Clean up Effort to Begin for Neglected Port Properties

BY: Jane Bellmyer, Cecil Whig (click for full story)

"PORT DEPOSIT — The fire that destroyed Memorial Hall at the Tome School for Boys could be a wake-up call to secure unoccupied properties in town.

The September fire ripped through what was left of the historic structure on the hill above Port Deposit. It’s on the mind of Donald Hancock, the town code enforcement officer.

The September fire ripped through what was left of the historic structure on the hill above Port Deposit. It’s on the mind of Donald Hancock, the town code enforcement officer.

“In light of the events at Memorial Hall, I am interested in the houses with large amounts of scrap materials and flammable materials,” Hancock recently told the mayor and town council.

Hancock expressed his fears to the elected body that a fire in the compact waterfront community would be tragic.

“The damage would be worse,” he said, comparing a potential downtown fire to what happened at the former military site.

“Restricting access to these properties is important. Vacant properties with all the doors and windows open is rife with possibility,” he said.

He fears they could be targets of vandalism, so Hancock is ramping up his efforts to get these property owners to respond.

“I’ve had a lot of promises, but few have been acted upon,” he said of the owners, many of which don’t live in town. “We want these closed up immediately.”

Port Deposit’s elected body has struggled for a number of years to come up with a way to manage apathetic property owners. Since being hired, Hancock has developed an inventory of all structures in town limits, identifying those that have issues, are historic and are simply old.

Hancock said that since being nice hasn’t helped his cause, his next step will be to issue citations and levy fines.

“How do we pursue that?” Councilman Tom Knight asked.

A meeting with Joe Herring, town attorney, will be the first step, Hancock said.

“I’ll be talking with Mr. Herring about pursuing a few of these in court,” he said.

Vicki Rinkerman, town administrator, added this was the perfect opportunity for Port Deposit to update its uniform citations, which hadn’t been done in more than 30 years.

“We’re looking at the codification revision,” Rinkerman said. “In the meantime, we can pursue it civilly.”

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