Between The Lines

Congratulations to the Worcester County Commissioners for reversing their position on a legislative effort to allow private liquor store sales within the town of Berlin.

Earlier this month, in a private meeting, all but one of the commissioners (Bud Church supported it) voted to oppose legislation that would expand the boundaries for to-go liquor sales to Berlin. Currently, it’s not permitted within municipal limits. A letter was sent to Senator Jim Mathias, stake holders and other lawmakers expressing their opposition for basically two reasons — one, the county’s own Shore Spirits store two miles away on Route 50 adequately handles the town already and, secondly, “expanding the areas … will result in a proliferation of liquor stores, not only in Berlin but in other areas of the County in the future.”

This paper was highly critical of that closed session vote as well as the foolish concept that it would lead to liquor stores all over the town of Berlin. The county knew better than to argue that because it’s the independent Board of License Commissioners that decides who can have a liquor license. The allegation that Berlin would be over-run with liquor stores once this legislation passed was absurd. It was simple scare tactics at its best and ignorance at its worst.

The good news is the commissioners decided this week to allow Cheers! attorney Joe Moore to present his case before them. Armed with support from the Town of Berlin’s elected officials, Moore presented an excellent argument that helped lead to a complete reversal and unanimous support for the legislation.

It was nice to see Commissioner Jim Bunting’s comments regarding the earlier decision and this week’s acknowledgement that it was the wrong stance to take.

“We make decisions, sometimes we don’t make the right ones, and we have an opportunity to correct that,” Bunting said.

There is much interest surrounding Tuesday’s filing deadline for the June primary election because it could essentially decide three local races.

On the Worcester County Commission front, as of yesterday, current Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw of Pocomoke City is unopposed for his second term and there is a good chance it will stay that way.

In two others districts, which happen to have been vacated by long-time incumbents, the hopefuls could essentially be unofficially elected at Tuesday at 9 p.m. if nobody else files.

In District 2, a court-designated minority district, long-time resident, community activist and business owner Diana Purnell is looking to replace Commissioner Jim Purnell, who will retire at the end of his term.

In District 7, which encompasses Ocean City, current Councilman Joe Mitrecic, who operates a local construction company, is the lone candidate signed up to replace Commissioner Louise Gulyas, who is leaving her seat after 16 years.

In my opinion, it would be a shame if there are no challengers to Purnell and Mitrecic. Nobody should ever run for elected office without an opponent in my view, especially if they are not incumbents. Open seats should not just be awarded to whoever files. It cheapens the process and is just too easy.

Of course, Purnell and Mitrecic, two qualified candidates and well-known names in their home districts, are not to blame here. Surely, they filed for office under the assumption they would have at least one challenger. It’s just unbelievable to me that no other resident has any interest. It will be interesting to see next week if this perceived apathy plays out.

With the change in the school start date for Worcester for the next school year, the last day of school is tentatively scheduled for June 16, 2015, which ironically enough could be the last day for students in 2014 as well.

Word is the school system will shorten the spring break for students this year and remove Thursday, April 17 from the vacation by having students come for a half day. That  will count as a day, making the last day of school Monday, June 16, but sources report a waiver will be requested from the state to make the last day of school Friday, June 13, rather than have students return on the following Monday. These waivers are typically granted when hardship can be proven.

This plan, of course, is contingent upon there being no more school cancellation days, and that is anything but a certainty.

Along the same lines, for many, the start of school after Labor Day is a foreign concept, but the fact is this has been the trend for some time in Maryland.

A 10-year summary of public school start and end dates from the Maryland State Department of Education confirmed Worcester was the last school system to use a post-Labor Day start in 2008-2009. Only Worcester and Somerset counties went back after the holiday from 2005-2006 to 2007-2008. Back in school year 2004-2005, there were only four counties sticking with the post-Labor Day start (Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset and Baltimore City).