Til­gh­man com­mit­tee lays out plan

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By DENAE SPIERING dspier­ing@ches­pub.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Dspier­ing617.

The peo­ple of Til­gh­man have joined to­gether to form a town com­mit­tee to ad­dress sev­eral of the main is­sues in the com­mu­nity and the sus­tain­abil­ity of the is­land.

TIL­GH­MAN — The peo­ple of Til­gh­man have joined to­gether to form a town com­mit­tee to ad­dress sev­eral of the main is­sues in the com­mu­nity and the sus­tain­abil­ity of the is­land. They held their first town hall-style meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 30, to ad­dress those prob­lems.

“We can’t look to the county to solve all of our prob­lems,” com­mit­tee mem­ber Gary Craw­ford said. “These are our prob­lems, and it’s our job to fix them.”

The com­mit­tee was formed in May fol­low­ing a se­ries of pub­lic meet­ings with Tal­bot County’s plan­ning and zon­ing of­fice re­gard­ing Til­gh­man’s vil­lage mas­ter plan and fol­low­ing lis­ten­ing ses­sions with Tal­bot County De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Tourism.

At each of the meet­ings, the res­i­dents of Til­gh­man voiced con­cerns and ideas to re­vi­tal­ize the area. Sev­eral is­landers thought an or­ga­nized com­mit­tee with a united voice and con­cise goals may have more power to ac­com­plish the needs of the com­mu­nity.

On May 24, the com­mit­tee held its first meet­ing and in­vited county lead­ers to join it. In at­ten­dance for that first meet­ing were Tal­bot County Coun­cil­men Jen­nifer Wil­liams and Chuck Ca­hal­lan. Other agen­cies and rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­cluded County Man­ager Andy Hol­lis, As­sis­tant Plan­ning Of­fi­cer Miguel Sali­nas and Tal­bot County De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Tourism Di­rec­tor Cas­san­dra Van­hooser.

The group se­lected five crit­i­cal is­sues for pre­sen­ta­tion and held three-minute pre­sen­ta­tions on them. The es­tab­lished five were listed as dredg­ing the Knapps Nar­rows, pro­vid­ing bank­ing ser­vices, es­tab­lish­ing a well­ness cen­ter and pub­lic li­brary, tourism and an in­for­ma­tional kiosk at the be­gin­ning of town.

Since that meet­ing, the group has made head­way on many of these is­sues.

Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing was to share its progress and ob­tain com­mu­nity in­put. About 70 peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing in­side the Til­gh­man Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment, in­clud­ing Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Tal­bot, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Sen. Ad­die Eckardt’s of­fice, Del. Christo­pher Adams’ of­fice and U.S. Rep. Andy Har­ris’ of­fice. Sev­eral Tal­bot County agen­cies also were present, in­clud­ing of­fi­cials from plan­ning and zon­ing, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and tourism, county coun­cil, parks and recre­ation, and the sher­iff’s of­fice.

The first ini­tia­tive to be dis­cussed was the dredg­ing of Knapps Nar­rows. Jeff Harrison, a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, led the dis­cus­sion.

“A lot of peo­ple think that the only way to Til­gh­man is down Route 33,” Harrison said. “That sim­ply isn’t true; lots of peo­ple come to the area through Knapps Nar­rows.”

He said not only is the dredg­ing im­por­tant to busi­nesses on the Nar­rows, but it also helps to sup­port busi­nesses through­out the is­land.

Harrison said the U.S. Army Corp of En­gi­neers has plans to dredge the Nar­rows, pend­ing Se­nate ap­proval. The $2.3 mil­lion price tag has been ap­proved by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and is pend­ing Se­nate ap­proval. Harrison said the dredg­ing would be­gin in the spring.

The next point on the agenda was the new vir­tual bank be­ing pro­posed by 1880 Bank.

“Til­gh­man is bank-less,” com­mit­tee mem­ber Tim Fluharty said. “We are all learn­ing how in­con­ve­nient that is.”

Fluharty said Til­gh­man com­prises mainly busi­nesses, and ev­ery waterman on the is­land is a busi­ness­man.

“Hav­ing no bank makes it very hard to con­duct busi­ness here on Til­gh­man,” Fluharty said.

He said the plan is to kill three birds with one stone, re­fer­ring to the kiosk, the bank and se­cu­rity.

The plan is to in­stall a vir­tual ATM in­side the newly pro­posed wel­come cen­ter kiosk, while es­tab­lish­ing se­cu­rity for the build­ing. Se­cu­rity will in­clude lights and cam­eras.

Kevin Mo­ran, chief credit of­fi­cer for 1880 Bank, was at the meet­ing and said the vir­tual ATM will func­tion as a mul­tipur­pose ma­chine, of­fer­ing ATM cash ser­vices and al­low­ing pa­trons to ac­cess a live bank rep­re­sen­ta­tive through a screen.

“The county has in­vested with the bank to make this hap­pen,” Coun­cil­man Cal­la­han said. “This is a big deal.”

The pro­posed wel­come cen­ter kiosk will house the ATM and serve as a launch­ing point for vis­i­tors to Til­gh­man, of­fer­ing brochures and ad­ver­tis­ing ma­te­rial for points of des­ti­na­tion. The pro­jected lo­ca­tion is at the town park just be­fore cross­ing the draw­bridge onto the is­land.

“I think the kiosk is a great idea,” Van­hooser said. “It is very im­por­tant for peo­ple to get ori­ented to things here in Til­gh­man or they will miss out on them.”

The group then moved on to dis­cussing the im­por­tance of a li­brary and a well­ness cen­ter on the is­land.

Cur­rently, Til­gh­man has a small, free li­brary in­side the post of­fice that houses about 1,000 books, said Jay Fowler, com­mit­tee mem­ber. He said the prob­lem with it re­main­ing there is the ease of ac­cess and the pos­si­bil­ity of the post of­fice no longer al­low­ing it to ex­ist.

Fowler and other com­mit­tee mem­bers ap­proached the di­rec­tor of the Tal­bot County Free Li­brary, Dana New­man, in hopes of adding a branch on Til­gh­man. New­man said there sim­ply is no fund­ing for an­other branch.

Fowler said the town of Ox­ford has a free-stand­ing li­brary on land that had been do­nated by the town in 1939, and the com­mit­tee hopes to cre­ate a new li­brary mod­eled af­ter Ox­ford’s.

New­man said when the town is able to es­tab­lish a li­brary, the Tal­bot County Free Li­brary would help to pro­vide sup­port­ive ser­vices, in­clud­ing story times, pre­sen­ta­tions, com­puter sup­port and pos­si­bly in­ter­li­brary book loans.

“There are ways we can sup­port your ef­fort,” New­man said.

The well­ness cen­ter por­tion of the meet­ing was led by Ginny Corn­well, com­mit­tee mem­ber. She said in the early 2000s a well­ness cen­ter was built dur­ing the ren­o­va­tions of the el­e­men­tary school but was never opened.

“It is time for a well­ness cen­ter. We need a well­ness cen­ter,” Corn­well said. “There are lots of ba­bies be­ing born on the is­land and lots of peo­ple ag­ing.”

Corn­well and other mem­bers have met with Chop­tank Com­mu­nity Health Pres­i­dent and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Sara Rich to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of open­ing and staffing the fa­cil­ity.

Since Chop­tank Com­mu­nity Health op­er­ates through fed­eral fund­ing, Rich is wait­ing on fed­eral ap­proval.

Hol­lis, the county man­ager, also is on board with help­ing the is­land es­tab­lish the cen­ter. Corn­well said Hol­lis has agreed to try to find grant money for equip­ment.

Corn­well said the com­mit­tee hopes the cen­ter will be open by Oc­to­ber, and will be open one day each week to start and more days will be added once a need is es­tab­lished.

The cen­ter is pro­jected to pro­vide pri­mar y care ser vices, well and sick baby vis­its, flu and al­lergy shots, blood pres­sure checks, rou­tine lab work, pre­scrip­tions and pre­ven­ta­tive ed­u­ca­tion.

One of the most crit­i­cal top­ics dis­cussed was the need to at­tract more vis­i­tors to the is­land and the loss of sev­eral inns and ho­tels in the area.

“Eco­nomic stag­na­tion will con­tinue to get worse if we con­tinue to lose our rental beds,” Pa­tri­cia McGlan­non said.

McGlan­non is a com­mit­tee mem­ber and a busi­ness owner on the is­land. She said progress is be­ing made, but there needs to be more.

“I think this is a step for­ward, but we need ho­tels to come back, and we need the Nar­rows dredged,” McGlan­non said. “I am glad we are get­ting the ATM and pos­si­bly a li­brary and well­ness cen­ter. We are all work­ing to­gether and things are hap­pen­ing.”

She said wed­dings are a big draw to the is­land and gen­er­ate busi­ness for inns, restau­rants and con­ve­nient stores, but due to the lack of rental beds avail­able, the wed­ding busi­ness has slowed im­mensely.

“No­body comes to visit the Coun­try Store but my par­ents, and they don’t spend that much,” McGlan­non said. “We need vis­i­tors to come and spend money and splurge.”

She said in­creas­ing the amount of places to stay on the is­land, along with all the other points of the meet­ing, will help gen­er­ate busi­ness all around.

“It is a win-win sit­u­a­tion,” McGlan­non said. “All of these is­sues come to­gether in a cir­cu­lar na­ture.”

As the meet­ing came to a close, Fluharty en­cour­aged the com­mu­nity to seek the com­mit­tee mem­bers out and voice their ideas and con­cerns.

“Please talk to us. Come to us for any­thing or any is­sues. If you see us around town, stop us and let us know,” Fluharty said. “We are try­ing to make Til­gh­man bet­ter.”

PHOTO BY DENAE SPIERING

On Wed­nes­day, Aug. 30, mem­bers of the newly formed Til­gh­man Is­land com­mit­tee held a town hall-style meet­ing at the Til­gh­man Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment. A dig­i­tal im­age of a pro­posed kiosk and ATM lo­ca­tion for the is­land is pic­tured.

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