Tilghman committee lays out plan
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.”
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.