Salisbury-Wicomico remains a community on the move

Jet service at Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport became available in 2017 through American Eagle and Piedmont Airlines. At left, one of the new E-147 Embraer jets prepares to load for a flight to Charlotte, N.C. At right, one of the venerable Dash-8 turbo-props that has served Salisbury for many years prepares to depart for Philadelphia. The jets will fully replace the prop-planes, which are on a retirement schedule, sometime during 2018.

There wasn’t much resting in Salisbury and Wicomico County in 2017, as the community remained solidly on the move.

A recap of the major news stories of the year:

Wicomico County cuts property tax rate

Completing an excruciating budget process, the Wicomico Council agreed in June to implement a .01-cent property tax cut.

County property owners will receive their first tax cut since the mid-1970s and the rate will be set at 0.9398 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Historically under the County Charter, the Wicomico Council can cut a County Executive’s proposed spending plan, and the seven members did just that, removing $684,783 from the fiscal 2018 budget.

In a budget work session unlike any since the creation of the County Executive form of government, council members cut some spending and assigned cash to a priority school project that was left out of the Board of Education budget.

Those school projects — totaling about $429,000 — were later presented separately to County Executive Bob Culver but rejected. State law permits the council to add dollars it cuts to specific Board of Education projects requested outside of the schools budget but denied.

Relying on a priority list provided by the school board, the council compromised and funded about $328,000 of the $429,000. That will allow much-desired computer laptop carts in multiple schools.

At Culver’s first budget hearing in April, several teachers and school administrators made a coordinated and public request for the laptop support.

Despite the 0.0118-cent cut in tax rates, the county’s budget will still grow by about $8 million. As the county has recovered from the Great Recession — which postponed numerous projects and forced budget cuts — spending has increased by nearly $13 million over three years.

Tax formulas dictate that a 1-cent cut in the property tax rate would require a balancing $581,000 cut in spending.

Under the current rate, a home assessed at $200,000 pays $1,903 in county taxes. Under the new rate approved Thursday, that same property would pay $1,880.

In an 11th hour move, the council had to convene to adjust the rate out to 10 decimal digits to solve a $1,751 revenue discrepancy in a $143 million budget.

The current tax rate is 0.9516 cents. The median home value in the county is $172,400, which adds up to $1,641 annually. Under the new rate, that same home would be taxed $1,620 — a $21 annual savings.

While council members seemed pleased with themselves, one veteran council member hammered his council colleagues after all was said and done.

Councilman John Hall, who represents most of Salisbury, criticized the small tax cut and said the money should have been devoted to capital spending needs. “I’m disappointed with the budget process this year,” Hall began. “This is the most confrontational budget since I’ve been on council. The unwillingness of the council to work with the executive is an embarrassment.”

While Hall was part of a unanimous vote that approved the cuts and additional schools spending on May 25, he ultimately came to support Culver’s position that the tax cut wasn’t enough justify the long-term budget effects.

City, Station 1 fire volunteers sever relations

In January, several Salisbury firefighters withdrew from the city over disagreements about response times and vowed to start their own company, calling it Salisbury Independent Volunteer Fire Company, later Station 13.

Corey Polidore, president, quickly began asking city leaders to return equipment he insisted belonged to them, but which had been kept at the city fire station.

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day refused to release equipment, acknowledge the fire fighters or agree to any fire service territory for them.

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver, though, supported them.

In May, he presented a $400,000 charter amendment to the Wicomico County Council to fund the fire company, whose members said they would begin operating on July 1.

County Council members asked their legal department to determine if the county charter allowed the budget amendment. Culver said he submitted it because the volunteers had, by then, received approval from the Maryland Chief’s Association, a nod the didn’t have when he gave the Council his proposed budget.

By state law, a new station can’t be started unless the Chief’s Association agrees and state regulation hurdles are cleared, including establishing a territory.

Council President John Cannon, though, said he knew of no process in the county charter that “allows for a budget amendment to be put forth.”

In September, Culver withdrew his support from members who now said they would begin operating on Sept. 15. Polidore said they would be just as happy providing mutual aid, as long as they were helping to keep the county safe.

But the year drew to a close without the fire company being granted territory or serving the community in any capacity.

Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach and Peninsula Regional Medical Center President Peggy Naleppa.

Dudley-Eshbach, Naleppa announce retirements

The community and Salisbury University campus were surprised by news that Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach, the university’s president for the past 17 years, would resign in June 2018.

Hers was the second recent resignation of a major leader in the community. In 2016, Dr. Peggy Naleppa, President and CEO of Peninsula Regional Medical Center, announced she would retire in January 2018, saying, “It’s time for the next generation of leaders to evolve.”

She was named president in 2010.

Explaining her plans, Dudley-Eshbach said she would take a sabbatical after resigning, and be an adviser to the university and newly hired president, then return to the classroom in 2019, probably teaching Spanish at SU.

The university’s only bilingual president, Dudley-Eshbach called her tenure “a labor of love.”

“After 18 years of getting to know the people of Salisbury University and the larger community, of getting to know the many alumni, I care deeply about what happens next. I think it’s important that there be a good fit with the next president,” she said.

During the sabbatical, she said, Mayor Jake Day has ideas for her to get involved in the community. And, she plans to return to activities she enjoys — playing guitar, spending more time with her grandchildren and traveling with her husband.

Once she made the decision to step down, she said, “I felt 50 pounds lighter.”

“As president, you always have something on your mind. Things are always happening. They happen on holidays and weekends, so it’s kind of non-stop.

“At same time for me, it is kind of bittersweet. It is emotional for me. I shed a few tears.

“The reason for that is, I love this place. This, for me, has been a dream job. There is no better place to live. I’ve lived a few places and I love the Eastern Shore. It’s been emotional for me. I think so highly of the people here,” she said.

In turn, they think highly of her.

Dudley-Eshbach’s leadership has been transformational. She was aggressive in all aspects of her job, from curriculum to enrollment to infrastructure. Her strategic vision resulted in the university’s growth in size, reputation and private support.

When she arrived, the campus had a student population of 6,400 — now, it exceeds 8,700. She has worked to make the campus more reflective of the demographics of Maryland.   Since she arrived, the number of minority students has more than tripled with one in four now from diverse backgrounds, up from 11 percent in 2000.

Naleppa guided the region’s largest hospital at a time of great upheaval in the health-care industry, presiding over the shifts triggered in the wake of the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act and the 2014 approval of Maryland’s Medicare waiver.

“She has played an especially important role in our current work to see that model progress to one guiding not just hospital costs, but the total cost of care in our state,” said Carmela Coyle, President and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association.

Steve Leonard was named Naleppa’s successor and will formally take the reins in January.

City to open centers; homeless program works

Salisbury’s government delved to solve some social woes by securing a site for a community center, picking a location for a youth gym and implementing a successful program to house the homeless.

A big, red brick house at 306 Newton St. — built in the 1920s, in foreclosure, vacant and boarded up — will be transformed into a neighborhood community center.

At the urging of Pastor Martin Hutchison, creator of the city’s garden network, city officials agreed to buy it and transform the troubled property into one of the community centers Mayor Jake Day and City Council members have been talking about.

Research was done to identify neighborhoods with the highest juvenile populations and determine which had community facilities and where the highest levels of arrest and poverty were.

Day earmarked $500,000 in the FY 2017 budget to buy the house on Newton Street for $35,000, renovate it and transform it into the first of two community centers in key locations in town.

Day commissioned the Youth Development Advisory Committee to determine the best kind of community centers. Committee members, headed by Robby Sheehan, visited other facilities then returned to the City Council and recommended purchasing the home Hutchison had an eye on, as well as one on Church Street.

The biggest focus will be on the gaps, where there aren’t already programs in place,” Day said.

Because state and county officials focus on youth programs for those 16 and older, Salisbury will concentrate on early intervention “and wrap our arms around much younger kids,” the mayor said.

Susan Phillips, city Director of Housing and Community Development, left, Martin Hutchison, Pastor of Community of Joy Church, and Mayor Jake Day pose with North Camden residents Skye Saxton, 7, and Androwdycee Saxton, 8, outside the city’s newly aquired community center building on Newton Street.

With 3,780 square feet and long porches, the two-story structure has plenty of room for multiple uses.

On the homelessness front, Day had previously touted a program to house 10 of Salisbury’s most vulnerable – the chronically homeless – through a permanent housing program.

Salisbury Housing First is not only up and running, but of 100 chronically homeless estimated to be living on the Lower Shore in 2016, the program has succeeded in housing 25 people (13 families).

Salisbury is the only small city in America with a Housing First program; permanently housing chronically homeless persons and providing them with care management through Wicomico Health Department. The city also hired case manager and homelessness manager to oversee program and others in reducing homelessness not only in Salisbury, but across the Lower Shore.

Over the summer, the city held its second class of the Summer Youth Works program, employing 12 high school students in variety of city jobs. With help from Junior Achievement, the Wicomico Partnership for Children & Families and the Greater Salisbury Committee, the private sector employed 18 more.

Meanwhile, public schools Superintendent Dr. Donna C. Hanlin and Day announced  a partnership between the school system and city. This partnership will result in the relocation of the Choices Academy to a permanent location and the creation of a new community center for youth with after-school recreation programs and health services on the property.

The two entities worked together to select the property on Calloway Street as the ideal location for the Choices Academy and community center. The Board of Education has a signed contract on the 3-acre parcel.

“The new Calloway Street location for the Choices Academy is a win for everyone – the city, the county, the community, and the school system,” Hanlin said.

Hogan, Franchot hold local bipartisan forum

In an upbeat atmosphere punctuated by laughter and applause, Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot vowed to continue blurring party lines as they work together, and answered a series of revealing questions.

Participating in “A Conversation,” hosted by the Greater Salisbury Committee and held in February at Headquarters Live, Hogan and Franchot were seated on easy chairs on the stage, with Mike Dunn, GSC President and CEO.

“I have spent a lot of time on the Eastern Shore, a lot of time on the Lower Shore,” said a relaxed Hogan, who crossed his legs as he sat back in the chair, microphone in hand.

“When I was running for governor we spent a lot of time here. I got the feeling when I was running for office that the Eastern Shore felt kind of neglected,” he said, but he promised the Shore would get recognition and a listening ear from Annapolis.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.

Franchot brought laughter when he said the first public joint meeting with Hogan was in Montgomery County, “to see if it would work.”

He offered good wishes to Steve Leonard, newly named president of Peninsula Regional Medical Center, in the audience, and recognized Jim Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms, for leading a company “at the forefront of environmental sustainability.”

Salisbury University, he said, “was built with chicken money.”

Franchot said everywhere he travels in the state, he is told constituents dislike arguing and name calling and want to see safe schools and streets – desires that aren’t Republican or Democratic, but Maryland based.

Although the men don’t agree on every issue, they don’t “tear each other down in public” and have become friends, Franchot said to applause.

Chuckling, Hogan added they don’t tear each other down in private, either.

“There is a lighted path moving forward from where we are. I think it’s a path that is going to bring us back to civility and respect for each other … we’re starting on that path,” Franchot said.

Dunn asked Hogan how the idea of working together without partisan barriers originated.

“Before I ran for governor I was frustrated with the direction the state was heading. I wanted to do something about it … in Maryland only 26 percent of the voters are Republican, but we won a pretty healthy victory because we brought people together,” he said.

After his election, he met with Franchot and they agreed they are in office to represent the people and look out for the taxpayers’ money.

“We don’t let politics get in the way. As I was running for governor, that was one of the things that frustrated me. I didn’t want Maryland to be like Washington. And frankly, people are tired of what they are seeing in Washington,” Hogan said.

Salisbury Council increases tax rate 4 cents

For a while this summer, it looked like some people in Salisbury would get a tax cut and others a tax hike. In the end, it was a small tax hike for everyone.

After taking several weeks to consider the matter, Salisbury’s City Council decided not to adopt a separate tax rate for residential and commercial property owners and instead implemented a 4-cent tax increase on all properties.

Council members used the increase to fill a $1.4 million budget hole created by expiring grants. In the end — after four weeks of discussion — the council decided a tax increase the best course.

The fiscal 2018 spending plan totals $58 million, with $26 million in property tax revenues as the primary cash source. The budget keeps total spending virtually flat.

The new tax rate will be $0.9832 per $100 of assessed value. All city properties currently pay $0.9432.

A city property assessed at $180,000 would now pay an annual tax bill of $1,697.76.

The council also dipped into its sewer and water surplus fund to slash by half a proposed increase in those services.

The budget had contained a 15 percent hike in water fees; that increase will now be 7.5 percent.

The account holding city sewer and water impact fees contains $2.5 million; the council will take $1.6 million of that money to forgo the larger rate hikes.

In his original budget proposal, Mayor Jake Day had advocated separate tax structures for residential homeowners and landlords or commercial properties. To encourage homeownership, Day’s budget would have given residential properties a tax cut, while raising the tax on rental properties by 0.08 cents.

Landlords were overwhelmingly opposed to the tax hike and many declared they would pass the increase onto their tenants. The result was that both renters and landlords united in opposition.

Statistics show that 69.1 percent of the city’s housing inventory is rental housing and 85 percent of city rental properties are valued at less than $100,000.

Sensing council members concerns about taxing homeowners and landlords at different property tax rates, Day had offered five revenue-altering options.

“I am extremely pleased with the budget compromise …,” said Council President Jack Heath. “It demonstrated what can be accomplished when reasonable people work together to resolve a problem.”

Councilman Jim Ireton also lauded the final compromise. “I worked hard to find a compromise on each of the budget numbers so it would be fair and wouldn’t hurt the working poor,” he said.

Day had previously said that if the council were to raise taxes on all property owners, he would have no choice but to institute possibly hurtful cuts to keep the rates unchanged.

On Monday, however, he showed support for the final spending plan.

“This budget represents a continuation and expansion of Salisbury’s efforts to grow our economy, improve our quality of life, and make Salisbury one of the great small cities of America,” the mayor said, “and we are doing it while shrinking government spending from FY17 to FY18.

“While I’m disappointed that tax cuts for homeowners and businesses were eliminated, I’m proud that we have started a new conversation about how to create a path to homeownership for more Salisburians with a thoughtful compromise,” Day said.

New leadership has airport plans soaring

In February, Dawn Veatch took over as Executive Director of the Salisbury-Ocean City-Wicomico Regional Airport, replacing longtime director Bob Bryant, who retired in January.

“We’re excited to have her,” County Executive Bob Culver said. “We’ve very pleased to have been able to gain someone with her experience and knowledge in the Salisbury market. She will be just what we asked for as far as being able to move the airport forward to help us grow,” he said.

Dawn Veatch, airport manager of the Salisbury Wicomico Regional Airport.

Moving the airport forward has been Veatch’s priority since Day One. In the spring, she hosted a remarkably successful open house at the airport, which drew thousands of people. By year’s end, she had secured business and government support for the airport — so much so that the county was prepared to put $5 million into its infrastructure.

Before coming to Salisbury, Veatch had a career with the Federal Aviation Administration where she had been Senior Director of Government Affairs in the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association since 2015.

With 25 years in the aviation business, she is a pilot and flight instructor.

Veatch has an FAA Airline TranspoOn tap for the airport — both soon and into the future — are municipal water service, new airplane hangars, a runway extension, a destination restaurant, a fire station and a flight school.

Veatch has also changed the airport’s marketing strategies — it is now known as SBY Airport on websites and throughout the travel business.

Community loses its angel, Brooke Mulford

n June, the community mourned the death of 12-year-old Brooke Mumford, the Salisbury native who, for eight years, withstood the ravages of neuroblastoma and its many treatments, always with an endearing smile.

Brooke Mulford dressed for her first day of 4th grade at a new school in New Jersey.

The gentle child, whose strength taught far-reaching lessons of faith and joy, died on June 12.

At an outdoor celebration of her life at James M. Bennett High School,  a few days after her death, friends and those who followed the girl’s story for years sat on blankets or lawn chairs as Kellie Fox Noonan, a close family friend, stood on the podium and told them Brooke loved a party.

“She’s up there now with her party hat and her streamers. She’s gone but she’s definitely not forgotten,” Noonan said, then she pulled the string on a confetti popper.

“It is all so fresh and raw. How can I ever do my amazing child justice? Brooke had a smile that quite literally lit up the world, a smile cancer wasn’t able to steal,” her mother, Amy Stanton Mulford, said.

“She was the most loving person I ever met. She loved deeply and unconditionally. I was so blessed to be with her when she took her first breath and I was blessed to be with her when she took her last,” Mulford said, struggling through tears.

The sunset was a striking orange as dozens of balloons were released.

The Rev. George Patterson called Brooke “a precious, precious child.”

“Little Brooke lived in faith and she died in faith,” he told those at the service, most wearing purple, the color that represents neuroblastoma.

The Brooke Mulford Foundation was organized in 2009 and she opened Brooke’s Toy Closet at Peninsula Regional Medical Center so children suffering from cancer could have access to toys and activities.

Headquarters Live fails, becomes office building

While a cornerstone enterprise in the rejuvenation of Downtown Salisbury ultimately proved a business disappointment, the historic Headquarters Live building will have a rent-paying and tenant contributing to city commerce and culture as a historic office and community center.

Many people wondered whether the music/entertainment venue concept projected by developers Bradley Gillis and Joey Gilkerson would succeed. After purchasing the 1920s-era Station 16 Headquarters, the owners of Devreco renovated the 12,000-square-foot building for the mixed use of an entertainment venue and an upstairs floor of offices.

Skepticism over the venue’s prospects washed away almost immediately, as the community was drawn to the building for one seemingly successful event after another. For the first time since the 1950s, Downtown Salisbury boasted a locale where concerts could be held, wedding vows could be exchanged, church services could be conducted, retirement parties could be held and community awards could be presented.

It was all very nice and invigorating — it just wasn’t profitable.

As losses continued, it became obvious to the Devreco team that an office-leasing business plan would better fit the building and Downtown. The owners could have continued on as losses mounted, but the property wasn’t maximizing its potential — something such investments must do under the standards of business.

When its huge bay doors were open with access outdoors, the venue could accommodate about 900 people, with customers both inside and outside. The standing-room space allows about 350 people inside. To have a successful music venue, it turned out, a promoter needs between 500 and 1,000 people to attend.

The new tenant is Gannett Co. Inc., owners of the DelmarvaNow.com website. Gannett’s Daily Times newspaper is also prepared there, but is designed and printed in other states.

Scholarship program remains focus of debate

Unease concerning the scholarship program implemented last year to allow the county’s graduating seniors to attend Wor-Wic Community College for free continued throughout the year.

By year’s end, the program remained under the deep scrutiny of Wicomico County Council members, and a movement was under way to restrict access to the program.

When council members sought to raise the Grade Point Average requirement for tuition students — from a 2.0 GPA to a 2.5 — a flurry of meetings ensued with Wor-Wic President Dr. Ray Hoy aggressively seeking in a November session to protect the program from council tinkering.

In a previous fact-finding session, about how the scholarship program should be structured, Wor-Wic’s Vice President of Enrollment Management Bryan Newton told council members the program was successful, especially given the fact that it’s in its early stages.

He told County Council members 118 students completed the entire application process for the fall 2016 semester. Eighty-four were eligible for funds and 67 completed some credits.

Some weren’t eligible because of the $75,000 annual family income cap instituted by the County Council and others decided not to attend school.

Hoy and County Executive Bob Culver had opposed that income cap.

Wor-Wic, Newton estimated, would spend about $13,284 for the scholarship program for the spring 2017 semester. The amount would fluctuate during the semester, depending on scholarships and students who dropped classes.

In 2016, it was Culver who originally proposed the Wicomico Economic Impact Scholarship, an ambitious undertaking to pay tuition for any high school graduate who wanted to attend Wor-Wic.

It was designed to cover tuition and fees — but not books and supplies — for eligible high school graduates and would cost the county $665,000 annually and, during three years, an estimated $1.46 million.

Since its creation, some council members continued to have concerns about spending and tracking students, to assure they stayed local after their educations were paid for.

Council President John Cannon called for grade point averages for those accepted “so we know we are getting a higher quality student.”

But Newton, ever patient and dedicated to the program, said a higher grade requirement would impact students in lower income brackets who might not have succeeded as well as other students.

In November, Hoy said the more economically challenged an individual is, “typically the more academically challenged they are.”

Requiring a specific GPA for admission a year after the program began, “is very disappointing,” he said.

“It sounds like they want to change the rules in the middle,” he said.

In December, Culver called for the council to “leave the program alone.”

Wicomico seen making progress in opioids war

In October, a panel of health department and law enforcement officials gathered for a panel discussion about the heroin and opioid problem and asked the public for suggestions to continue to battle.

Taking Back Our Community: A Community Conversation on Heroin and Opioids was described as “more of a community input session than for us to speak,” Lori Brewster, County Health Officer, said about the panelists before the event, at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

It was preceded by good news.

“Individuals going into the emergency department has declined by 24 percent over last year. According to the state, in the first quarter of 2017, in January, February and March, we had a decline in overdose deaths. We had eight fewer during that time this year than we had last year,” Brewster said.

In 2016, there were 48 and seven by autumn this year.

In February 2017, Brewster told the Salisbury Independent that from January to September 2016, there were 40 drug, and also related intoxication, deaths in Wicomico County.

For the same time period, there were 21 heroin-related deaths.

Also from January to September 2016, there were 918 heroin-related deaths statewide, two in Somerset County and 10 in Worcester County.

There were 30 deaths from fentanyl, but Brewster stressed some statistics could have overlapped because there could have been more than one drug in a person’s system when he overdosed.

In Wicomico County, the war against the drugs began in earnest last year when the Community Outreach Addictions Team, or COAT, was announced.

A partnership among the Health Department, Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office, Wicomico County government, Salisbury City government, Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office and community leaders, COAT was characterized as the first anti-drug program of its kind in Maryland.

The State’s Attorney at the time, Matt Maciarello, said it would join law enforcement agencies, government officials and Peninsula Regional Medical Center experts.

In 2015, the year before COAT was launched, there were 20 deaths from overdoses and Brewster predicted more in 2016.

At the public forum, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis, one of the panelists, vowed to “go after cocaine and heroin dealers with everything I have in my body until every one of them are put away.”

Those attending learned there had been a 24 percent decrease in overdose cases arriving in the emergency department at Peninsula Regional Medical Center even though, in Maryland, the total number of overdose deaths increased since 2010, with an average of six deaths per day.

Statewide, there had been more than a 190 percent increase, but a 67 percent decrease locally.

“We are making a difference but one overdose death on my watch is one too many,” Brewster said.

During the Public Comments portion of the forum, a woman recommended natural remedies and yoga for recovery instead of promoting more drugs as a solution.

Brewster said medication-assisted treatment is not the only option. Others are offered, but not yoga “because it is not a service we can actually get paid for and when you are a business you have to get paid for services.”

Replying to a question about reducing stigma of drug addiction, Brewster said the health department will host a workshop.

Concerning opening a detox unit at PRMC, Brewster said it has been discussed.

Salisbury Festival returns to Downtown Salisbury

For two hot days in June, the community was pleased to see the Salisbury Festival return to Downtown after an absence of two years.

With a new name — Downtown Salisbury Festival – it was held the first weekend in June with some additions.

Braden Schroen celebrates his 9th birthday with Gavin Schroen, 10, of Salisbury during the Salisbury Festival, which returned this year to Downtown Salisbury.

Amusement park rides returned to the city’s main parking lot and the newly renovated Riverwalk was the scene for much of the activity. The performance stage was near the LaQuinta Hotel.

Jamie Heater, the city’s Arts & Entertainment District executive director, called it “the Salisbury Festival reimagined.”

“It has a new name, new look, new logo — but we hope the event will feel very much like the Salisbury Festival did during its prime, along the river,” Heater said.

A collaboration among the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, city and Arts & Entertainment District, the festival – held more than 30 years before the brief hiatus — also featured local art vendors, performers, commercial vendors, nonprofit organizations and exhibits.

Paddleboarding comes to Downtown river area

The Wicomico River in Downtown Salisbury has long been ridiculed as a polluted waterway. Not anymore — the water quality is so improved that rental paddleboarding was offered for the summer and fall seasons

During a news conference at the Port of Salisbury Marina, Mayor Jake Day announced paddleboarding,  kayaking and canoeing would be offered on the Wicomico River beginning around Memorial Day.

Brian Meyer, owner of Capital SUP paddleboards, explores the Riverwalk area.

Brian Meyer and Kevin Haigis of Capital SUP also have plans to make available yoga and a boot camp program, have paddleboards lit with LED lights and accompanying music on the river and get involved in city-hosted competitive races as early as next year.

Meyer said he met with the mayor about bringing water sports to town and Day enthusiastically agreed. The mayor celebrated the idea and its “tremendous potential” for enjoyment and exercise.

The endeavor is in conjunction with the upcoming Marina Landing project, a development of apartments, retail, restaurant and city-owned boathouse.

At the news conference, the mayor demonstrated paddleboarding with Police Chief Barbara Duncan and City Administrator Julia Glanz.

“This is not only about economic development and vibrancy, but also about water quality and water health. We have an impact on the water and we’ve got to treat it with more respect,” he said.

Keith Fisher of Fisher Architecture, who is designing the Marina Landing, also spoke that day, calling the venture “a unique opportunity” and saying the river is an “under-utilized opportunity and resource for what it is we’re going to be able to do.”

Bells ring on SU campus as carillon is installed

Salisbury University’s beautiful and long-awaited 48-bell carillon was installed in the Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons in July, replacing the familiar electronic bells at Holloway Hall, known for ringing on the hour.

One of the 48 bells heads aloft at the Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons.

The 147-foot tower is the tallest structure on campus and throughout Wicomico County.

In the days preceding the hanging of the bells, the supporting infrastructure was lifted by crane and installed.

For three weeks, the massive keyboard console, bell supports and, finally, the bells, were lifted into their 147-foot tower, said Richard Culver, director of public relations for SU.

The larger bell weighs nearly 2.5 tons and is about 5 feet high and 60 inches across. It was cast by London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry, creator of the original Liberty Bell.

The remaining 46 bells were cast by Meeks, Watson & Co. of Georgetown, Ohio, the largest bell foundry in the country.

The $2.4 million Brown and Church Carillon is one of fewer than 200 traditional carillons in the country.

The bells ring daily and produce a beautiful sound.

Nursing home’s longtime administrator retires

Mary Schwartz retired as administrator of the Wicomico Nursing Home after a nearly 50-year career there, a decision former County Council President Phil Tilghman joked could have shuttered the facility.

“I used to kiddingly say that, when she retired they would have to close the nursing home,” said Tilghman, who characterized Schwartz as “an extremely capable person and very likeable.”

“I visited my own father there for awhile. She was very nice. And Victor Laws was there,” Tilghman recalled, referring to the well-known Salisbury lawyer who died in February.

“Oh, yes,” Schwartz said. “A couple of doctors were here. Dr. Ellis was here. Bob Barnes. He was a businessman, and Phil Tilghman’s father.”

A native of Pennsylvania, Schwartz lived in Baltimore with her first husband, Ken Musser, and has two sons, Alan Musser, a resident of Fruitland, and Cris Musser, of Iowa. There are five grandchildren. Her second husband was Daniel Schwartz.

A nursing home employee for nearly half a century who was assistant administrator before being named administrator, Schwartz said she felt it was time to retire. Her last day was June 30. Heather Samis took over the position, one that Schwartz never set out to achieve.

She managed 125 employees, including nurses, geriatric nursing assistants and medicine aids.

Before her retirement, employees hosted a celebration of her career. County Executive Bob Culver attended, as well as County Administrator Wayne Strausburg and County Councilman Joe Holloway.

Culver praised Schwartz for her devotion to the nursing home and for “meeting the challenges with grace and dignity.”

“The community has greatly benefited from her total dedication to the facility. Her service to the Wicomico Nursing Home and to the citizens of Wicomico County has been nothing less than outstanding. Mary’s commitment and trustworthiness has been extraordinary and I extend my sincere appreciation and respect,” Culver said.

National Folk Festival coming in fall 2008

In June, Salisbury was named host of the 2018-2020 National Folk Festival, a prestigious three-year event planned for Sept. 7, 8 and 9.

“Salisbury has long been eager to, and is now proud to step into, the national spotlight,” Mayor Jake Day said when, in June, he announced the city had been chosen.

“For a decade now, with 3rd Friday and events like the River City Arts Jam and the Shore Craft Beer Fest, we have thrown our arms wide and embraced the arts community in the heart of our city. With this announcement, the city of Salisbury redoubles its commitment to being the cultural heart and soul of Delmarva and — for the three years from 2018 to 2020 — the entire country,” Day said.

Salisbury was among 34 cities nationwide that competed to host the nation’s traveling celebration of arts and culture, sponsored by the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

In September, Caroline O’Hare was named local festival manager.

Free to the public, the event draws more than 150,000 people and boosts the economy by millions of dollars.

In February, NCTA representatives visited Salisbury to evaluate the city and determine its suitability.

“Clearly, if you want to be where the real action is — and we do — it is in a city like Salisbury with a creative, holistic vision for its future,” said NCTA Executive Director Julia Olin.

The Festival will feature up to six stages of continuous music, a dance pavilion, traditional crafts, regional food, storytelling, parades and folklife demonstrations in Downtown Salisbury.

Repairs finally coming to city’s Fitzwater Street

Finally, after 18 years of flooding in the Fitzwater Street area — and residents and business owners asking a series of mayors for help — Mayor Jake Day assured them solutions are in place.

“The road condition is surely poor,” Mayor Jake Day said in October.

The problem has been a complicated mix of flooding that couldn’t be helped because the street is at sea level and water flows up from storm drains, he explained.

If the road were elevated, it would flood homes on Fitzwater Street.

Pavement breaks up and potholes are cut because that pavement is often submerged, plus it freezes and thaws.

To help, city leaders are working to get a parking lot built near the playground so employees at Chesapeake Shipbuilders won’t park on the street. They are also discussing a long-term proposition to acquire and remove houses on Germania Circle, so the street can be raised.

The city rebuilt Parsons Road from Nanticoke Road to Marine Road in 2011 or 2012, the mayor explained. Parsons Road has full top-to-bottom reconstruction and sidewalk construction from Marine to Delaware.

The project was fully funded in the FY18 budget. The request for proposal for the contract went out in September and Day said construction would be done until spring 2018.

“The flooding issues aren’t going to get better unless climate change proves to be a hoax or somebody lends us a sizable jack to raise those areas 4 or 5 feet. And that won’t help the road condition maintenance. But again, it must be rebuilt and there’s plenty of underground work that must occur as well,” the mayor said.

Dana Simson, owner of Chesapeake East on West Main Street,  said she and other business owners  in that area have been “talking to the road people for 18 years and three mayors about it.”

“There’s a drain in Lake Street that’s supposed to drain into the river, but, of course, when the river comes up, the river drains into the street. When it’s high tide in the river, it’s high tide in the street,” she said.

Holiday skating wows City Park visitors

In the “Wow What A Surprisingly Successful Idea Department,” an outdoor ice skating rink opened at City Park this year.

In time for Thanksgiving weekend, the much-anticipated rink was among several festive November activities that included lighting of Winter Wonderland at the park, a European-style outdoor market and the 30th annual Boat Parade.

The addition of a skating rink for the Thanksgiving holiday was well received as hundreds of people took turns on the ice over the weekend. Here, Chloe Dasher, 12, Ken Dasher and Lilly Dasher, 14, all of Salisbury, demonstrate their winter sport skills.

Hundreds of skaters took to the ice the Saturday and Sunday before  Thanksgiving, merrily slipping, sliding and holding onto each other as they hoped the experience would be repeated next year.

Mike Dunn, CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee, one of the partners that conceived of the idea to bring it to town, said if was popular enough this year, it will not only return, but could be open during the entire 2018 holiday season.

“We’re expanding our Winter Wonderland experience,” Dunn told the Salisbury Independent.

Salisbury’s annual Christmas tree was lit before the rink opened.

Last year, Wyatt’s Warriors – formed by Jen Shipe after her infant son died in 2015 and with the mission of raising money to help families enduring difficult times — purchased a 50-foot tree from the town of Ocean City. It shined from the other side of the river.

Wicomico County marks its 150th birthday

Several events extending from summer into fall were held to recognize the 150th anniversary of Wicomico County.

A popular and entertaining “Parade of Towns” was a highlight of the County Fair in August, where residents of the county’s towns participated in charming parade around WinterPlace Park.

As part of the city’s monthly 3rd Friday celebrations, a “Brothers of the Brush” beard-growing competition came to a finale. Modeled after a similar contest held 50 years ago on the county’s centennial anniversary. Judging for best beards, among 30 contestants in six categories — fasting growing, moustache, partial, full, most unusual and worst — entertained a large crowd in the plaza area in front of the Government Office Building.

Courthouse undergoes much-needed renovations

As part of that same 3rd Friday in Downtown Salisbury. The switch was flipped to illuminate the Wicomico County Courthouse from the ground skyward.

Lighting the courthouse was the idea of Mike Dunn, CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee, which helped raise the money to lite the north, front and south of the historic building.

Standing on scaffolding high in the sky, Wicomico Assistant Administration Director Weston Young, left, and Tom Hayes, Public Works facilities superindentent, examine the condition of the clock faces on the tower of the Wicomico County Courthouse.

For much of the year, scaffolding was in place around the courthouse as the clock tower was rebuilt and the roof was repaired. The rather neglected centerpiece to Downtown Salisbury finally received attention it was due.

Once the scaffolding was removed in late summer, the $782,000 exterior renovation could be seen as a great improvement. Tight county budgets of the last decade caused work to be delayed on the historic structure.

Plans were already in motion to finance repairs over two budget years when lightning struck the clock tower atop the structure in summer 2016. The bolt blasted away pieces of the slate roof and appeared to destabilize the tower, causing it to tilt slightly. County officials immediately placed the courthouse repairs on the top of their to-do list.

Built in 1878, the County Courthouse is recognized as one of the region’s most important historical structures. Wicomico County was founded just 11 years before the building’s construction. In 1886, it somehow survived a devastating fire that burned down nearly all of the building around it.

County Executive Bob Culver, who has long professed a fascination and respect for the building, helped drive the project to completion.

“There are few buildings downtown that represent Salisbury and Wicomico County more than the historic Wicomico County Courthouse,” said Culver. “It stands as a symbol of our past, and a beacon for the future.”

The building has been the scene of many historical events, from murder trials to protest marches, and today it’s still a thriving building with the Clerk of the Court, Register of Wills, Magistrate’s Office, Family Services, and Historic Courtroom No. 5 where court cases are still heard daily.

Lemmon Hill Standpipe painted and repaired

It had grown into an embarrassing eyesore. Over the course of a few weeks this summer, it was transformed into a structure of beauty.

The Lemmon Hill Standpipe, a 16-story structure that has long been a feature in Salisbury’s skyline, was erected in 1888 after the devastating town fire of 1886 as part of a new water system installed by a New York firm. The pipe was used to secure uniform pressure in the water-supply system.

Salisbury’s historic standpipe is restored, repainted and now sporting the city’s logo for all to see. The water tower was built in 1888 as a water storage tank so the city wouldn’t burn down again in another huge fire.

Just seven years ago, the standpipe became a City Council election issue as the council couldn’t agree on the structure’s plight. No one wanted to either finance the projected $146,000 to fix it or pay the estimated $47,000 to tear it down.

For a few weeks in 2009, it looked like the standpipe might be doomed. But, as sometimes happens in city politics, officials moved on to other matters, and the 100,000-gallon water tower kept browning against the Salisbury skyline.

For Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, however, whether to demolish or restore the standpipe was never been a difficult choice. Day has continually called the structure a community symbol that should both be branded and cherished.

Day has placed $178,000 in his capital budget plan to restore the landmark. Placed under a gigantic tarp, it was sandblasted clean and then painted light blue, with Salisbury’s name painted on it.

Next, there is talk that it — like the courthouse — might be uplighted; a recognition event would be held at that time.

Doverdale neighborhood youngsters play lacrosse

n an effort to connect youngsters who live in the Doverdale neighborhood with community activities, Wicomico County Circuit Court Judge Matt Maciarello led a successful bid to form a lacrosse team.

Lensky Saintil, 11, gets instruction from Matt Maciarello during the a Tuesday practice of Doverdale lacrosse program.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m., about 20 children in grades six through eight learned lacrosse fundamentals — passing, throwing, shooting, cradling.

Although lacrosse can be expensive, there was no cost for the Doverdale players, who use equipment provided by the city.

In the planning phase, leading to the launch of the team in March, Maciarello and Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan visited the basketball court at Doverdale Park on Johnson Street and asked the children if they ever considered lacrosse.

“I said, ‘In my opinion, if you play lacrosse it’s going to translate very well to basketball and vice versa.’ Some of them were interested but others were on the fence,” Maciarello recalled.

“Then people showed up. The building opened. By the end of the first day we had 11 kids. They went out on the field, catching and throwing. We didn’t know how excited these kids would be,” he said.

According to the judge, lacrosse not only keeps youngsters active and engaged, it teaches kids the values of perseverance, of teamwork, of sportsmanship, of integrity.

City’s Lot 1 formally sold for future development

The city formally signed a contract with the development company Devreco to develop Lot 1, the large central-city parking lot that was once key to the city’s retail survival after construction of the old Salisbury Mall.

The multi-million-dollar project, called Salisbury Town Center, is still being designed. For decades there has been plan after plan imagined in the parking lot, and there are hundreds of ways to develop the parcel.

The concept planning stage for Phase 1 — the eastern portion of the lot — is likely to incorporate up to 60,000 square feet of commercial space with retail on the 1st floor and professional office space on the upper floors.

Culver, Heath remain lone Executive candidates

As the new year was set to dawn, there remained just two declared candidates for County Executive.

With no challengers in sight for County Executive Bob Culver, Salisbury City Council President Jack Heath announced his candidacy last month.

A retired business executive, Heath stressed improved communication between the County Executive and County Council, as well as between the county and the city.

“I see a great potential for the county. I’ve learned a lot about how to get things done and about how the government works. The one thing I’ve learned is communication is the key,” Heath said.

“One of the major things I am going to  do, based on my experience, is to try to communicate better, build consensus, negotiate where I have to and come up with things that are better for the citizens,” he said.

A former CEO of Lower Shore Enterprises, Heath has served on the City Council since 2014, when he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former City Councilwoman Terry Cohen.

He had previously lost to Mayor Jake Day when Day was City Councilman representing District 2, during the 2013 primary election. In May 2015, Heath ran for City Council, representing District 3, and won.

He will continue on the City Council while campaigning for the county position.

In the Nov. 6, 2018, election, would likely face incumbent Culver, a Republican. There won’t be a primary unless a second Republican candidate files, as Heath is unaffiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party.

Culver, meanwhile, said he will seek a second term and officially declared “we’re not done.”

“I see my job as trying to aim the county in a direction,” said Culver, a lifelong resident of Wicomico County. “I’m trying to aim it in improving education, I’m trying to aim it in growing business.”

A Whitehaven resident, Culver was a sitting County Council member when he stepped up to defeat then-executive Rick Pollitt in 2014.

Culver has listed several goals for a second term: a new headquarters for the Sheriff’s Department, expansion of the county landfill to extend its life, improvements to the county’s airport and a resolution to resolve open issues between city and county.

He said he would do those things while keeping strong financially and working to grow the county’s image as a great place to live.

Premium riverfront tract bought for development

A local restaurateur purchased 500 Riverside Drive, and will likely be develop it as an eatery location, along with other commercial and residential uses.

The 3-acre parcel was sold in January for $650,000, Wesley Cox of SVN-Miller Commercial Real Estate SVN, confirmed this week. The property is regarded by many as among the most significant in Salisbury and its careful development is regarded as crucial to the city’s future.

“It takes some designing, so it won’t open this year,” Cox said of the restaurant. “You have to factor in the River Walk and the owner may or may not have to do some bulkhead repairs. Several years ago, bulkheading was placed there but I don’t think it was covering the exact length of the property,” Cox said.

The property has been sold three times in the last 15 years – in 2004 for $1.4 million, in 2013 for $500,000 and in January.

After the first sale, a warehouse building was demolished and there was an undertaking to erect a six-story or seven-story condo development with stone front.

Site plans have been reviewed for the new development, but no announcement has been made about when construction might begin.

A real tornado hits, damages south Salisbury

It was a quiet Monday summer afternoon when a storm seemingly blew up out of nowhere. In a matter of seconds, a tornado touched down near the intersection of South Salisbury Boulevard and Dogwood Drive near Salisbury University.

The image that will likely serve as the iconic shot of the Great August 2017 Tornado was broadcast nationwide.

Security cameras recorded what occurred; the scenes were so compelling that they were later broadcast around the world.

No injuries were reported, but winds that reached 100 mph flipped cars and harmed homes down East College Avenue.

Ultimately, two places were hit, a diagonal swath southwest and northeast from the Princeton Homes area through the east campus of Salisbury University and Hopper’s Taphouse at 1400 South Salisbury Boulevard.

 

Jamie Dykes becomes interim State’s Attorney

In early December, Jamie Dykes was sworn in as interim Wicomico County State’s Attorney.

The event was held in the formal Circuit Courtroom of the County Courthouse and attended by about 100 of Dykes’ friends, family and colleagues.

She was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former State’s Attorney Ella Disharoon, who accepted a position in Somerset County.

Vowing commitment to the residents of Wicomico County, Dykes, during her comments at the swearing in, thanked supporters for having confidence in her.

She said she is grateful for her colleagues and the sacrifices they make every day.

From her first assignment 11 years ago, she said she has been determined to protect people, “especially people who cannot protect themselves.”

Dykes was appointed by judges of the Circuit Court for Wicomico County and will remain in office until a new State’s Attorney is elected and sworn in.

In August, Dykes announced her candidacy for the position, saying she wants to keep the worst criminals off the streets.

“We have a serious problem with crime — violent crime. A reluctance to recognize that, not addressing that issue, will cost more lives,” Dykes said when she announced her candidacy.

“When I’m elected, you will know who the State’s Attorney is. You will see me leading from the front and by example,” she said.

A native of Wicomico County, Dykes, who lives in Parsonsburg, graduated from Parkside High School, Salisbury University and the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Arthur W. Perdue Stadium sees comfort upgrades

When baseball fans descended on Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in April 13 — the date of the Delmarva Shorebirds’ home opener in 2017 — they immediately noticed some changes.

The unveiling of new fan amenities were among the highlights of another successful season. While last year’s renovations included new lights and a new field, this year fan comfort was a priority.

The aluminium bench seats were removed, as was general admission seating. Old and cold bleachers were replaced by new single, plastic, bucket seats — 4,500 of them, similar to the “box seats” in the lower bowl of the stadium.

And those box seats were upgraded too. They have cushions now: The seats will be in the field box level and in the upper level suites, a total of 674 padded seats.

Also added was new video board that promotes Perdue Farms. The all-LED board — which makes it will be bright and visible from almost any angle — is three times the size of the old video board at Perdue Stadium.

It has the to show instant replays with the use of three cameras around the stadium. It also plays promotional ads, interviews with players and other videos.

Day orders reorganization of city departments

When he was was running for mayor, Jake Day promised to change the city’s management structure to help the city attract business, deal with developers and streamline procedures for anyone who either wants to do more business in Salisbury or play a larger business role in its growth and progress.

In his Fiscal 2018 budget, Day created a one-stop development and plan review shop, streamlining four departments to one; added an Assistant City Administrator to chain of command; created a team of city employees who will be responsible for “keeping the city polished and clean; and aligned departments with the various employees’ areas of expertise.

Said the mayor: “This budget continues our investment in our youth, our care for the homeless, our rejuvenation of the economy, our commitment to safety and neighborhood integrity.”

The proposed budget creates five new departments and eliminates four, which Day said will improve efficiency. “Our organizational structure is a dinosaur,” he declared.

The city has 430 employees and 34,121 residents.

In surprise move, Clerk of Court declines re-election

The first move of the 2018 Wicomico County election season came in spring as Clerk of the Circuit Court Mark Bowen announced he will not seek re-election.

Bowen, a Salisbury native, has served 30 years in the clerk’s office, which he joined after graduating from Salisbury University in 1982. He succeeded A. James Smith as Clerk of Court in July 1987, and went on to win seven consecutive elections as a Democrat.

Bowen, 56, said it was time for him to find new endeavours. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a job I love and a staff that is the greatest,” Bowen told the Salisbury Independent. “It’s time for me to travel, and be with my family and spend time with my three grandchildren.”

He added: “Life is too short and I want time to enjoy it.”

Across Maryland, the clerk’s office files, processes and maintains civil, criminal and juvenile actions. The clerk and their staff also record land deeds, mortgages, plats, conveyances and other important documents.

Bowen is frequently seen in newspaper photographs, performing the duty of administering oaths of office to city and county officials, judges and all gubernatorial appointees.

Because the clerk’s office also issues business and marriage licenses, and performs civil marriage ceremonies, the clerk appears in countless wedding photos.

Bowen, by his count, has performed more than 6,000 wedding ceremonies either in his offices or on the courthouse grounds.

The Wicomico Senior High School alumnus said he will serve until the completion of his term in December 2018, but has no plans after that.

“I’m sure there will be some tears and fears,” Bowen said. “But I never had the goal of being here forever.”

Riverside Circle design mulled, construction likely in 2018

The city’s plan to build a traffic circle at the always messy Riverside Drive/Mill Street/Carroll Street/Camden Avenue intersection has generated both concern and optimism.

Over the summer, the City Council reviewed the Riverside Traffic Circle Feasibility Study, prepared by city staff with a traffic engineering firm, Wallace Montgomery & Associates. The 26-page report includes an analysis of existing conditions, lists project objectives, reviews future traffic needs and proposes two designs for a huge traffic circle for Salisbury’s busiest intersection.

Any confluence of four major city thoroughfares would certainly create traffic headaches, but the Mill Street area is especially burdened by two other intersections — the Fitzwater Street crossing at West Main Street and the intersection with Route 50 at the Salisbury Parkway.

At several time points each day, traffic flow from cars entering Mill Street from Riverside and Carroll is dictated traffic lights at Route 50 and West Main.

At peak times, it can take several minutes just to proceed through the three blocks. And because the overwhelming majority of drivers in that corridor position themselves to turn left at either West Main or 50, the two traffic lanes are not used to capacity.

The traffic problem is one that has plagued Salisbury since resident construction exploded – and the population boomed – west of the city in the 1980s.

While traffic volumes and signal times are the only remedy for West Main and 50, a traffic circle has long been touted as a solution for Riverside and Carroll.

Engineers conducted their observations of the intersection on Wednesday, March 1 – in the “worst possible circumstances.” They focused on driver behavior, traffic patterns, and roadway geometry.

Pay raise audit goes from scandal to routine

In late June, county residents were treated to a story of intrigue that evaporated as quickly as it developed.

After the results of an independent audit and investigation became public, County Human Resources Director Michele Campbell Ennis had to respond publicly to allegations surrounded a pay raise she was awarded by County Executive Bob Culver.

Ennis declared that she did not write a letter that was found in her personnel file that advocated a 12 percent raise for her performance. She said her colleague at the time, Finance Director Leslie Martin Lewis, was fully looped in and even supportive of her raise request.

Ennis also took the extraordinary step of announcing she was disappointed in the conduct of the County Council and its leadership, which she maintains attempted “discredit” her.

The forensic auditor’s report had been heavily redacted prior to being placed before the public, but anyone with even basic knowledge of the senior figures in county government could decipher whose names were blacked out.

The report detailed how — more than a year earlier — the county’s auditors, in conducting a routine review, had discovered a suspicious letter in Ennis’ employee file. The raise letter appeared to have been written by Finance Director Lewis, but the document looked somewhat haphazard, unprofessional and wasn’t on formal letterhead.

Though it had been annotated by County Executive Bob Culver, the auditors weren’t certain it was actually Culver’s handwriting or signature on the letter. The auditors felt it was worth further review.

There are conflicting stories on how the County Council was told about the discovery. Either way, once the council was informed, its seven members voted to have an independent forensic auditor, Gross, Mendelsohn & Associates of Baltimore, review the case.

While Certified Fraud Examiner James J. Kern did actually interview Ennis, Lewis and Culver, it was the County Executive who ultimately declined to allow Kern to proceed with further interviews.

The County Council, in turn, accepted the audit but made clear in a statement that it was frustrated by the lack of a discernible outcome.

The following day, Culver fired back, calling the entire exercise, among other things, a “witch hunt,” and suggested it was politically motivated.

At the center of Culver’s anger and frustration was that Ennis’ name was ultimately made public and employee morale had been affected within the executive branch.

Teacher arrested on drug charges

In November, the community was stunned to learn a 51-year-old  Parkside High School teacher had been charged with offenses including distributing heroin on school grounds.

Monica Snee of Salisbury was charged with possession of heroin, distribution of heroin and distribution of heroin on school property on Nov. 14, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said.

He characterized her as one who betrayed the confidence of students, parents and  educators.

A special education teacher, Snee was accused of selling drugs in a parking lot behind the school and near the bus ramp, but there was no evidence she was targeting students or teachers, said Dr. Donna Hanlin, superintendent of Wicomico County schools.

An employee of the school system since 2000, Snee was placed on administrative leave.

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