New city manager, officer in Hurlock

dorchester banner/susan m. bautz  The newest addition to Hurlock’s police force, Stuart German, center, was sworn into office by Mayor Michael Henry after Police Chief Les Hutton introduced him.

dorchester banner/susan m. bautz
The newest addition to Hurlock’s police force, Stuart German, center, was sworn into office by Mayor Michael Henry after Police Chief Les Hutton introduced him.

HURLOCK — Hurlock Mayor Michael Henry was busy at the June 25 Town Council meeting. After reporting that all council members attended the Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City, one of 137 municipalities that participated. He said that Gov. Larry Hogan was in Hurlock on June 20. The governor toured the Amick plant and visited the Freedom Shrine.

The mayor gave the oath of office to John Avery, the newly-named town manager and to Stuart German, the newest police officer added to the force. Chief Les Hutton said the new officer retired from the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Department and was looking “for a small town policing opportunity” which he found in Hurlock.

Resident Kenny Walton asked for permission to hold the 3rd annual Walk “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walk in Hurlock. He explained that vendors will donate a percentage of income to the walk. He invited volunteers to contact him or his wife Chrissy waltonck26@gmail.com. “Suicide is up,” he added, “and it does not discriminate.”

The council unanimously approved.

Mr. Avery reported he is gathering information about installing charging stations for electric vehicles. The program is free except for the amount of electricity used unless another circuit is required. He explained the Pavilion already has electric and a second location should have existing electric access.

Cleaning the stormwater ditches has been very difficult, noted Mr. Avery. He asked the council to consider a side arm mower to fit the existing tractor so the town can eliminate using outside contractors. The cost is about $8,300 from Atlantic Tractor with a 40 percent government discount. “The contractor doing it now gave us a price of $6,000 for just one time. “It will save an immense amount of labor instead of doing the ditches with weed whackers.” The council approved the purchase.

With the latest hire the police department is short a police vehicle. A USDA grant for two vehicles is pending. “I’ve checked with USDA,” said Mr. Avery, “and they will fund retroactively if the vehicle is purchased under a state contract.” The council could approve a vehicle from the FY2018 budget and if approved, the grant will reimburse for ¾ of the expenditure. The council approved the purchase.

A major infrastructure problem is replacing the force main which has had six leaks in the past year. Bids are in and the engineers will review and certify the contractors. Work will start within a couple weeks of the awarding of the bid and completion is slated for 45 days from the start of the project, around the end of September. Mr. Avery said, “We’ve been lucky there has not been a catastrophic leak. One was bad but we managed to stop it from getting into the streams which would have been catastrophic.”

Two issues were raised that required additional discussion and research. The first question was raised by Councilman Earl Murphy who suggested purchasing and mounting four video screens for attendees and council members to see presentations during meetings. He said, “I’m not saying we’re always going to use them” but we can let presenters know they are available. Mr. Murphy agreed to pursue proposals for a complete system to present at the next meeting. Mr. Avery explained the issue was discussed but never included in the proposal for the $6,000 sound system that was purchased. “It doesn’t go with the system we have. We would need two separate systems.”

A second issue was bringing food trucks into town. Mr. Avery said, “We have received two more applications for permits for food trucks. One is Two Chicks catering and the other is Pete’s Pizza. The council has to approve those permits. Pete Smith has a food truck in Caroline County and sells pizza and sandwiches. He would like a permit to bring his truck to town 1-2 days a week, offer catered lunches, and attend festivals.
It looked like a slam dunk approval until business owner James Chaney challenged the plethora of food trucks seeking permits. “I have no problem with having different vendors in town for special events. I have a $200,000 business in town and I pay property taxes just like all the other businesses in town. It’s very unfair. You’ve got six other businesses in town that feel the same way. We depend on our lunch and dinner business. If you okay a $25 permit fee, what will you give to me? I put a lot of money into this place and you’ve got vendors coming out of the woodwork now to take our business.”

Councilman Earl Murphy said, “Everyone wants a new business in town but hearing some concerns about Mr. Chaney’s business makes me think about this. I don’t know that I’ll make any choices tonight.”

Councilman Charles Cephas told his fellow council members, “The council has to decide what you will allow in town and outside of town. We have to think about this a lot and see where our path is going to go.”

The council decided to hold a public work session on July 2, 6 p.m. to discuss both items.

Councilman Charles Cummings distributed information he gathered after a meeting with Councilman Cephas, County School Superintendent Dr. Diana Mitchell, and County Supervisor Of Athletics Sam Slacum. The discussion was about offering football at North Dorchester High School (NDHS). Mr. Cummings said Dr. Mitchell “was all for it.” She was supportive but the biggest concerns were cost for uniforms, Bayside Conference requirements, and enough community support.

Councilman Cephas said, “Football is a powerful tool. We’ve been a long time without football. If the community gets behind Councilman Cummings it could be a reality.”

The council agreed to support the effort.

Resident Paul Grahe, president of the Woods Edge community, asked about a timeline for storm drains repair and suggested speed humps and a camera for the development. He also reminded council members they had suggested possible grant money availability for the safety projects.

Mr. Avery said while the storm drain repairs are on the list the emphasis at this point is keeping the force main sewer system operational. He noted that the humps can only be built when the roads are being resurfaced because no company will install them as a separate job. Based on previous research he found the initial investment for the camera is $7,000-$8,000 and the software costs about $2,000 yearly.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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