2021, Mayor and Council, Town Agendas & Minutes|

MAYOR AND COUNCIL

MARCH 15, 2021

Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:32 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 Mayor and Council Meeting of March 1, 2021.  Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the meetings of March 1, 2021 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $2,211,486.19.

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 Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that several members of the Redistricting Committee were present to give a report and recommendations for redistricting.  Mr. de Mooy showed a PowerPoint presentation beginning with the present Ward Map.  He said that the ACLU alerted Chestertown that they were behind in updating the map and grossly malapportioned in the One Person/One Vote requirement due to new construction of developments like Coventry Farms.  A minority majority ward which meets the Voting Rights Act standards of at least 40% black population has been created and is Ward 3.,

Mr. de Mooy stated that in February 2020 the Councilmembers each appointed two members from their wards for the Committee.  He named all the members.  He said that to accomplish their goals, the Committee had to come up with approximately the same number of voters in each ward (the difference not being more than 10% in any ward), at least one minority majority ward, make sure that the Voting Rights Act was being followed, and make sure that no current Councilperson was forced out of their ward.

Mr. de Mooy thanked Debbie Jeon (ACLU), Bill Cooper (ACLU Demographer) and Luis Machado (WAC GIS Development Manager) for their assistance in the redistricting process.

Mr. de Mooy stated that they followed major roads in defining the wards.  He said that they were waiting to incorporate 2020 census numbers before coming to the Council with their recommendations, but those numbers have been delayed due to the pandemic. They were now forced to use the 2010 census numbers for redistricting.  He said that he did not think that there would be much deviation from the 2010 census numbers when the new census information is received.

Mr. de Mooy showed where the ward numbers fell in total according to the original mapping and said that the Washington College students were deducted from the count (as is the rule) giving a starting number of 4,217.  Once divided, each of the 4 wards should have 1,054 people (not deviating from that number by more than 10% in any ward).  Mr. de Mooy stated that the total black population in Chestertown is 1,072 and according to the Voting Rights Act there had to be 40% of number in one ward.

Mr. de Mooy then showed a map of the wards overlayed with the census blocks.  He also showed the draft map submitted by the ACLU, which was vastly different than Chestertown’s existing ward map.  He then showed draft maps done by the Redistricting Committee and explained the process of why they were discarded in favor of the draft map being presented at this meeting.  Mr. de Mooy stated that the map recommended by the ACLU and the map being presented were similar.

Mr. de Mooy stated that with proposed map put each Ward closer in numbers while saying within the 10% deviation.  Ward 3 fulfilled the Voting Act requirements, and the proposed map does not displace any sitting councilmember.

Mr. de Mooy stated that if the Council accepts the recommendation of the Redistricting Committee they will have to send a mass mailing alerting each resident to which ward they now reside.

Mr. Foster stated that he did not want anyone to have the impression that students cannot vote in Chestertown if they registered Chestertown as their home address.  Ms. Murphy stated that the reason the students are taken out of the equation is that the guidelines for redistricting tell them to do so since students typically use their home address..

Mr. Foster stated that this exercise was long overdue, adding that his ward was the worst offender.  He said that he felt strongly that a committee should be established to study the wards with each census.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that an Ordinance would have to be passed to adopt the findings of the Redistricting Committee and that the Town would also work with the Board of Elections to see that the addresses and wards were corrected once the map was adopted.

Mr. Herz moved to accept the recommendations of the Redistricting Committee and move forward with adoption, was seconded by Ms. Efland and passed with four (4) in favor, Rev. Tolliver opposed. 

Mr. Foster asked Mr. Ingersoll if there was any progress on syncing elections with State elections.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that he has contacted the State Election Board at least 5 times in the last year and although the ACLU said that the State would help to sync elections, he was not finding that to be true.  He said that he would like to see elections take place at the same time as Gubernatorial and Federal elections, but he was having trouble getting people from the State Elections Board to even answer his emails or phone calls.

Mayor Cerino called forward the Equity Advisory Committee.  Mr. John Queen was present for the Committee.  He said that the members of the Committee have spent the last three months getting information from the Community on how to implement the Chestertown Unites Against Racism.

Mr. Queen stated that he was seeking guidance from the Town about solicitation and receiving of donations from the community.  He said that he wanted Mr. Herz and Rev. Tolliver to participate in the next video for donations.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that it was easy for the Town to take in donations and mark them to a line item in the budget but would prefer to have an ultimate end user designated. He said that the Town would not have separate bank accounts for different committees.     

Mr. Queen stated that the next Community Dialogue session would take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on April 14th and he asked Mr. Foster and Ms. Efland to attend this seminar.  He said that the topics of discussion will be accountability and connecting bridges between the Town and Washington College, along with topics of racism.  Students from Washington College and community members will also be invited to attend.

Mr. Queen stated that the Community Book Club is working with the James Taylor Coalition and the book they chose to read is “On the Courthouse Lawn”.  They would meet as a group to discuss the book and he said that he would like for the Mayor and Council to attend, even if they could not attend the meetings together as a Council body.  Mr. Foster moved to support the Community Book Club and try to participate as a Council where they can, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.

Mr. Queen stated that diversity training was vetted, and two trainings were recommended that the Council and the Equity Advisory take.  Dates and times are still being determined and once the Council and Equity Advisory take the trainings, they will open them up to the public.  He said that the Jedi Trainings are in four (4) parts and cover Identity and Privilege, Anti-Racism, Courageous Conversations and Mitigating Micro-Aggression.  Training is approximately 90 minutes per session.  He said that he would like to have people perform the trainings before Juneteenth as that will all tie into the Unity pillar of their program.

Rev. Tolliver asked what made this specific program better than other available trainings.  Mr. Queen stated that they researched information that they had available, but he did know that there were other programs like “Undoing Racism”, but they do not have all the information on the program, and it was expensive.  Mr. Herz stated that the Council made a motion in March regarding Undoing Racism, many of which were cancelled because of the pandemic.  He said that Undoing Racism has a significant cost and should be attended in person, not over Zoom.

Mayor Cerino stated that the training being offered through Washington College is free and is a nice tie-in with the Equity Advisory Committee and students at the college.  He said that these trainings do not exclude others and they are being offered at no cost to the Council.  There was also the opportunity to bring it to the public via Zoom.

Ms. Meghan White stated that diversity trainings held at Washington College have been predominately students and staff in attendance and were given by Washington College staff and students.  Mr. Michael Harvey stated that 25 students and staff have been involved so far with the in-house program.

Mr. Queen stated that historic signage was the next item he wanted to address. Private donors have stepped forward to implement the idea, which fell under the Unification pillar.  The wording is not set in stone yet but is being checked for historical accuracy and speaks to exactly what is needed to be said, specifically the apology to indentured servants in Chestertown.  Different locations for the sign were submitted, but they thought the best placement would be at the foot of Cannon Street by the footbridge, near a lamp post closest to the water.  He said that the donors asked that the Town install and maintain the sign.  Mayor Cerino stated that he was happy to hear that donors had come forward for the first sign.  He said that Karen Somerville wrote the wording for the signs and that he hoped that there will be more in the future throughout town, with this being the prototype.  Mr. Queen stated that Ms. Ruth Shoge of Washington College and Mr. Bill Leery (Historical Society) will fact check the wording for the sign.

Rev. Tolliver moved to support the signage and the location, working with the Town Manager for material for the sign and maintenance, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mr. Queen stated that a member of the Committee had stepped down and after vetting the other people mentioned for the Committee, they would like to have Meghan White (SGA President of Washington College) appointed to the Committee.  He asked the Council to consider Ms. White for the position.  Mr. Queen stated that it would be a great honor to the students at Washington College by giving them a voice on the Committee.  Rev. Tolliver asked if Ms. White could be a student liaison and there be another Committee member appointed as well.  Mr. Queen stated that they did discuss this but because Ms. White is so involved, they would really like her to be an actual member of the Committee.

Rev. Tolliver moved to nominate and appoint Ms. Meghan White to the Equity Advisory Committee, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that the Recreation Commission will attend the first meeting of April.

Ms. Kay MacIntosh and Mr. John Schratwieser were present to discuss how to move forward with the position of Manager of the Arts & Entertainment District upon her retirement.  She said that she took on this position when she came on as Economic Director.  Ms. MacIntosh stated that the A&E district has grown substantially and there is a new advisory board in place.  Main Street has also grown tremendously, and it was time for Main Street to have its own Main Street Director.  Ms. MacIntosh stated that this was a good time for the Mayor and Council to make changes once she retires and suggested that to separate the roles, the Kent Cultural Alliance take over the administrative role of the Arts & Entertainment District.  Ms. MacIntosh stated that Mr. Schratwieser was interested in this arrangement and they were present to discuss the possibility of the merge.

Mr. Schratwieser stated that managing the Arts & Entertainment District would be in line with their mission and there is a precedent for them to do so.  He said that this arrangement would create a position to dedicate the time to the A&E District but also help with the mission of the Kent Cultural Alliance.

Mayor Cerino stated that he saw this as a budgeting issue for the Town as Ms. MacIntosh was hired to be the director of the Arts & Entertainment District while working on Main Street.  He said that Ms. MacIntosh’s salary is paid half by the Town and half by donation of a private entity for Main Street.  He said that the Town could agree to pay for a Main Street salary, but Main Street would cover the rest of the costs. Other allocations could be put toward an A&E Director that would be housed in the Arts Building at 101 Spring Street, overseen by Mr. Schratwieser.

Mayor Cerino asked for a budgeting list from Ms. MacIntosh for the A&E District and the issue would be discussed during this year’s budget workshops.

Mayor Cerino asked Acting Chief Dolgos for his report.  Acting Chief Dolgos presented the February 2021 report.  He said that he would present the Annual Report at a future meeting due to the length of tonight’s meeting.  Mayor Cerino asked how many officers are attending the Crisis Intervention Training.  Acting Chief Dolgos stated that 5 officers had already attended, and 2 additional officers are attending the training in April.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a successful bid opening on March 5th for the third leg of the Rail Trail in the amount of $174,000.00 for David A. Bramble.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. de Mooy checked the bid for accuracy and there were some grant activities that the Town Crew would perform.  The Town has received a Bikeways Grant in the amount of $169,000.00 for the project.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that the removal of the elm on Queen Street went off without a hitch.  He said that the street crew and the police department handled everything well.  The that this tree was immense, and Asplundh did a tremendous job.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. John Queen requested use of the Fountain Park for a Frederick Douglass day celebration on February 12, 2022 and February 13, 2023 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in conjunction with Chestertown Unites Against Racism.  Rev. Tolliver moved to reserve Wilmer Park on February 12, 2022 and February 13, 2023 for Frederick Douglass Day celebrations, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Chestertown A&E has a request for a Spring Art Walk on Saturday, April 24th and he read the permit into the record.  Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the request, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Emmanuel Church has a permit request for an Easter Service on April 4th on Memorial Plaza which requested the street be closed to parking and traffic during for the service.  Mr. Herz moved to approve the request, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Janes United Methodist Church requested the use of Washington Park from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for an Easter Celebration Service on Sunday, April 4thRev. Tolliver moved to approve the request, contingent upon the Church making sure that there is not a conflict with the Washington Park Community at the Park that day, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Janes Church has a permit request for a fish fry on Good Friday, April 2nd.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would like this given conditional approval, with full approval once the Health Department approved it.  Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the permit request with the condition that the Health Department give the appropriate approvals, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Main Street has a permit request for Cars on High on the 3rd Thursday each month beginning in April and ending in October.  Ms. Efland moved to approve Cars on High, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a permit request for the Earth Day Festival from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 24 in Fountain Park.  He read the permit into the record.  Ms. Efland moved to approve the Earth Day permit request as submitted with the condition that the Park Row businesses agree with the plans, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously. 

Dr. Michael Harvey, Interim Provost of Washington College was present and stated that the last positive Covid test on campus was on February 18th.  Protocols are in place and the College is operating on a “green” schedule with only scheduled visitors allowed on campus.  Mask wearing is mandatory.  Students are only allowed to congregate off-campus outdoors.  He said that the College is planning a controlled outdoor commencement.  Employees are taking advantage of vaccinations and 50% are either vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated.  He said that the students are taking their responsibilities to prevent the spread of covid seriously.  All students are welcome back to campus on April 15th.  He said that some students will still be opting to take classes online, but all classes are in session.

Dr. Harvey stated that community partnerships are important to him and he said that a strong partnership with the Town and the College was vital to the health of both the College and Chestertown.

Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to consider going back to in-person meetings at some point this year, perhaps beginning in early June, if positivity remains at less than 5%.  The Council decided to try to meet in person the first meeting in June.  Mr. Foster asked if it was possible to continue the live-streaming and providing opportunities for Zoom or phone conferencing.  Mr. de Mooy stated that Covid funding may be available to incorporate ways for the public to phone or zoom in.

Mayor Cerino stated that the Council would have to make decisions soon regarding larger events, adding that the Tea Party has been cancelled for 2021.  He said that he would like to budget for a fireworks display for this year if possible.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was some funding in this budget for fireworks.  Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street raised $3,000.00 to go to the fireworks and would get the Town a check for that entire donation.

Mayor Cerino asked for Ward Reports.

Mr. Foster stated that with the passing of the Covid Relief legislation, rumors are flying about money coming into Chestertown.  He said that the Town will do everything they can to put the money to good use and would do it as transparently as possible.

Mr. Foster stated that he wanted to pass a resolution on a permanent redistricting committee due to the importance of review with each new census.

Mr. Foster stated that he was concerned with Governor Hogan’s reopening and hoped that the emphasis on mask-wearing and social distancing would be continued.  He said that the pandemic was not over, and people had to continue efforts to not spread Covid.

Mr. Herz stated that the Garden Club asked him to thank the Council for their Christmas Decoration Contest award.

Mr. Herz stated that members of the Kent County Economic Office are coming to the next meeting to give a report.

Mr. Herz asked if Mr. Ingersoll would take time to think about reopening the Visitors Center and Town Hall as more people are now vaccinated and Covid funds are becoming available.

Mr. Herz stated that the American Rescue Plan allots funding for Chestertown and he said that he would like to see projects done that would benefit the entire Town.  He said that he reached out to Ken Kratovil’s Office and they did have someone in the office to take question and further information can be found at asking questions which can be asked at mdlocal@cardin.senate.gov.

Mr. Herz stated that he would like to create a task force to oversee the Covid funding to have qualified people advise how to spend the money while keeping within the guidelines.

Ms. Efland reminded everyone to change their batteries in smoke detectors if they did not do so when they moved their clocks forward.

Ms. Efland stated that Mr. Bailey was working on meetings for traffic calming along Haacke Drive by the YMCA and Dixon Complex.

There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Ms. Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 10:15 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously. 

Submitted by:                                                             Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                                  Chris Cerino

Town Clerk                                                            Mayor

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