Mayor and Council Meeting – May 20, 2019

MAYOR AND COUNCIL

MAY 20, 2019

Mayor Chris Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Ellsworth Tolliver and Mauritz Stetson, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.

Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of May 6, 2019 or the budget Workshop of May 14, 2019. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of May 6, 2019 and the Budget Workshop of May 14, 2019 as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $623,025.11. Restricted funds for the Marina were set aside in the amount of $17,054.42.

Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. Stetson moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that the Sultana Education Foundation has been working with 7th graders in all of the Kent County schools on a year-long project to study Radcliffe Creek and use that watershed and eco-system as a case study to examine broader land use issues impacting the health of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay. The end product of the project was to put an action plan into work. He said that the 7th graders at the Kent School want to install two (2) wood duck boxes that they built. One of the wood duck boxes would be installed at the pond owned by the Sultana Education Foundation by Stepne Manor and they would like to install the second at the Gateway Park. Mayor Cerino stated that wood ducks like to nest in hollow trees, but hollow trees are sometimes difficult to find. The ducks like to nest in the boxes which are built with cone shaped safeguards in place to prevent attacks by snakes and other predators.

Mayor Cerino stated that the 7th graders will be demonstrating their end of year projects on May 28th from 2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. on the second floor of Town Hall and on Thursday, June 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Kent County Middle School.

Mayor Cerino called Mr. Jon Hanley forward and presented him with a proclamation for his 10 years of volunteer work as Chairman of the Environmental Committee. Mr. Hanley recently retired in order to focus on family and travel. Mr. Hanley thanked the Council for their help over the years and he said that he planned to continue as a member of the Environmental Committee and to continue volunteering in smaller ways.

Chief Baker presented the police report for April 2019. Chief Baker stated that most of the overtime in April was for the “War at the Shore” at Washington College.

Rev. Tolliver asked if Chief Baker had any information about recent opioid related incidences. Chief Baker stated that he receives a weekly report from the State Police and there was in increase in overdoses, mostly due to fentanyl being added to heroin as a cutting agent. He said that the Drug Task Force has been doing good work and making arrests.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that the “Cars on High” event coordinators were asking to close Park Row (in addition to their normally approved High Street closure) on Thursday, June 20, 2019 from 5 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. for a “Touch a Truck” event. Food vendors and an ice cream truck are also invited to attend the event. The Council agreed to the request.

Mr. Ingersoll introduced Ordinance 02-2019 Budget for Fiscal Year 2020. A public hearing on the budget was scheduled for Monday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m. The tax rate will be raised one penny to meet the guidelines for the State of Maryland Constant Yield ($.42 to $.43). The taxable base was $20,818,000.00 less than last year raising the Constant Yield Tax Rate from $.42 to $.42.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that this was a tough budget year and the Town has not heard back from the Kent County Commissioners regarding the request for a tax differential or tax offset. He said that the budget as presented has no raises or capital improvements included. Revenues were $4,038,364.00 and expenses were $3,887,005.00 with additional Marina debt (principle) of $91,500.00. There will be an excess of revenues in the amount of $59,858.00.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that there were many meaningful things that the Council had to consider cutting. Mr. Ingersoll stated that they looked at raising taxes, cutting curbside recycling, cutting the number of employees in each department and not giving raises in order to balance the budget. He said that there were many services offered in Chestertown that other towns do not have. He said that the Council should be proud that they offer curbside trash pick-up and now have a lovely waterfront with a functional Marina rather than one that was dilapidated.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mayor Cerino has properly said that the principle of the Marina loan should have been in the general fund because the loan was being paid from the general fund. He said that this makes it clear that over the last few years, the funds on hand and in the banks have been depleted by the loan. Mr. Ingersoll stated that changes to the budget can be made until June 3rd, at which time the budget must be adopted.

Mayor Cerino stated that he was surprised at the figures in the budget after raising taxes last year. He said that he did a 10-year study of the departments and said that real estate property tax revenues have been flat over that period, but the cost of public safety has risen 37% and the Public Works department raised 31%. He said that tax assessment revenues have not caught up and there is no assistance from the County. This puts the town behind considerably.

Mayor Cerino stated that the even though the Marina was expensive and even though its debt service was a small part of the budget it did make a dent, and having the grant in aid taken away by the County along with flat revenues and rising costs it made for a difficult budget.  Mayor Cerino stated that the Town also made the purchase of a new building for the Police Department a couple years ago which created additional debt service. Mayor Cerino stated that the County used to fund $110,000.00 of the budget annually with a grant-in-aid and the Town was paying the principle of the Marina loan at $91,000.00. He said that alone over a 6-year period was over $1.2 million out of the budget.

Mayor Cerino stated that administrative costs for the Town have only risen 3%. Mr. Ingersoll stated that taxes were not raised for a very long time and no other towns in the State of Maryland performing the services that Chestertown does are at a rate of $.42. He said noting that comparisons of other Towns who offered close to the same services were done and it was found that the tax rates in those towns were in the range of $.65 to $.80 per $100.00.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that in 2018 all the commercial properties in Town were reassessed by the State and many of those assessments were apparently challenged with the owners receiving abatements. He said that commercial construction was taking place at the new Dixon Business Campus which would help in 7 or 8 years after the Enterprise Tax deferments were finished. He said that the construction taking place on the waterfront lands owned by Washington College was all tax-exempt.

Mayor Cerino stated that there has been great feedback on the Marina to date. The marina is full for Tea Party weekend and Ms. Branham is doing a great job. There were 35 seasonal slip holders and more interested in renting slips. Mayor Cerino stated that there is still some work to be done at the Marina (mainly on the boat ramp) and David A. Bramble, Inc. is going to put down an additional layer of paving. There would also be added landscaping.

Mayor Cerino stated that Sam Shoge took drone photos of the Marina last year and he would like to have him do it again this year while the Tea Party was in full swing. He said that he would like approval for $200.00 for the drone shots. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he saw no problem with that expense and said that it would be good for promoting tourism.

Mayor Cerino asked for ward reports.

Mr. Foster stated that there were complaints over lack of maintenance with high grass and weeds. Mr. Ingersoll stated that it seems as though the same people are warned each year and if they have not already received letters, they will receive a letter notifying them that if their lawn is not maintained the Town will call in a lawn service to mow. If the bill is not paid it will become a lien on the property.

Rev. Tolliver stated that he was excited about the wood duck nest project at Radcliffe Creek that was discussed earlier in the meeting.

Rev. Tolliver stated that he spoke with representatives of the Opioid Intervention Crisis Team who went through his neighborhood this past week distributing Narcan. He said that everyone had to be diligent about this epidemic and that he was hoping to have the group give a presentation to the Council.

Rev. Tolliver stated that he did agree to the penny increase in taxes and he felt it was necessary in order to maintain the quality of life by continuing to the provide the services available to the Town residents, even though some sacrifices were made in the budget.   He said that Chestertown has one of the lowest tax rates on the Eastern Shore and provides many services that other towns do not.

Mr. Stetson stated that two (2) budget workshops were held and nobody wanted to cut anything out of the budget, but some cuts did have to be made.

Mr. Stetson stated that he attended the COG meeting on May 15th and made it clear to the County Commissioners present at the meeting that the tax raise and cutting of recycling was due to the Kent County Commissioners not giving anything back to Chestertown for the duplicate taxes paid by its citizens.

Mr. Stetson stated that a resident has volunteered to mulch all the trees at the Dog Park at his own expense.

Mayor Cerino stated that there was a ceremony at the Marina on Saturday, May 18th at 2:00 p.m., where a group of U.S. Marine Corp. Veterans who live in Chestertown and Kent County donated a yard arm, flags and a plaque. He said that the Street Crew added a beautiful brick base. The flags were raised for the first time and shortly thereafter were lowered to half-mast in honor of 1st Lt. Conor McDowell, who was killed in the line of duty during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton. His parents, Mr. Michael McDowell and Ms. Susan Flanagan, who live in Chestertown, were present for the service as was Conor’s fiancé and some other family members. He said that it was a lovely and moving service. The flags will be raised again on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27th.

There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Stetson moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:13 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:                                                             Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                                 Chris Cerino

Town Clerk                                                            Mayor

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