Easton Utilities’ Ted Book on the Rising Cost of Cable Rates

It seems like every year the senior management of Easton Utilities must prepare themselves to once again explain to the Town of Easton (their boss) and their customers why there will be another increase in their monthly cable fees. And like almost everything else in the world of the cable business and new technology, that answer is not the easiest question to understand.

If Easton Utilities was driven by profit or seeking an aggressive return on investment that question would be easy to answer, but that simply is not the case for this unique municipality-owned utility company. In fact, according to Ted Book, who headed up EU’s cable and internet programs, Easton Utilities has not increased base cable rates, i.e., the cost of physically providing the service through satellite dishes, cable, and maintenance for close to twenty years.

That is just one of the interesting facts that come out of the Spy’s recent interview with Ted about the cable industry’s alarming rate increases and the impact it has on small providers like Easton Utilities and their customers.

Ted’s point of view is particularly helpful given the remarkable fact that he has witnessed the almost entire history of the company’s involvement in cable and internet services. His perspective is quite useful as he discusses cable’s current chaotic marketplace as “cord-cutters” increasingly turn to internet streaming services for television networks which profoundly impacts cable’s core business model and the direct result of broadcasters demanding more money to carry their signals.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Easton Utilities please go here 

Downtown Profiles: Easton’s Remaining Traditional Men’s Store Still Stands Tall

There was a time, not so long ago, when every town of a decent size would have a high-quality haberdashery. While cities like Washington would have such prominent stores as Thomas & Lewis Saltz, the Georgetown University Shop, or Raleigh’s, smaller towns like Easton would have solid equivalents such as Blades on Washington Avenue.

But now the vast majority of these classic traditional men’s stores have shut their doors, while national chains like JoS. A. Bank’s and Men’s Warehouse also face the risk of extermination as business wear has been replaced by casual attire in the corporate world as internet sales increase.

And yet a steady few of these specialty stores are still standing, and one of those is none other than Berrier’s on Dover Street. And if you asked its owner, Bruce Berrier, how his business was going, he’d say, “just fine.”

The Spy was intrigued by how this unique men’s specialty store, with such items as $400 cashmere sweaters and $40 fine wool stocks, could remain competitive in the face of a radically different marketplace and changing standards in men’s clothing needs.  So we spent a few minutes with Bruce to talk about the sustainability of Berrier’s as someone who has spent his entire career in the trade, first at the original Blades, then as a manufacturer representative for the distinguished men’s suit maker Corbin, and finally starting his own business in Easton twenty-five years ago.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Berrier’s please go here

Looking Back: A Conversation with Shore Bancshares Chair Chris Spurry

When Chris Spurry was appointed to be the chair of the board of the Talbot Bank in 2006, he felt both honored and excited to take on this role during a time in banking when, as he recalled it, “a blind chicken could get fat.” The economy in general, and real estate in particular, was hitting historic highs in value and returns on investment. To be part of this extraordinary moment in Delmarva prosperity could not have been more fulfilling for him.

The St. Michaels native also saw this new role on the board of this highly regarded community bank as another positive outcome of his decision to move his a manufacturers’ representatives firm to Talbot County in 1983 after over thirty years serving in senior leadership positions with a Fortune 500 manufacturing corporation and food equipment supplier based in New York City. With Spurry (now Spurry-Curren and Associates) operating out of Easton, Chris was able to return home to the Mid-Shore he loved and directly particulate in its economic future.

But when troubling financial smoke signals were popping up in 2007, which later unfolded the following year into the country’s most significant economic collapse since the Great Depression, Scott and his fellow board members realized quickly that within this short period, the entire future of the Talbot Bank, Centreville National Bank, Avon-Dixon Insurance, and Wye Financial & Trust were now being severely threatened.

And as a result of this perfect storm, the Talbot Bank directors oversaw one of the most dramatic and sweeping corporate reconfigurations in the commercial history of the Eastern Shore.

In short order, the board was strengthened, a new senior management team was hired, banking operations were consolidated, as well as dozens of other operational changes required to cope with this new economic environment as well as an unprecedented wave of fiduciary regulations.

Now, after nine years of hard work and significant cultural change, Shore Bancshares is safely out of the woods and thriving.

The Spy caught with Chris at the Shore Bancshares corporate headquarters last month to talk about this extraordinary time in banking history as he steps down from being one of Shore Bancshares’ longest-serving board Chairs.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Shore Bancshares please go here

 

Maryland 3.0: As Medical Cannabis Nears, Bill could boost Minorities’ Stake

After a four-year wait to provide medical cannabis to patients, the drug could be available to Marylanders as early as this month, according to industry stakeholders.

“I think we could see product in November, with increase in December and a steady flow from all operators in the new year,” said Wendy Bronfein, the marketing director for Curio Wellness, a company in Lutherville, Maryland, awarded two licenses to cultivate and process medical marijuana.

However, racial diversity in the state’s medical marijuana industry is wanting, and some lawmakers said they are planning to introduce a bill early next session to grant licenses to African-American business owners.

A disparity study ordered by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in April and due in December focuses on whether minorities who sought a license in the cannabis industry were at a disadvantage.

The study was prompted after the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus raised concerns about the lack of African-American involvement in the industry.

Of the 321 business owners granted preliminary licenses to grow, distribute or process the drug, 208 were white men or women and the remaining 113 identified as a member of a minority group or as multiracial. Of these, 55 — about 17 percent — were black men and women, according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

“It’s shameful in a state like Maryland where we have one-third of the population of the state, one-third is African American,” said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

As the General Assembly’s January session approaches, members of the Black Caucus told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service they have begun drafting a bill that would award 10 new licenses for growers and processors specifically targeted at African-Americans interested in the industry.

They will move forward with their legislation regardless of the outcome of a Hogan’s disparity study, Glenn said.

“I will bank on it that we’ll come away from the table with five new licenses for growers and five new licenses for processors that will be awarded based on the results of the disparity study. What does that mean? That means these licenses will go to, in large part, African Americans,” said Glenn.

A weighted scoring system will give businesses an advantage of being awarded a particular license if they have a certain percentage of African-American ownership, Glenn said.

A “compassionate use fund” will be part of the legislation in order to make medical marijuana affordable for patients in Maryland. The fund will be financed based on the fees that licensees in the industry must pay, Glenn said.

“Marijuana is still an illegal drug, according to the federal government. Your insurance will not pay for marijuana even though it is medical marijuana. So what does that mean? That means it becomes a rich man’s struggle. We’re not gonna have that,” said Glenn, whose mother died of cancer and is the commission’s namesake.

Marylanders who are insured through the state’s Medicare and Medicaid programs will not be covered for medical cannabis, said Brittany Fowler, spokeswoman for the Maryland health department.

The legislation has been numbered Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 2, and should gain initial approval as an emergency bill during a joint hearing by the House and the Senate during the first weeks of the session — which is scheduled to start Jan. 10 — Glenn said.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus said they intend to use the upcoming election as leverage for the bill.

“Next year is election year … so timing is everything … I am very, very sure that this is going to be taken care of,” Glenn said.

Cannabis companies have said that the drug is likely to be available to patients this month.

ForwardGro Inc., the first licensed medical marijuana grower, successfully passed the state’s cannabis assessment this year, said Darrell Carrington, the medical cannabis director of Greenwill Consulting Group LLC.

Patients will be able to get cannabis in a variety of forms such as lotion, pills and transdermal patches, said Michael Klein, the chief operating officer of Wellness Solutions in Frederick, Maryland.

The industry has been projected to open toward the end of the year, according to Brian Lopez, the chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

“The industry is starting to move forward,” Lopez said late last month. “We hope we are going to have another 20 to 30 dispensaries by the end of the year and at that point we will have an industry that is starting to receive product consistently around the state. But with that we are going to also, I’m sure, see some growing pains.”

Maryland still faces a wide range of challenges as the industry starts up. The commission has not decided how to regulate how dispensaries will serve out-of-state patients, deal with the green waste from the cannabis, or address fraudulent activity within the industry, said Lopez.

“I’m sure we are going to hit road blocks, but we plan to work through them in a very consistent manner and with diligence,” Lopez said.

Maryland is considered to have one of the slowest medical cannabis rollouts in the nation, hampered by several delays that arose during the four-year process since it was legalized.

Stakeholders in the industry have pointed to the lack of funding of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in its beginning stages, and to lawsuits filed against the commission, as major stumbling blocks.

In 2016, GTI — Green Thumb Industries — a Bethesda, Maryland-based company that was originally awarded pre-approved licenses as a grower, filed a lawsuit against the commission for retracting its licenses in order to create geographical diversity.

The commission, which as of mid-2017 had 10 new members, made the decision to retract the license from GTI after the Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh stated in 2016 that the commission must ensure geographical diversity when choosing applicants.

GTI attempted to work with the Black Caucus to reverse the decision during the 2017 General Assembly session through legislation, which would have awarded them a license, said Delegate Pamela Queen D-Montgomery, financial secretary for the Black Caucus.

The legislation failed in the last 90 minutes of the session and there were no additional medical marijuana growing licenses given to any companies owned by minorities, Queen said.

The Legislative Black Caucus earlier this year asked Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert, and Speaker of the House Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, to reconvene the General Assembly to Annapolis for a one-day session to pass a law expanding the medical marijuana industry. However, the request was denied.

In another lawsuit against the commission, filed in October 2016 by Alternative Medicine Maryland, a predominately African-American owned business, Judge Barry Williams ruled in May that if he finds that the commission unlawfully disregarded racial diversity during the application process for licenses he reserves the right to revoke the licenses of those who were pre-approved.

This could ultimately shut down the industry, according to John Pica, a lobbyist and attorney representing Alternative Medicine Maryland.

Frosh also had said it would be unlawful to seek racial diversity in the application process without there being a history of racial disparities in the nascent cannabis industry.

“While it is still too soon to say for certain when we can expect a final analysis, we are encouraged and grateful to collaborate with these offices as we pursue this important work,” said Medical Cannabis Commission Executive Director Patrick Jameson, who announced his resignation from the commission on Thursday.

Queen said she thinks that a major issue that negatively affected the industry was the poor funding the commission initially received from the state.

When the panel was created as the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission in 2013, its purpose was to oversee academic medical intuitions in distributing medical marijuana. However, the institutions were unwilling to distribute the drug because it is illegal under federal law.

In 2015, when the commission was recreated as the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission, they were given a greater responsibility to evaluate and certify businesses to grow, process and distribute the drug.

The commission received $140,795 in fiscal year 2015 and $2,540,331 in fiscal year 2017. The increase of funding over time was used to hire more employees, contractual labor, office spaces that can support the growing staff, travel expenses and to pay Towson University for scoring license applications for the industry, according to Maryland Department of Budget and Management.

By Oluwatomike Adeboyejo

 

Labor Day Cheat Sheet: The History behind the Holiday

One of our Spies was able to locate this recent online interview with Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department of Labor’s historian, provided us with some answers about the history of Labor Day.

Q: What’s the history of Labor Day? How did it all begin?

A: The Labor Day holiday is interesting because it evolved over a period of years. In 19th century America, there was already a tradition of having parades, picnics and various other celebrations in support of labor issues, such as shorter hours or to rally strikers. But most historians emphasize one specific event in the development of today’s modern Labor Day. That pivotal event was the parade of unions and a massive picnic that took place in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882.

At that time, the labor movement was growing stronger. Many of the unions in New York prospered by joining together into one Central Labor Union made up of members from many local unions. On May 14, 1882, a proposal was made at the Central Labor Union meeting that all workers should join together for a “monster labor festival” in early September. A committee of five people was appointed to find a park for the celebration. They chose Wendel’s Elm Park at 92nd Street and 9th Avenue, the largest park in New York City at that time; the date was set for Tuesday, September 5. By June, they had sold 20,000 tickets with the proceeds going to each local union selling them. In August, the Central Labor Union passed a resolution “that the 5th of September be proclaimed a general holiday for the workingmen in this city.”

At first they were afraid that the celebration was going to be a failure. Many of the workers in the parade had to lose a day’s pay in order to participate. When the parade began only a handful of workers were in it, while hundreds of people stood on the sidewalk jeering at them. But then slowly they came – 200 workers and a band from the Jewelers’ Union showed up and joined the parade. Then came a group of bricklayers with another band. By the time they reached the park, it was estimated that there were 10,000 marchers in the parade in support of workers.

The park was decorated with flags of many nations. Everyone picnicked, drank beer and listened to speeches from the union leadership. In the evening, even more people came to the park to watch fireworks and dance. The newspapers of the day declared it a huge success and “a day of the people.”

After that major event in New York City, other localities began to pick up the idea for a fall festival of parades and picnics celebrating workers.

Q: Can you clear up some confusion: who is the father of Labor Day?

A: When studying the history of Labor Day, two names stand out, and the funny thing is that they sound just alike. One is Peter J. McGuire, a leading official in the American Federation of Labor and organizer of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. The other is Matthew Maguire, a machinist from the Knights of Labor. The problem with declaring a single “founder” of Labor Day is that, at the time, no one realized that a new national holiday was being born. It was only after the fact that people tried to pinpoint a single founding father.

Seven years after that first New York Labor Day parade, the union journal for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters published an article claiming that their union brother, McGuire, made the original proposal to have the Labor Day event in New York and called for one day a year to be set aside as Labor Day. This article was reprinted yearly, and it became the common assumption that these were the facts.

However, in 1967, a retired machinist from Maguire’s union stepped up and claimed that his union brother was, in fact, the true originator of the movement for a national Labor Day. He pointed to an old newspaper article written nine years after the New York Labor Day parade titled “Labor Day: Its History and Development in the Land.” This article claimed that the first Secretary of the Central Labor Union, Maguire, was the one who arranged the parade. This claim was supported six years later when the grand marshal of the New York parade of 1882 himself reminisced about how Maguire from the Knights of Labor had first suggested that the Central Labor Union call upon the unions of New York City to join together in a labor parade.

So the historical conundrum seems to hinge on the fact that the two names sound alike and were probably mixed up in the common consciousness. Toss in the years of bitter rivalry between the American Federation of Labor and the Knights of Labor and, of course, you’re going to have multiple heroes emerging in the legend of Labor Day.

I don’t really know if there is only one true parent of Labor Day. But when former Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz spoke at the convention of the International Association of Machinists in 1968, he said: “My decision…is that there is no question as to who is the father of Labor Day in this country. Officially, as of this moment, insofar as the Department of Labor is concerned, it is Matt Maguire, machinist!” So in the question of McGuire versus Maguire, I don’t really know. But my money backs Bill Wirtz every time!

Q: When did it become a national holiday and why?

A: Labor Day as a national, legal holiday had an interesting evolution. The legalized celebration of Labor Day began as individual state celebrations. In 1887, New York, New Jersey and Colorado were among the first states to approve state legal holidays. Then other states joined in to create their own state Labor Days. Finally, in response to a groundswell of support for a national holiday celebrating the nation’s workers, Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to the 53rd Congress to make Labor Day a legal holiday on the first Monday of September each year. It was approved on June 28, 1894.

Mid-Shore Arts: The Art of Repainting History with Laura Era

Precisely 202 years ago today, Anna Ella Carroll, was born on the Eastern Shore. This event is of particular note to history scholars and even some hometown fans in Dorchester County since it reminds them once again how Anna’s life and extraordinary contributions in winning the Civil War for the Union continue has been lost in the history of the country’s greatest conflict.

As Time Magazine noted last year,  Abraham Lincoln “was so enthusiastic about her writing that he secured government funding for a 50,000-run printing of one of her most influential pamphlets and invited her to the White House for a confidential interview. He was impressed and enlisted her as an unofficial adviser.”

And while there is some historical debate on how much she contributed to the success of individual battles, including the famous Tennessee River Campaign, the evidence was clear enough to some Dorchester County natives to enlist Eastern Shore painter Laura Era to repaint Francis Bicknell Carpenter’s iconic “Lincoln Cabinet” to allow Anna Ella to take her proper seat at the table.

The Spy talked to Laura this week about the project and her hopes to find the appropriate home for this dramatic, and some would say a far more accurate, profile of Lincoln and his advisors.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Laura Era’s work please go here

Maryland 3.0: TEDCO’s Startup Help on the Shore with Bill Bernard

For almost twenty years, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, otherwise known as TEDCO, has been the state’s s lead source for business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies.

And during their nineteen years of existence, TEDCO’s track record has been impressive. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have been helped in taking their products to market through mentoring, funding and networking.  That has led to over $110 million in investment dollars and over 350 and research programs funded since 1998.

But what does that mean for the Eastern Shore?

We asked that question to Bill Bernard, TEDCO’s new representative for the Eastern Shore, to get a better idea of how TEDCO works. Bill’s response was to give the example of a very young entrepreneur with a great business idea but who needed help getting that product to market.

Bill also cites his work with hotDesks, a program started by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center, to provide the tools (like 3D printers) and business consultation support through its Revolution Labs program.

It doesn’t hurt that Bill comes to this new position after a long history of entrepreneurship after a tour of duty in the Peace Corps and a career in marine biology with the Smithsonian Institution. His businesses have included an aquaculture company that operated in the Dominican Republic, and more recently, founding 3Di’s Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Division.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about TEDCO please go here

Threatre Review: Wacky Neil Simon Classic ‘The Odd Couple’ at TAP

Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” produced by Tred Avon Players (TAP) and currently playing at Oxford Community Center, may be one of the most successful of Simon’s plays – and considering his long and fruitful career, that’s saying a lot.

The basic concept is simple – two friends who are very different and the conflicts that occur when they become roommates.  One is fastidious, the other a carefree slob. But how many Broadway plays of any era have spawned not only a hit movie but three TV sitcoms – plus various other spin-offs including an animated cartoon and a TV sitcom version (by Simon himself!)

Simon’s play, which premiered in 1965, features mismatched roommates Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison – the one an uptight “neat freak,” the other an easy-going slob.

The original production starred Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix. The play took home four Tony Awards: Best Actor (Matthau), Best Author (Simon), Best Director (Mike Nichols) and Best Scenic Design (Oliver Smith). Matthau reprised his role in the 1968 film, with Jack Lemmon taking the role of Felix. And in the long-running TV series (1970-75), Matthau was replaced by Jack Klugman and Tony Randall played Felix. For some unknown reason, the TV series changed the spelling of Felix’s name from “Ungar” to “Unger.”  At TAP, they stick to the original.

In this female version, the fastidious roommate was played by Sally Struthers of “All in the Family” fame where she played Gloria, the ditzy daughter of Archie and Edith Bunker and “Meathead’s” wife.  Rita Moreno, who is well-known for her role in “West Side Story” played the messy roommate.  Moreno is one of only twelve performers who have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony.  This is definitely a story concept with characters that have drawn major talents over the decades.

The plot revolves around the personality clash between the two roommates – Oscar’s life, like his apartment, is a shambles, with unpaid bills, broken appliances, and a failed marriage, but he takes it all in stride, although he gets a bit misty eyed when his five-year-old son calls him on the phone. Meanwhile, his fellow journalist Felix is a hypochondriac who fusses over every detail of his life.  Everything must be  just so! Felix upbraids himself – and everyone around him – when things are not up to his impossible standards.  Every glass must have a coaster. But he’s a terrific cook!  The situation is ideal for comedy – in fact, it’s been used or adapted many times, including in the current TV hit, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Best friends, Oscar and Felix, have at it!    

The play opens at the Friday night poker game in Oscar’s apartment in New York City, sometime in the early 1960s. Four of the six regulars are at the table. The interplay between the characters and several comic bits – the soggy potato chips and “green” sandwiches Oscar brings the other players, due to a broken refrigerator – make it clear that Oscar is a complete slob and living on the edge of financial disaster.  As the evening goes on, it becomes evident that one of the regular players, Felix, is missing – and then they find out that Felix and his wife are getting separated.  Now they’re really worried.

The weekly poker game

But then Felix shows up, quite late, and everyone feigns indifference as he wanders about the room, clearly at his wits’ end. Oscar offers him a bed for the night, and Felix accepts – and after the other players leave, he offers him a place to stay. The basic premise of the play is now set up – in effect lighting the fuse for an explosion the audience senses is bound to happen. But, of course, it would spoil the fun to give much more away.

Cast and crew of “The Odd Couple”

The Tred Avon Players’ production, directed by Ed Langrell, assembles a reliable cast of regulars from local theater productions. Click on link for a Spy interview with the two lead actors, Bill Gross as Oscar and Bob Chauncey as Felix.

Bill Gross takes the role of Oscar,  Loud and physical, he is convincing as a macho ‘60s sportswriter. He does a good job of portraying the character’s growing annoyance with his fastidious roommate, despite his carefree attitude toward most of the rest of his daily life.

Oscar, Vinnie, and Murray the cop listen at the bathroom door, ready to bust in in case Felix tries to “harm himself.”  

Bob Chauncey projects a nice nervous energy as Felix, capturing the suggestions of femininity as the character cooks, cleans, and performs the other duties of Oscar’s missing wife – and reveals an emotional softness that must have seemed far stranger in 1964 than it does now. He is a snappy dresser and his hair looks perfectly sculpted. Chauncey is hilarious when he loudly attempts to clear his sinuses,

While Felix and Oscar get star billing, the rest of the ensemble plays an important part in the play. The four poker buddies – all recognizable New York character types – are very well cast.

Patrick Fee does a fine job as Murray, the street-wise cop with a heart of gold. His mobile face and physical presence are just right for the character. A solid job by one of the Shore’s more versatile character actors.  Most recently, he played Bottom the Weaver in Shore Shakespeare’s production of “Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.”

Felix makes sure that each poker player has a napkin and a coaster – and uses them!

Roy, Oscar’s accountant, is played by Paul Briggs who deftly shows his character’s exasperation and concern about Oscar’s irresponsible finances. Briggs holds his nose and drops the stinky garbage out the window.  But he keeps his feelings  in check when Felix appears, becoming reasonable and pragmatic when it is needed, just like an accountant.

The cynical Speed is played by Brian McGunigle, who is now completing  an impressive run of five roles in a row in plays varying from Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” to Tred Avon’s “A Man of No Importance.” His character’s feigned indifference is well conveyed. But of course, Speed really does have compassion for Felix and McGunigle makes these two seemingly opposite emotions believable.

Zach Schlag is cast as mild-mannered Vinnie, whose henpecked home life is a contrast to the broken marriages of the two main characters. The character’s pliability is the source of several entertaining bits, providing great physical comedy as Vinnie slips and falls while frantically racing around the room to help save Felix.  Although he doesn’t have as many lines as some others, his expressions can be hilarious as he reacts to the other characters.

Felix and the two sisters have a good cry. He’s such a sensitive man!

Lisa Roth and Anna Kusinitz-Dietz play the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn and Cecily.  The sisters, a divorcee and a widow,  are originally from England and now live in a neighboring apartment.  They have taken quite a shine to the roommates. Their interactions with Felix and Oscar are a fine bit of Neil Simon comedy, well acted by the sisters as they flirt mischievously or cry copiously.  Their giggles and glances are infectious and the audience loved them. On Thursday night when we were there, the audience broke into spontaneous applause as the sisters left the stage.  It was not the end of the scene.

The set, consisting entirely of Oscar’s living room, is worth walking up for a closer look at intermission or after the play closes – details such as an old manual typewriter and a beat-up baseball glove are letter-perfect. The subtle changes in the room as Felix’s “neatnik” influence begins to be seen are nicely done, as well. The costumes are also right on – especially the Pigeon sisters’ early-‘60s colorful dresses with bright, shiny pocketbooks and knee-high boots, Oscar’s #7 Yankees jersey and Speed’s Hawaiian shirts. The soundtrack – designed by Fee – has a nice selection of period-perfect music. A pleasure to see the little touches so well taken care of.

The 50-plus years since the play was written are evident in many details of the plot and dialogue. For example, it’s no longer that unusual for a man to be a good cook – as Felix is. The sums of money mentioned – 34 cents for a pack of cigarettes, for example — are vivid reminders of what inflation has done, while the characters’ concern over the cost of a long-distance phone call is a historical curiosity in today’s era of unlimited cell phone plans.

And hints – quite humorous hints! – that the relationship between Felix and Oscar echoes their failed marriages, probably seemed edgy if not outright taboo in the early ‘60s.  The uptight culture associated with the 1950s lingered into the early ’60s. Hippies hadn’t happened yet and the sexual revolution was still on the horizon. Simon was exploring new territory. He used comedy to explore relationships and situations that would raise few eyebrows today but were uncomfortable for most people at the time. Divorce, separation, alimony, all these were looked upon very differently then than now. Those who lived through those times will find the contrast from today both interesting and amusing; younger audiences may find it an entertaining history lesson. But this is all subtext, the play is a comedy about relationships and surviving breakups, whether it be with spouses or friends. It asks whether people can change and grow. And it ends with hope and a laugh.

There were plenty of laughs in the large audience for Thursday’s performance, which director Langrell described as a “pre-opening” opening. If you’re in the mood for a classic comedy, with  nostalgia for a different time, it’s well worth the trip to Oxford Community Center, 200 Oxford Road. It’s about an hour from Chestertown or 15 minutes from Easton. The play runs just over two hours.  Remember it starts at 7:30 not 8 p.m.!

“The Odd Couple” is playing through August 20. Shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for students. Call 410-226-0061 for reservations – which are strongly recommended, judging by the sizable audience Thursday.  This Sunday’s matinee, we are told, is practically sold out already!

Photos in this article are courtesy of Randy Bachand. Thank you, Randy!

Check back – we’ll be posting more photos.

Felix straightens a picture. It was just a tiny bit off-kilter. And it was driving him crazy!

She likes me!

L-R Standing: Speed, (Hawaiian shirt), Murray, Vinnie, Briggs, Oscar,  Seated – Felix

Murray, Speed, and Oscar

Vinnie tries to sweet-talk Felix into some sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easton Utilities enters Phase III of Sustainability Campus

To continue moving toward resource conservation and protecting the environment, Easton Utilities is pleased to announce the third phase of the Easton Sustainability Campus with the installment of a two megawatt photo voltaic solar array. The solar component of the overall project is being partially funded by a $3 million grant from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). “The investment by MDE will enable Easton Utilities to create a unique facility highlighting Easton and Maryland as leading innovators in sustainability and the use of renewable energy,” said Hugh E. Grunden, President and CEO of Easton Utilities. “It is a perfect example of state and local governments working together to protect our environment and serve our community.”

The addition of a solar array to the current renewable energy sources located at the Enhanced Nutrient Removal Wastewater Treatment Facility brings significant benefits to Easton Utilities customers, as well as the Easton community. Utilizing alternative forms of energy helps offset costs allowing Easton Utilities to generate locally instead of purchasing energy off the grid. “With new standards for Maryland energy companies, we are required to provide a significant percentage of our overall portfolio from renewable energy sources annually,” said John J. Horner, VP of Operations for Easton Utilities.

The solar array portion of the project allows everyone to benefit from shared renewable energy and alleviates a national issue on a local level. Regardless of housing situation, location and whether one is a homeowner or renter, anyone can participate without any incurred costs. “The Sustainability Campus is a significant step to demonstrate Easton Utilities commitment to environmental stewardship in our community benefiting all citizens,” stated Grunden.

Prior to the solar array installment, Easton Utilities recently completed the installation of a generator to convert methane gas from the Mid-Shore Regional Landfill to electricity. It is notable, by capturing methane gas and converting it a fuel source, Easton Utilities is removing this greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere. Methane gas is estimated to have a global warming impact 25 times greater than CO2.

Co-located at the ENR Wastewater Treatment Facility, these projects create a system of multiple, diverse, renewable energy sources within our own community. And there is more on the horizon – Easton Utilities is currently collecting wind data to determine the feasibility of adding a wind turbine to the Campus. The possibility of incorporating battery storage is also being considered.

Easton Utilities is a community-owned, not-for-profit utility and telecommunications company operating the Electric, Natural Gas, Water, Wastewater, Cable Television, and Internet services for the Town of Easton and portions of the surrounding area. Please visit www.eastonutilities.com or call 410-822-6110 to learn more.

Jeff Trice Named Economic Development Director for Dorchester County

Eastern Shore native Jeff Trice has been named Dorchester County’s new Economic Development Director.

Most recently, Trice was the Director of Business Solutions for the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation where he worked with federal agencies, defense contractors, airlines and other businesses to expand the county’s employment base.

An experienced business veteran, Trice has launched workforce initiatives, created training programs and grown jobs at the county, regional and state level throughout Maryland.  He’s also started three businesses during his career.

“We are very excited to have someone of Jeff’s caliber joining our economic development team,” said Jeremy Goldman, Dorchester County Manager.  “We look forward to leveraging his experience and know how to continue the department’s success in developing and recruiting businesses to all of Dorchester County.”

From 2010 to 2016, Trice was Business Services Program Manager for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation (DLLR) Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning. He also served as Special Project Coordinator for DLLR’s Upper Shore Division of Workforce Development.

Trice, who started his new position on July 1, views the Economic Development team as integral to the economic growth and stability of Dorchester County.

“I live and breathe business, but I also believe in taking a holistic approach and broad economic view of our county’s opportunities and challenges,” he said. “It’s not just about serving businesses. Economic development should include efforts that support career programs in our schools, grow the real estate tax base, create job opportunities and serve the citizens of Dorchester County.”

A native of Caroline County, Trice is now a resident of Preston. He started Marshy Hope Realty in Federalsburg in 2002 and served as President of the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors in 2009.

“It’s nice to be back on the Shore and have the opportunity to have a positive impact where I live.”  I hope to leverage a lot of what we do across multiple counties, cooperating and collaborating to market the Shore.”

Trice served in the United States Navy for eight years and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. He earned a BS Degree in Marketing from the University of Maryland College Park and is currently working toward certification with the International Economic Development Council.

He joins an established County economic development team that includes Business Development Manager Susan Banks, Eastern Shore Innovation Center Manager Steve Dolbow and Executive Assistant Tina Thompson.