(March 15, 2019) The Worcester County Commissioners feared setting a precedent if they decided to erect and cover the cost of a light on Bowen United Methodist Church property as they were requested to do last Tuesday.
Sally Molnar, a representative of the Newark church’s board of trustees, asked the county install a light pole on Mill Street for the church’s back parking lot, and cited safety concerns.
“We feel it is dangerous for people attending church functions at night,” she said in a letter.
The commissioners, however, balked at the prospect.
“Are we setting ourselves up with a precedent if we do this?” Commissioner Chip Bertino asked.
County Public Works Director John Tustin replied, “I would say yes.”
Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins also told commissioners the lighting responsibility would lie with the church on Newark Road.
“The cost associated with it, the responsibility and liability … I don’t mean to seem cold-hearted, but it’s not our responsibility to do this,” Bertino said.
The commissioners had two choices: either accept or deny the church’s request.
Tustin said there were several places to light the church at the intersection of Mill Street and Newark Road: a street light at the intersection, a pole in the rear parking lot “where the church could mount a security light” or a pole on Mill Street. He added in a proposal that “DP&L could install a cobra head street light for about $20 [per] month.”
Tustin appeared hesitant to pick the option that could inconvenience an existing house.
“I would be afraid that if we put a light on that pole you’d have some overflow onto that house, especially if it’s an LED, and would be very upsetting to that resident,” he said.
Commissioner Joseph Mitrecic agreed.
“I’m concerned more with the house across the way,” Mitrecic said. “I mean ... it’s gonna be shining right in their front windows there, and then we’re gonna get complaints from them.”
Tustin went onto say lights were added previously in West Ocean City for public safety reasons, but not on private property.
Commissioner Ted Elder appeared to take issue with that and stressed the importance of safety.
“I would just say the street lights that were put in in West Ocean City, I think the citizens of Newark, Maryland have the same rights as the people in West Ocean City to have their streets safe so they can move along those streets without feeling threatened,” Elder said.
Elder moved to supply the church with lighting, and Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom seconded the motion. The vote was 3-3 with Commissioners Jim Bunting, Bertino and Mitrecic dissenting.
“The motion fails,” Mitrecic said.
Worcester County Commissioners President Diana Purnell was absent from last Tuesday’s meeting.