Marshmallows with the Murphys a go after meeting

HURLOCK — Everyone who looks forward to the Halloween community party in Hurlock dubbed “Marshmallows with the Murphys,” can rest easy. For a while it seemed as though the 10th annual event might not take place. It was a question of liability at a private event that last year drew over 1,000 ghosts, goblins, and just plain folks.

At the last Hurlock Council meeting concerns were expressed about the tractor-drawn hay wagon that takes youngsters around the Woods Edge community. A long discussion about the need for liability insurance ended with a promise by Councilman Earl Murphy to investigate the issue.

At the Oct. 24 Hurlock Council meeting Police Chief Les Hutton explained, “Two years ago I mentioned my concern to Earl (Murphy) about the insurance. I fully support the event.” But he noted that as chief of police it is his job to make sure the tractor is licensed and insured. If it hits a child and a parent decides to sue the Murphys then they will sue town officials. “All I’ve said is, ‘get a rider to protect yourselves.’”

Michelle Murphy responded on the 24th “to address some concerns expressed at the last town meeting.” She offered a brief history of the event saying that 10 years ago they ran out of treats and resorted to giving the kids hot dogs. The event grew and was named “Marshmallows with the Murphys.” By 2015, they gave away 600 hot dogs, tons of hot chocolate, and held games. The youth group from Grace Baptist Church passed out candy and a volunteer assembly line in the house prepared meals to serve at tables in the backyard.

Ms. Murphy said, “This was actually the first year that we’ve had concerns addressed to us and I feel the need to clarify and maybe ask the council and police chief to come up with suggestions about how to take care of it.” They’ve been told they are lucky no one has been hurt and sued them. Quotes for an insurance rider policy ranged from $5,000 to $2,500 to $352 if the community roads are blocked.

Chief Hutton said one street could be blocked but not an entire community.

This year, said Ms. Murphy, their church has agreed to co-sponsor the event and it will be covered under the church’s insurance policy. Noting that many people turn their lights off on Halloween, she said, “Our Mission for this event is turning on the lights for our kids to give them a positive, safe environment.”

Ms. Murphy said the police “used to sit on the road and monitor the evening” and she lauded the benefits of “community policing.”

Those comments raised Chief Hutton’s hackles. He strongly advocates community policing in his department and said there has been a police presence at the event every year. “We’ve never stopped supporting ‘Marshmallows with the Murphys’” and agreed since the tractor is licensed and the church has insurance he has no problem.

In his report, Town Administrator John Avery said that by replacing older, out of production fire hydrants a $2,000 savings per hydrant could be realized. The water main and police station loans were finalized. “By closing in October,” he said, “we lowered the interest rates. One is 1.375 percent and the other is 2.675 percent which amounted to a yearly interest savings of $5,240.”

Mr. Avery received bids for repaving Wright’s Avenue, Dogwood Drive, and Oak Street from the intersection to the state highway. The bids were: Russell Paving at $143,909; and, Delmarva Paving for $129,102. The contract also includes 300’ of Railroad Avenue from Rt. 392 to the Exxon station for an estimated cost of $11,000 plus estimated costs of $10,000 for assorted patches throughout the town. The council awarded the contract to Delmarva Paving. Mr. Avery said, “We already had a contract for $52,000 to do Poplar and Gay that was covered under the water main replacement.”

Administrator Avery suggested doing all the other with a 5 percent contingency, $10,000, for a total of $212,102 for paving. He said $150,000 is already in the budget; $36,261 is covered in the water main budget; and, $186,261 are budgeted funds. “That leaves a shortfall of $25,841 that not budgeted.” He asked for a $30,000 budget transfer amendment to cover the shortfall with a small balance remaining. The council approved the request.

The Hurlock Downtown Committee was on the agenda to present its 2017 Strategic Plan including a budget proposal. However, Mayor Joyce Spratt said, “We do not have a full council tonight and I had asked Cederick (Turner) (committee president) to have this stuff in plenty of time to get to the council so they could review it before tonight’s meeting. There is nothing wrong with it, but not everyone got it and I’d rather put if off and let the council have a couple of weeks to look at it and come up with their questions.” The report was tabled until the Nov. 14 council meeting.

Police Chief Hutton announced a recently hired officer is a certified police and firearms instructor who will oversee the patrol and criminal divisions. He “brings a lot of benefits to us,” said Chief Hutton. The department can be trained in certain classes and on firearms without sending officers to classes and that saves the town money on college tuition.

Basketball hoops are still front and center for the Hurlock community. Resident Pat Finley asked the status of installing hoops in various areas. Town Attorney Robert Merriken distributed a report based on information from former Police Chief Michael Henry to “get a sense of what the council would like me to do” regarding drafting a document. Mayor Spratt said she wants to make it “fair and legal.”

Mr. Merriken explained some jurisdictions have banned the use of sports equipment and others have not addressed the issue. “You can narrow it down to whatever the council wants.”

Councilman Charles Cephas felt the council “should think long and hard before we legislate something that doesn’t need a whole lot of rules and regulations. I would like to sit down with the chief and talk.” Chief Hutton agreed. “I don’t want this town to be like an over 55 community where we don’t allow children. A lot of these kids are good kids … I think Rev. Cephas and I should hash it out.”

Mayor Spratt said she has no objection to basketball in the north Main Street town park. “I’d like to see that park more utilized than it is now.” Mr. Avery added that the town has applied for a grant for recreational equipment for the park and it could include a basketball court.

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