MAYOR AND COUNCIL
NOVEMBER 21, 2016
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:33 p.m. In attendance were Council members Liz Gross, Linda Kuiper, Samuel T. Shoge 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 November 7, 2016. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the Mayor and Council minutes of November 7, 2016 as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating cash on hand for unrestricted use is $2,032,594.25 and there was assigned funds for waterfront initiatives in the amount of $180,480.00 included in those funds. Mayor Cerino stated that there was a separate fund for the Broad Reach sculpture donations in the amount of $74,656.69.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay bills. Mr. Stetson moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Ms. Colleen Kenny of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was present to discuss the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Ms. Terri Batchelor of DNR and Cynthia Saunders of the Tree Committee were also present.
Ms. Kenny stated that she was the EAB forester with the Maryland Forest Service and has been working with the Tree Committee in Chestertown to see if this invasive beetle from Asia was present in the area. She said that EAB kills species of native ash trees by feeding on the cambium of the tree. When trees are infected with EAB, the first thing noticed is woodpecker damage, foliage dying back and “D” shaped boring holes (native borers make round holes in the tree). She said that people may also see the bark splitting in vertical cracks and sprouts along the base of the trees indicating that the tree is in distress. She said that “ash snap” happens when the trees break off at the base and it is important to know this fact for public safety and for those removing the trees. Ms. Kenny stated that if a tree is infected with EAB it will die within 1 to 3 years as there is a 100% mortality rate unless the trees are chemically treated.
Ms. Kenny stated that EAB is in Western Maryland and was found for the first time on the Eastern Shore in 2015 on Kent Island. There are no cases of EAB in Kent County at this time, although it is probable that it is moving east toward Chestertown.
Ms. Kenny stated that a tree inventory was prepared for Chestertown, including all species of trees and Ash on Town streets, in parks and on the Washington College campus. These 524 trees included 60 different species, 70% of which were in good condition. There were 27 Ash trees found (12 on streets, 2 in Wilmer Park, and 13 on Washington College Campus). A number of trees had native borer holes but not EAB borer holes.
Ms. Kenny stated that there were 8 priority one treatment areas indicated on the study (2 at Washington College, 6 on Town Streets), 3 priority two treatment areas and 1 priority three treatment area. There were areas showing the trees indicating treatment on a map and were located on High Street, Water Street, Calvert, Mt. Vernon and Queen Street.
Ms. Kenny stated that trees with less than 30% crown die back could be treated chemically because they were still relatively healthy. Once a tree has too much crown die back it is a sign that there is more internal damage and the tree may fail even if it is treated. Rare species such as Carolina Ash and Pumpkin Ash should be treated in hopes of saving them. Trees within 10 – 15 miles of a known infestation should be treated. Treatments consist of trunk injections every 2 years by a licensed pesticide applicator and cost approximately $10.00 per diameter inch. The best time to treat is early spring (April and May). The Maryland Forest Service has a treatment cost share program, where 50% of the total cost on public or protected lands will be covered by the State of Maryland.
Ms. Kenny stated that if the option is not treat trees they should be removed and replaced. She said that if the wood was going to be used as firewood to be mindful to burn it where it was cut and not move the wood, causing infestation of another area.
Ms. Kenny stated that biocontrol was being researched and there are 4 species of parasitoid wasps native to the same region as EAB which have been approved for release in the U.S. The Maryland Department of Agriculture conducts the releases and this method was being looked at as a long-term strategy for treatment.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Town would like to file an application for EAB treatment in order to be ready for spring treatments of the Ash trees inventoried in Town. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this is a matching grant. Ms. Kenny stated that the total cost for treatment would be $2,600.00 and sharing the cost would be $1,300.00. There would be 2 to 3 years between treatments.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would like the Council to authorize the Mayor to sign an application for EAB treatment through the Department of Natural Resources. Mr. Stetson moved for the Mayor to sign all documentation to participate in a cost share program for treatment of EAB to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Ms. Saunders thanked Ms. Kenny and the Maryland Forest Service for their help with the Tree Inventory in Chestertown.
Chief Baker gave the police report for October 2016. Chief Baker stated that overtime was at 10% noting that the majority of overtime was for special detail due to parades and different events in Town requiring a police presence.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a bid opening held on Friday, November 18th for tree planting at the Kent County Middle School. A total of 3 bids were received, all equal in cost since the project had a stated budget of $11,500.00m as well as the specified tree species as bid requirements. The bid also required installation and a 1-year warranty and was part of the Community Parks and Playground Grant award. Mr. Ingersoll read the bids into the record and said that the most trees for the money was bid by Greenscapes Land Care, LLC with 55 trees from Tideland Gardens. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. de Mooy recommended the bid be awarded to Greenscapes Land Care, LLC. Ms. Gross moved to award the bid for tree planting at Kent County Middle School to Greenscapes Land Care, LLC, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that notices were published and sent to marine contractors for the work at the Marina which included bulk heading, walkways, and a launch ramp in the basin. He said that he was checking with DNR to see if work could continue after February 15th. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had copies of bid specifications if anyone would like them.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a letter was received from Peter Franchot explaining that income tax distributions from 2010–2014 had been reanalyzed by the Comptroller’s Office and the Town was receiving a rebate of $4,551.00. He said that boundaries between cities and counties are not easily determined by all street addresses and income tax funds were incorrectly distributed. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Comptroller’s Office would also review income tax returns for 2014-2016.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that earlier today he received a letter from Sultana Education Foundation with an offer to purchase the former police station building located at 333 S. Cross Street. Mayor Cerino recused himself from the discussion. Mr. Ingersoll read the letter into the record indicating that their bid was for $260,000.00 valid through November 30th. Sultana Education Foundation would apply for exemption from property tax but would pay the Town $750.00 annually as a payment in lieu of taxes (equivalent to out of Town taxes). The agreement also called for a 90-day study period during which the Sultana Education Foundation could explore the feasibility of their proposed use of the property and determine if a zoning variance would be approved to occupy the building for residential purposes (staffing and seasonal employees who work on the schooner).
Mr. Ingersoll stated that this property was put out to bid last year and when no bids were received the Town listed it with a local realtor. This was the first bid received. Mr. Stetson stated that the longer the Town holds on to a vacant building, the worse shape it is going to be in when it does sell. He said that this was a reasonable and fair bid and the Town would know that good citizens are purchasing it.
Mr. Shoge asked for clarification on the 90-day study period. Mr. Ingersoll stated that after the contract was signed, Sultana would have this time period to obtain conditional use approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals after a use review and recommendation by the Planning Commission.
Ms. Gross moved to accept the bid from Sultana Education Foundation for the purchase of 333 S. Cross Street (former police station) with the conditions stated in the bid of November 21, 2016 and for Mayor Cerino to sign all documentation necessary, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. Robbi Behr was present on behalf of the Support Our Schools Initiative to discuss support of the public schools in Kent County. She said that Dr. Couch has appealed to Governor Hogan for additional funding to the public school system. She said that their hope was that the individual Town Councils would write letters of support, not necessarily about funding, but indicating that schools are good for the communities in which they are located. Ms. Behr stated that if Kent County wanted to attract young families to the area, there had to be community schools for the children to attend. There was a problem with diminishing enrollment due to an aging population and not enough being done to appeal to a younger population. However, an excellent public school system was the first step to entice families to move to the area.
Ms. Behr stated that funding for students was based on a per pupil figure and as fewer students enroll, there is still the same overhead with less funding. She said that this lack of funding is affecting the entire county, not just the schools. As it stands, 4 of the county elementary schools would have to close in order to make up the budget deficit. Another problem is that not one school that can accommodate all the children in the County.
Mayor Cerino stated that this was difficult request for the Town Council as they are not responsible for funding the school system. He said that he would be happy to send a letter of support in support of the schools but could not get into the monetary issues.
Ms. Behr stated that she thought the schools in each community have a direct impact on development, real estate prices, jobs and job creation and should be recognized by all if Kent County was going to thrive. She thought this should be a priority for the future, even if there was a drain on resources currently.
Ms. Gross stated that it was her understanding that the School Board was to use the “rainy day” fund to make up the deficit in the budget and asked if the County Commissioners were supporting this approach to the Governor. Ms. Behr stated that the Commissioners were copied in Dr. Couch’s letter and she hoped that they would support it, noting that Dr. Couch was requesting a letter of support from the Commissioners.
Ms. Gross stated that it was worth stating that successful schools will help with economic development in all towns is Kent County.
Ms. Behr stated that she wanted to focus on that fact that elementary schools were important to bringing young families to the area and there were many plans in motion which will bring growth in the next couple years and consolidation at this point may be short-sighted.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would get in touch with Dr. Couch to discuss the issues the Town would include in the letter of support.
Mayor Cerino stated that on Friday, November 25th at 7:00 p.m. the lights will be turned on for Christmas and Santa will arrive in Town.
Mayor Cerino stated that on Saturday, November 26th at 10:00 a.m. the Christmas Parade will take place.
Mayor Cerino stated that in addition to Friday, December 2nd being First Friday, it was also the kick-off of Winterfest Weekend in Town.
Mr. Stetson stated that on November 16th he represented the Town at the Council of Governments meeting held in Betterton. He said that it was well-attended and a good organization to work for the betterment of the entire County.
Mr. Stetson stated that he attended the ribbon cutting of the Think Big Network on Friday, November 18th on Washington Avenue. He said that he also attended a ribbon-cutting for Advance Auto Parts on November 19th, which was next to the Think Big Network in the old Happy Harry’s building.
Mr. Stetson stated that on November 19th he attended a ground-breaking ceremony at Wilmer Park for the Broad Reach sculpture in honor of Alex Castro.
Mr. Stetson stated that he asked to have a 40 mph sign removed on Rt. 20 by the Gateway Park and asked if there was anything that could be done to have the sign taken down. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would contact State Highway Administration again.
Mr. Shoge stated that he has been working with Washington Park residents in terms of building a pavilion. He said that 4 poles have been donated by a utilities company for the pavilion. He thanked the Recreation Commission for their work and said that the efforts they are putting into the parks was appreciated.
Mr. Shoge stated that he would like to get the bike lanes on High Street repainted as they have faded and they were difficult to see.
Mr. Shoge stated that he thought the sale of the police station at 333 S. Cross Street would be tied to repaving. Mr. Ingersoll stated that was the original thought, although he saw the point that Ms. Kuiper made about paying off the debt service on the new police building’s mortgage. Mr. Shoge asked if there were certain streets that would be paved. Mr. Ingersoll stated that there would be streets in each ward painted but a commitment to paving had to be made and milling had to take place before paving.
Ms. Gross stated that the potential revenue from the sale of 333 S. Cross Street was in the current budget. Ms. Gross said that the Council should give a list of priorities in each ward for street repaving.
Ms. Kuiper stated that when the first half of the fiscal year budget was finalized, she would like a copy showing percentages for each line item.
Ms. Kuiper stated that the Farmers Market would be open on Wednesday, November 23rd.
Ms. Kuiper stated that Stam’s was scheduled to close on November 25th which was sad to hear as so many see it as an institution in Chestertown.
Ms. Gross stated that she wanted to thank Mr. Ingersoll for removing the speed bump at the bridge to Byford Court. She said she understood the intention of the remaining speed bump was to remind drivers to slow down before they hit the bridge and asked if monitoring of speeders was possible in that location. Chief Baker stated that he could move the speed board to that location. Mr. Ingersoll said he would like the speed board on the north side of the bridge where the shoulder allowed space for the board.
Ms. Gross stated that she also attended the Broad Reach groundbreaking and said it was a bittersweet event as the Town honored Alex Castro while at the same time saying goodbye as he moved to Florida. She said that the sculpture would be a beautiful addition to the Wilmer Park and the way it was being funded was remarkable.
There being no further business, Mr. Shoge moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:57 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor