MAYOR AND COUNCIL
OCTOBER 5, 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 September 21, 2020. Ms. Efland moved to approve the minutes of the September 21, 2020 Mayor and Council Meeting, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $1,071,888.09.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. Foster moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a Memorandum of Understanding was submitted for the Raimond Arts Building on Spring Street to continue the renovation progress with a pass-through grant application for $400,000.00 with the Community Legacy Fund of DHCD. Accompanying the MOU was Resolution 06-2020 for the Community Legacy Fund Authorization authorizing the Town to sponsor the grant. Mr. Herz moved to authorize the Mayor to sign the MOU between the Town of Chestertown and Kent Cultural Alliance to utilize grant funds from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) State Revitalization Program to renovate the Raimond Arts Building and to approve Resolution 06-2020 Community Legacy Fund Authorization, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. Kay MacIntosh asked to be on the agenda to discuss letters of support for grants Main Street was submitting to the Community Legacy Fund.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that she was seeking a letter of support from the Mayor and Council for a Main Street grant application to the Community Legacy Fund for Façade Improvement Grant funding. She said that this would be the fourth year applying for the grant, noting that Main Street was awarded $40,000.00 in 2018, $50,000.00 in 2019 and $55,000.00 this current year through the grant fund. She said that the Façade Improvement Grant will match up to 50% of a business owner’s costs of facade renovations.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street was seeking a second letter of support to the Community Legacy Fund for a lighting project grant in the downtown commercial district. She said that she has been working with Ms. Samantha Holloman of Lightwork, based in Chestertown, on a plan where the Community Legacy Grant funding would be enough to purchase the equipment and electrical servicing. She said that they were looking for quality and conformity in the downtown lighting schematic which would provide and safe both attractive and secure lighting for visitors and residents. This grant request was for up to $90,000.00.
Ms. Efland asked where the lighting project was going to be installed. Ms. MacIntosh stated that the first phase of the project was targeted to the 200 and 300 block of High Street, the 100 block of South Cross Street and a portion of Cannon Street, basically where shops and restaurants are open areas in the evening. Mr. Herz stated that he thought this was needed in Town and would be an improvement to the downtown area.
Mr. Herz moved for Mayor Cerino to sign on the Council’s behalf two letters of support to submit along with grant applications to the Community Legacy Grant Fund for projects by Main Street Chestertown, one for downtown lighting and the other for façade improvement grants as outlined by Ms. MacIntosh, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
The next item on the agenda was the introduction of Ordinance 06-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this was first discussed by the Council at their meeting of September 8. Councilman Tolliver submitted a document to the Council on September 28th that was formatted like a Town Ordinance but was more in the form of a presentation. He said the document before them at the present meeting was formatted from the pertinent information that was contained in the document submitted to the Council by Councilman Tolliver on September 28..
Mr. Ingersoll stated that if the Ordinance was introduced at the present meeting, it could be adopted at any meeting between 6 and 60 days after introduction. It would then take effect 21 days after adoption. Mayor Cerino asked if there had to be a public hearing on this matter. Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was no public hearing required in the passage of an Ordinance unless it involved zoning. He said that the Council could opt to have a public hearing whenever they thought it was necessary, but it was not required in this instance.
Rev. Tolliver moved to introduce Ordinance 06-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission and was seconded by Mr. Herz. Mayor Cerino asked if there was any discussion on the motion.
Rev. Tolliver asked about the possibility of having public comment and open discussion, separate from a Mayor and Council meeting. He said that there has been quite a bit of discussion floating around the Council and there were people who submitted letters of support. He said that because of the independent nature of what the Ordinance calls for, he would like to open discussion on it, so people understand the true nature of the Ordinance. He said that it would be a good thing to let the people know what they are trying to do, what is being proposed, and to have it explained. He said that there may be people who want to share their concerns or express support in an open dialogue. He said that this will allow for enough discussion time instead of cramming it into a regular session.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to hear from each Council member on this matter and then open the floor to public comment.
Mr. Herz asked if the public has seen the Ordinance in its current form. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this was the introduction of the ordinance in any form by the Council. The public would have the period of time between the present meeting and the meeting of enactment to make written comments on the public record.
Mr. Foster stated that there was a unanimous approval for elements 1 through 4 in the Resolution leading to the Ordinance but the wording and details of number 5 had not been discussed. He said that he has a problem with the term “independent” in number 5 because it seemed to be proposing that a group of people could independently make recommendations on behalf of the Mayor and Council. Rev. Tolliver stated that this was not the time to openly discuss this as they were discussing the introduction of the Ordinance that had open public discussion as the components within it. Rev. Tolliver stated that the Council voted and passed the Resolution, which included number 5, with a sentence in it that they were going to later revise, but that would be taken up after the Ordinance discussion.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he understood Mr. Foster’s point and read his emails but he was at a place with all of this where the Mayor and Council needed dedicated time to talk about these things on the record and fully explain their position while also receiving comments and rebuttal to what anyone may be feeling and they can move forward with the Commission. He said that it needs an up or down vote and a dedicated time to do that in an open session with nothing else on the table, giving them time to air concerns.
Rev. Tolliver lost connection to the Zoom meeting. Mr. Herz stated that there was a motion on the floor that has been seconded and asked that it be tabled and resume the discussion once Rev. Tolliver rejoins the meeting. Mr. Ingersoll noted that an Ordinance can be introduced without a vote.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the next item under his report was equally important and had to be discussed with Rev. Tolliver in the meeting as it was the Resolution that Rev. Tolliver put forth and the status of the required revision of number 5. He said that it was not clear that the Resolution was passed in accordance with the conditional motion on the passage at the September 8 Mayor and Council meeting.
Mr. Herz stated that this wording was captured in the proposed Ordinance as well. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the question was if the Resolution, as worded, was what the Council intended when they passed the motion with conditions on September 8. Mr. Foster stated that the changes made were not what he envisioned.
Rev. Tolliver rejoined the meeting.
Rev. Tolliver stated that at the last meeting everybody had a positive opinion about the change in the Resolution that was made in number 5 and now nobody wanted to agree. Mr. Foster stated that the minutes read, “Mr. Foster said that it sounded like Rev. Tolliver wanted a commission independent of Chestertown, but to speak for Chestertown. He said the committees and commissions work on behalf of the Town. He said he was not quite sure that this could be both, that you could do this both ways. In other words, speak for the Town but be independent of it. Mayor Cerino said he could not have a commission work independently yet speak for the Town”. He said that did not sound to him like it was agreed upon.
Rev. Tolliver asked what was in there that was not agreeable to the Council as it was voted on and approved. Mr. Foster stated that he did not approve “an independent board”. Mr. Herz agreed, stating that he did not agree to that either. Rev. Tolliver stated that what he was hearing was that everyone was going to rescind their vote on the Resolution.
Ms. Efland stated that everyone agreed on the Resolution, but they did not agree on number 5 and that they needed additional clarity on the matter. Mr. Herz stated that the Council agreed that the second sentence in 5 would be rewritten, not that the entire paragraph would be reworded. Rev. Tolliver stated that his rationale for rewriting the entire paragraph was to make it clearer, but it seems like everyone was hung up on “independent.” He said if they had read the documents that he had sent out over the past couple weeks they would see that the documents spoke about how the Mayor and Council still have autonomy over this organization.
Reverend Tolliver said that the “independent” is just like how the Arts Council was selected by an independent chairman and chairperson and nobody knew anything about the members who were going to be put on the committee, but it was brought to the table and the Council voted on it. He said it is the same model and the independence of it would not usurp the authority of the Council. What it would do was to set up a sense of security for the person who was coming to a government body that they already have a sense of mistrust about. He said that he was not trying to take authority away from his colleagues on the Council, but it was important that this commission be independent.
Mr. Foster asked if this was up for discussion or not. Rev. Tolliver stated that it seemed like it was okay for Mr. Foster to discuss things but when he tried to speak on it, he could not discuss it. Rev. Tolliver asked if the Resolution has been approved or not. Mr. Foster stated that number 5 was not approved. Mr. Herz agreed.
Rev. Tolliver asked what the “sticking point” was in number 5. Ms. Efland stated “independent board” was the issue. She said that she understands the point about the Arts Council other committees that function similarly are independent, but the structure of this should be set up by the Mayor and Council and it was not done that way initially. Rev. Tolliver stated that the Chairperson and Vice-Chair would be selected by the Mayor and Council who will then be given the authority to vet the letters of application that come to them, and return to the Mayor and Council to review the applications. He said that this is something they are already doing. He said that half the time it is not even known that seats are open on commissions. He said that everybody will have a chance to see who is being nominated and have a more open process than what is currently in place. Rev. Tolliver stated that in no way is the Mayor and Council removed from the process and nobody will serve on the commission unless approved by the Mayor and Council. He said that the independence comes in when the body is doing its work in fielding grievances, making recommendations, gathering information and then bringing it to whatever body needs to deal with that grievance. He said that there is nowhere in the process where the Mayor and Council is removed. Rev. Tolliver stated that another important reason for the independence was if a citizen wanted to file a grievance against the Mayor and Council itself for a discriminatory act that they may have done, adding that this body could bring a resolution toward ending that grievance without the Council being involved.
Mr. Herz stated that he was not certain that the right process was being followed. He said that if someone was being discriminated against by the Mayor and Council, it goes to the County or State level, not a subsidiary committee, unless the Mayor and Council and the aggrieved party all consent to do so. He said that as a citizen he would not consent to that.
Rev. Tolliver stated that there is a phrase saying, “all politics is local” and if there is an issue that someone has with the Mayor and Council in Chestertown, it can be solved here in Chestertown with this committee reviewing it. He said that if the commission feels that the issue is bigger than what they can handle, they have the authority to send it to the State or whatever organization it needs to go before. He said that everyone is hung up on “independent” because it gave the impression that it was totally removing the Mayor and Council out of the process and that is not the case.
Mr. Foster stated that the Redistricting Committee is not an independent board, but it does make independent recommendations without hindrance and report to the Mayor and Council, who then votes to accept or not accept their recommendations. He said that Cumberland and Annapolis ordinances were used to craft this Ordinance for Chestertown but there no mention of “independent” in the formation of their commissions. Mr. Foster stated that he looked up other counties with Human Rights Commissions or committees and most do not have the word “independent” in them. He said that he thought there could be a compromise where the commission operated and recommended independently but they had to report to the Mayor and Council. He said labeling this an “independent commission” was misleading.
Rev. Tolliver disagreed stating that everyone in favor of this, including the people sending the emails to the Council, are fully aware of what it is that they are trying to do. He said that no emails claim this to be a rogue organization looking to destroy the way of life in Chestertown. He said that Annapolis, Cumberland and Rockville may not have “independent” in their clauses and that is mainly because all politics is local. Rev. Tolliver stated that the people of Chestertown need to understand that there is a place they can go and feel comfortable without any other hands on it. He said that was why he was adamant about the word independent for Chestertown. Rev. Tolliver stated that this was targeting what needed to be done for Chestertown.
Mayor Cerino stated that if the Mayor and Council create a commission it is not independent of the Town and the impression of this phrasing is that it does. Mayor Cerino stated that what he is hearing is that the Mayor and Council should not meddle with the business of this commission and he said that he has never done that with any Commission. Mayor Cerino stated that each Commission in Town should perform their own business and said that there should not be the desire to micro-manage commissions, but the commissions are still beholden to the Town because the Town created them. He said that if there is a claim to this commission that for whatever reason goes sideways and the person accused of malfeasance has a problem and threaten litigation it directly comes back to the Town, so it is not independent. He said that if the commission is formed he will not try to influence it in any way but to say that it was an independent board gave the impression that it was a commission that did not have to answer to the Mayor and Council and it is just not going to be the case.
Rev. Tolliver asked for suggestions from the Council. Mayor Cerino stated that the verbiage should be changed to “commits to establishing a Human Rights Commission to be empowered with the task of gathering information for review, analyzing data and making necessary recommendations toward the effort of resolving allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, education, recreation and other human relation areas by Town agencies and by businesses”. Mr. Herz and Mr. Foster agreed.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he heard many reasons why this should not happen, but this is the first time he heard something that is agreeable to anyone. He asked what leaving in the independent language does to the Resolution. Mr. Herz stated that it led him to not want to vote in favor of it. Mr. Foster stated that he thought it was misleading. Ms. Efland stated that the other Town Commissions act independently of the Town and the Council, but they still report to the Mayor and Council. She said that there are Ordinances for both the Planning and Historic District Commissions with rules and guidelines vetted by the Mayor and Council. Ms. Efland added that this new commission would require a development of rules that are not in place and she wanted to be involved in that process and the structure of the commission.
Rev. Tolliver asked how this differs from how the Arts Committee was formed. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Arts Committee was not a Town Committee. Rev. Tolliver stated that there was a Resolution establishing their existence. Mr. Ingersoll stated that was part of Main Street. Rev. Tolliver stated that the Public Arts Committee acted independently in that the two people that serve as the Chair brought the membership of the Commission forward for Council approval without resumes and they were appointed. He said that the only difference he was proposing was that he was saying this commission would be independent of the Council.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that the Public Arts Committee began with a Public Arts Master Plan that was adopted by the Mayor and Council. In that document, there was a call for a committee to oversee the public art plan and installation of public art in Chestertown. She said that although she worked with Mr. Schratwieser of the Arts Council and some other members in the art community for nominees to serve on the Council, once the committee was in place, they named their own Chair and Vice-Chair. Mr. Herz asked how the nominees came to be with this committee. Ms. MacIntosh stated that part of her job as the manager of the Arts and Entertainment District was to enact the Public Arts Master Plan, which included the Public Arts Committee for the Town. She said that it was a long time coming and the expected gift of public art moved it forward. Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a big difference between a commission and a committee and Kay’s program was a committee, which had much more flexibility in its membership. Mr. Ingersoll stated that commission members also must reside within Town limits, whereas committee members do not have that requirement. Ms. MacIntosh stated that was correct in that some of the members on the Public Arts Committee are not residents of Chestertown.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he is unaware of any commission that was started in Chestertown that said they would be independent. He said that he understood what Rev. Tolliver was saying but he would not think that anybody who went to an Ethics Commission hearing, where someone was being more or less indicted for an ethics violation, that it would even be appropriate to use a term that can be manipulated like “independent”. He said that Commissions are frequently authorized by the State, noting that the Planning Commission was authorized under 66B of the Annotated Code and the Historic District Commission was authorized by the State, as was the Ethics Commission. He said that not all Commissions are formed that way, but a Commission is a serious membership and more important is the language that is carried into the Ordinance. Mr. Ingersoll stated that there have been changes since the first time this was brought up when Rev. Tolliver already had a chairperson appointed to an independent commission, giving the impression of independent that is different that what was being expressed this evening. He said that this was more in keeping with other Town Commissions, for which the Town has liability.
Rev. Tolliver stated that his whole point was to see this Resolution passed to show something that Chestertown has done in creating policy that brings about change in the way that the Town runs. Rev. Tolliver clarified that the sticking point was “independent”. Ms. Efland stated that it was too open and does not show how they would operate as an independent group. She said that the Ordinance will call out how the commission works independently, but for the Resolution it was too open and non-specific.
Rev. Tolliver asked if the first Resolution would have to be rescinded to make changes. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Resolution was passed with a motion to change sentence 2 of paragraph 5. He said that the Resolution could be passed and conform with the original motion if the wording “as an independent board” was stricken from the document.
Mr. Herz asked that point 5 of the resolution with the amendment be read for the record. Ms. Mulligan stated that point 5 will now read, “Commits to establishing a Human Rights Commission to be empowered with the task of gathering information for review, analyzing data and making necessary recommendations toward the effort of resolving allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, education, recreation and other human relation areas by Town agencies and by businesses. The commission will be comprised of at least fifty percent People of Color. The Commission will issue an annual racial justice and equity report.”
Mayor Cerino stated that there were seven members on the Commission, and it was to be comprised of fifty percent People of Color. He said that maybe it should be worded to at least four members being People of Color. Ms. Efland suggested leaving it as is because they may not be able to fill all the positions. She said she thought that was okay as is.
Rev. Tolliver moved to approve Resolution 03-2020 with the inflammatory wording of “as an independent board” removed from number 5 of the document, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a motion on the floor to introduce the Ordinance that was parallel to the Resolution. He said that it has been reviewed in detail and a motion was not necessary to introduce an Ordinance. Mayor Cerino stated that another meeting was necessary to approve the Ordinance and asked if that would be the time to express concerns over wording of the Ordinance. Mr. Ingersoll stated that concerns can be expressed in writing, it can be discussed at the next meeting or they could have a special meeting about it if the Council thought it necessary.
Mayor Cerino asked if the Human Rights Commission Ordinance were not passed, would the first four items of the Resolution be valid. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Resolution was a goal and remained a goal for the Town. The Ordinance put the Human Rights Commission into action. Mayor Cerino stated that he wanted it to be known that the Mayor and Council officially put forth the apology for slavery. Rev. Tolliver stated that the Resolution established the Human Rights Commission; the Ordinance defined the Human Rights Commission and what it supposed to do. He said that the Resolution states that there must be a Human Rights Commission.
Rev. Tolliver moved to introduce Ordinance 06-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Herz stated that the public comment would be at the next meeting. Rev. Tolliver stated that there is a public comment section at the end of each meeting and if someone wants to speak to the Resolution or Ordinance, they should be able to do so. Mr. Herz stated that he was just trying to say that there could be more comment on this matter at the next meeting.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Wilmer Park bulkhead needs repair. He said that there was period tidal flooding that overrides the bulkhead, leaving to land subsidence, washing out of backfill and has negative effects on the trail along the bulkhead. He said that because of the flooding the fill has subsided and the weight of the water at high tide is causing the area to sink. The sidewalk is cracking in locations and because of the saltwater it was difficult to have grass on that end of the park. He showed photographs of how the tide had come in under the boardwalk and had pushed the planks out of place. He gave a history of how this portion of Wilmer Park was created and showed photos of the damage, and images from when the park was first created. Mayor Cerino stated that Mr. Sappington has done a good job of trying to fix the drainage problems, but a more permanent fix is necessary.
Mayor Cerino had different options for repair of the bulkhead as follows:
- Fix missing planks and try to level the boardwalk, which requires no permitting and would not be too expensive but leaves the area open to flooding.
- Create a larger boardwalk with inland screw piles that support stringers utilizing the existing pilings, which would make an 8’ boardwalk about 1’5” higher than exists to rise above the flooding, costing anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000 with minimum engineering and permitting required, but there would still be flooding and subsidence issues with sinking of the ground under the boardwalk;
- Build a 16’ wide inland dock to the pilings creating an open space, which would cost $50,000 to $75,000, with engineering and permitting required.
- Build a fixed or floating dock off the end of the bulkhead as is shown in the Comprehensive Plan, requiring permitting from MDE, engineering and other permitting while also addressing the land side of the park. He said that this option would be in the six-figures and would also lead to transient boaters using the dock that did not want to pay the slip fees at the Chestertown marina.
- Create a living shoreline like what was done in front of the pavilion in the early 2000’s, engineering the land to slope toward the river by the fault line. This would eliminate flooding concerns and land subsidence, is environmentally friendly and good for sustainability but requires a great deal of engineering and may take away views of the river once the plantings grow in.
- Look at this plan as part of a broader development of a riverwalk existing from Wilmer Park through the College property with a riverside board walk, wrapping around the edge of the marsh, reconnecting to Quaker Neck Road with a pedestrian walkway back to Wilmer Park while linking to the Rail-Trail. He said that there are existing landside easements in place with Washington College already. This would require looking for funding through Program Open Space grants and other funding sources for the project.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Cross-Island Trail in Queen Anne’s County is an 8-mile trail with stretches of boardwalk that runs through the marshes and is like option 6 he just showed. He said that this is an ambitious project, and the Town would have to take the long view if they were going to accomplish this goal. He said that the County funded much of this project in Queen Anne’s and it was unlikely that Kent County Government would help much with the project so it would fall to the Town to do the designing, fundraising, grants, etc.
Mayor Cerino asked for comments from the Council.
Mr. Foster stated that he would recommend that the Chestertown Environmental Committee be encouraged to be involved and make suggestions on the plan. Mr. Herz agreed, thanking Mayor Cerino for the work on the presentation and providing several solutions to the problem. He said that he thought the Town should go for the last option connecting into the Rail-Trail if they could find ways to fund it. Rev. Tolliver stated that he agreed with building out the entire trail with connections, stating that it would be great for the 5k runs that took place and would be fun on festival days, adding that an amphitheater would be terrific right along where the fault line was pointed that Mayor Cerino pointed out in the park. Ms. Efland stated that she received pictures every time there is flooding and would like to find a temporary solution with a long-term plan for protecting the shoreline adding that she loved the idea of the path. Mr. Herz stated that he watched the trail in Grasonville be built and he said that it was of minimum impact to the marshland.
Mayor Cerino asked if Mr. Sappington should be asked to replace the missing planks for now. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would have that done.
Mr. Tim Trumbauer of Shore Rivers was present and stated that he did not have much to add because the Mayor said most of what he would have said. He did add that there was already a group working on the last item, including the Chestertown Environmental Committee, Shore Rivers, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Washington College, South Fork Studios and a few others. He urged the Town to contact these stakeholders and get their ideas. He said that Mayor Cerino’s vision is wonderful and there could be a combination of ideas to implement, which met multiple goals, on this iconic public space in Chestertown. Mayor Cerino stated that there was a lot of discussion about this pre-Covid, but it fell to the wayside since that time. Mayor Cerino added that Miles Barnard of South Fork Studio was engaged to create an early rendering of project on paper.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to consider a charrette soliciting feedback from anyone interested.
Mayor Cerino stated that action items would be to have Mr. Sappington patch the area now since there were people using it and he wanted to eliminate immediate hazards to the area.
Mayor Cerino stated that he had planned to discuss the Equity Advisory Committee this evening, but he would prefer to postpone until they moved forward with the Human Rights Commission.
Mayor Cerino stated that the YMCA had a ground-breaking ceremony, and this was going to be a top-notch facility. Ms. Efland stated that this facility would have an indoor swimming pool, indoor sports fields, was offering scholarship opportunities for campers and memberships. She said that with the recent extension of the Rail-Trail to Foxley Manor she hoped that there could be safe foot passage for residents to the YMCA
Mayor Cerino stated that he knew the YMCA was in the works but was really blown away by the amenities that will be available to the community. He said that this was probably going to be the best YMCA on the shore with a competitive six-lane swimming pool and two full-court indoor basketball courts that double as lacrosse floors. He said that there was a walking track on the second floor. He said that scholarships and grants available to the community would be so helpful and the facility was going to be a huge amenity for everyone in Town and Kent County.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Town was awarded a $160,000.00 Bikeways Grant to build out the Rail-Trail at Morgnec Road by Washington College Road through to Foxley Manor. He said that Mr. de Mooy found creative ways to use Town staff work and previous expenses to match the $160,000.00 grant for this final extension of the Rail-Trail in Town. He said that it would be great if this could extend to the YMCA and the Community Center in Worton in the future.
Mayor Cerino asked for ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he was in discussions with the Environmental Committee about the oil spill a few months ago and they asked if there was any way to help. He said that with Chris Ralston at MDE ignoring the letters from the Town, he expressed his frustration to some members of the Environmental Committee and Darran Tilghman and Tim Trumbauer suggested that he talk with Chesapeake Alliance, which was a group of environmental attorneys, who said that they could get some firms involved. Mr. Foster stated that a couple weeks ago, there was a Zoom discussion with Lynn Bergeson, the founder managing partner of Bergeson-Campbell on the matter.
Mr. Foster stated that Ms. Bergeson lives in Kent County and serves on the Board at Washington College. He said that Ms. Bergeson is vested in Chestertown and has offered to assist the Town pro-bono with the problem of the oil spill. He said that she will investigate what other communities facing similar problems have done and how the Town can get the answers to the questions that were being ignored. Mr. Foster stated that he has never seen a state agency treat a community the way that MDE is treating Chestertown.
Mr. Foster stated that Mayor Cerino and Mr. Ingersoll asked Mr. Foster to bring this to the rest of the Council to see if they wanted to access the firm and begin thinking about legal options to explore, adding that he thought it was time for a second opinion, especially given it would be pro-bono.
Mr. Herz stated that he was interested in finding out the rights of the Town regarding the oil spill if it was not going to be expensive. Mr. Foster stated that he did not know how far the pro-bono offer was good for but at least it was an opening conversation and the fact that they were vested in the community was a plus. Mr. Herz stated that he would like to hear more about it.
Ms. Efland thanked Mr. Foster for taking the lead and for Ms. Tilghman and Mr. Trumbauer for the suggestion, adding that some action had to be taken, even if the pro-bono was for the beginning stages so the Town knew their rights. She said it was a step forward.
Mayor Cerino suggested that Mr. Foster proceed with caution because when attorneys become involved, he wanted to move forward with specific goals in mind regarding what the rights were vis-a-vie MDE’s role in the clean-up or their rights vis-a-vie the Hospital. He said that the Council had to know what their end game was because he did not know how much more they would get than the consent agreement in place where the Hospital would replace the wells if the Town can prove they were responsible for the contamination. Mayor Cerino stated that the Town asked MDE to be a third-party on the agreement with the Hospital and they declined. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought MDE and the Hospital had a sense of their legal obligation to the community. He said that this could backfire and make things more challenging, especially with MDE. Mr. Foster stated that the Council also knows that our questions are being ignored by MDE and they should at least see what other options are available.
Mayor Cerino stated that he wanted to show up to a meeting with the consent agreement and other relevant documentation in hand, bringing Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Sipes along to the meeting if one is scheduled.
Mr. Foster stated that they have a pattern with Kent County regarding the tax differential of being ignored. He said that Dixon Valve and KRM are becoming increasingly more interested in the tax differential as they are now seeing that not having a tax differential is detrimental to economic development. He said that they were willing to work with him on the issue and approach other large companies in the area. Mr. Foster stated that simultaneously, Ocean City sued Worcester County in Circuit Court and lost and then sued in the Special Court of Appeals and have not yet received a decision. Mr. Foster stated that he was able to get copies of the briefs presented and there were local attorneys willing to help review them. Mr. Foster stated that Chestertown has a much better chance of getting a tax differential than Ocean City, as Ocean City is full a wealthy town. He said that same argument is not viable in Kent County as the median household income in Chestertown is about 20% lower than the median household income of the rest of the county. He said that he was happy to share the copies of the briefs that he received.
Mr. Herz stated that Ms. MacIntosh and Ms. Goddard would like to speak about efforts being made for Halloween. Ms. MacIntosh stated that Ms. Goddard was looking to revive the Scarecrow Decorating Contest with the parking meters. Ms. Goddard stated that it has been several years since the contest took place, but it always enlivened the Town for Halloween. She said that because of Covid, the Halloween Parade has been cancelled and she thought this would be a fun way for people to celebrate. Ms. Mulligan stated that she would get the information to Ms. Goddard that she had on file from prior years.
Ms. Goddard stated that she was looking to decorate beginning October 25th leading up to Halloween, with the Mayor and Council judging the decorations on October 31st. There would be cash prizes and the scarecrows would be removed the following Monday or Tuesday. She said that they were going to discuss this at the next DCA meeting. She said that political messaging would not be permitted in the contest.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that in addition to the Scarecrow Contest, they would also be holding a Carved Pumpkin Contest where once the pumpkins are carved they can be left outside the Finishing Touch and volunteers will line them up on the sidewalk where they will be illuminated on Friday, October 30th and Saturday, October 31st from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that both ideas are Covid-friendly as people can mask up and walk around Town without a large congregation of people in one place. She said that DCA will sponsor the cash prizes for the Scarecrow Contest and the A&E District will sponsor the Pumpkin Carving Contest.
Mr. Herz stated that he received a letter from several business owners in Town discussing the public restroom issue. He said that the Visitors Center is normally open and offers public restrooms but has been closed due to Covid. He said that additional portolets have been offered but he was hoping to have even more added downtown. Mr. Ingersoll stated that as an interim measure, he was going to add handicap accessible portolets in better locations than just the one place in Town, adding that Mr. Webb of the Kent County Health Department has mandated that there be provisions for Covid in them.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. MacIntosh was looking into Cares funding to safely open the Visitors Center. He said that he was concerned, especially because the Visitors Center attendants are seniors or have underlying conditions. He said that he was also concerned for the health of the occupants on the second floor who have been allowed to go back into the building to work with the proper provisions. Mr. Ingersoll stated that it was the Council’s decision to open the Center and the answer about PPE and other provisions through the Cares Act should be eligible until December, at least, but they did not know the extent of the funding. Mr. Ingersoll added that frequent cleaning would be required which may make the attendant have to tend to the lavatories.
Mr. Herz stated that the letter mentioned that other Visitors Center have been opened, noting that Cambridge had a soft opening in August but just officially opened on October 1st. He said that opening was not without trauma to the Town as some employees quit because of the reopening because the employees did not feel safe. He said that he wanted to handle this in a sensitive way, with proper PPE and dividers.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that merchants were concerned for their own safety and that is the same concern that he has for the safety of the Town employees and visitors alike. He said that this was a Council decision and a liability on the Town, and it is not an easy decision to make. Mayor Cerino stated that the Kent County Visitor Center is fully paid for and staffed by the Town of Chestertown, so when he heard that other counties opened their centers the counties are paying for them adding that this is not only a health matter for the Town, it was a cost saving measure. Mr. Herz stated that Cambridge indicated that they were happy to have reopened, but the Town did not have a solid enough plan in place to open the Visitors Center at this moment in time. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. MacIntosh was doing the research and receiving guidance from the Health Department on measures for reopening. Ms. MacIntosh stated that Ms. Goddard did a good amount of research on the portolets. Mr. Ingersoll stated that right now if the center was opened it would be used more as a public restroom than a Visitor Center.
Mr. Herz stated that the Presbyterian Church Youth Group, under the leadership of Carolyne Grotsky, did a clean up of the Conley Pocket Park by the Sultana Shipyard. He said that they pulled weeds and cut back branches, etc. He said that it looks fantastic and thanked them for their hard work. He said that they have offered to clean up other parks in Town.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted to thank the residents of the Third Ward for keeping their properties looking so nice and well-kept. He said that Brook Meadow was beginning their renovations and the residents were transitioning from housing to allow for the remodel.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted to thank the Presbyterian Youth Group for offering to help in the Third Ward.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted to thank Tim Trumbauer of Shore Rivers who has a group that will be coming out to Carpenter Park to thin out brush and remove trash that was collecting within it.
Ms. Efland stated that there was an incident at the Chestertown Christian Academy where the Kent County Health Department closed the schools due to an alleged positive Covid test with a student and read a press release by the Kent County Health Department issued on Friday, October 2nd as follows, “Word was received that upon confirmatory investigation the individual from the Chestertown Christian Academy community who allegedly tested positive for Covid-19 actually tested negative. This information was obtained with the cooperation of the Chestertown Christian Academy and their leadership. The immediate risk thought to have existed to the larger community is not present. We are grateful that no community members were infected or exposed as a result of the incident”.
Ms. Efland stated that she was excited to have the YMCA center and the aggressive plan for it to be completed. She said that this would offer so much to the community and would be a great meeting place for all ages.
Mayor Cerino stated that there were no requests from the public to be on the agenda and asked if there were any questions or comments.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like to get on the books the date that the Mayor and Council will have public discussion on the Human Rights Commission Ordinance. Mr. Ingersoll stated that it was at the bottom of the Ordinance. Ms. Mulligan stated that the date was listed for October 19th for adoption, but public notices need to be in the paper for the Ordinance and deadlines have passed for this week. Ms. Mulligan stated that the Hospital was also scheduled to be on the agenda for October 19th and asked if that was too much on an agenda for one night. Rev. Tolliver stated that would be a busy meeting.
Mr. Ingersoll asked if the first meeting in November would be a good night for the adoption of the Human Rights Commission Ordinance. Rev. Tolliver asked if the public hearing could be the last Monday of the month on the Ordinance. Mr. Ingersoll stated that a public hearing was not necessary for the Ordinance unless it was agreed to by a majority of the Council, adding that the public period has started with the introduction. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Rev. Tolliver did say that he wanted to have a public discussion and they can call for a public hearing, but a public hearing was not part of the process and it must be advertised. Mr. Ingersoll stated that ordinarily between 6 and 60 days after an Ordinance is introduced the Ordinance is adopted.
Rev. Tolliver asked for a public hearing on the Human Rights Commission Ordinance. Mr. Ingersoll stated that typically an enactment date on the ordinance would be at the next public meeting, which would be October 19th. He asked if he wanted to have the public hearing in between or should they extend the date to November 2nd to pass the Ordinance. Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like to have the public hearing and would like the enactment to be at the November 2nd meeting. Ms. Mulligan asked if she scheduled the public hearing for 7:00 p.m. that date. Mr. Ingersoll stated that they could also have a public hearing at 7:00 p.m. on October 19th. Rev. Tolliver stated that the October 19th meeting was going to be long because the Hospital was scheduled. Rev. Tolliver stated that November 2nd for the Human Rights Commission Ordinance was okay with him, but the Council should prepare for a long meeting. Ms. Mulligan stated that typically a public hearing is held the same night before the regularly scheduled Mayor and Council meeting where the adoption of the Ordinance was on the agenda, but it did not have to be.
Mr. Ingersoll asked why Rev. Tolliver thought the public hearing would run long. Rev. Tolliver stated that there were several people he thought would want to weigh in on this issue. He said that comments were made that the public was unaware of the terms and the document might not be understood, but now there is the chance to educate the public on what the ordinance says and what it is supposed to do and those people who have written in or may have been waiting tonight and did not get the chance to speak about it. Rev. Tolliver stated that he also wanted to give his colleagues on the Council the time to speak adding that everyone should have the opportunity to say what they wanted to say about the Ordinance. He thought there were strong opinions on it that may have not been expressed this evening.
Mr. Ingersoll asked when Rev. Tolliver wanted the enactment date to be advertised to be. Rev. Tolliver stated that the enactment date of November 2nd should be in the advertisement and there would be a public scheduled somewhere in between.
Mayor Cerino stated that he pledged to wait to discuss the 16-month plan for the Equity Advisory Committee and asked if there was anyway to accelerate the schedule. Rev. Tolliver stated that Mayor Cerino did not have to wait to begin his plan as they were separate. He said that he would not be offended if Mayor Cerino chose to put the 16-month plan into effect and that he had been prepared to nominate his candidates for the committee at the present meeting. Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to introduce the plan for the Equity Advisory Committee at the meeting of October 19th.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Ms. Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 10:02 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor