MAYOR AND COUNCIL
APRIL 6, 2020
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:39 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, 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 March 16, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of March 16, 2020 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $1,273,090.26.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. Herz moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously. The Mayor asked the Town Manager for his report.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that all employees (Office, Street Department, and Utilities staff) have been platooned to different work times for the duration of the Shelter-in-Place Order and it has been working. He said that the main questions coming into Town Hall were about what services were still in place. He said that the only service that had been suspended at this time was paid for bulk trash pick-up (, not to be confused with household trash/garbage which was never suspended). He said that for bulk trash, the Kent County Nicholson Transfer site was still open two days a week and residents could take their bulk trash there using purchase County dump tickets. Information pertaining to the dump site hours and where to purchase tickets would be posted on the website for Town residents (though already on the Kent County homepage).
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ordinance 04-2020 Establishing Chapter 138: Registration of Non-owner Occupied Short Term Rentals was introduced at the last Council meeting and was ready for passage. It was written at the recommendation of Kent County to register the short term rentals who are not paying the Hotel Tax. He said that this is for transient rentals in Town and recommended the Council adopt it. Following registration, Kent County has promised to collect the tax. Mayor Cerino stated that this would give the Town some control over short-term rentals.
Mr. Herz moved to adopt Ordinance 04-2020 Establishing Chapter 138: Registration of Non-Owner Occupied Short Term Rentals, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the 2019 Planning Commission Report was distributed to the Commission said that it would be forwarded to Maryland State Planning for their files.
Mayor Cerino read a Proclamation declaring Friday, April 24, 2020 as Arbor Day in Chestertown into the record.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to nominate Owen Bailey to the Planning Commission. Mr. Bailey would fill the vacancy left by Paul Showalter. Mr. Foster moved to nominate Owen Bailey to the Planning Commission, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino gave an overview of the huge changes nationally since the Council last met on March 16. At that time, there were 4,596 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the United States and today there are over 364,000 cases. Then there were 87 deaths reported in the country, now there are 10,800. He said that on March 16th there were no cases reported in Kent County and today there were 8 confirmed cases. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought that Kent County’s number was underreported because there was a shortage of test kits for the virus in our area.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Town created a Covid-19 Facebook response page to keep the public informed of what is being done in our area to combat and defend against the virus and to provide reports as they are disseminated by the State and County. The Mayor and Council now has limited access to the public in all government buildings, staggered employee coverage during work hours while remaining open normal business hours, has gone to virtual meetings and closed the Farmers Market until May 15.
Mayor Cerino stated that the traditional set up of the Farmers Market had both farmer and artisan vendors and would allow for too many people to gather in proximity to each other. He said that on the very day of the last meeting gatherings had been limited to 10 people with “social distancing” at 6’ apart. It was therefore deemed unsafe to have the market carry on in the way that it did at the time. The day following the last meeting it was reported by the Governor’s Office that farmers markets were considered essential, but work had to be done to protect the members of the community while allowing for the market to take place
Mayor Cerino stated that for the time being, if the Market is reopened as before, the artisans would not be allowed to vend until the State of Emergency was lifted by Governor Hogan. Mr. Herz stated that he has been working with the manager of the Farmers Market, Julie King, on solutions to enable the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables while protecting public safety. He said that Ms. King has been wonderful to work with. He said he couldn’t wait for the full market to be back in swing, but they came up with an interim plan that they thought could work for the time being.
Ms. King was present and stated that there were 13 vendors being considered for the temporary Market as follows: Hunters Seafood, Galena Blooms, Happy Chicken, King Mushroom, Oksana Produce, Carl’s Bakehouse, Anchor Nursery, Coops & Crops, Lapps Family Bakery, Dogwood Dairy, La Dolce Vita Farms, Where Pigs Fly, and Running W Farms.
Ms. King stated that the vendors she was suggesting relied the most on the Market for their income and were the only food vendors she was recommending to be permitted at this time. The Market would temporarily be moved to the Wilmer Park parking lot with the thirteen vendors being set up in every other parking space along the Wilmer Park Parking lot. The idea is to have market visitors park their vehicles at the KRM parking lot across Quaker Neck Road, enter by foot along the main sidewalk to the jogging path and then walk across to the vendor from that point. Pedestrian traffic would move in a counterclockwise pattern so that everyone moving in the same direction. Mr. Herz stated that if there are any overflow vendors or if the spacing outlined does not allow for a safe distance, some vendors may be moved to the other side of the parking lot.
Mr. Herz stated that he was unable to connect with KRM for use of their parking lot and he did not have a firm answer as to whether they had permission for parking. He also said that currently there is no working Wi-Fit at the Wilmer Park.
Ms. King stated that protocols will be in place to create a safe and sanitary environment. Vendors will be washing their hands after the exchange of money and when restocking. Produce will also be pre-bagged for minimal contact.
Ms. King stated that most customers pay in cash but may have to use credit cards or Venmo for transactions. She said that she will do her best to space everyone at least 6’ apart and put vendors who were known to be busier at different ends of the market to allow for optimal distancing.
Ms. King stated that she would have signs in place to remind patrons and vendors what was expected upon entrance to the market. She said that these practices have been put into place at other markets in the State of Maryland and have been working.
Ms. King stated that she understood why the market was closed but did think it was essential because she felt the food was safer coming from the farmer as there is less contact with these fruits and vegetables than one would find at the larger markets.
Ms. King stated that farmers had been travelling to deliver their produce, but she thought that delivery could possibly spread the virus if they were to encounter someone who had the virus in their travels. She thought that this plan would be safer for everyone involved.
Mayor Cerino stated that the parking lot would have to be totally empty when vendors arrive. He said that the Town would have to put up “No Parking” signs on Fridays and someone from the Farmers Market should be present to prevent people from entering by vehicle to the Wilmer Park on Saturdays. Ms. King agreed.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that barricades could be put at the entrance to the park and opened by the manager to let the vendors enter prior to the market. He said that there have been residents of the Scott’s Point Condominiums using the parking lot for their vehicles while work was taking place on their homes. He said that they will have to be advised to move their cars.
Mayor Cerino stated that visual cues had to send people the right way so that people adhered to the flow of traffic. Ms. Efland stated that stores have been taping off areas to show the 6’ distances and the same should be done for the Market. Mr. Ingersoll stated that larger signs, like the one on the screen, should be created and posted at the park entrances to show patrons what was expected of them for safety.
Mayor Cerino asked if Ms. King was going to be present to ensure that the Market ran the way that it was being presented. Ms. King stated that she would be on site and would explain to all those entering the park how the market would work. Mr. Herz stated that he planned to be there as well and would look for other volunteers to help direct traffic and tell people where to go.
Mr. Herz stated that Ms. MacIntosh had offered the Main Street Sanitation Station but they were moving away from that idea because it is portable and someone would have to set it up, many people would be using it, and then someone would have to be responsible for cleaning it. He said that he recommends that all vendors to have hand sanitizer and their own handwashing stations. Ms. King stated that in other markets the sanitation stations were not being used because of the potential hazard for spread of the virus.
Ms. King stated that some of the artisans are making masks and she said that she would reach out to see if masks could be made for the vendors and perhaps could be donated or sold to the patrons.
Ms. Efland stated that she liked this idea because it broke habits and would make people change their ways when visiting the Market during this time. Ms. King agreed, noting that this cannot be a social time and the layout was focused on moving people along after they picked up their produce.
Mr. Herz stated that vendors may be moved around and not remain in the same spot each week, but he thought the path they were instituting was important to follow. Ms. King stated that she thought Wilmer Park allowed for adequate spacing.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Wilmer Park has been wired with fiber and was going to get in touch with Scott Boone to see what the progress has been on installing Wi-Fi. He said that a Wi-Fi system on the northern bulkhead of the park was envisioned to supply Wi-Fi to the Park and the marina.
Mr. Foster thanked Ms. King and Mr. Herz for their work to get the Market running in a safe fashion while restrictions were in place for social distancing. He said that the Market is like a mini festival each week when it runs normally and the way that this is laid out will break that cycle and change the pattern for the time being.
Mayor Cerino stated that people had to understand that this was not a social situation right now, noting that the numbers showing the spread are now speaking for themselves. Ms. King stated that she thought people were taking the virus seriously, but people also needed their food.
Mr. Herz stated that he thought this was the safest way to open the Market but said that it was a potential vector to spread disease. He said that Chestertown’s population was largely at risk and people were shirking social distancing despite best intentions. He said that they had to protect their citizens first. Ms. King stated that they were doing the best they can to stop the spread while providing an essential need to the community.
Ms. Efland stated that the vendors had to be part of the enforcement during this time if they wanted the Market to remain open for the duration of the virus. Mr. Foster stated that this may be a good opportunity to model good behavior during this difficult time.
Mr. Foster suggested the marina parking lot as a back-up for the KRM lot if they could not clear approval. Mr. Ingersoll state that people have historically parked along Quaker Neck Road for festivals, bocce, and regattas. This practice was historically followed from the time the Armory held big events.
Mr. Herz asked how to handle new directives from Governor Hogan’s office or if another reason to stop the Market came up without having a formal meeting. Mayor Cerino stated that if the Council began to feel that that it was unsafe that they would have to agree to close it down. Mr. Herz asked if an officer could be present during the Market. Chief Dolgos stated that he would have an officer present and asked Mr. Herz to call him to discuss logistics.
Ms. Efland moved to reopen the Farmers Market to food vendors only at the Wilmer Park using the layout shown at this meeting, conditional upon parking being worked out beforehand, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried with four (4) in favor, Rev. Tolliver opposed.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward Reports.
Mr. Foster stated he spoke with Garrett Falcone at Heron Point and one of the residents has been diagnosed with Covid-19. He said that Heron Point is on a total lockdown with nobody allowed in or out of the facility.
Mr. Foster stated that the Stay at Home Order did not necessarily mean to hide indoors but to make sure to keep a physical distance from others when going outside to exercise.
Mayor Cerino stated that he asked all Councilmembers to reach out to the senior living facilities in each of their wards.
Mr. Herz stated that the data center bill that Jamie Williams at the Kent County Economic Development Office was working on passage through the General Assembly. The bill would remove the data center tax and smoothed the way for data centers to come to Kent County. He said that he was working with Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. de Mooy to ensure that Chestertown’s zoning allows data centers in certain zoning.
Mr. Herz stated that he reached out to the Downtown Chestertown Association and the businesses were worried about their future. He said that anyone could use the Shop Now Buy Later program by purchasing gift cards. He said that there have been many purchases to date and many people are also donating to provide meals to those on the frontline of the virus.
Mr. Herz stated that Main Street and the DCA were working hard to see the local businesses survive mandated closures.
Mr. Herz stated that he would like to institute an online form which would allow volunteers from each street (street captains) to keep an eye on those less mobile or the elderly on their blocks and he may implement a phone tree to contact those in need. He said that he would like to launch the initiative in the next couple days.
Mr. Herz stated that the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice has delivered unmeasurable amounts of food, including 15 tons donated from Cisco Systems over the past couple weeks. He said that the Lions Club has also donated food for distribution to the needy in the community. He thanked them for their services and said he would share the press releases on the Chestertown Responds to Covid-19 Facebook and Twitter sites.
Mr. Herz stated that the Facebook Mask Challenge has many volunteers making and distributing masks to the doctors, nurses and different facilities in the community.
Mr. Herz stated that GAR Sumner Hall was sponsoring the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice by donating their facility to support the groups and giving them places to do their volunteer work.
Mr. Herz stated that that as people bring things to him, he asks them to volunteer and thanked everyone for their cooperation in getting and delivering the news to the community. Mr. Herz stated that he would like to work with the Mayor and Council and Kent County Commissioners to find ways to get additional information to the community because he thought that more could be done. Mayor Cerino stated that there have been incredible efforts by volunteers during this scary time.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted people to stay home and stay safe. He said that this is Holy Week and people like to gather but he wanted people to maintain a safe distance from one another. Rev. Tolliver stated that many people in his ward have benefitted from the good acts of those volunteering. He said that he also wanted to thank the teachers for everything that they are doing for the children.
Ms. Efland spoke with Todd Miller Jones at the Resorts at Chester River Manor and he said that their staff has been showing up as regularly scheduled and they were having some supply issues (like needing alcohol wipes, alcohol, and hand sanitizer) and was actually in his car on the way to pick up supplies somewhere in Pennsylvania when they talked. Ms. Efland stated that she also reached out to Autumn Lake Healthcare at Chestertown and received an email back that so far, they were fine.
Ms. Efland stated that the Dog Park was open per State Guidelines but reminded anyone using the Park to social distance.
Ms. Efland stated that the Hospital in Chestertown needed donations like masks, gloves, respirators and other sanitation items. There was a list on Chestertown’s website and the Hospital’s website.
Ms. Efland stated that there are local donation sites for food and supplies are in many locations in and around Kent County and said that Frank Rhodes Furniture was also accepting donations in a trailer at their location on Morgnec Road. Sumner Hall is accepting monetary donations through their website and they were purchasing food through the Farmers Market. Kent County is keeping a list of open restaurants which was being updated daily.
Mr. Foster stated that the tax differential will be even more important this year than it has in previous years due to the financial downturn caused by the Coronavirus. He said that when there is a meeting on the issue Commissioner Jacob has agreed to attend. He said that a website is being created on the matter which will go live shortly.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were questions from the public.
Rev. Tolliver stated that we should look for ways to write down the bond on the Marina stating that it might be possible something might become available in an upcoming stimulus. Mayor Cerino stated that he made overtures about this to the Department of Housing and Community Development since guidelines by the State prohibits recreational boating. He said that there will be no income for the property for the time being because there won’t be any revenues. Mayor Cerino stated that there was little guidance right now, but he did not think that there was a lot of thought given to small towns in the financial help packages that were presently being provided.
Mayor Cerino stated that he thought the next meeting might again be through Zoom and they were looking for different platforms to meet. The invite will be made public on the website.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Rev. Tolliver moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:02 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor