Hurlock fire building could serve as community center

Dorchester Banner/Susan Bautz
Lt. Bruce Jones, acting police chief of the Hurlock Police Department for the past month, was sworn in by Mayor Michael Henry to his new post as chief of police. At his side is his wife Lisa.

HURLOCK — In his report at the July 8 Hurlock town meeting, Mayor Michael Henry noted he has completed all the requirements for the Academy of Excellence and will officially graduate in September.

The Maryland Municipal League (MML) is a founding partner of the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance, a voluntary certificate training program with the University of Maryland for municipal and county officials. Participants must complete nine core classes as well as elective courses offered under broad categories such as land use planning, human resources, and personnel administration.

Mayor Henry said he and town manager John Avery met with Frank Stout, Dorchester County Parks and Recreation director. According to the mayor, Mr. Stout was very receptive to the idea of using the current Hurlock Volunteer Fire Department building as an area-wide community center.

They discussed the potential for basketball courts and where they could be located. One suggestion was retrofitting one of the tennis courts for basketball. Mr. Henry asked the council to get back to him with their opinions.

Dr. Carl Barham, co-leader of the Historical Freedom Shrine Advocacy Team, first spoke at the May 13 Hurlock council meeting to ask for the town’s support. He returned for the July 8 meeting to present a framework for the team’s plans to promote Hurlock as the “birthplace of voter reform.”

He noted that the town council and staff are important public relations representatives. “They represent what Hurlock is and what it can become. We share that vision.” He proposed selling t-shirts, one of which he was wearing, to convey the message and offered details on the marketing program’s costs.

The proposal recommends Mr. Avery be the “contact person” for t-shirts, a banner, book markers, and road signs at four entrances to town. The town office would handle the ordering and processing. He asked that an account be set-up for a proposed budget of $3,575.

Noting the project is time sensitive, Dr. Barham asked the council to “get back with us as soon as possible so we can move forward with the project.”

Chief Jones reported the 911 center received 770 calls for service in May. For June the department had: Eight thefts, three from motor vehicles; two drug arrests; three overdoses, one fatal; four malicious destruction of property; two canine scans; three occurrences where officers filed an emergency petition; two missing persons, both closed; two accidents, one with personal injury; and three hit and runs. There were 26 traffic warnings and seven citations. In July, there have been one overdose, three accidents, one hit and run, one drug arrest, and one theft.

Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jason Trego reported 130 calls for fire service. He commented that the overdoses this month included the use of some “bad drugs” with heroin the most frequent drug of choice. He said, “Anything we can do to help somebody is going to be a positive.”

Councilman Charles Cephas thanked Chief Trego for the department’s quick response to his son who experienced a drug overdose. He noted his son is alive today and getting help because of the volunteer fire department.

According to drug prevention professionals, acknowledging that a relative has a drug problem can motivate others to recognize an addiction problem in their own families or among their friends. The experts emphasize that understanding that there is a problem is the path to a solution.

Mr. Avery reported that the town is “on track” to settle on ownership of the lot and building in the 100 block of S. Main St. that was at one time the law office of the late town attorney Hugh Vinson. When the real estate transaction is completed the building will be demolished and the lot converted to a parking area for the downtown area.

Ordinance 2019-7 to adjust the council members’ salaries and compensation was introduced on June 10. First term council members receive $5,000; 2nd consecutive term, $7,500; 3rd consecutive term and forward, $10,000.

For each level of education a council member achieves a $500 bonus will be awarded. Due to lack of a quorum the council will vote at the next meeting.
Councilman Cephas said a citizens’ organization has filed the paperwork needed to organize as a nonprofit corporation.

The group is structured “to be able to run the center. We’ve never had the opportunity to get this done like we have today.” He hopes the center will be a “beacon of light for north Dorchester.”

The councilman then turned to Councilman Earl Murphy and apologized “for speaking to you harshly at the last council meeting because that’s not who we are or who I am. I am sorry.” His apology was accepted.

Councilman Russell Murphy suggested using grant funds from the Parks and Recreation Department to revamp the triangular area near the train station into a comfortable small park.

Councilman Earl Murphy said, “I was honored to accept the nomination of vice president of the lower Eastern Shore Mayors’ Association (LESMA) for 2019 and president in 2020. They’ve noticed us (Hurlock) at these meetings. That helps the town in its pursuit of growth and economic development because,” noted Mr. Murphy, “there are a lot of great things coming forward.”

Susan Banks, Dorchester County director of economic development, attended the July 8 meeting and announced she has plans for economic growth based on “a lot of new strategies and some initiatives.”

She told council members it is “time to focus in on some specific industries. I’m thinking about the traditional industries of agriculture and seafood and how we can use innovation.”

She is looking at the things the county already does well and improving on them. Ms. Banks plans to attend more Hurlock council meetings.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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