MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MARCH 1, 2021
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:37 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), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Public Hearing, Executive Session or Mayor and Council Meetings of February 16, 2021. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the meetings of February 16, 2021 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $2,287,865.99.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Ms. Efland moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Owen Bailey was present on behalf of Eastern Shore Land Conservancy to discuss “Chestertown Open Streets”. He said that there were streets in Town that were dangerous, and he was trying to create additional access to pedestrians by slowing vehicular traffic. Mr. Bailey stated that demonstration projects were temporary installations used for brief periods of time to see if they aided traffic calming. He said that this was a good short-term solution for potentially solving long-term problems.
Mr. Bailey stated that an example of a project demonstrations would be temporary curb extensions using chicanes, pop-up bike lanes using paint and refuge islands using pinch points to slow down traffic.
Mr. Bailey stated that based on feedback from residents, Maple Avenue, Washington Avenue and Morgnec Road were streets to begin with. He said that Flatland Road and South Cross Street could be made more walkable if there were connections to the trail system providing walkability downtown. Mr. Bailey stated that the areas where residents are on the most agreement of trying a demonstration project is on Philosopher’s Terrace. Mr. Bailey stated that Hadaway Drive and Greenwood Avenue are other areas where traffic calming measures would be helpful.
Mr. Bailey stated that creating safe passage to the new YMCA at Haacke Drive and Scheeler Road could be implemented immediately. He said that the residents of Oak Hollow were in favor of this as a first step.
Mr. Bailey stated that the Foot of High Street was raised as a potential spot by a resident at a previous meeting and a demonstration project would be helpful in that area.
Mr. Bailey stated that he would like to create a team in each neighborhood involving residents and businesses using walk audits that can be done with town officials for an in-person view of the roads and to brainstorm solutions. From there, they can come up with a design, budget, and plan length of demonstrations and installations before moving forward with a permanent solution. Mr. Bailey stated that there were many ways to fund these demonstration projects through grants, private donors and in-kind donations. Feedback can be included as part of the grant requests for permanent solutions.
Ms. Efland thanked Mr. Bailey for having conversations with residents as the Council was already receiving feedback. Mr. Bailey stated that any feedback was important as the residents knew their streets better than anyone. He said that if they begin with “low-hanging fruit” it may show that these traffic-calming measures would prove helpful in certain areas.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a virtual Waterfront Trail Joint Evaluation meeting was held, and the Waterfront Trail Committee was going to walk the trail the following morning at 8:30 a.m. He said that he would like to consider Rt. 289 in the process of this plan as it is an important return link to pedestrian connectivity to the Rail Trail and throughout Town.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Redistricting Process is being derailed as the 2020 Census results were running past their expected March delivery dates. Mr. de Mooy is trying to work on an interim solution for the upcoming fall elections, with a final solution once the 2020 Census numbers are in. Mr. de Mooy stated that the Redistricting Committee has settled on a Ward Map draft which will be presented at the next Mayor and Council meeting. Mr. de Mooy stated that the Committee is unanimous in its support of the map, adding that he would send it to the Council beforehand to review. Members of the Redistricting Committee will be present to answer questions.
Mayor Cerino stated that the present voting districts are not in compliance with One Person One Vote and the ACLU is helping Mr. de Mooy along in the process of redistricting. He said that using current ward maps is not an option and they would review the map and most likely adopt it for this election and ground truth it before the next election. Mr. de Mooy stated that the 2010 census numbers showed a significant change and he thought that using those numbers they would be closer to where the Town needed to be to be following voting laws than if they simply went with the wards as they are at this time.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he did not like that data from 2010 is going to be used. He said that an effort had to be made to create a majority minority ward and looking at the data today it would not match. He said that although population may not have changed, the neighborhoods have. Mr. de Mooy stated that they did not have a choice but to use the 2010 data, even though it was not the best-case scenario. Rev. Tolliver agreed, but asked if the ACLU could delay until more accurate numbers were available. Mr. de Mooy stated that Chestertown was so out of date he thought that the ACLU would prefer that redistricting would be based on the 2010 census for the next election.
Mr. Foster stated that he did not like that there would be an interim decision until the new census numbers were available, but he thought there should be a committee in place from this point forward so that the Town did not get out of compliance again and the mapping was checked with each census.
The Mayor called on Mr. Ingersoll for his report.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the large dying Elm tree on the 100 block of North Queen Street was going to be removed on March 8, 9 and 10. Asplundh would be doing the work for Delmarva Power with the street crew assisting by removing the tree parts as they are brought to the ground. He said that he would be working with the police department to get timing down as the streets had to be cleared. Residents would have to move their vehicles while the work was being performed. He said that this was the earliest notice he had and would take all precautions to protect life and property.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Acting Chief Dolgos is retiring in the Fall and the Council needed to decide whether they would renew the outreach process for a Chief of Police position. Mr. Foster stated that Chief Dolgos has done an excellent job, but a search should be done, with Acting Chief Dolgos invited to apply. Rev. Tolliver agreed, adding that Acting Chief Dolgos has a great rapport with the residents but the position should be advertised as soon as possible since he is retiring in October. Mr. Herz stated that Acting Chief Dolgos has been engaged and he would be happy to see him continue but the question of salary and more diverse candidates should be evaluated. Ms. Efland stated that Acting Chief Dolgos has done a tremendous job, but they do need to see what options are available and they should begin to look as soon as possible so the new Chief can get acclimated to Town before Chief Dolgos retires in October. Rev. Tolliver moved to begin the search for a new Chief of Police with a request for proposals to be sent out, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like for a motion to appoint Anthony D’Elia to the Planning Commission. Mr. Herz moved to appoint Anthony D’Elia to the Planning Commission, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that he received an email from legal counsel in Ocean City, who has a similar issue with a lack of tax differential from their County and asked if Chestertown would file an Amicus Brief in favor of their case. Mr. Foster stated that he thought anything possible to help Ocean City should be done as their situation is like Chestertown’s request for aid. Mr. Foster stated that he has a file on this matter that he would be happy to share. Ms. Efland stated that she was in support of this endeavor and hoped that Ocean City would come to their aid if the need arose. Mr. Foster moved to support Ocean City by filing an Amicus Brief on their behalf to the Court of Appeals in support of a tax differential or tax rebate, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino read a proclamation declaring March as Endometriosis Awareness Month.
Mayor Cerino stated that there are 8 months left until the next Town election and the seats for reelection are Mayor, Ward One and Ward Three. Mayor Cerino stated that he will not be running for reelection. He said that he is not willing or able to remain in office for another 4 years and wanted to give anyone considering running the time to get prepared. Mayor Cerino stated that he did not consider himself a politician but said that he was able to get a lot done in his time and fresh eyes would be good for Town. Mayor Cerino had a slideshow presentation of his time in office outlining what he set out to do and all that he has been able to accomplish in his 8 years as Mayor.
Mayor Cerino asked for ward reports.
Mr. Foster thanked Mayor Cerino for the fantastic job he has done in his time in office. Mr. Foster stated that he will be running the Fall and has enjoyed his time on the Council.
Mr. Foster stated that there were still many people having difficulty registering for their vaccine. He said that there is assistance available from volunteers and anyone needing assistance can contact him and he will refer them. He said that the system is not very streamlined, and the website is not user-friendly.
Mr. Herz stated that he did not have any major issues. He said that Mayor Cerino has been gracious with his time, talents and knowledge and looked forward to the serving the rest of the year with him.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the Council approved the nomination of Marty Stetson for the Maryland Municipal League Hall of Fame and read some excerpts from his letter of recommendation. He said that he contacted Patty Stetson for her approval before moving forward with the submission.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he has received some complaints on street paving, and he hoped to adjust them at budget time.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he had some complaints on the drug raid in his ward and a minor being caught up and handcuffed in the fray. He said that he continued to look to law enforcement as people who are there to serve but wanted to make sure nobody’s rights were violated.
Rev. Tolliver thanked Mayor Cerino for his service.
Ms. Efland stated that she and the rest of Chestertown are flooded from all the bad weather.
Ms. Efland stated that Mr. Bailey did have conversations with residents about demonstration projects and she was happy for the conversation adding that it was interesting how responsive people were, especially in the Oak Hollow section, who were happy to be included in the exercise.
Ms. Efland stated that she appreciated Mayor Cerino and his service over the years.
Ms. Laura Johnson, Vice President of Finance and Administration of Washington College stated that 390 students were on campus, all learning remotely. She said that there was an outbreak in one of the dorms which was quickly quarantined. Ms. Johnson stated that the students living off-campus have been responsible with safety measures during COVID-19. She said that there was a plan for additional students to return to campus after spring break with in-class instruction, but there was still anxiety at this time so she did not think it would be large-scale. Ms. Johnson stated that there was a robust summer academic program planned online and summer camps and conferences planned on site.
Ms. Johnson stated that 307 Washington Avenue property was sold and now that entire block is back to private residences. She said that marked the eleventh property sold by the College in the last year back to the private sector.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Ms. Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:11 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor