who mentioned the anniversary during his recent visit, said he, too, wants to be included in the festivities. At the Jan. 23 council meeting, Hurlock Mayor Joyce Spratt said they are “planning a huge Fall Festival” and asked for volunteers.

A major event during the Festival is anticipated when the long-awaited Veterans’ Memorial Park will be dedicated. The Park has been in the works for many years and began to take shape last year under the leadership of Frank and Faye Fraley with Councilman Earl Murphy acting as liaison.

The park was initially slated for construction behind the newly-renovated C&L Market near the railroad station for an estimated budget of $75,000. Last January Mayor Spratt noted the project could not be started until funding was found. At that time she said that applying for and receiving grants, possible if the group receives not-for-profit status as a 501c3 organization, will take time.

For several months potential funding was a major problem. It was believed that despite its support for the Memorial Park, the American Legion was not allowed to contribute money. At the recent town meeting Mayor Spratt asked the Fraleys to step forward for a big announcement. She said the comptroller’s office has determined that the American Legion is permitted to donate to the town for the Veterans’ Memorial Park. No amount has yet been set because the budget has not been drawn up for the new site.

The Mayor announced, “We are going to have a memorial park and we are hoping it will be done in time for the big celebration in the fall.”

In a Banner interview, Town Administrator John Avery explained that the first step in starting work on the park is the demolition of the three Main Street homes that were condemned last year. However, before that can occur the project must meet requirements set by the Maryland Historical Trust for demolition of properties within a designated historic area. Sometime during the early 2000s, before the current administration was in place, parts of the town were designated historic.

The designation meant regulations must be followed before any changes can be made to properties within the historic district. A potential option to meet those requirements is the incorporation of walking trails in the park with signage describing the historic nature of the town. The museum planned for the former police station will also fit into the historic nature of the town. In addition, houses slated for demolition must show documentation they are not economically feasible for renovation. Mr. Avery said an open public meeting as part of the Feb. 13 town council meeting slated for comment and stakeholders have been invited to participate.

Mayor Spratt announced the opening of the C&L Market on Feb. 6. New owner James Chaney has hired 13 people and will attend the Feb. 13 council meeting.

Police Chief Les Hutton reported that the last two weeks were busy ones for his department with 9 thefts, 3 of which were stolen cars. He noted that is “unusual.” He emphasized that 8 of those would not have happened “if people had locked their property” and removed their keys. He said, “The biggest responsibility of the police department is to enforce the laws. We need citizens to do their part which is to secure their property. This is 2017. I hear ‘way back when…’ But this isn’t the 40s and 50s anymore. If it’s not locked down they’re going to steal it.”

Chief Hutton explained that juveniles and adults who walk the streets at night are looking for opportunities. “They try door handles and if they open, they’re going into the vehicle. Be alert, secure your property.” He asked people who see strangers acting suspiciously to call the police department. “If you see something unusual to you … give us a call.” Chief Hutton advocated banding together as a community to prevent crimes of opportunity. He mentioned that people stopped by police do not have to give their names but explained that if they are stopped by a police officer they are videotaped via body cameras and can be identified.

Councilman Charles Cephas asked Chief Hutton about the status of a department website. The chief replied that he initiated a Facebook page for the department but recently removed it due to posts that were negative and, in some cases, untrue. Noting the page was designed to get department news to the public, he said, “I’m not going to publish negativity. I want people to see Hurlock as a positive.”

The much anticipated Hurlock town website will link to the police department.

Councilman Jerry Rhue reported 2016 totals for the Hurlock Volunteer Fire Company. There were: 272 fire calls; 798 hours of drills; 259 hours of standby; 708 hours of meetings; 1,684 hours of fundraising; and 1,370 hours of work details.

Mayor Spratt gave council members a 10 step proposal to raise the police department’s pay scale to compete with other municipalities. She said, “I’m big on retention. I want them to stay.” There are two openings and Chief Hutton said he is seeking certified officers to save the expenses incurred with training an uncertified hire. “When you hire a new officer it takes months to certify. You lose almost an entire year attaining certification.”

During public comments resident Jack Lewis asked Councilman Cephas if “we still have an Ethics Committee and if so, who is the chair?” The councilman promised to advise Mr. Lewis when an Ethics Committee meeting is scheduled.

Resident Lee Davis said that he frequently works in the southern part of the country and sees chain stores opening locations in the north. He suggested they should be contacted about moving to Hurlock and asked, “Do we have a group to solicit these people to come and talk to the council.”

The Mayor responded, “We work diligently all the time to bring business here. Food Lion did a feasibility study and found there was not enough business.” Councilman Cephas asked Mr. Davis to collect the names of stores that might be interesting in coming and thanked him for bringing the issue back to the council’s attention.

Mayor Spratt said the Feb. 13 meeting will be short, followed by the annual audit report, and then a short budget workshop to begin discussion of FY18. The workshop is open to the public but will not have public comment. Some future workshops will allow comment according to Ms. Spratt.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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