Roadside memorials under sensitive scrutiny in Millsboro

 

MILLSBORO – Roadside memorials that symbolize grieving in the loss of a loved are under the microscope in the town of Millsboro.

Following a presentation by Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway at the March meeting, town council is weighing the pros and cons of roadside memorials in terms of public nuisance, private property encroachment and public safety versus the grieving and non-closure factor.

Millsboro town council is weighing the pros and cons of roadside memorials, such as this one on Monroe Street in Millsboro.

Chief Calloway provided photos of the four memorials within town limits. One, he said, got to the point he reached out to the family on several occasions and ultimately removed it, leaving just one cross at the site.

“It got to be carried away,” Chief Calloway said. “I personally removed that memorial, but I left one cross to be consistent with other memorials.”

“One of the reasons why a lot of those roadside memorials were not removed right away was because I was working with another police agency and there was concerns about the grieving family and what we could be doing here to that family,” said Chief Calloway.

Among the town’s concerns: how long do they remain at the site and how big can they be?

Chief Calloway said his review of current town ordinances found nothing definitive that spells out any code language regarding roadside memorials.

A roadside memorial ordinance is an agenda item for Millsboro town council’s April 2 meeting.

Chief Calloway told council there are two memorials located on Monroe Street, one is on U.S. 113 and Delaware Avenue and another at Old Landing Road and northbound U.S. 113.

Millsboro’s town solicitor, attorney Mary Schrider Fox suggested that council consider public safety, motoring distraction and property value aspects.

“I think one of the other issues that we could come across, if it is on someone’s private property technically and the owner has given permission for it to be there,” said Ms. Schrider Fox. “That might be a little bit different scenario than if it’s technically within a right of way even though it’s the grassy shoulder, it’s still the right of way. It might fall into a category of like lawn ornaments for private property.”

Ms. Schrider Fox planned to further research the issue, which she said is evident nationwide, and come back with something for the April meeting.  “So, I’ve got a couple of rabbit holes to go down to see how others might regulate it to give us some ideas,” the town solicitor said.

Chief Calloway said one idea might be a designated location for memorials like what the state of Delaware does. Another idea is to have a memorial bench, possibly at Cupola Park, recognizing names of loved ones.

“Putting a memorial at Cupola is OK but it doesn’t really do what I think these people are trying to do. It’s not the healing process. There are cemeteries for that,” said Millsboro Mayor John Thoroughgood. “It’s unfortunate that somebody has lost their life. What it does do is it brings awareness that something bad happened here.”

In response to Mayor Thoroughgood’s inquiry regarding the reason for the large memorial, Chief Calloway said the family’s concern was “when their loved one died at this point there hasn’t been closure. There hasn’t been somebody that has been apprehended because of this. The hope that they said was if that memorial was there it would provide awareness to the public that this person has not been apprehended and maybe somebody would reach out and say, ‘I know who it was.’”

“You have to go back to what is the point: the healing process. It is part of the healing process,” Mayor Thoroughgood added. “I’m OK with it. But I think you need to be off the right of way of the state and town. And it needs to be one cross per incident and put on their property or private property. I’m not in favor of like 10 or 12 crosses in one site. It decreases the value of people’s property, and you wouldn’t want it at your house.”

Mayor Thoroughgood suggested council digest what the police chief presented and come back in April with some answers.

“We don’t have hardened hearts,” said Mayor Thoroughgood.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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