Elks on Kirkwood subject of residential vote

DOVER — It’s time for action.

That’s the mindset of 4th District Councilman Roy Sudler Jr., as he hopes residents come out and cast their votes regarding the future of the Elks Lodge at 217 N. Kirkwood St. Tuesday.

The event will be held at the Solid Rock Baptist Church Community Center on 109 N. West St. in Dover from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Eligible voters are residents who live on Kirkwood, Cecil, West, Fulton and Queen streets.

Residents must driver’s licenses or other IDs to verify their addresses.

“I chose those streets because they are affected by this the most,” Mr. Sudler said.

Dover Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. has called for a special vote on the future of the Elks Lodge on Kirkwood Street. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Dover Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. has called for a special vote on the future of the Elks Lodge on Kirkwood Street. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Mr. Sudler said he wanted to take action, due to residents’ concerns about the perception of violence around the Elks Lodge.

“In July we held a community meeting in regard to the amount of criminal activity at the Elks,” Mr. Sudler said.

“From that meeting a neighborhood watch was formed, but problems have still persisted in the area.

“Residents have complained of hearing gunshots,” he said, “and so from there I decided to call for a vote to see what thee people wanted.”

But Willie Alexander, who holds the title of exalted ruler of the Elks Lodge, believes the establishment is being treated unfairly.

“I think he’s putting the cart before the horse,” Mr. Alexander said. “I don’t think we’re getting a fair chance.

“Nothing has happened inside of the establishment, but stuff does happen once we’re closed,” he said.

The establishment is open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the weekends, with varying hours on weekdays.

“People tend to hang out and loiter and that’s when things seem to happen,” Mr. Alexander said. “We don’t have control over what people do outside of the Elks once we’re closed.”

Since January there has been 103 complaints on North Kirkwood Street, said Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman, Dover

Police public information officer. Those complaints cover the entire street, not just the Elks Lodge.

“The complaints include everything,” Cpl. Hoffman said. “It includes assaults, loitering and property damages. It’s a wide range of everything.”

Mr. Alexander believes the Elks get blamed for complaints along North Kirkwood Street.

“These activities happen in front of the Elks,” Mr. Alexander said. “These calls are based on the surrounding areas, or on North Kirkwood Street.

“People are doing drive-by shootings and we’re getting blamed for it. You hear about shootings happening at Dover Downs and you don’t hear people talking about closing them down.”

Residents will vote by checking yes or no on a piece of paper and placing it inside a ballot box.

A voting machine from the Department of Elections will be in the building, but it only will be used to educate people how to use the machine properly for future voting purposes.

“They won’t be voting using the machine,” said Doris Young, director of the Department of Elections for Kent County.

“It’s more a referendum of sorts,” she said of Tuesday’s vote, “which isn’t our responsibility. When it comes to asking questions on a specific issue such as this one we’re not responsible for those types of events.”

“But it will be used to teach those, who may not know how,to vote. Having the machine there for that purpose is free of charge.”

Mr. Sudler said he’s expecting people to come out to vote, but regardless of the outcome he plans to take action based on what the residents think is best for the community.

“If the people want it to stay then that’s what it is,” Mr. Sudler said. “That means that’s what they want and I’m fine with that.

“At least 30 to 40 people come out to our community meetings, so I’m at least expecting that much to be in attendance. But I’m not going to continue to wait on a certain amount of people to take action,” he said.

“But if people don’t come out to voice their opinions, then I don’t want to hear any complaints that we didn’t try to resolve the issue moving forward because you have failed to do your part.”

Mr. Sudler already has a few ideas regarding the Elks if residents want the establishment to relocate.

“Regardless of the outcome, we’ll have a follow-up meeting,” Mr. Sudler said. “But if people don’t want the Elks here I’ve been in talks with NCALL and Habitat for Humanity to potentially buy out the property and turn the building into a home.”

NCALL is a nonprofit organization based in Dover that specializes in affordable housing development, education and lending.

“I would have to talk to the city and see what the proper steps are, as of right now I don’t know what the procedure is going about it trying to make that potential change, but I will soon.”

Mr. Sudler said he’s just trying to resolve the concerns of residents in the community.

“My job is to be the people’s voice,” he said.

“It’s not me that wants a change; it’s the people in the community and as their leader they give me my marching orders and I just follow their commands.”

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