NEFC pro­poses me­mo­rial to honor fire­fight­ers

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— Fol­low­ing a dis­cus­sion with the town board on Wed­nes­day night, a pro­posed me­mo­rial hon­or­ing county fire­fight­ers could some­day come to Main Street.

Mem­bers of the North East Fire Com­pany came to a town board meet­ing in March and ini­tially pro­posed putting a me­mo­rial hon­or­ing all county fire­fight­ers, past and present, in North East Com­mu­nity Park. But af­ter about half an

NORTH EAST

hour of dis­cus­sion Wed­nes­day night, the fire com­pany and the town board came to a pre­lim­i­nary com­pro­mise that putting the me­mo­rial in front of town hall could be a better op­tion.

The process of find­ing a home for the me­mo­rial started about six weeks ago when Jeff Isaacs, chair of NEFC, and Jeff Now­land, of Now­land Con­struc­tion who is help­ing out the fire com­pany with de­sign pro­pos­als, met with town of­fi­cials to dis­cuss po­ten­tial locations in the park.

Town staff as well as North East Po­lice Chief Daryl Hamil­ton all at­tended the pre­lim­i­nary meet­ing, Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Melissa Cook-McKen­zie said, not­ing that it’s up to the town board to sign off on the con­cept of a me­mo­rial be­fore the process can move for­ward.

When look­ing at po­ten­tial locations in the park, the group tried to keep in mind se­cu­rity — such as po­ten­tial for van­dal­ism — ac­cess for main­te­nance

and vis­i­bil­ity to the public. In ad­di­tion, the me­mo­rial’s size also played a big role in find­ing a spot, Now­land said.

Though the ex­act de­sign of the me­mo­rial is still in the pre­lim­i­nary stages, Now­land said it would need about 1,200-squarefeet of de­vel­opable area for bricks, which would be sold to cover the ap­prox­i­mately $200,000 cost of the me­mo­rial. Other el­e­ments of the me­mo­rial would in­clude a life-sized bronze statue of a fire­fighter and a flag pole with var­i­ous flags, Isaacs said.

The ini­tial spot the group set­tled on and pre­sented to the town

board was just north of the public pier, between the pier and the walk­way by the wa­ter.

“We took your ad­vice to take the master plan for the park and try and find an ini­tial spot that it might live re­spect­fully and re­spon­si­bly within the master plan,” Now­land said.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the town board were cau­tiously skep­ti­cal of this lo­ca­tion though, not­ing it is some­what re­mote and might not be as vis­i­ble to the public. Board mem­bers also ex­pressed con­cerns about the size of the me­mo­rial.

Other pos­si­ble locations were dis­cussed but sev­eral mem­bers of the town board ad­mit­ted they were ret­i­cent to speak frankly out of re­spect for the fire­fight­ers.

Mayor Robert McKnight noted

that the town board had toured the fire com­pany ear­lier that af­ter­noon and came away with even more re­spect for the fire com­pany and what they do for the com­mu­nity than they al­ready had.

“We’re caught. If you were some av­er­age group com­ing to us, we would speak our minds. With you guys we’re hes­i­tant to do that be­cause of who you are and what you do for us,” McKnight said. “I think if we were to speak our minds we would say, we don’t think this be­longs down there and we think this is too big and too much go­ing on.”

McKnight em­pha­sized that he would like to find a com­pro­mise that would honor the fire­fight­ers in a highly vis­i­ble lo­ca­tion. Isaacs also said he was open to com­pro-

mise but that he would like the me­mo­rial to be built some­where in North East.

“I re­spect your opin­ion, but I be­lieve it be­longs in the park,” Isaacs said, not­ing that he sug­gested the park be­cause so many peo­ple go there and it would also pro­vide easy ac­cess for the fire com­pany to hold me­mo­rial ser­vices at the mon­u­ment.

A com­pro­mise of sorts was reached about 35 min­utes into the dis­cus­sion when Cook-McKen­zie sug­gested putting the me­mo­rial in front of town hall, next to the flag pole. It would be pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate one park­ing space to give even more space to the me­mo­rial, she added.

Both Isaacs and the town board were re­cep­tive to the idea since it would give the me­mo­rial plen-

ty of vis­i­bil­ity. Cook- McKen­zie also noted that more lo­cal busi­nesses might sup­port the me­mo­rial if it’s right on Main Street. McKnight agreed, though he said the me­mo­rial might need to be scaled back in size a bit.

“I think we want you on our main street. We want you right be­side our build­ing out here. We want you where peo­ple can see you,” McKnight said. “So we have to work on a de­sign that will work out there.”

Af­ter the meet­ing, Isaacs, Now­land and the town board walked around out­side to look at po­ten­tial locations out­side town hall. Isaacs said he would need to dis­cuss the po­ten­tial lo­ca­tion change with his me­mo­rial com­mit­tee and the fire com­pany board be­fore mov­ing for­ward.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Elk­ton Po­lice Chief Matthew Don­nelly holds two cards of sup­port that his agency re­ceived from cit­i­zens this week.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Mem­bers of the North East Fire Com­pany have pro­posed build­ing a me­mo­rial to fire­fight­ers some­where in North East.

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