2020, Mayor and Council, Minutes, Town Agendas & Minutes|

MAYOR AND COUNCIL

JULY 6, 2020

Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:57 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator) and guests.

Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of June 15, 2020 and public hearing of June 15, 2020. Mr. Herz moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of June 15, 2020 and the public hearing of the same date, as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver, and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $1,050,414.76

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

Mayor Cerino stated that representatives from Washington College were present to discuss their plans for the fall semester amidst the Covid pandemic. Mr. Vic Sensenig, Vice president of Planning and Policy of Washington College, stated that a contingency group was formed to look at different ways to handle the fall semester, which included reopening the campus and bringing back as many of the students wishing to return. Mr. Sensenig stated that the students were also being given the option of online-only classes this fall. He said that surveys are taking place to gauge faculty opinions on classroom versus virtual teaching. He said that size of the classrooms would be limited to comply with social distancing regulations. The first day of classes would be August 24 with an open campus until Thanksgiving break and with remote classes thereafter until Spring Semester classes are decided.

Mr. Sensenig stated that all precautions are being taken but there is a possibility that this could change at any point due to the virus. He said that they were working hard to provide housing for any students who want that environment, but the dorms will all be single units. He also said that the incoming freshman class is smaller than normal this year.

Ms. Sarah Feyerherm, Dean of Students, stated that students living in single rooms will help mitigate spread of the virus. She anticipated 180 to 200 students living off campus and students can live farther off campus than the usual 30 mile radius required. Lounges and kitchens will be closed off to students in areas where students would interact informally. A mask policy will be in place for anyone on campus, indoors or outdoors. Restrictions on campus will remain in place with guests having to sign in upon arrival. Employees who can work remotely will continue to do so.

A testing protocol is being put in place with the help of the Kent County Health Department, including what to do if the virus makes its way onto the campus with a separate dorm for anyone in quarantine. Move-ins will be staggered, beginning a week or two before classes begin. She said that she wanted to keep the Mayor and Council informed of their plans because they live in town. All students will sign a contract whereby they abide by the Covid precautions the College is putting in place.

Ms. Feyerherm stated that Washington College will also help the Kent County Health Department with contact tracing efforts.

Rev. Tolliver asked what plan is in place for the College’s frontline workers. Ms. Feyerherm stated that they have put measures in place already which were implemented over the summer and will ramp up once the students are back on campus. An example was that the dining hall would be take-out only. Rev. Tolliver asked if the employees felt comfortable with the plans that have been put in place. Ms. Feyerherm stated that she thought everyone was anxious to some degree about the pandemic but that they were taking every measure of safety.

Mayor Cerino stated that economically it was good to have students on campus, but it was concerning that people from all over the country will be arriving in a short period of time. He said that that the younger generation may be symptomatic in some cases but are mostly vectors to those who have underlying conditions. He said that many lives were lost in local nursing home already. He said that the police spend a great deal of time chasing down noise complaints and could encounter the virus due to off-campus parties. Mayor Cerino stated that teamwork between the Town and the College will be critical this year.

Ms. Feyerherm stated that students will have a quarantine period and testing before and after they arrive to campus but agreed that it was more difficult to enforce off campus. Mr. Sensenig stated that if there was an outbreak the students would be sent home.

Mayor Cerino asked for the report from the Environmental Committee. Ms. Darran Tilghman of the Environmental Committee thanked the Council and Mr. Sipes for staying on top of the oil spill issue.

Ms. Tilghman stated that the Framers Market was back in place downtown with the help of the committee in mapping and safe distancing. She said that a common interest is food security and they formed a working group dedicated to that effort. They are working to ensure that WIC and SNAP benefits are and remain available at the market.

Ms. Tilghman acted that Mr. Hanley continues to tirelessly pursue electric vehicle chargers. Mr. Schuman is working to obtain additional recycling receptacles downtown.

Rev. Tolliver asked for more clarification on the food security issues. Ms. Tilghman stated that there were many farms in the region but not a robust food network, like delivery and storage systems for those who regularly need it. Schools have no way to serve hot meals to go to students during the pandemic.

Mayor Cerino applauded the support the committee gave to the Farmers Market over the past few months. He said that the volunteerism was critical in providing a sense of comfort to the community where they felt safe returning to the market.

Mayor Cerino stated that questions have been raised about policing and the training for police in Chestertown. He said that he was not in law enforcement and the State of Maryland mandates training but he wanted to listen to residents on what they wanted from a police force. He said for that reason he had asked Chief Dolgos to speak at the meeting so the public could have an understanding of everything that went into daily police work.

Mayor Cerino stated that Chestertown currently has nine (9) officers and has had no fatal incidents in over 30 years. Chief Dolgos was going to discuss training and what we can do in the future to help the community.

Chief Dolgos stated that he welcomed the opportunity to discuss with the public the training they undergo in the State. He said that they must undergo training on a constant basis to keep their credentials up to date. To be hired as an office in Chestertown one must have a GED or high school diploma, be over the age of 21. Applicants are interviewed and go through a polygraph test, have a thorough background check, then a psychological evaluation and financial background check. Drug testing and physical testing is required as well.

Chief Dolgos stated that all entrance level officers must attend the academy which is 800 required hours of learning. The police academy used by Chestertown and located in Salisbury is over 900 hours, which amounts to 6-months of training. There they learn how to deal with people on different levels and the proper use of force and practical scenarios for situations they will face in this profession. Crisis intervention training is also offered.

Chief Dolgos stated that field training is a minimum of 240 hours, about six weeks, along with an officer who is certified to field train. This is where an officer learns to apply the training they learned in the classrooms and the basics of community policing.

Chief Dolgos stated that every officer must have a minimum of 18 hours in-service training and firearms training each year. Every third year there is specific training on sexual offenses, identity fraud, and other related crimes. Life-saving training including CPR are necessary every other year. He anticipated additional crisis intervention training for bias.

Chief Dolgos stated that special training is required to become a supervisor in any role in the police department. He said that in-service training is given each year in civil unrest and use of force along with other relevant issues. He said that in a small office this is in-service training is difficult because it leads to shortages in personnel and overtime for the officer’s covering the missed shifts. For more information on training, anyone can go to www.mdle.net to see training required in the State of Maryland for a certified police officer.

Rev. Tolliver asked if there was anything in place to show where “red flags” come up which could have an officer terminated. Chief Dolgos stated that if an officer is on probation it is easier to terminate, but an officer is covered under the Police Officers Bill of Rights once they are no longer under probation. There was an early warning system in place for termination if an officer is showing any “red flags”. Rev. Tolliver asked who does the field training. Chief Dolgos stated that there are four officers in Chestertown (4) who are certified to field train. He said that community policing is taught during field training in Chestertown. Officers can go to more than the mandated training, but the in-service is a requirement. Rev. Tolliver asked if counseling related to stress was available. Chief Dolgos stated that under special circumstances counseling and debriefing was offered to officers when it was needed. Rev. Tolliver asked if there were instances in the last 5 years when an officer had to draw his weapon. Chief Dolgos stated that officers draw their weapon in many situations, but they do not have much cause to fire their weapon. Rev. Tolliver asked about aggressive choke holds or other maneuvers. Chief Dolgos stated that this tactic would only be used if an officer was trying to save their own life and has not been used in the last 5 years. He said that there was sometimes aggressive use based upon the situation, but in each case it was proven that there was just cause for that treatment.

Mr. Herz asked if there has been any follow-up on a police advisory board. Chief Dolgos stated that advice from counsel would be needed to see if this is a possibility and a board may not be authorized to know some of the information because it could put an ongoing investigation in danger. Chief Dolgos stated that he was looking into CID training (Crisis Intervention Training) as the academy is not having live classes due to Covid.

Ms. Efland asked about bicycle police. Chief Dolgos stated that he was looking into this for the next fiscal year and he has one officer certified who was willing to start the program back up again. Policy calls for two officers at a time and he does have a second officer who is interested. Ms. Efland stated that her constituents would prefer to see walking and bicycle officers in Town. Mr. Herz agreed.

Ms. Efland asked about personal cameras. Chief Dolgos stated that LGIT will match up to $5,000.00 in cameras and he was researching the issue. He said that there was much more that went into the use of cameras aside from having them on their person.

Mayor Cerino stated that the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice gave a list of points they wanted to see addressed and said at some point that list, point by point, will need to be answered. He asked if there was legislature that was going to mandate these changes. Chief Dolgos stated that he did see changes coming regarding use of force and crisis intervention mandates in this legislation session.

Rev. Tolliver stated that Chief Dolgos retires in October 2021 and the Sheriff will also be retiring making it all more important on finding the right person to take over. Mayor Cerino stated that there were some issues outside of their jurisdiction, but they would do their best to address the concerns of the residents.

Ms. MacIntosh was present to update the Council on al fresco dining. She said that there have been two outdoor dinners in Town which were successful, one on High Street and one on Cannon Street. 98 Cannon Street Riverside Grille is offering outdoor dining which was also going well.

Mayor Cerino stated that Ms. Paula Reeder had some concerns about the outdoor dining but was not able to be heard over the call. Ms. MacIntosh sated that she tried to address the concerns over the street closure and set-up of outdoor dining on Cannon Street. She said that she made sure that there was no litter left on the street or on any neighboring properties.

Mr. Herz stated that one of the issues that raised was that notification to the residents before an event was not provided. Ms. Andy Goddard stated that she did speak with all busines owners about the outdoor dining but did not go to the second-floor residents. She said that detours were put in place for traffic limiting any impact to the public. Mr. Herz stated that the event was vetted through the Town, Health Department, Police and Fire Department so that all agencies were aware of what was taking place in the event of an emergency. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she was open to any other suggestions on ways to improve.

Rev. Tolliver stated that the concern was that tenants were not informed and should be part of the process of approvals including placement of vehicles and the time outdoor music should come to an end. He read a statement from a letter that was sent by Ms. Reeder.

Mayor Cerino asked if the owners of the properties were happy with the event. Ms. MacIntosh stated that her understanding is that they were happy with the event and she has been asked to have other similar events. Mayor Cerino said that communication was key and had to be improved upon in the future.

Mr. Herz asked if the Health Department was flexible with planning when it came to distancing in a safe manner for events. Ms. MacIntosh stated that drawings were needed showing distances between tables and other set-ups in the street that is vetted by the Health Department who provides feedback about requirements. Ms. MacIntosh stated that music did stop by about 9:15 p.m.

Ms. MacIntosh stated that there was $100,000.00 grant from DHCD for wayfinding signage. She showed a concept of the logos and directives and said that she was working with a planning firm for the final designs. She was hoping for a placement plan in the next few weeks. The firm will present to the Mayor and Council, but she would like to get a to scale mock-up for the Council to make comment on once it is in place.   In total, she thought all signage will be included in the grant, including a kiosk if deemed necessary. A large gateway sign was not part of the grant.

Mayor Cerino asked for the Town Manager’s report. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Crazy Days will be held from July 23rd to July 25th and Saturday would have street closures with masks and social distancing required. Ms. Goddard stated that merchants were working on placing their merchandise in ways to conform with social distancing and occupancy in the stores. Mr. Herz moved to approve the permit request for Crazy Days as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Bayside Hoyas asked to reserve the Fountain Park for an annual Juneteenth celebration in Fountain Park. The Council agreed.

Mr. Ingersoll explained the Ms. Mulligan’s absence noting that she injured her shoulder and might require surgery.

Mr. Ingersoll thanked East Coast Storage for allowing the Farmers Market on their lot while the Town got their grip around Covid rules and regulations.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. Wanda Boyer had requested a mural to be painted on High Street. He said that he thought it should come before the Council, including a schematic.

Mayor Cerino stated that he nominated Barbara Brown and Victoria Smith to the Historic District at the last meeting and would like to appoint them tonight.

Ms. Efland moved to appoint Barbara Brown to the Historic district Commission was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mr. Foster moved to appoint Ms. Victoria Smith to the Historic District Commission was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that the Redistricting Committee had to plan a meeting to get the process started. Mr. de Mooy stated that members of the Commission have been notified but it did not move past that point. He said that he would investigate getting their contact information to schedule a meeting. Mr. Herz stated that he needed a new member because one member from his ward is moving out of Town.

Mayor Cerino stated that the contest winners of the 4th of July contest were:

Ward One:

  • 117 N. Water Street
  • 214 N. Queen Street

Ward Two:

  • Rotary Club Flags
  • Bad Alfred’s on Cannon Street

Ward Three:

  • 251 Devon Drive
  • 202 Kennedy Drive

Ward Four:

  • 114 Oak Leaf Drive
  • 214 Rolling Road

Mr. Herz stated that he nominated the Rotary because of the flags on the poles and thanked Mr. Bill MacIntosh and Main Street for helping to get the flags installed. He said he hoped that more flags could be sponsored in the future.

Mayor Cerino stated that there were discussions of applying for a grant to the Community Parks and Playgrounds for a playground at Ajax Park. He said that different layouts for the park have been submitted but the grant was due early to mid-August. He said he thought it would be a great amenity to Town.

Mr. Herz stated that he was supportive of the project but had concerns about removing the basketball court at Ajax. He said that the downtown had to be inviting to all residents. The idea of installing a playground had objections from the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice because removing the basketball court raises questions to some people in the community.

Rev. Tolliver stated that the black community is not only interested in playing basketball. Mayor Cerino agreed, stating that every family, regardless of color, would enjoy a nice playground because the Town does not have one. He said that this would be a benefit for all and there were brand new basketball courts at Gateway Park, the Kent County Middle School, and Washington Park. Mr. Foster stated that a playground in this location was perfect and losing the half court was a reasonable tradeoff. Ms. Efland agreed.

Ms. Tilghman stated that she was thrilled to see a playground and said that she did not know until now how many other basketball courts were available in Town. She said that the message needed to be that everyone was welcome in Town. Mr. Herz stated that his discussion was with Arlene Lee and she may not be speaking for all SACRJ.

Ms. MacIntosh stated that this would be a small playground and she would prefer to see a destination playground at Wilmer Park. Mayor Cerino stated that the neighbors to Wilmer Park steadfastly oppose a playground at Wilmer Park. He said that Ajax was tucked away but was centrally located.

Mayor Cerino stated that timing was of the essence to qualify for this grant money and a decision had to be made one way or the other. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she disagreed with planning the future of the Town for people other than the growing families, especially when it betters the entire community.

Mayor Cerino stated that the Kent County Middle School renovations, Gateway Park and Washington Park all used this grant to get the amenities they now have but they do not give them annually to the same Town.

Mayor Cerino asked for Ward reports.

Mr. Foster stated that everyone should take a walk down North Water Street as the decorations for the 4th of July look beautiful.

Mr. Herz stated that he has been having a difficult time understanding the data from the oil spill, so he created a database and graphics around the findings. He said that he would like to improve on the visuals with the help of the Council. He asked for approval to work with Mr. Ingersoll in having the engineers provide the data in the way he has it formatted as it is easier to understand. He said that he went back eight years in the data he prepared. The Council agreed to Mr. Herz’s request.

Rev. Tolliver did not give a ward report as he lost connection during the meeting.

Ms. Efland stated that the Local Management Board is looking for support to apply to an RFP for Covid related expenses in the area. The LMB is also looking for help form the community to service those in need.

Ms. Maria Wood stated that she wanted to follow up on the discussions of a proposal for street murals on High Street and College Avenue supporting the anti-racism movement. She said that she would like to see “Black Lives Matter” on High Street and “I Can’t Breathe” on College Avenue. Volunteers from the community will do the painting and private funding will pay for the murals. She said that she spoke with the Council members in the affected wards already. Mayor Cerino asked the scale of the mural and about maintenance. Ms. Wood stated that she would research how long this would last but the thought was to use the outdoor paint so that would last in perpetuity. She did not know about maintenance issues just yet, but the idea was for it to be permanent and let visitors and residents know that racism will not be tolerated.

She said that the beginning of the mural would be at the lower end of High Street by Water Street and not be blocked by the area where cars park. Mr. Foster stated that this was the first time he heard about this proposal and he needed some time to think about it before he decided. Mayor Cerino stated that black lives matter but he was worried that this would look out of place and asked if hanging banners around town might be a better idea. He said maintenance and the amount of time this would be in place also has to be considered.

Mayor Cerino stated that living in the Historic District a resident must go through a process to make a minute change to their residence or for a sign on their building and he did not think it was fair to put such a large mural up without discussion. He said that maintenance was an issue and that this opened the door to other groups whose message was not well received to request street murals.

Ms. Efland stated that she agreed with the request. Mayor Cerino asked if the mural was words only or would there be other art involved. Ms. Wood stated that they were working on the design and thought words would be the only thing on the streets. She said that this was taking place all over the country and although the buildings are historic, the paving of the streets was not.

Mr. Herz asked if there was a time limitation on the painting. Ms. Wood stated that the idea of the mural would be for it to remain in perpetuity. Mr. Herz asked if this could be a temporary mural as were many of the street paintings that were being done at this time. Mr. Foster stated that he would like to have legal counsel on this as it would set a precedent for other groups whose message might not be as widely accepted.

Mr. Herz asked the timing of the project. Ms. Wood stated that there was nothing holding them back in terms of timing other than laying out the drawings. Mr. Herz stated that he would like to see the drawings. Mayor Cerino stated that once energy faded for maintenance, a permanent slogan would fall to the town employees to care for which would be an added expense to an already tight budget. Mr. Ingersoll stated that streets would also have to be overlaid or repaved at some point because streets are regular wear and tear. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he also disagreed that this should remain permanent as it opened the doors to murals of any nature in the future.

Mr. Herz asked about painting crosswalks rather than an entire street. Mayor Cerino stated that paint on a road does not last a great deal of time and maintenance of this concerned him a great deal. Mayor Cerino stated that he agreed with making a statement, but he did not want to set precedent when a controversial issue comes before them. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought banners would be easier seen and less maintenance. Mr. Herz stated that there were many considerations to be discussed before a request was approved. Mr. Foster sated that the community should think of ways to get this message out and possibly using other ways than painting the streets. Mr. Ingersoll pointed out that banners could be hung up immediately in places like the overhead rail/trail crossing structure on High Street and would be seen by many more people than a street painting.

There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 10:30 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:                                                             Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                                 Chris Cerino

Town Clerk                                                            Mayor

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