MAYOR AND COUNCIL
RECREATIONAL FIELDS AT KENT COUNTY MIDDLE SCHOOL
JULY 29, 2014
Mayor Cerino called the public hearing to order at 7:00 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Liz Gross, Linda Kuiper and Samuel T. Shoge, W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager, Jennifer Mulligan, Town Clerk and guests.
Mayor Cerino read the Public Notice which was published in the Kent County News and on the Chestertown website as follows:
“The Mayor and Council of Chestertown will hold a public meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at Town Hall, 118 N. Cross Street, to discuss a proposed joint Community Parks and Playground Grant Application to be submitted by the Town of Chestertown, The Kent County Commissioners, the Kent County Board of Education and the Kent County Middle School for the comprehensive restoration of the recreational fields at the Middle School on East Campus Avenue. The public is welcome to attend and make comments.”
Mayor Cerino showed a PowerPoint presentation highlighting existing conditions at the Middle School and proposed amenities to restore the campus if the grant proposal was successful.
Mayor Cerino stated that originally the Chestertown Recreation Commission, under the lead of Bill Arrowood, put forth an effort to build a baseball field on the property. He said that implementation of the baseball field did not come to fruition, but the Mayor and the principal at the Middle School continued discussions on how to improve the school campus, which has led them to this point.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Town of Chestertown will serve as a conduit for potential funding through the Community Parks and Playgrounds Program. He said that the program, which was run through the State Department of Natural Resources, had to be applied for through a municipality. He said that the grant application was worked on in conjunction with the Superintendent of Kent County Schools, the Kent County Board of Education, the Kent County Commissioners, the Staff at Kent County Middle Schools and the Town of Chestertown.
Mayor Cerino stated that, the recreational facilities at the Middle School are long overdue for a facelift. He said that within the last few years, the school system went from 3 middle schools in Kent County to one central school. He said that the fields will also serve the residents of Chestertown because as part of the “joint use” agreement. The fields will be open to the public when school is not in session.
Mayor Cerino showed photos of the current condition of the campus. As a part of the plan, the tennis and basketball courts would be resurfaced and leveled. The gravel walking track would be paved with 5 exercise stations around the track. The area where the children played wall-ball would be paved immediately in front of the wall. There would be a baseball field in the southeast corner of the property (by Rolling Road and Campus Avenue) with 60’ base pads. He said that the renovations would include 3 improved entrance points that would be paved and widened for ADA accessibility. There would be landscape plantings added around the perimeter of the track and in other areas. Mayor Cerino said that he estimated cost of the project was in the neighborhood of $250,000.00.
Mayor Cerino stated that the compelling part of the grant application was that the State would know that as soon as this project was built out, it would be available to almost every child age 11 to 14 in Kent County when school was in session. Having the Town, County, and School Board working together was also an efficient and effective way to get the project done.
Mayor Cerino stated that one of the questions raised about the fields at the Middle School was whether Campus Avenue and Rolling Road could handle additional traffic and parking associated with the increased use of the campus. Mayor Cerino said that Campus Avenue and Rolling Road were heavily travelled at certain times of the day when school is in session. He said that after school and on weekends there was hardly any traffic on the streets. He said that he thought having some on-street parking in the area would be traffic calming as people tend to speed on both streets because they were wide.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Town met with the Kent County Commissioners on July 15th regarding the proposed project and he was in receipt of their letter of support. He said that after tonight’s meeting, public input might cause the design to be “tweaked”, but the grant application was due at DNR on August 18th. The Town would find out if the grant was awarded in Spring 2015, with the possible build-out by the 2015-16 school year.
Dr. Karen Couch, Kent County School Superintendent, was present and thanked the Council for their work on this project and for allowing the school the opportunity to have input on the design for the proposed grant. She said that she thought this would be a benefit to the entire neighborhood as well as the school. She said that she fully supported the project.
Mr. Bill Short, Kent County Commissioner, stated that he was a strong advocate for the project both for the school and the general population. He said that the project had the full support of the Kent County Commissioners.
Ms. Ellen Simmons of Campus Avenue stated that she was mostly concerned over the ongoing maintenance of the fields. Mayor Cerino stated that there would be a maintenance agreement in place for the property and said that the County would have to step up and make sure that the fields are well-maintained. Ms. Gross stated that maintenance was a concern, but with a well-written agreement should not be a problem. Mayor Cerino stated that the track would be paved, not gravel, which would ease maintenance. He said that the baseball field would likely require the most maintenance.
Ms. Lisa Orem, Vice Principal of Kent County Middle School, stated that the gravel used for track was free with stone moved from Garnett Elementary School. She said that from the start, the school knew that it would be difficult to maintain. The school could not spray during the school year because of the children, so it became even more difficult to maintain. She said that she does watch the security cameras at the school and the track, even in its condition, is still used quite a bit.
Mayor Cerino asked how long the tennis courts were functional before they fell into disrepair. Mr. Ellen Chamberlain, School Road resident, stated that the courts were used up until about 10 years ago, at which time the nets were torn down and never replaced. She said they were functional for about 35 years.
Mayor Cerino stated that once the area was repaved and regraded he was confident that it would last at least a decade with minimal maintenance. He said that he thought the bigger issue was mowing and keeping the baseball field weed free.
Ms. Chamberlain stated that she fully supported the project. She said that she was a teacher at the school for 19 years and she believed in teaching children lifetime sports, such as basketball and tennis. She said that she would much prefer to see tennis being played by the children than watching them use the courts for recess.
Mr. Bill Arrowood, Chair of Recreation Commission thanked Mayor Cerino for being able to pull off the approval of all involved agencies for this project. He said that he wanted to apologize to Mayor Cerino as his disappointment and angst over the baseball field project had made it difficult for him to work on this project. Mr. Arrowood stated that the current Mayor and Council is discussing the role of the Recreation Commission at this time, but as currently written and in the ordinance, the Recreation was the conduit for a project like this and they have not been consulted at all. He said that the Commission would have liked to have been an active part of the project and he personally fully endorsed any recreational opportunities for people in Chestertown and Kent County. He said that he hoped that future projects, especially those that need grant writing and would impact facilities for the residents, would be sent to the Commission they appointed.
Mr. Arrowood stated that he did have several comments regarding this proposal. There was no access to bathrooms, Campus and Rolling Road did not have sidewalks all the way around and needed them for ADA compliance, parking on the southeast corner needed cutout for handicap parking, and there should be a long-term maintenance program.
Mr. Ken Kerbel, Heron Point resident, stated that he showed the original baseball field plans to the residents at Heron Point and there were no objections to the plan. He said that he would be showing these plans this coming Friday and said that Mr. Garrett Falcone, Executive Director of Heron Point, has already given his support of the project and was writing a letter of support for the grant as well. Mayor Cerino stated that he would be happy to provide a copy of the PowerPoint presentation to Heron Point if they would like to have it.
Mr. Shoge stated that the Mayor and Council would be hosting a public meeting to discuss Gateway Park on Wednesday, August 20th at 7:00 p.m. in Town Hall. He said that work was imminent on the Gateway Park.
There being no further business, Mayor Cerino closed the public hearing at 7:35 p.m.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor