Wicomico County

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Bob Culver who died of liver cancer on Sunday was only the second Wicomico County Executive. And, during his tenure he developed a strong sense of what the position should be. Delmarva Public Media's Don Rush talked with county council membere Josh Hastings about his tenure and his impact on land conservation issues.

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Wicomico County is mourning the loss of County Executive Bob Culver who died on Sunday from liver cancer. Salisbury City Council President Jack Heath ran as an independent against Culver in his reelection bid. Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush spoke with Heath about that experience and Culver's legacy.

Don Rush

The Wicomico County Council was expected to hear a second amendment sanctuary resolution on Tuesday but it was suddenly pulled by Sheriff Mike Lewis. Nonetheless, many attended to meeting to express their support and opposition to the resolution. Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush spoke with Dr. Bronte Deshield with the Wicomico County Branch of the NAACP about her concerns.

Don Rush (File Photo)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is ordering the closure of bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters across the state in response to coronavirus.

Hogan announced his order would go into effect Monday at 5 p.m.

Hogan says drive-thru, carryout and delivery service will still be allowed.

Hogan also announced a prohibition on social, community, recreational or religious gatherings of more than 50 people in close proximity.

He also says the state is planning to make up to 6,000 more hospital beds available.

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A compromise appears to have been reached over the control of alcohol sales between the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the legislation in Annapolis would expand the county’s existing Board of License Commissioners to include city residents.

That would mean expansion of the board from three to five members appointed by the governor.  

And three of them must be Salisbury residents.

The original bill would have stripped the county’s licensing board of its authority within the city limits.

Don Rush

The unemployment rate in Wicomico County is 4 percent the lowest in the last 12 years.

Dave Ryan executive director of Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development told WBOC that actual employment grew by 1.6 percent.

He said that’s the fastest rate in the last five years.

Ryan noted that the region has been lagging behind recovery from the Great Recession with the national jobless rate at 3.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in in Worcester and Somerset counties came in at 5.3 percent.

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The master plan for Pirate’s Wharf Park in Wicomico County was unveiled yesterday.

Steve Miller, Director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, told a public meeting that the first phase would aim to develop the waterfront property.

WBOC reports that the plan hopes to develop amenities on the 340 acre land in Quantico.

Features in the plan range from hiking trails and a fishing pier to a boat ramp and an observation deck.

Wicomico County Government

Wicomico County Attorney Paul Wilber is out.

The County Council fired him on a vote of 6-to-1.

Council member Bill McCain was the sole dissenter.

A county charter requires that the County Executive Bob Culver bring appointments to the council for each department within six months of taking office.

Culver refused to meet the May 7th deadline.

But WBOC reports that Council President John Cannon was closed mouthed about the reason for the dismissal calling it a personnel issue.

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Management of septic systems in Wicomico County has come in for criticism by industry professionals.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the problems involve permit delays and inconsistent staff recommendations.

Frustration boiled over during a recent meeting of more than a hundred county residents and professionals.

The paper reports they complained about delays in getting septic permits.

Don Rush

There’s a new report by the Eastern Shore Conservancy that says Dorchester County will be one of the most vulnerable areas on the Eastern Shore to be hit by sea level rise.

WBOC reports that the analysis says models show that a few decades from now the price tag for major storms could be as high as $66 million including the destruction buildings.

Other parts of the Eastern Shore will also be effected including Wicomico Somerset counties.

These areas are expected to see major flooding from high tides within the next 35 years.

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Wicomico County is considering development of the Pirate’s Wharf property for a public park.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that money for the project would come from state and local funds to match $820-thousand from a federal grant.

It would be the largest such award in Maryland for that round of grant funding.

The paper reports that county has owned the 340 acres on Whitehaven Road since the late 1990’s.

But County Council member Joe Holloway said that while he was happy to see the project move along he did have some concerns.

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Wicomico County officials met last night for their fifth Take Back Our Community event.

And Sheriff Mike Lewis told WBOC that with opioid deaths up by 27 percent over the last year the problem is not going away.

Opioid overdoses this year for Wicomico County are up to 82 with 16 deaths.

But officials expressed disappointment that not many in the community showed up for the meeting.

Lewis told the television station that he believes the community has become desensitized to the problem.

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SALISBURY, Md. (AP) - The owner of a farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore has been indicted on animal cruelty charges after dozens of dead and sick horses were found on her property.

Seventy-four-year-old Barbara Pilchard of Hebron made in initial appearance Friday in Circuit Court in Salisbury on 16 felony counts of animal cruelty and 48 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse and neglect.

The Wicomico County Sheriff's Office said in March that it found as many as 25 dead horses on the 2-acre property.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan has announced new initiatives aimed at boosting job creation.

Hogan made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday.

He says it's an effort to build on legislation approved this year. The law provides incentives for manufacturing companies to create jobs in areas with higher unemployment by providing a tax credit for each new job created. Hogan says in less than six months, nearly 70 manufacturers have filed letters of intent to participate, and 17 have filed official applications that would create about 450 new jobs.

Don Rush

The Wicomico County Council has confirmed the appointment of Dawn Mitchel Parks as the new director of finance.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that Parks has work in the finance department and has served as acting director since the dismissal in May of Leslie Lewis by County Executive Bob Culver.

Parks is about to undergo examination to become a certified public finance officer.

She has also served as the Eastern Shore representative for the Maryland Government Employee’s Retirement Investment Trust.

Don Rush

A suspicious letter has shown up in the personnel file of a Wicomico County employee calling for a raise.

An independent audit calls the letter potentially fraudulent.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the document is dated November 19th, 2015 and made the case for a raise for an unnamed county employee by a department head.

The paper reports that the department head has denied any involvement in the letter.

Don Rush

Wicomico County will resume – what’s known as – tax sales.

That is property sold by the county to bidders who promise to pay the tax and sometimes more.

County Executive Bob Culver cancelled last year’s sales trying to recoup the back taxes by other means including payment plans.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that this year Wicomico County put out the required ads in the Daily Record which has a greater focus on legal, business and government affairs.       

They have a much smaller circulation in Wicomico County than the local papers.

Don

A third party report on the fire service to Wicomico County has issued ten recommendations to resolve the dispute with the city of Salisbury.

For years the city has said that it should be compensated for its fire department and EMS service to nearby county areas.

Among the ten recommendation one says that Wicomico County should pay the city $288 for each fire call into the suburban areas.

This would be in addition to the grant that the county pays to each fire station.

Don Rush

Wicomico County voters gave their approval to a set of charter amendments that would expand the power of the County Council.

They received from 62 percent to 77 percent of the vote.

The measures included changing the role of the county attorney representing the council to control of personnel policy in the executive branch.

County Council president John Cannon told WBOC that he was pleased with the results.

Last week County Executive Bob Culver said that while he was not against the amendments but believed the council needed to get more input from the public.

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SALISBURY, Md. (AP) - A county Republican headquarters in Maryland has been vandalized with language bashing Donald Trump.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that messages in spray paint appeared on the Wicomico Republican headquarters early Saturday morning. Someone disparaged the Republican nominee for president with foul language.

The vandal or vandals also drew Xs through campaign signs for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga.

Shawn Jester, president of the Wicomico County Republicans, said the vandalism was "cleaned up pretty quickly."

Don Rush

Voters on the Eastern Shore flocked to the polls during the early voting period that ended yesterday.

Anthony Gutierrez, Election Director for Wicomico County, told WBOC that the goal had been to hit at least 10-thousand.

In Worcester County just over 63-hundred had gone to the polls while in Dorchester County the number was just over 32-hundred.

In Somerset County it was just over 23-hundred.

WBOC reports that election officials say early voting was up 18 percent from four years ago.

Don Rush

The emergence of the large chicken house operations has caused a stir in Wicomico County. Residents near a proposed 10 house operation near Naylor Mill Road have protested the project and led to the County Council to draw up new regulations for these types of operations. In part three of our series Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush looks at the residents, the local officials and the fight over the new regulations.

Don Rush

The prospect of big chicken house operations in Wicomico county drew a large audience at the Youth and Civic Center last night.

It was last chance for many of the residents who are concerned about the impact of these large operations on local developments to speak to the County Council before they make their decision on the proposed regulations.

Residents have been critical of two proposed projects including one just north of Salisbury along Naylor Mill Road.

Eddie Johnson got up to the microphone to call on the county to keep these projects from moving forward.

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Eastern Equine Encephalitis was detected last month in Wicomico and Worcester Counties.

It’s a mosquito born virus that can cause some mild health problems but also could turn serious and cause death.

WBOC reports that the Wicomico County Health Department says on average only five to 10 people are affected by the virus.  

Dennis DeCintio with the Department says that number there is a high fatality rate of around one third.

Otherwise symptoms can include chills, muscle aches and join pain.

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The three Lower Shore Counties in Maryland have the highest rates of child abuse in the state.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the state Department of Health found that in 2014 ranked highest with 30.5 out of a thousand children suffered some abuse.

In Worcester County the figure was 29 out of a thousand while in Wicomico County it was 13.4 out of a thousand.

The national average is 8.5

Michele Hughes, executive director of the Life Crisis Center, told the Daily Times that she never sees fewer than 100 children who have suffered from abuse.

Don Rush

An environmental consultant says that it would be okay for Wicomico County to allow the large chicken house operation slated for Naylor Mill Road.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that John D. Hynes and Associates found that the Maryland groundwater protection rules would be strong enough to protect such areas as the Paleo Channel and nearby waterways.

The paper says that Monica Brooks, a local resident and critic of the project, called the report “passing the buck” to justify going forward.

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The development of the large chicken operations with as many as 10 houses has Delmarva officials scrambling to find ways to regulate them as local residents raise concerns ranging from the economic impact on housing prices to pollution and health risks. Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush spoke with noted environmental author and Eastern Shore native Tom Horton on how he assesses the latest conflict.

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The Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder says Wicomico County must find a compromise between residents and poultry growers over the proposed mega-chicken house in Wicomico County.

In addressing the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce this week he said he recognized the importance of the poultry industry calling it “the lifeblood of the economy” on the Eastern Shore.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that he added that there have to be parameters for such operations.

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The Worcester County authorities say over the last 8 months they have made or issued 61 arrests or arrest warrants for drug violations.

In addition, a new report says that the arrests prevented” common nuisance crimes” that result from illegal drug activity.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the investigative effort known as Operation Street Sweeper was aimed at stemming an escalating drug problem.

The report said this would not be the last such effort which was conducted in conjunction with the Ocean City Narcotics Division.

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WHITEHAVEN, Md. (AP) - The Whitehaven Ferry is returning to the waters of the Wicomico River.
 
The ferry is returning to service Tuesday after an overhaul. It has been offline since November.
 
The ferry serves as the only link across the Wicomico River between rural sections of Wicomico and Somerset counties.
 
A contractor has replaced the bulkhead on either side of the ferry ramp on the Wicomico side of the river and replaced the cable that pulls the ferry from one side of the river to the other.
 

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