Don Stewart and Mike Blum, the two people who more than anyone else make Bel Air's annual Independence Day celebration keep going and going, year after year after year, were thanked and honored by the Board of Town Commissioners during Monday night's town meeting.
Stewart, longtime president of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc., and Blum, the committee vice president and chairman of the annual July 4 parade for the past 20 years, were lauded for their efforts by Mayor Eddie Hopkins and his fellow town commissioners.
Hopkins said it is "absolutely amazing" what the two men accomplish annually in leading what Hopkins called "an absolutely wonderful celebration that brings the whole town together."
Pointing out "how special this holiday is" in Bel Air, Hopkins said he likes to ride his bike around town every July 4 and take in the day's events starting with the pancake breakfast at the high school and moving on to the frog-jumping contests and turtle races and horseshoes tournament and watermelon-eating contest and then on to the parade and fireworks.
It is a big day for the town and its residents, as upward of 100,000 people attend the July 4 festivities annually, making Bel Air's Independence Day celebration one of the most popular and well-attended in the state, if not the entire region.
In thanking the commissioners, Stewart pointed out that if Monday had been July 4, they would have been forced to cancel the fireworks because of the rain falling outside. He also recognized the efforts of the other volunteers on the committee and noted the planning for each year's celebration takes months, although Stewart joked that were everything left up to him, "it would be done at the last minute."
Without Stewart, Blum said, "there would be no Fourth of July in Bel Air."
"Nobody cares as much as Don," Blum said. "Nobody gets more done."
Both men thanked the commissioners and town staff for their support in planning and conducting the annual celebration and, added Blum, "Boy, was it hot!"
Hopkins presented each man with a gift card. Blum later said his is for The Main Street Tower Restaurant.
The town commissioners also approved a number of contracts Monday, covering new police cars and equipment and computers for them; computer hardware for town operations; and contracts pertaining to work on the municipal parking garage.
For the garage, a contract not to exceed $40,000 was awarded to Desman Associates, a structural engineering firm, to provide consulting services on structural repairs needed for the 20-year-old structure that is 33 percent owned by the town and 67 percent owned by Harford County.
Public Works Director Randy Robertson said Desman had previously provided a condition analysis for the 1,000-space structure and found it generally in good shape for its age.
He went on to say, "some repairs are necessary," explaining that the engineer would analyze work needing to be done and help the town develop contractor bid specs and then will help evaluate bids and provide some additional oversight as needed. Robertson said the scope of services and cost did not require a competitive bid.
The commissioners also approved a change order of $18,354 for an existing construction/repair contract with Frank J. Goettner Construction that will cover the work needed to open a new entrance to the garage from Burns Alley. This new entrance will be fed from the new surface lot the town opened this summer on the former BB&T building site off Main Street.
Town Administrator Chris Schlehr said Goettner's cost for doing the new entrance is half what the town estimated the job would cost.