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'Change of heart:' Council votes to relocate Talbot Boys monument to Civil War park in Virginia

EASTON — After years of back and forth between locals and elected officials, the Talbot County Council voted Tuesday, Sept. 14, to relocate the controversial Talbot Boys statue from the county courthouse grounds to a historic Civil War battlefield in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

In a change of perspective, it was Republican council member Frank Divilio who introduced the resolution to move the statue to a Civil War battlefield in Virginia to the council Tuesday evening. Divilio previously voted to keep the statue in its current Easton location during the 3-2 council vote in August 2020.

Divilio’s resolution proposed relocating the Talbot Boys statue from the county courthouse lawn in Easton to the Cross Keys Battlefield, a private park in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Once there, the statue will be placed under the care of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the region’s Civil War battlefields and other historic sites. The cost to move the statue will also come from a private fund, not the taxpayers of Talbot County.

Three out of the five council members voted in support of Divilio’s administrative resolution. Pete Lesher, the council’s vice president and lone Democratic member, joined with Republican council member Corey Pack to vote in support of the resolution to relocate the statue. Council president Chuck Callahan and Laura Price, both Republicans, voted against the measure.

Price also planned to introduce her own administrative resolution at the council meeting — a proposal to create a Civil War unity monument featuring the existing Talbot Boy and a newly constructed Union Boy on the same base. While the text of her resolution was read at the meeting, she declined to formally introduce it, instead saying that the public needed to have an opportunity to comment on it.

When introducing his resolution, Divilio addressed one of the common questions many residents had been asking him: why the change of heart? Initially, he wanted to let Talbot County residents decide what to do with the statue and put the question on the 2022 ballot.

“While I still feel this would’ve been the best for us, we can no longer delay resolution,” he said. “The Talbot Boys issue has divided our community for too long and has sidelined many other important things the county council and county government needs to address.”

Divilio also addressed why he chose to introduce his proposal through an administrative resolution, which does not allow public comment. After 18 months of public activism, he believes the council is “well-versed” in how the community feels on the Talbot Boys issue, so delaying the decision would do more harm than good.

“It’s time to make a decision and move forward,” he said. “Tonight, I might make some new friends, I might lose some old ones, and if you’re angry with me, that’s okay.”

Lesher commended Divilio for his resolution and work in securing a different location for the statue.

“This resolution will bring us closer to resolution,” Lesher said. “There is still much work to do to make Talbot County an equitable and just place for all to live and work.”

Pack also voiced his support for Divilio’s resolution.

“I’ve had the change of heart that you have apparently gone through as well, and it requires some deep soul searching, it requires a reflection upon self,” Pack said, referring to his vote to keep the statue on the courthouse grounds several years. “And you’re not going to make everybody happy in your office, I know that, but you have to do what you believe in your mind is the right thing to do.”

After delaying her own resolution, Price expressed her disapproval in Divilio’s decision to move forward with voting on his administrative resolution and asked him to hold off on it to allow for public feedback.

“For the same reason I did mine, I believe that this is wrong, and it’s not anything to do with my opinion,” she said, stressing the importance of the public hearing process.

Some members of the Move the Monument Coalition who packed the council meeting room shook their heads and chuckled in disapproval hearing Price’s comments. In response, Price called out those chuckling for disrespecting her and the other members of the council.

Similar to Price, Callahan said he would have loved for the public to have an opportunity to comment. He also asked Divilio to consider delaying the vote so the public could express their feelings, which Divilio respectfully declined.

The measure to relocate the Talbot Boys statue passed 3-2 just before 7:30 p.m.

Immediately after the vote, members of the Move the Monument Coalition in the meeting room began applauding. Cheers could be heard coming from those gathered outside of the courthouse.

Talbot County Assistant Public Defender Kisha Petticolas, one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit petitioning to remove the statue from the courthouse grounds, welcomed the council vote.

“I will just say that it is about time, and it is a victory for African Americans in Talbot County and for all who believe in diversity and equity and inclusion,” she said. “It is not equitable to have this on the courthouse lawn. This is not the end of the story with the statue.”

Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at njones@chespub.com.

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Eyes in the sky: CAP's Bay Patrol is more than 50 years old

EASTON — The Cessna 172, a small fixed-wing aircraft, flew slowly across the Chesapeake Bay on Sept. 6, soaring over crowds of boaters on Labor Day from more than 1,000 feet in the air.

The two Civil Air Patrol members inside the plane were scanning the blue waters vigilantly for people in distress, suspicious activity and environmental disasters. CAP was conducting the flight as part of an annual summer Bay Patrol that begins Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

The summer weekend flight patrol across the main waterways of Maryland is a vital part of the nonprofit, volunteer and civilian-based organization, which is also an auxiliary unit of the U.S. Air Force.

Bay Patrol has soared past 50 years of service. It remains an integral part of safety operations in Maryland and has helped save countless lives over the years, but the mission flies under the radar for many Marylanders, who might be unaware of its importance.

Nationally, CAP has 61,000 active members enrolled and 560 aircraft in its fleet. The organization is credited with saving 82 lives annually nationwide — meaning patrols like this are essential to its overall task of search and rescue.

On the second to last flight for this year’s Bay Patrol, pilot Mike Miles flew the airplane on a nearly two-hour route, traveling from Easton Airport to Annapolis, then down toward Calvert County and all the way back up to Rock Hall. Miles, a senior member of CAP, was conducting his second Bay Patrol since joining the organization in 2019.

Seated next to him was the mission operator, Lt. Col. Archie DeJesus, the squadron commander for the Easton Composite Squadron. He had his eyes fixed on the ground below him for the entire flight, and was also patched in with the operations center out of Martin State Airport.

“If we see something we’ll start to circle it, and (we will) start making radio calls to report it,” said Miles. “So if they need anything, they can call somebody out.”

The flight ended without the identification of any emergency, but overall, this year’s Bay Patrol was crucial.

CAP’s Maryland Wing detected two emergency locator transmitters — beacons attached to aircraft that activate in an emergency — and also found an oil spill near a marina. The Maryland Wing flew over 116 hours during Bay Patrol this year.

CAP works closely with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard, local marine law enforcement — and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, which funds the program every year.

“By adding another resource to monitor for environmental, ecological, or hostile human threats to the state of Maryland and the United States, we add a cost-effective multiplier to increase our overall capability to protect these assets that are critical to the health of the state and nation,” wrote Walter Landon, the director for the Office of Homeland Security, in a letter to CAP this year.

CAP is authorized by the state to fly Bay Patrol on Saturday and Sundays during the summer, but they also patrol on Fridays and Mondays during holiday weekends. CAP typically flies about three patrols a day.

CAP’s flights cost about $175 per hour. But CAP saves money, considering other state agencies that would have to do the mission in lieu of CAP, like Maryland State Police, primarily operate helicopters that cost a lot more to operate. Besides, it’s easier for an airplane to patrol, said DeJesus, the Easton commander.

“It’s not ideal to do this route. You need some kind of fixed-wing aircraft that can go slow,” he explained. “Our super pilot can configure it so we are going at the right altitude, and we’re going to cruise.”

Along with emergency response in the waterways, Bay Patrol keeps an eye on critical state infrastructure like the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, Cove Point Liquid National Gas Terminal, The Baltimore Harbor and the Bay Bridge.

While CAP was formed as part of the Air Force auxiliary in 1941, Bay Patrol began in 1969, 52 years ago.

“There was an aircrew that spotted a pair of kayakers that were stuck in the middle of a sandbar — so they were eventually rescued after it was reported. Crews have also found kayaks or rafts that broke away from their moorings and drifted in the middle of the water,” said DeJesus of prior operations. “We have been meeting this requirement for quite a long time.”

Most famously, CAP’s Bay Patrol assisted with the rescue effort of a cabin cruiser that exploded and sank in 1973 in Tangier Sound, putting eight people in peril until they were successfully rescued by the Coast Guard.

Squadrons throughout Maryland Wing, which has 1,500 total members across the state, all contribute to Bay Patrol.

The Easton Composite Squadron has one airplane, the Cessna 172, and flew three Bay Patrol missions this year- a vital part of the Bay Patrol because of its proximity to the Bay DeJesus explained.

“We are really lucky to be one of the squadrons that has an aircraft given to us,” he added. “That plays into the fact that we’re on the Eastern Shore. It’s an advantage to have the aircraft here because other parts of Maryland are under that special use umbrella, so it’s not easy for them to take off.”

The Bay Patrol may have wound up operations for Bay Patrol this year, but CAP’s cadets and members are prepared year round in the event of an emergency, always remaining an important search and rescue organization.

With the exception of assisting with a plane crash in Easton on June 24, it’s been relatively quiet for CAP during the pandemic, but it’s always welcome news when the coast is all clear.

“Thankfully, this summer was pretty benign,” said DeJesus.

There are 89 active cases of COVID in Talbot County, according to the local health department as of Tuesday. The Maryland Department of Health also reported 15 new deaths attributed to COVID.

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