CHESTERTOWN MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEETING
AUGUST 21, 2023
Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Tim O’Brien, Tom Herz, Jose Medrano and Meghan Efland, Larry DiRe (Town Manager), Lynda Thomas (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the Mayor and Council minutes of August 7, 2023. Councilwoman Efland moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of August 7, 2023. The motion was seconded by Councilman Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster reported that the cash on hand was $1,499,063.83. Councilwoman Efland made a motion to pay the bills. The motion was seconded by Councilman O’Brien and passed unanimously.
Chestertown’s Bocce League Update
Frank Hurst presented Chestertown’s Bocce League Update. He noted that this September-October marks the 10th anniversary of the Chestertown Bocce League. The League started with 66 players and now there are 50 teams with a total of 137 players. He thanked the Mayor and Council for their support and asked them to reaffirm the Towns commitment to allow the Bocce players to continue playing on Tuesdays in Wilmer Park from mid-April through to the end of June and all of September through October and to waive the open container law.
Mr. Hurst thanked Tom Sappington and his team for their hard work in mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes.
Mr. Hurst reported that the league would like to donate picnic tables to the park. He asked the Mayor and Council to select the type of tables; concrete or plastic, they would like.
Mr. Hurst noted that two (2) seasons ago, a spin-off Bocce League began in Rock Hall.
Sustainable Maryland Certification Update
Carole Tripp, Chestertown Environmental Committee (CEC) member, presented the update on Town’s application for the Sustainable Maryland Certification. She noted that the CEC is apply for the 2023 Sustainable Maryland (SM) application, a prestigious recognition of the Town’s support of environmentally and economically sustainable actions. She noted this is a three-year certification that involves describing a set of actions to help make Chestertown a more sustainable place to live and work.
Darren Tilghman presented the Shore Rivers update, on behalf of Chester Riverkeeper, Annie Richards, who’s out of town. Shore Rivers and the river keepers have been working to protect and restore all of the Eastern Shore waterways and have been working with other towns and municipalities to create similar plans.
Ms. Tilghman stated that this plan establishes priorities around tree canopy, impervious surfaces, best management practices, like bioswales, and retention, and really is about thinking forward on climate change and how to be ready to be a historic resilient coastal community.
Ms. Tilghman noted that they have an ambitious nutrient and sediment reduction goal in the Watershed Implementation Plan for middle Chester. The plan, if all projects are implemented, would produce a reduction in nitrogen from the three biggest pollutants in the waterways, phosphorus, and sediment, by using native plants. Native plants soak up those pollutants which are nutrients and soil. The use of rain gardens, buffers between land and water, green streets and wetlands with tree plantings help to slow the flow of water so that nutrients can be absorbed into land where they’re critically important and keep them out of the waterways where they’re catastrophically damaging.
Chestertown Police Department (CPD) Report
Chief Ron Dixon presented the CPD July monthly report. He reported that the speed camera recorded 499 instances of speeding for the month of July versus the normal +/-300.
Chief Dixon reported a significant amount of overtime for the Carnival on High.
Chief reviewed various functions he attended over the past month:
- Multiple Department of Social Services meetings
- National Night Out – played kick ball in Worton and was the keynote speaker.
- Shore Regional Health
- Child fatality review board meeting
- Eastern Shore Regional Law Enforcement Council meeting
- Baltimore Farmers Market
- Local Drug & Alcohol Council meeting
- Community Safety Workshop meeting in Wilmer Park
- Recreation & Parks Commission 10-year planning meeting
- Legacy Day
- Cars on High
- Crossroads Community Leadership meeting
- Special Olympic Kayaking event
Mr. O’Brien asked about the swat raid in Coventry and asked about CPD’s role. Chief Dixon reported that this raid was a Sheriff’s Office raid and CPD had not been informed ahead of time and found out on social media like everyone else. He did find out that the raid was due to a bank foreclosure on a home. The Sheriff’s Office had reason to believe that it could be a threat and took tactical action.
Mr. Herz asked about patrols in the parks. Chief Dixon stated that CPD has been making various patrols of the parks throughout the day. CPD has used the ATV to ride through the parks and the entire rail trail.
Mr. Herz asked about the 2-hour parking on the 200 block of High Street. He asked if CPD has written any tickets and if there are any thoughts on signage and enforcement. Chief Dixon stated the signage on the meters are so small (2” long x 1” wide) and the meters are marked free parking. He feels that trying to enforce that could be a liability and has elected not to enforce that at this point.
Mr. Herz asked about the intersection of Queen and High and wanted to know if this area was dangerous enough to make it into a 4-way stop. Chief Dixon noted that the intersection does not have crash data. He noted that drivers and pedestrians in that area need to be more aware and use caution.
Chief Dixon stated for the record that it is illegal to save a parking space by putting a cone or another object in that parking space. A person may apply for a temporary permit to reserve spaces needed for moving trucks, dumpsters, and work trucks. CPD and the street crew regulate these notices by placing cones and signs in the permitted work areas.
Chief Dixon gave an update on the speeding on the 400 block of High Street. He reported that CPD patrolled the area and did not get the numbers as reported. Only one (1) citation was issued for speeding. CPD will be posting the speed trailer in that area once the electrical issue is resolved.
Mr. Foster asked about the status of the speed feedback cameras that were ordered. The Chief reported that their office has received one camera.
Mr. Foster asked about recruitment. Chief Dixon reported that a recruit is going through academy now and is expected to graduate in mid-December. Another recruit will start police academy training in September.
TOWN MANAGER’S REPORT
Mr. DiRe reviewed the following upcoming events:
- Chestertown Jazz Festival
- Fiesta Latina
Councilman O’Brien made a motion to approve the Chestertown Jazz Festival as submitted. The motion was seconded by Councilman Herz and passed unanimously.
Councilman Herz made a motion to approve Fiesta Latina as submitted. The motion was seconded by Councilman O’Brien and passed unanimously.
Mr. DiRe reported that the visitor center will now have extended hours, until 8 pm, during Friday and Saturday downtown events to make the restrooms available.
Mr. Foster reviewed various functions he attended over the past two (2) weeks:
- Legacy Day
- Welcomed new Washington College students and reported there were over 250 new students, an increase over last year.
Mr. Foster gave an update on the tax differential and noted there were 20 different proposals submitted to the Maryland Municipal League (MML). He noted that only 3 or 4 proposals are selected each year for Legislative action and Chestertown’s proposal was among the top two (2).
Mr. Foster asked residents to get involved and vote for the location of the new Kent County Middle School.
Councilwoman Efland made a motion to appoint Cori Lynn Arnold, Scott Gornall and Mary Alice Ball to the I.T. Study Group. The motion was seconded by Councilman Herz and passed unanimously.
Mr. DiRe reviewed the Carpenter Park Community Park Grant Application and the stipulations. He noted that program funding cannot have funded development projects at that site in the past twenty-years and anything that this grant funds must have a life span of twenty-years, or the replacement or improvements will be funded by the Town. He noted that the deadline to submit the grant is time sensitive.
Councilman Medrano made a motion to approve to seek the additional funding for improvement for the Community Parks and Playgrounds in this funding cycle. The motion was seconded by Councilman O’Brien and passed unanimously.
Ms. Efland reviewed the reinstatement of the plastic bag ordinance. She noted that due to supply chain issues during COVID, the ordinance was paused. She reported that Centreville has reinstated their ordinance for January 1, 2024, and would like to do the same.
Mr. O’Brien noted that he had concerns about the enforcement of the ordinance. Mr. DiRe noted that it would be a good idea to move forward with reinstatement and allow for a grace period for shops to transition. This transition period would allow time for Mayor and Council to find the best way to enforce the ordinance.
Ms. Efland noted she would research what other municipalities are doing and collect feedback from businesses that would be impacted for further review and the possibility of making changes to the ordinance.
Mr. Foster asked Nina Fleegle to consider what would be the appropriate charge for use of the stage and other equipment that organizations use during town events. He noted that there are expenses the Town has absorbed, such as the cost of the stage, maintenance, staff time to set up and take down the stage, storage fees. It was recommended to set a rental fee to recoup these various costs. Mr. DiRe will have further discussion with Nina Fleegle and Tom Sappington to calculate the costs and come up with an appropriate charge for use of the various items the Town loans out for town events.
Mr. Herz reported on the decision to seek the Chester River Walk Bond Initiative during the 2024 Maryland General Assembly. He noted that the trail could be an economic development and tourism opportunity for the Town. The trail would run from Wilmer Park to Washington College to the Armory and connect to the Rail Trail with the possibility of extending to Radcliffe Creek. The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and Washington College is helping with this project.
Councilman Herz made a motion to approve the application for the Legislative Bond Initiative. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Efland and passed unanimously.
Ms. Efland reported:
- Students returned to Washington College this week. A group of first year students are to visit Town Hall to talk about making a difference in our community.
- The Board of Education has scheduled to vote on the new Middle School at their next board meeting in September.
- Robbi Behr, Matthew Swanson and their 4 children have spent the last year on their Busload of Books Tour of the United States. They went to Title I schools in all 50 states and DC, driving over 34,000 miles and giving away 25,000 of their books.
- A group from Washington College are scheduled to visit Martha Washington Square & Decker Theatre (Washington College) to review data on their research study of Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson’s Busload of Books Tour.
- Washington College recently received word that it has been awarded a small, 1-year planning grant as part of TEDCO’s and the State of Maryland’s Makerspace Initiative Program.
- Attended and enjoyed the 10-year Legacy Day event.
Mr. Medrano reported:
- Attended and enjoyed the 10-year Legacy Day event.
- The upcoming Washington Park Day event at Carpenter Park and noted the upgrades at the park.
- Thanked the crew for their work in fixing the potholes on Kennedy.
Mr. Herz reported:
- Thanked Mr. DiRe for working out the details on opening the visitor center until 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays when there are evening events.
- Received a complaint about wires hanging from poles and found out they were fiber wires, and they should be fixed soon.
- The ARPA award recipients will soon be able to begin their part of the process.
- Had a meeting with residents about the park/playground noise from musical instruments
Mr. O’Brien reported:
- Attended the Legacy Day event and hoped the town would financially support the event in the future.
- A piece of property attached to Bailey Park is owned by the hospital. He contacted the person in charge of the property to have someone maintain it.
- Received approval to begin a conversation about the wastewater treatment plant and asked for Town approval to go after grants.
- Would like to reintroduce the Ordinance to Amend Chapter 156: Trees at the next meeting.
- The Recreation Commission will be reviewing the Comprehensive Recreation plan at their next meeting.
- He will be addressing the house on Rolling Road that needs attention.
- Commented on the structure of the agenda. He asked to have a consent agenda and to have items to be signed posted on the website for the public to review. He also asked to have the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.
There being no further business, Councilwoman Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:45 pm. The motion was seconded by Councilman Herz and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Lynda Thomas, Town Clerk David Foster, Mayor