2019 Year In Review: More progress, vital transitions

A large crowd follows the the Bolivian performance group Tinkus San Simon Filial Va’s Tinku Parade down South Division Street on the Friday kickoff of the 2019 National Folk Festival.

The year 2019 once again was a year of progress and transition in Salisbury and Wicomico County, with an array of quality-of-life initiatives gaining steam in an overall-positive business and retail economy.

Folk Festival a success 

Blue skies and temperatures in the low 80s evidently were the secret to a significant boost in attendance at the National Folk Festival in early September.

The weekend total of 153,911 people far exceeded the hoped-for number of 120,000, and was more than double last year’s attendance.

The festival’s Bucket Brigade also did well. The volunteers who circulated through the crowd were able to collect an estimated $40,000 in donations over the weekend — about double last year’s amount, he said.

On Friday, city officials anxiously waited for the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian to blow past, but then the weather cleared and the opening night’s attendance hit 45,085, more than 12,000 above last year, officials said.

Attendance Saturday reached 113,434, while Sunday’s attendance was 49,467.

In 2018, total attendance for all three days was only 63,000 due to off-and-on showers Saturday and all-day rain on Sunday.

The city will play host to the National Folk Festival for the third and final time in 2020 before it moves on to another city.

Salisbury Crime Rate

Crime statistics made public early in 2019 revealed that 2018 was Salisbury’s safest year on record.

In a review of the most serious crimes against people and property, the city saw a 17 percent drop in what national law enforcement officials label as Part 1 crimes in their statistics.

These crimes include criminal homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary (breaking or entering), larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

In 2018, Part 1 crimes were down 42 percent from their 2009 peak and nearly 22 percent below their five-year average.

There were 1,821 Part 1 crimes reported in the city in 2018, compared to an alarming 3,147 crimes in the 2009 peak year.

The five safest years on record are 1986, 1996, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The year-over-year percentages in burglaries were down 28 percent and down 22 percent in robberies. A longtime nemesis in Salisbury crime reports — theft from a vehicle — was down 28 percent year over year.

There were three murders in the city in 2018, compared to seven murders in 2017. The 10-year average for murders in Salisbury is three per year.

Rape is the only category showing an increase in Salisbury’s 10-year crime average — it was up 9.9 percent with 21 total crimes reported. There were also exactly 21 rapes reported in 2017. The definition of rape has broadened in recent years, and that has been reflected in higher nationwide numbers.

There were 234 burglaries in 2018, compared to 273 a year ago. Reported aggravated assaults were down slightly, from 172 in 2017 to 169 in 2018.

Juvenile arrests — which had grown as an issue of concern in recent years — continued its downward trend, with a 264 arrests in 2018, compared to 305 arrests in 2017 and 314 in 2016.

Though arrests were down, Salisbury Police officers were the busiest they’ve been in two years. Calls for service totaled 58,484 last year, compared to 61,861 in 2016 and 57,730 in 2017.

Mayor Jake Day credited City Police officers and their devoted efforts to helping drive the numbers downward.

“They’re getting results by building trust, engaging in proactivity and truly working hard,” the mayor said. He also pointed out that the city now has the largest patrol contingent in its history.

Day had extra praise for Police Chief Barbara Duncan.

“In 2009 we had our highest crime rate,” Day said. “We were considered one of the most dangerous cities in America in crimes per capita.

“The biggest thing that’s happened is that Barbara Duncan arrive on our scene in 2010, the numbers have been improving ever since.”

Jake Day is re-elected 

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day had an easy victory over challenger Wayne King, garnering 85 percent of the votes in the Nov. 5 city election.

Day received 2,276 votes and King got 377. In addition to re-electing Day, city voters also returned four incumbents to the City Council.

Day was elected to the Salisbury City Council in 2013 and immediately became council president. He was first elected mayor in 2015.

During his first term, Day has carried out an ambitious agenda. He initiated a program to reduce homelessness in the city, started community centers on Truitt and Newton streets, added police officers, rebuilt the Riverwalk and added an amphitheater, began improvements to long-neglected Fitzwater Street and started the Main Street revitalization plan that was approved and financed under former Mayor Jim Ireton.

The City Council is now comprised of Jack Heath, Muir Boda, April Jackson, Angela Blake and newcomer Michele Gregory.  

Downtown Revitalization 

The year was marked by the redevelopment of several Downtown historic buildings and the opening of new businesses.

One Plaza East in Downtown Salisbury.

At One Plaza East — the former Wicomico Hotel — developer Bret Davis opened up a Division Street entrance to its lobby for the first time in years.

The first floor of the building now houses Angello’s Scoops, an ice cream and gift shop, and Mogan’s Oyster House, a trendy restaurant and bar.

Davis, a partner in the Davis Simpson firm, also began work on a redevelopment of the City Center building on the Downtown Plaza that the developers purchased the year before.

Since then, they have created a new entrance to Roadie Joe’s Bar & Grill off of the Plaza and began renovations to the interior.

On the other side of the Plaza, developers Gillis Gilkerson continued with renovations to the old Vernon Powell building which is being converted to apartments, retail space and use for youth activities.

The Downtown is also getting a new Downtown Bark Park near the Brew River restaurant.

Plans for the park in between the Mill Street bridge and Brew River include benches for pet owners, a doggie water fountain, aluminum fencing with “puppy protection” bottoms and an airlock to surround the approximately 4,000 square feet of property running alongside the Wicomico River.

Wicomico government

Within the machinery that is Wicomico County government, 2019 was a year in which a lot happened — but a lot of nothing also occurred.

The governmental command structure remained unsettled inside the Government Office Building in Downtown Salisbury. But that unsettledness has also become the standard.

Among the ongoing county matters seemingly in flux:

•County leaders are considering whether to impose a policy that sets totals on the funds the county should keep in reserves. There are both political and economic considerations to the debate, as spending proponents insist the county is sitting on cash that could be used for good purposes, while budget hawks maintain the fund balances are needed if the economy contracts into recession.

•The county’s legal affairs are being handled by the same law professional the County Council fired, a lawyer the County Executive hired back anyway. Since summer, the Executive and council have been battling over the appointment, with lawyers upon lawyers now weighing in on the situation.

•The Finance Department continues to be led by a longtime county employee the council refused to confirm, who also employed an attorney of her own to lecture the council on an interpretation of the County Charter.

•The county’s top leaders skipped their annual trip to New York City to borrow bond money for capital projects. Spending for school projects and other big-ticket items might be financed for the time being by traditional banks, as opposed to bond houses.

•The County Executive hired a paid a lobbyist $30,000 to do work in Annapolis for the county, but then didn’t tell the council, whose members reacted with anger and embarrassment when they heard the news way-after-the-fact.

The strong local economy and some rather disciplined spending decisions in 2019 helped Wicomico to its ninth consecutive of positive revenue. Projected income tax revenue exceeded the prior year by approximately $5.4 million, with property on course to exceed 2018 by $1.55 million.

The county is positioning itself to deal with some expected but costs related to Maryland’s minimum wage increase and education funding formula changes possible under the the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

The County Executive has suggested the spending demands might ultimately forces a tax hike.

Violence in public schools

Schools and law enforcement officials spent much of 2019 confronting violence issues in the county school system.

A series of problematic physical incidents was followed by a headline-making assault at Parkside High School, in which three school employees were injured.

The school employees were trying to break up a fight between two students. Some of their injuries were serious enough that they required a medical evaluation at Peninsula Regional Medical Center.

Ironically, school board administrators and law enforcement officials were in a meeting at the school board offices, discussing what steps could be taken to curtail in-school violence.

Concern about fighting and assaults in local schools has led to the creation of Wicomico Parents Representing Parents, a group of mothers and fathers intent on making schools conducive to learning and places where misbehavior is not tolerated.

School Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin briefed the County Council on the situation just last week, and said the violence-combating task force was continuing to seek possible solutions.

Hanlin has said the students involved in fights will face “consequences to the fullest extent of Maryland guidelines for student safety” and it is “never OK for students or staff to be put in jeopardy.”

“We take these incidents very seriously and they will not be tolerated,” Hanlin said.

Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis said the schools/law enforcement task force has been “looking for strong, practical solutions.”

Lewis said the key is identify youngsters who come to school unwilling to either learn or behave appropriately.

“A small, minute amount are being disruptive,” Lewis said. “The overwhelming majority are great kids who come to school to learn. But there are a minority who come to school solely — solely — to be disruptive and wreak havoc, and terrorize other kids. Those are the ones we are going to identify and get them out of the schools.” 

The school systems problems have extended beyond just students. According to Lewis, at least five Wicomico County public schools educators to have been suspended and/or criminally charged in the past 12 months.

This fall, Allen E. Mitchell of Salisbury, a former teacher and school guidance counselor, pleaded guilty to multiple offenses concerning his improper interaction with school students.

Mitchell currently faces up to 41 years in prison and will be required to register for life as a Tier III Sexual Offender.

Regarding school staff members, Hanlin has urged students and parents to immediately share any suspicions of child abuse with to trusted adults in school, at home or in the community.

Old Mall site sold 

The Salisbury Mall site that sat vacant for more than a decade sold for $4.45 million on July 15, according to Maryland property records.

The 80-acre property on the city’s East Side was purchased by Crossroads Salisbury LLC, a Bethesda, Md.-based developer.

A development of single-family homes, apartments and commercial space is planned there, with groundbreaking expected in early 2020 for the section of the land closest to Civic Avenue that will have 150 single-family houses built on it. The apartments and retail space will be built closer to Beaglin Park Drive, but probably not until 2022.

The developers are hoping to add a mix of businesses, including a grocery store and restaurant, that will serve the new development as well as the surrounding neighborhood, Fisher said.

The Salisbury Mall opened in 1968, and once had Sears, Hutzler’s and Hecht Co. as anchor stores. It flourished for years as the area’s only indoor shopping mall.

But stores left when the Centre at Salisbury opened on the north end of town in 1990, and the old mall went into decline. The following year, the stabbing death of a Salisbury University freshman in the mall’s restroom helped further its downward trend.

A portion of the mall continued to operate for awhile, but it eventually closed for good in 2004, a year after it was sold to developers. The building was finally demolished in 2007.

The buyers of the site, Salisbury Mall Associates, had plans to develop it, but local opposition to the high density mixed-use project and other factors caused delays. Then the real estate market collapsed in 2008, killing the plans. 

City wastewater plant

Sewer system woes, might make for dull newspaper stories, but Salisbury’s 15-year history regarding its Wastewater Treatment Plant has been consistently big news.

This year, after more than a decade of struggling to bring its wastewater treatment plant up to compliance, Salisbury officials in October celebrated the completion of a new plant that has significantly dropped nitrogen and phosphorous levels discharged into the Wicomico River.

The new plant is now considered to be one of the cleanest facilities discharging treated wastewater into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The saga began in 2005 when the city undertook a complete overhaul of a decades-old facility, but soon after bringing the new plant online, it became obvious that it didn’t work.

The plant proved only able to reduce the concentration of nitrogen from 21 to 15 milligrams per liter — well above the limit set by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are blamed for triggering algae blooms in the river and the bay. When they die, the blooms rob the water of oxygen, creating so-called “dead zones.”

Under a consent order which was imposed in 2012 by the Department of the Environment, the city was required to come into compliance with state mandated levels for nitrogen and phosphorous by Dec. 31, 2017.

Construction on the new plant started in June 2015, and the plant has been meeting permit requirements since its deadline, according to city officials. The monthly average since then has dropped by more than 92 percent in total nitrogen, and 69 percent in total phosphorus.

Even though the plant has been meeting the permit limits since December of 2017, the upgrades weren’t completed until April of this year. In June, MDE lifted the consent order. 

City Liquor Board 

Salisbury City Council members laid the groundwork to establish a city liquor licensing board that would remove the licensing responsibility within Salisbury city limits from a county board they see as being too political and lacking transparency.

Mayor Jake Day has asked the Eastern Shore Delegation to introduce a bill that would allow the change during the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly that starts in January.

City officials have been considering such a move for a few years, but it became a priority after accusations were made by County Executive Bob Culver over how a liquor license was granted for the National Folk Festival.

Culver said the city and state Comptroller Peter Franchot acted illegally when Franchot’s office granted a license for the festival, bypassing the Wicomico County Board of License Commissioners.

Day has said that after city officials perceived the county’s licensing board was dragging its feet on approving a beer and wine license at last year’s event, the city went to Gov. Larry Hogan and then to Franchot whose office ultimately signed off on the license.

City officials have pointed out that most of the alcohol sales in Wicomico County occur within Salisbury city limits, but the city has no voice in how or to whom licenses are granted. 

Airport Progress 

Wicomico County officials are moving forward with plans to develop a commercial drone testing facility at the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport as early as next year, making it the first airport in the country to develop this type of operation.

The county was approached by officials at the Wallops Flight Facility where commercial drone testing and airspace are overwhelmed by the military, county officials have said.

Salisbury offers a lot of unrestricted airspace that will allow more freedom for commercial operations.

The county is planning to build a hangar for unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly called UAVs or drones, that have wingspans up to 70 feet.

Several manufacturers are interested in operating there, including representatives of a West Coast company who visited during the summer.

The hangar with a taxiway would anchor a planned industrial park at the airport. A new master plan for the airport that is currently awaiting Federal Aviation Administration approval includes two 30,000-square-foot buildings.

The operation is expected to have a $55 million impact on the region, bringing high-paying jobs and tax revenues to the county. 

Chesapeake Shipbuilding

One of the great manufacturing stories in Salisbury continues to be Chesapeake Shipbuilding.

Chris Hudson, left, ship designer, joins mechanical engineers Kevin Nicolle, center, and John Romanchak near the bow of the newest cruise ship under construction at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury.

While the  cruise ship American Harmony departed the Port of Salisbury and Downtown shipyard for the Mississippi River in late spring, construction of the cruise ship American Jazz began.

In 2018, American Cruise Lines, the largest coastal and river cruise operator in the United States, announced it would continue to order new ships for its Modern Riverboat Series as well as its fleet of new coastal ships and Victorian-style paddlewheelers.

American’s aggressive building program has expanded in the past two years, introducing a new ship in 2017 and two new ships in 2018.

The line has no plans to slow down, as American Harmony goes into service now and two more new builds are coming in both 2020 and 2021.

Constructed by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, American Harmony is the second of five ships in American’s Modern Riverboat Series. When it began service on the Mississippi last summer, American’s fleet became 11 ships in all. By 2021, American’s fleet will have increased to 15 ships.

Nanticoke, PRMC

A nearly yearlong acquisition/merger between Peninsula Regional Health System and Nanticoke Health Services was expected to be completed and in effect as the new year begins this Wednesday.

Merging the oversight and organization of Peninsula Regional Medical Center and Seaford-based Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is expected to enhance high-level health care.

About two years ago, Nanticoke began the search for a partner to help preserve and build upon the services it provides in Sussex County. Several months ago, Nanticoke signed a letter of intent to affiliate with PRHS.

Nanticoke will continue to provide services in Sussex County and parts of Maryland’s Mid-Shore.

Meanwhile, Peninsula Regional Health System, which has a decades-long presence in Sussex County, will help to strengthen and enhance Nanticoke’s efforts through integrated care, expanding services where needed and making more readily accessible the Delmarva Peninsula’s most advanced tertiary care services.

In July, it was announced that McCready Health of Crisfield and PRHS had reached an agreement under which McCready Health would join the Salisbury health care entity.

Like Nanticoke, McCready Health had approached PRHS with a request to examine how an affiliation might be structured, with the goals of guaranteeing the retention and strengthening of healthcare services in Crisfield and across Somerset County.

During the past decade, hospital usage had dropped dramatically, and the hospital building itself was aging rapidly.

Services provided by McCready and PRMC staff at the FMF will include 24/7 emergency care, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavioral health services, family medicine, imaging and laboratory services. Inpatient hospital care and surgical procedures permanently transitioned to Peninsula Regional Medical Center.

PRHS has purchased land on Route 413 just east of Crisfield and will soon begin design of a new FMF, which will be known as the McCready Health Pavilion.

Shorebirds enjoy success

Delmarva’s best baseball summer ever saw the Shorebirds named Team of the Year for 2019, a first in franchise history.

In their 24th season at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, the Shorebirds finished 90-48, the most wins across all of Minor League Baseball in 2019.

Manager Kyle Moore and company smashed Delmarva’s previous wins record (83 in 1996) and became the first South Atlantic League team to win 90 since the 2006 Augusta GreenJackets, a team which featured future major league all-stars Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo. Stretched out over a major-league season, the Shorebirds’ .652 winning percentage would equate to 106 wins.

The Shorebirds dominated the SAL All-Star Game, sending a league-high eight players to Appalachian Power Park in West Virginia in June.

Delmarva went 48-21 in the first half and cruised to a Northern Division title; in the second half the Shorebirds went 42-27 and tied with Hickory atop the division. Despite a heroic 13-strikeout performance from Gray Fenter in Game 2 of the NDCS, the Shorebirds met their match and bowed to the Crawdads in a pair of one-run games.

Also in 2019: Delmarva Shorebirds General Manager Chris Bitters was named South Atlantic League General Manager of the Year.

The award was a first for Bitters, who is finished up his 13th season at the helm in Salisbury. Bitters oversaw a multi-year renovation project at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, which culminated in 2019 with a number of new features to benefit the fan experience.

SU football, lacrosse

The sixth-ranked Salisbury University football team’s historic 2019 campaign came to an end in the NCAA Elite Eight this month as they dropped a 24-8 decision to the fourth-ranked Muhlenberg Mules on Saturday.

The Sea Gulls were the champions of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, finishing the season with an 11-1 record and perfect 7-0 league record.

On the lacrosse field last winter and spring, Salisbury qualified for its 11th NCAA Tournament in program history.

The United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s final poll of the 2019 season ranked Salisbury University as the No. 3 in the country. The Sea Gulls completed the 2019 season with an overall record of 22-2 and totaled 177 points in the final poll of the season.

SU saw its bid for a fourth straight trip to the national championship come up short in May when it fell to Cabrini University in the national semifinal, 16-13.

Post Office dedicated

In March, the U.S. Post Office in Salisbury was renamed for Sgt. Maj. Wardell Turner at a ceremony at the American Legion Post No. 64 that united guests in a spirit of warmth and gratifying memories.

Sgt. Maj. Wardell Turner of Nanticoke was killed in Afghanistan in 2014.

His vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device, known as an IED, killing the 48-year-old James M. Bennett High School graduate on Nov. 24, 2014, in Kabul, Afghanistan. He had planned to retire the following year.

Newton Street Center

Sometime in 2020, children who usually get off the school bus and go home to an empty house will be able to head for the Newton Street Community Center, were they not only will receive a snack and help with homework, but learn to grow and cook fresh vegetables.

The long-unoccupied house on the corner of Newton and Light streets was purchased by the city. It will be renovated and transformed into the new Community Center.

“It’s the perfect location to impact the community and that neighborhood,” said Pastor Martin Hutchison, who has long run the Camden Community Garden next door.

Work is under way and is being overseen by Ocean Tower Construction of Ocean City at a cost of about $350,000, according to Mayor Jake Day.

Last year across town, the city opened the Truitt Street Community Center. City neighborhoods official Kevin Lindsay said the Newton center will be set up differently, “like a home-type atmosphere.” Lindsay pointed out there will be a nearby playground as well as the community garden.

“We have all these things they can do — cooking, after-school tutoring, a lot of opportunities to do different programming, not like the traditional community center that has basketball courts,” Lindsay said.

Youth in all grades may use the center, he said.

County Council changes

Just after beginning his second term, District 2 representative Marc Kilmer announced he and his family were moving back to his native Idaho and he would resign from the County Council.

After some appointments drama, he was eventually replaced with another Republican, political newcomer Nicole Acle.

In a reorganizational meeting in December, John Cannon was replaced by fellow Republican Larry Dodd as County Council President.

Field 7 ½ advances

Wicomico County Recreation & Parks launched a capital campaign for the Project 7 ½ initiative at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex in Salisbury.

Announced in the spring, Project 7 ½ is designed to provide individuals with physical or mental disabilities the opportunity to play the sport of baseball. 

With a proposed location between existing fields 7 & 8 at the complex, Field 7 ½ would serve as a host facility for Challenger Little League on the Eastern Shore and include other special needs programs.

Capital campaign funds will be combined with funding from Wicomico County and a state of Maryland Project Open Space grant for field construction and the addition of inclusive playground equipment, sensory trail and legacy areas.

County officials set the capital campaign goal at $400,000, which they hope to meet by the end of this calendar year.

60 Foot Road light

The State Highway Administration turned on a new traffic signals at Sixty Foot Road in Pittsville, with left turn arrows on both the eastbound and westbound sides of Route 50.

The $3.14 million undertaking began in August 2018, following many accidents during the years, several fatal, including the 2010 crash that killed Wicomico County Deputy State’s Attorney Sam Vincent.

Kindness celebrated

Salisbury earned a special recognition in 2019 — it is the first city in the United States and second in the entire world to earn the distinction of World Kindness City.

On Oct. 3, Salisbury became the first World Kindness USA City. The announcement was made from Switzerland, during the World Kindness Movement Summit.

The process of applying was spearheaded by Salisbury resident Grace Foxwell Murdock, who was inspired to focus on kindness by the 2012 massacre of young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Murdock was first known for her kindness bracelets, a project that unexpectedly went viral. Proceeds from sales of her bracelets were donated to local individuals in need and other causes in the community.

The movement’s tagline is “The Courage to be Kind.”

New murals unveiled

Two landmark murals were created in Salisbury in 2019, one on Salisbury Boulevard at East Church Street and another on East Market Street in Downtown.

Artist Paul Boyd III used images from local historian Linda Duyer’s book, “‘Round the Pond,” about the history of two African American neighborhoods surrounding that location.

The mural has been reviewed as something truly special. It was  a collaborative effort stemming in part from a public brainstorming meeting held earlier in the year.

The five people depicted on the mural represent the many who lived and worked as educators, businessmen, clergy, laborers, doctors, contactors, servicemen, seamstresses and more.

Boyd also included the railroad in his design — the mural site is a short distance from the railroad where the older depot at Church Street and Railroad Avenue once serviced Salisbury, just two blocks south of the newer historic depot known as Union Station.

Across Salisbury Boulevard, meanwhile, a freshly painted brick wall on Delmarva Veteran Builders’ new office building was transformed into a work of public art.

Delmarva Veteran Builders owner Chris Eccleston offered just one guideline for the mural when he hired Brandon Bell and Deserea Martin to create it: Incorporate the world “believe” in the design.

The owners of We Are Limitless Studios came up with a design that incorporated some of Eccleston’s personal philosophies, which include giving back to the community. “A lot of believing in the impossible went into this,” said Martin. “Dreams,” said Bell, “is a firm belief in what it is you want to do. That includes hardship and struggles. We have had our own struggles, but we try to believe things into existence.”

Street improvements

City officials launched major projects to improve safety and traffic flow while also making aesthetic improvements with new lighting, sidewalks and landscaping.

On Main Street, work to replace aging underground utilities and to make streetscape improvements in the blocks between Route 13 and Division Street wrapped up in 2019 and quickly moved into the intersection at Main and Division streets which has had significant changes.

In between two curb bump-outs on the east side of North Division Street — one near the intersection and another closer to Route 50 — there are 12 angled, back-in parking spaces. Six more spaces parallel to the curb are across the street.

City officials also removed the traffic signal at the Main-Division intersection.

The work is now shifting to the Downtown Plaza starting at Mill Street and working eastward.

Nearby, the first phase of the new Town Square opened in early September, just in time for the National Folk Festival.

The spot alongside the city’s parking garage on South Division Street eventually will extend another 150 feet across Division Street and into the large parking lot that the city sold to Gillis Gilkerson for a mixed-use development with retail, apartments and parking.

Phase 1 of construction involved the placement of pavers to create a food truck pad, installation of seating areas and stone architectural features, and placement of light poles which match the ones being installed as part of the Main Street overhaul.

The area will be used during the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, as well as festivals in the Downtown area.

The city also recently began construction of a new traffic circle at one of Salisbury’s busiest intersections.

The work was done after a study identified multiple problems at the spot where Riverside Drive meets Camden Avenue, Carroll Street and Mill Street.

And on Waverly Drive, the city’s first protected two-way bike lane along the stretch of road between Carroll Street and South Boulevard was installed during the summer as part of a city plan to make Salisbury more bicycle-friendly.

City officials also started an overhaul of the Fitzwater-West Main Street corridor that includes upgrading old 8-inch terra cotta sewer pipes in the area by lining them with a type of plastic. The $5.5 million project also includes the installation of a new sewage pump station that should be completed in one year.

Sheriff’s office delayed

In May it was announced that funding for the county’s new Public Safety Building had been delayed for one year because of concerns by county officials about major impending expenses.

Included in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan is paying for the second half of the Public Safety Building through two methods. 

They are using $2.4 million in the General Fund “Pay-Go,” with FY21 revenue, and using $2.8 million in General Obligation Bond Proceeds, Young explained.

Dam delay; road reopens

Months after a rain-laden storm caused flooding that washed out about 1,000 feet of Nanticoke Road, the repaired section between Oliver Drive and Rockawalkin Road reopened for early summer.

The Nanticoke Road dam was eventually repaired.

West Wicomico residents didn’t hold back in airing their frustrations that the project was taking so long — it was actually the second time the dam had washed out in five years.

A State Highway Administration engineer explained the problem this way: “Because of the dam failure that happened a few years ago, they mostly took it back to the drawing board. We wanted a better design. We wanted something that is really going to work so we don’t have to do this again,” he said.

Also, he said, approval from various department heads was needed and it was time consuming.

“You don’t build a dam in an emergency. There are a lot of calculations, how much water is being let through, etc. All the designs got done with an expedient process, but getting work done this year was kind of tough.”

Meanwhile near Fruitland, the Morris Mill Dam rehabilitation project won’t be completed until at least March 2020, not the end of this year as hoped.

Work began in September 2018 and was scheduled for a year.

However, water was discovered seeping through the dam shortly after construction started, which required a halt to the work and a complete redesign.

Contractors also had to move a 6-inch gas line within the construction area, overhead utilities, water seepage from the pond and surrounding groundwater, and poor soil conditions. The redesign also added 30-foot deep steel sheet pile walls, along with twin 6-foot diameter concrete spillway pipes buried approximately 20 feet under the road surface.

Poplar Hill drug center

Another county-issues area where there was lots of talk but no action involved plans to transform the former Poplar Hill Pre-Release Unit into a detoxification center.

Last summer, Connections Community Support Programs, based in Delaware, withdrew its bid to operate the center.

Though it was backed by the County Executive and state officials, to say the County Council was leery about converting the old prison work camp to a treatment center would be an understatement.

In January, Wicomico County received a commitment for nearly $1 million from the state to begin renovating the former male-only facility and transforming it into a co-ed, live-in detoxification and recovery center for those addicted to opioids and other drugs.

Plans were to begin with 20 beds and expand to about 60.

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