Port Deposit council modifies Freeman Hall grant

Port Deposit Town Council members voted at their monthly meeting Tuesday evening to modify a grant for use on Freeman Hall and to create a new committee.

When the council received $75,000 from Cecil County in grant funds over the summer, they originally planned to transfer the money from the Freeman Hall restoration project to buy a new police car and stabilize the Tome Gas House, which is planned to eventually become a visitors center.

Council members planned to request matching grant funds from the Maryland Historic African American Foundation before starting work on Freeman Hall, but later decided to use the $75,000 on Freeman Hall after all.

Given that decision, council members needed to modify the grant language to remove the matching funds portion so they could use the $75,000 now, which they plan to use to replace the roof and other projects, depending on how far the money goes.

Overall, Council member Jeff Spangler said, the renovations needed for Freeman Hall are not as originally expected, according to a report from Architectural Support Group. Spangler and Deputy Mayor Kevin Morton also suggested the creation of a Freeman Hall Preservation Committee to work with the Freeman Hall Preservation Society.

The committee would form a partnership with the society and make it easier for Spangler and Morton to bring reports back to the town council. Even though Council member Robert Kuhs questioned the need for such a committee, the motion was passed unanimously.

Council members also approved the motion to modify the language, as well as put out a request for proposal, or RFP, to see what the repairs will cost. Council member Judy Leonard also pointed out that any repairs or materials must comply with requirements of the Maryland Historic Trust.

The council also approved a reallocation of grant funds, originally intended for the renovation of the King Property, to buy a vehicle for the police chief.

Public Comment

Lois Ashworth suggested that either the town council or the Department of Planning and Zoning create a committee with Port Deposit residents to discuss this past outdoor music season and look into possibilities for the future.

Cecil County NAACP President Elyse Murray appeared before the council as well, thanking them for their support of the Freeman Hall Preservation Society and assuring them that they are ready to take on the renovations.

"[You will] find that the society is dedicated to doing the legwork for the council," she said. "It is a big task. We are ready to do the task."

Other Business

Council members rejected a $651 bid on a boat for sale by the town, listed at $3,000 or best offer.

Members also voted to close two unnecessary bank accounts.

Mayor Tome thanked all the agencies who helped during and after the flood and also mentioned they are waiting for presidential approval before they are declared a disaster area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and become eligible for funding.

Following the meeting, the town council went into closed session to discuss legal and personnel matters.

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