Bear sighted traveling through Elkton, Perryville
Residents advised to use caution
jbellmyer@ cecilwhig. com
— That migrating bear seen Friday night along Singerly and Ricketts Mill roads near Elkton has moved west.
Perryville Police Chief Allen Miller said the bear was spotted along Charter Hall Road in the Furnace Bay area.
Spotted first around White Clay Creek in New-
ark Thursday, Cecil County Department of Emergency Services issued an alert Friday night around 9: 30 that the so- called “Dela Bear” had been found wandering along the tree line at Ricketts Mill and Route 213. Officials advised residents not to approach the bear and also to bring pets and garbage cans inside.
“It’s not being aggressive, so we’re not going to do anything,” Lt. Michael Holmes, spokesman for the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, said Friday. Holmes said the bear was spotted around 8 p.m.
“Deputies and Elkton police got a visual,” Holmes said. “He went back into the woodline.”
Anyone who sees the bear should make no attempt to approach the wild animal, Holmes said, adding killing the bear is illegal.
Although not confirmed, Holmes said it is likely this is the same bear spotted in the White Clay Creek area Thursday.
if approved. The water and sewer rates, which were lowered in January 2015, are retained in the budget as well.
Among the most sweeping proposals in Alt’s budget is a 3 percent salary increase for all non-law enforcement employees. It would be the second consecutive year of increases for town employees after they received a 5 percent bump last year. Meanwhile, members of the Elkton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 124 are not scheduled to receive a cost-of-living adjustment in the fiscal year 2017 budget, but each officer will receive a 3 percent increase on their anniversary date, per the negotiated agreement with the town. Their contract expires in June 2017.
In the budget, four of the eight available Elkton Police Department officer positions are directly budgeted. A “line item rebate” for four non-budgeted officer positions, which would require a future budget amendment in case more than four qualified applicants are hired for the police force, is also in-
cluded. If only half of the positions are filled — or four of eight — there is a potential for $359,564 in savings.
Steve Repole, town finance director, said the proposal does budget for the department to be fully staffed, although on average four people are hired to the department within every year. A lack of qualified candidates has led to a difficulty in hiring for the open positions. The police department has not been fully staffed since 2003, Alt said.
The mayor also budgeted for six police vehicles, which amounts to $305,100, to phase out aging cars. Nine vehicles were purchased this fiscal year.
In a past Board of Commissioners workshop, Alt said he would like hold off on purchasing more new vehicles, but he changed his mind in the final proposal because majority of the board agreed the police department should have the cars, he said.
“It’s not just my budget all the time,” he said. “I do listen to the board.”
Meanwhile, Commissioner DJ VanReenen, who has historically been the lone dissenting voice in many of the board’s decision since being elected two years ago
and is supporting two challengers in the town election, said he is not in favor of the budget.
“I am not for the concept of overspending just to overspend,” he said Friday.
Among the items that he is opposing is a $12,000 upgrade to install speakers in the downtown. VanReenen said that although millions of dollars have been put toward the Main Street Program to revitalize the downtown area, property values have still decreased. He agrees the program has a purpose, but believes too much money is being spent in the downtown area.
“I do not believe that we should have a slush fund that’s labeled ‘economic development,’” VanReenen said, referring to money established in last year’s budget that purchased promotional T-shirts and allowed the Elkton Chamber and Alliance to rent a West Main Street property in order to deny other potential tenants from occupying it.
VanReenen said he does want to see all eight needed positions within the police department filled, but believes using a line item rebate tricks the public into believing they are funded.
“Don’t use a line item re-
bate to look like we’re using less money out of the savings account,” he said. “If the police chief said there needs to be 45 officers, then budget for 45 officers. Budget for the available positions, stop playing with the numbers to make it look like we’re using less money from the saving account.”
VanReenen worries that chronic usage of savings to balance the town’s budget coupled with non-budgeted needs will use drain reserve funds.
“It’s only a matter of time before the savings account is depleted and we have to raise taxes,” he said.
VanReenen also criticized the amount of time that commissioners and the public have to review the mayor’s final proposal before the public hearing, which has been set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at town hall. Four days is not enough time for anyone to review the documents, ask questions and have answers within that time timeframe, he said.
The board of town commissioners can cut from Alt’s proposal, but cannot add to it. The final budget is scheduled to be considered by the board at 7 p.m. June 1.
A citizen captured this photo of a bear near White Clay Creek in Newark, Del. Possibly the same bear was recently sighted in Cecil County.