VFC president upset over 40 percent reduction

dorchester banner/susan m. bautz At the town’s Oct. 10 commission meeting East New Market Volunteer Fire Company president for the past 12 years, Adam Tolley, presented the group’s viewpoint about the reduction of the town’s annual donation.

dorchester banner/susan m. bautz
At the town’s Oct. 10 commission meeting East New Market Volunteer Fire Company president for the past 12 years, Adam Tolley, presented the group’s viewpoint about the reduction of the town’s annual donation.

EAST NEW MARKET — First on the speakers’ agenda at the Oct. 10 East New Market commission meeting was Adam Tolley, president of the East New Market Volunteer Fire Company, who attended for clarification on a recent funding issue. “In my 12 years I believe we’ve had a very good working relationship with the town. When we received our annual check we noticed it was cut significantly and it was really shocking to me and other members that we did not receive any notification with it.”

After emailing the town for information on when and why the decision was made without notifying the fire company the volunteers received correspondence on Oct. 1 that “it has not been the policy of the town to notify recipients of donations so no notification amount was given to any donation recipients.”

The email said when a group receives a donation it usually sends a thank you note to the town indicating the donation was received. Mr. Tolley said “to me it’s not a donation … it is a re-allocation of taxpayer dollars.”

He also felt the reference to a “thank you” implied that the fire company “is not thankful for what the town has done. We have given countless hours to the community and the town and never asked for a thank you. Not once.” He explained that not receiving any communication from the town a 40 percent cut ($2,000) does not indicate a good working relationship.

Mayor Caroline Cline responded that she and town clerk Michelle Jackson viewed the phrase as verification that a recipient has received the donation. “It in no way implied that you needed to come and say thank you very much.” Ms. Jackson noted that recipients do not receive notification of donations but most send a ‘thank you’ as verification of receipt.

Donations included in the FY2018 included: Dorchester Arts Center, $200; Library, $200; Boy Scouts, $200; and the Heritage Committee, $200. The mayor explained how the town paid the fire company’s electric bill for years until 2011 when it moved to the new station and the company received a $5,000 annual donation.

Mr. Tolley recounted the company receives $41,000 from the county council and “it’s not a donation. It’s a reallocation of taxpayer funds. We are paying a $4,210 monthly mortgage fee; insurance is $10,000 a year. He said he has never been invited to a council meeting, to which Mayor Cline responded, “All of our meetings are open to the public, including the budget that begins in April.” It is presented to the public at the May meeting for a first reading and from May until June is available for public scrutiny. She added, “There was not one dissenting comment having to do with the budget,” and said the 40 percent reduction to keep from raising taxes was not specifically stated at a meeting.

Mr. Tolley said, “The council cut their budget as well but we were notified … For $2,000 we were thrown out the window.” Mayor Cline responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I would suggest next April that you come to all of our budget meetings and present your case. I’m sorry you feel we don’t appreciate you but it’s quite the opposite.”

Commissioner Dr. Donna Flaggs added, “I’m appreciative for everything you do. I realize you’re all volunteers. But it was a decision we felt we had to make this year because of the numbers. Please don’t take it any other way.”

Resident Ed Davis added the fire company volunteers are available 24/7 for the community.” He said no one else from another organization is going to show up at somebody’s home in East New Market at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Mr. Tolley concluded, “I just wish things had been done differently.”

Mayor Cline cited extraordinary legal expenses. “If we didn’t have scofflaws we would have several thousand more dollars.”

To offer activities for East New Market area youngsters, Commissioner Mary Dennard-Turner enlisted the aid of Melissa Tucker, 4-H program coordinator for Dorchester County through the University of MD Extension Service. The program, for boys and girls ages 5-18, “instills belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity,” said Ms. Tucker. She noted she can help start a club but volunteers must run the clubs. 4-H clubs offer “a little bit of everything,” including animal care, robotics, cooking, etc. Ms. Tucker explained, “4-H is what you want to make it.”

Mayor Cline noted, “We do hope to start a community garden next spring.” Asked about adults as part of the program, Ms. Tucker said it is “a journey for the entire family.”

Commissioner Flaggs said “We have to find out what the children might be interested in.” The commission discussed using the town newsletter, personal contact, and schools. She said, “Once you engage kids in something you may be able to engage them in something else.”

The grant for interior restoration of the train station is “under scrutiny,” according to Mayor Cline. “One item in proposed budget that we are a little concerned about is a line item for $10,000 for the architect. We feel it is an extraordinary amount considering that we have already expended over $20,000 in grant money I would like to make sure that the $10,000 is money well spent whether it is grant money or a donation or whatever it is.”

The mayor noted that many people expressed concern over the vivid yellow color on part of the depot. However, she explained that the architect “promised” her it could be repainted to a more “buff” color without going through the Historical Trust. Commissioner Cindy Merrick added, “Some of us would be willing to paint it ourselves if it comes to that.”

Town clerk Michelle Jackson said the energy audit is “still in the works for the windows of the senior apartments. Everything is in place.” Grant application reviewer Preston Thomas suggested a fund from Delmarva Power and Light that subsidizes energy savings like changing thermostats, HVAC units into individual residential units, and some winterization at no cost to residents. Commissioners will review the program at the next work session to decide if moving forward will interfere with the grant allotment. Ms. Jackson noted, “It is a balancing act.”

The State Highway Administration (SHA) agreed to allow the town to pay for maintaining ditches that adversely affect county and/or state roads with Highway User Funds.

Code Enforcement officer Gary Felling reported on homeowners that have failed to maintain the brick sidewalks in front of their homes and for which, according to the town code, they are responsible.

He said certified letters were sent to residents of The Crossings detailing their responsibilities. Although costly, certification ensures that everyone has received the notice and would support the town in any court procedures.

Town engineer B.J. Gullion proposed an “auto dialer alarm” to enhance the current remote monitoring and control system at the Creamery Lane sewage pumping station. Upgrades would allow the town to monitor “everything that is going in and out.” The alarm will monitor levels 24/7 and determine if the pump is working properly. On line results can be reviewed on Mr. Gullion’s cell phone.

It would eliminate the need to go underground to read results and will tie in with existing pumps. The cost is about $5,500 not counting a conduit installation with a small fee for cell service after the first year.

Newly appointed Commissioner Gordon Heck replaced former Commissioner David Tolley, who recently resigned his long-term post.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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