Cephas asks council to vote in favor of House Bill 1744

HURLOCK — In Mayor Michael Henry’s absence, Hurlock Council President Charles Cephas led the March 26 town meeting. He gave council members a pictorial progress report on the North Dorchester High School replacement for their review and said a full project report is tentatively slated for an April council meeting.

Councilman Cephas noted the state legislature is considering House Bill 1744 regarding reporting substance exposed newborns and their families to the social services department and he asked council members to read the bill and ask their representatives to vote in favor.

The bill alters a current law, passed in 2013, to change the definition of when a newborn is considered to be substance-exposed; and, remove the current exemptions for certain conditions under which a health care practitioner must make a report. To comply with the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), state law must ensure that health care practitioners report all substance-exposed newborns to social services. There are no exceptions to the reporting requirements for circumstances involving even medically-prescribed drugs.

Maryland receives at least $750,000 annually in federal CAPTA funds from which it distributes a portion to local social services depts. The Governor’s office of crime control and prevention distributes about $300,000 to local, state, and nonprofit entities as well in the fight against addiction but states must comply with CAPTA regulations. The HB7144 ensures compliance.

Police Chief Les Hutton reported for the past two weeks: One assault involving juveniles; one debit card theft; one DUI; two possessions of marijuana under 10 grams; and one runaway juvenile arrest. A teen was charged with driving without a license because, said Chief Hutton, it is illegal to ride a dirt bike on public roads.

Councilman Cephas asked, “Could we revisit before the summer some type of curfew?” Chief Hutton said, “If council would like to propose it let the attorney see what he can do with it. We’ve only got 10 percent who are causing the problem and the other 90 percent are being punished. I understand the need for it and people get frustrated. But, we’re trying to get children included in the community and give them events and things in which to participate. If you have a community center we can’t run it because the kids would have to go home by 10 p.m. It’s a catch-22.”

“The goal,” said the Rev. Cephas, “is for them to have fun and stay out of trouble.” In a conversation with East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline he suggested they join together with other north Dorchester towns to apply for a grant to build a center.

Town Administrator John Avery said the force main pipe has two holes which are now patched but the bottom of pipe is damaged, rusted or cracked from 50 years of use. Consulting engineers Davis, Bowen, and Friedel, estimated roughly $900,000 to replace the 9/10 of a mile. With a contingency of 10 percent the final cost would be around $1 million. He asked for permission to start the preliminary engineering work to “get ahead of the problem.”

Starting now he said the process from design, to bid, to hiring a contractor, to completion will take about 6 months. In the meantime he will continue to seek funding but added the cost could be covered by the budget. The pursuit of grants and loans will extend the completion time to 12 or 18 months.

Councilman Earl Murphy asked if the job could be done piecemeal. Mr. Avery said, “Yes, you could normally but the condition the pipe is in would mean you may start just chasing the problem more. Remember, on weekdays there’s close to 1.75 million gallons going through the pipe and on weekends it is 600-700,000 gallons.” All the sewage goes through an 18” inside diameter pipe with ¾” thick walls that are beginning to leak.

Councilman Charles Cummings asked if there are plans to divert the sewage during the replacement process. Mr. Avery said there would be plans, perhaps laying an adjacent pipe while work is ongoing. “We certainly will make provisions for it during the planning process.”
The council approved Councilman Earl Murphy’s motion to proceed with the project.

According to Mr. Avery the heat pump at the train station is not working. He has asked for estimates to replace it from two companies and has received one bid from the company that maintains the units. He said, “It’s a very good price.” Councilman Cephas suggested that Mr. Avery “go with whatever is necessary at this point.” The council approved a motion to repair and replace the heat pump as necessary. To avoid “tainting the bids,” the administrator will announce the cost estimates at the next meeting.

Two of four requested proposals to replace the roof at the Boy Scout house were received. The council approved a motion to award the job to contractor Bobby Powell whose bid was $700 less than the second bid at $5,074, In the near future, Mr. Avery said, the town hall roof will need replacing.

The council voted unanimously to approve resolution 2018-2, introduced by Councilman Cummings, to adopt the 2017 Dorchester County Hazard Mitigation Plan as the Hurlock plan.

The council voted unanimously to add residents Lynn Vinson and Jack Lewis to the current three member ethics commission as required by the recent Ethics Ordinance which took effect on March 4.

Commissioner Russell Murphy said spring cleaning is set for April 14 and noted Hurlock is one of very few towns that provide a clean-up service with roll offs, pick up and other conveniences. “Not a lot of towns do that. It’s part of your tax dollars that are used to help make the town look better.” He suggested the community center should also serve adults by offering classes for parents and not just be a babysitting drop off service.
Commissioner Cephas said he is “looking at a 2 percent

decrease in the real estate tax and looking at the dumpsters for the business community.” He wants a “vibrant discussion” at an upcoming council meeting or, as discussed at the March 12 town meeting, at a budget work session.

He said, “Hurlock is one of the highest taxed municipalities on the Eastern Shore” and he wants to give relief to the citizens if at all possible but pointed out the council must also review major pending capital expenses.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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