MAYOR AND COUNCIL
APRIL 18, 2022
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, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager) and guests.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the Mayor and Council meeting of April 4, 2022. Mr. O’Brien had several changes to the minutes which he outlined for the Council. Ms. Efland to approve minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of April 4, 2022 as amended, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that operating funds on hand was $2,202,504.29.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to pay the bills. Ms. Efland moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that representatives of the Coalition for the Homeless were present to give an update on the status of their organization. Mr. Thad Bench and Ms. Carol Niemand were present from the Coalition. Mr. Bench stated that Linda Kohler has been hired to help with the Coalition for the Homeless and the group had become a 501(C-3). Mr. Bench stated that their focus was presently on emergency homelessness instead of chronic homelessness. He said, however, that putting people up at the Driftwood Hotel indefinitely was not sustainable and they were working with other existing agencies to tackle the problem on a more permanent basis.
Ms. Linda Kohler, Executive Director of Chesapeake Charities, stated that she was now working with the Coalition for the Homeless and that in her position with Chesapeake Charities she writes grants. She said that it was key to use existing organizations such as Kent County Social Services and to work together rather than duplicate services.
Ms. Carol Niemand stated that there were now nine (9) residents at the Driftwood Hotel, including two (2) children (who had also been enrolled in school). She said that the Coalition was delivering food and making sure that things were being cleaned and taken care of at the hotel. She said that their costs have risen from $2,500.00 to over $14,000.00 per month. All funds were going directly to the rooms at the Driftwood which did not allow for any forward movement within their organization to help these or other individuals.
Ms. Niemand stated that there are currently no low income rental properties available in Kent County. She said that one resident has been on a waiting list for Brookmeadow for over 2-years. There were advertisements for Kent Crossing Apartments and others but the residents at the Driftwood do not meet their criteria for residency. All Section 8 housing has thirty (30) plus people on a waiting list, which amounted to at least 2-years on a waiting list. She said that what started of a modest goal of providing 24-hour shelter to the homeless has expanded into a full-fledged organization for much more than a place to stay.
Ms. Niemand stated that Shrewsbury Church has raised $15,000.00 to help by providing hot meals, cleaning supplies, clothing, furniture, dishes and silverware and they received two (2) donations from Kent County ($5,500.00 and $5,000.00). Minary’s Dream Alliance has also packed food bags for each room weekly.
Ms. Niemand stated that they would be having a barbeque on Friday, April 29th at the Driftwood and invited the Mayor and Council to join them.
Ms. Niemand asked the Council to at least match one of the donations made by the Kent County Commissioners or a full $10,000.00. Mr. Bench thanked the Mayor and Council for any consideration of a donation and said that in the future they will try to raise their own funds, but right now they needed to meet this short-term need.
Mr. Herz stated that one of his constituents brought to his attention that Chestertown is being taxed three times for the homeless problems in Kent County. He said that residents pay taxes to Kent County, who in turn give money to other agencies who help the homeless and have donated $10,500.00 to the Coalition for the Homeless and now the Coalition is asking the Town to pay a disproportionate amount in Town funds. Mr. Bench stated that this was a legitimate observation, and they would work to efficiently help the homeless in the future by working with other agencies to make ends meet.
Ms. Rachel Carter was present and stated that the Coalition for the Homeless was a true boots on the ground organization and they are taking care of those who have fallen through the cracks. Many of these people do not qualify for benefits and require additional services, but she thought it was a temporary problem. She said that this coalition was making a difference, and this should be called a temporary ask for hours already spent.
Ms. Kohler stated that when visitors come into Chestertown it is possible that dollars are lost if there are homeless in the parks. She said that Kent County should be a participant and money is out there in grants and she hoped that there would be collaboration in the future. She said that she helped to get grants in Talbot County and separate groups were working together for a successful program for the homeless. She said she is also working on a program in Queen Anne’s County called “Our Haven” which was now on track and had just purchased a property for the homeless.
Mr. Herz asked what happens if there is a gap in funding. Mr. Bench stated that they would have to lower their level of service and triage based upon who needs care the most in the short-term. Mr. Herz asked if the Council funded this request, would there still be people living in the Fountain Park. Mr. Bench stated that it was possible. Ms. Niemand stated that they were trying to find case management for each person at the Driftwood, adding that people who were in residence at the hotel would have to produce some money to house themselves, but it had to be a thoughtful process when decision-making.
Mr. O’Brien stated that this organization has made leaps and bounds and this is a complex situation, and he was supportive of the request for a donation. Mr. Herz stated that the thought the monies should come from the general fund at this point, adding that he just signed a Town check for $800.00 for the clean-up of the homeless encampment and it is already being lived in again.
Ms. Efland stated that she was in support of this and would like funds to come out of the general fund, but if additional funding was required, the Coalition should go to the ARPA Committee for consideration.
Mr. Bench stated that Rev. Sabetti of Shrewsbury Church submitted a letter to the Council to review.
Mayor Foster asked if the coalition was going to begin triage immediately. Mr. Bench stated that it was on a case-by-case basis. Ms. Kohler stated that there are more people that would donate now that they can receive a tax donation.
Mr. Herz asked if the Coalition was involved with Kent County in their budget process. Mr. Bench stated that they were not involved at this time. Ms. Kohler stated that the passion was there for this project and fundraising would be underway shortly. Mr. Medrano stated that the commitment was definitely there and there has already been a great deal of progress. Ms. Niemand stated that Mr. Medrano helped move furniture to storage at the Shrewsbury Church which would furnish three (3) apartments if they become available.
Mayor Foster asked why the Council did not want the funds to come from ARPA money. Ms. Efland stated that this was a one-time ask to get the program on their feet and she thought it was better to come from the general fund than to go to ARPA funds which she thought should be used for larger funding requests.
Mr. O’Brien asked if there was any difference or benefits of using ARPA funds or the general funds. Mr. Ingersoll stated that a case could be made for using either funds, but if it is only for a one-time ask he thought it was good to come from the general fund. Mr. Herz agreed, adding that he thought ARPA should be used for larger expenditures and ongoing programs.
Ms. Efland moved to approve $5,000.00 from the general fund to support the Coalition for the Homeless, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the live streaming camera in the meeting room was apparently not recognizing the new internet system that the Town had recently switched to. He said the camera is recording and the meeting will be recovered from the camera and posted on the Town’s website as soon as possible.
Mayor Foster read the State of the Town address into the record. He said that it will be posted online for anyone interested in reading it.
Mayor Foster called Chief Dixon forward for the March 2022 report. Chief Dixon introduced Patrolman First Class Marty Heinefeld, who had a total of 24 years in law enforcement (14 of which were in Chestertown). Chief Dixon also introduced Meera Srinivasan, who joined the force a year ago and in the words of Chief Dixon was gaining traction in the field. Chief Dixon stated that he thought it important for the Mayor and Council to know who was working for them and hoped to bring in officers for introduction from time to time.
Chief Dixon stated that there was a higher number of calls in March (over February), but he thought that was due to closer trafficking in their reporting and more visits to the Garnett Elementary School and YMCA. There was one fatal drug overdose in March and several calls to check on welfare due to emergency petitions. He said that he believed that the pandemic was having a negative effect on mental health in the general public.
Chief Dixon stated that the Redspeed camera numbers were lower in March, but that was due to the camera having some downtime while being replaced. Parking citations have dropped by two-thirds due to compliance in the shopping center and around Washington College.
Chief Dixon stated that the Kent County Narcotics Task Force had a large bust in Town which took three perpetrators off the street. He said that new doses of Narcan were being delivered that had a 2-year shelf life.
Chief Dixon congratulated Ms. Efland on being voted a “Woman to Watch” in What’s Up? Eastern Shore. He said that was awesome to see.
Chief Dixon stated that he visited Washington College and watched some games on campus. He said he was attending a kickball game on the campus next week with some of the student body followed by a barbeque.
Chief Dixon stated that he has met with the Tea Party Committee and several other organizations last month. Three (3) officers from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office have been committed for the duration of the Saturday Tea Party event.
Chief Dixon stated that the police department made a food donation to George’s Free General Store at Washington College. He said that he was surprised to learn that there was food insecurity on campus and donations can be made to the College of non-perishable items.
Chief Dixon stated that the new vehicles should be ready by the end of April or the first part of May. They were being outfitted with computers and lights. He said that he had to replace external defibrillators and was working on opportunities for funding, adding that each defibrillator costs approximately $2,000.00.
Mayor Foster stated that Chief Dixon was going to amend the salary numbers for budget review and that he had just received the last results he was waiting on from Elkton and Centreville. He said that he would have the report to the Council next week.
Chief Dixon stated that at no time did Chestertown not have police coverage in Town and that the Kent County Sheriff’s Office was very cooperative about coming into Town, adding that sixty-six (66) calls were answered for assistance by the Sheriff’s office last month.
Chief Dixon stated that he was waiting on the hire of one individual who would graduate the Academy on May 20. He said that he has not run paid ads but was always accepting applications for officers.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Program Open Space State Side had a grant program that he thought could be used to purchase the 4 remaining acres owned by the Hospital that the Town was not able to purchase originally abutting the Bailey Park. He said that he hoped to hear from the regional director that this would be a good fit for the program and would also help with the stormwater plans that Shore Rivers has for the area. He said that he had a preliminary call to the Hospital to see if they were open to the idea of a sale since the Town. Mr. O’Brien moved for Mr. Ingersoll to move forward in discussions and negotiation with the hospital and Program Open Space grants to acquire the 4-acre parcel at Bailey Park was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought temporary or permanent igloos for recycling could be placed at the vacant parking lot on High Street across from the entrance to the former Dixon Valve factory office. He said that he could inquire with Dixon Valve (or Washington College whoever now owned the land) about the suitability of the site and with the County about setting the igloos in place. He said that bids for a new contractor would be opened on May 9th, and he hoped that there would not be a long interruption in recycling services. He said that the Town owned the grass area on Rt. 20 and Rt. 514 (across from the Gateway Park) as a back-up plan.
Mayor Foster stated that Washington College has contracted with Capstone Realty, who specialized in off-campus housing, and said that they will be contacting Town Hall in reference to zoning and a full-scale assessment of student housing and workspace and/or low income housing for the former Dixon Valve property.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Main Street received the grant for security cameras for ten (10) locations along the waterfront and downtown. The funds were also in place for the cameras to be connected with the police monitoring software.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Janes Church had their permit in for the Backpack Giveaway on Saturday, August 27th, which was an annual event. Mr. Herz stated that he would like to speak to the neighbors before giving final approval. Mr. Ingersoll would return with the permit at the May 2 meeting.
Mayor Foster stated that he would like to appoint Mr. Zilinskas to the Recreation Commission. Mr. O’Brien moved to appoint Dwight Zilinskas to the Recreation Committee, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to reappoint Mr. Jim Bogden to the Recreation Commission. Mr. Herz moved to reappoint Jim Bogden to the Recreation Commission, was seconded by Mr. Medrano and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that the Tree Committee currently has three (3) members, and they have asked to add Jeff Coomer to the Committee. Mayor Foster stated that an appointment can only take place if there was a change to the Tree Ordinance and recommended expanding the committee from three (3) to five (5) members. Ms. Efland moved to expand the Tree Committee from three (3) to five (5) members in the Ordinance, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that there was a request for a Proclamation from the Maryland Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America on Friday, June 3rd. He said that a copy of the request was sent to the Council. Mayor Foster stated that they also suggested lighting a building orange for Gun Violence Awareness from June 3rd through June 5th. Chief Dixon stated that he used wrap lights around the sign pole at the Police Department for different events and would let the Council know if they were able to participate. Mr. Herz moved to authorize the Mayor to create and sign a Proclamation in support of the Maryland Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America in advocacy of gun safety on Friday, June 3rd, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that Mr. Bogden of the Recreation Commission requested that the Town permit the purchase of bricks to be engraved for the donors to the Wilmer Park Playground. He said that the bricks proposed by the Recreation Commission were different than the brick used in other areas of Town, such as the Marina, and he asked authorization to use money raised to order the bricks. He said that Mr. Bogden was willing to assume responsibility for this program and thought he should be able to proceed with guidance from Mr. de Mooy and himself. The Council agreed to the request. Mr. Ingersoll noted that donations for the bricks have been made to Main Street, not the Town of Chestertown.
Mayor Foster stated that Galena would like to borrow the street sweeper and operator who runs it to clean their streets for their Dogwood Festival. Mr. Ingersoll stated that their streets were actually two (2) State roads as opposed to town streets. He said that renting a sweeper costs a couple hundred per hour and then the overtime of the operator. He said that it took several hours to do the roads and get to Galena and back. Mayor Foster suggested splitting the cost with Galena for the work.
Mayor Foster asked for ward reports.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he forwarded the biographies to the Council of three (3) professionals who were interested in moderating the Strategic Plan meetings. He said that each was willing to meet in person if that was the wish of the Council. Mr. Ingersoll asked that he be copied on the information as well.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he was hosting a second listening session at the Heron Point Community tomorrow.
Mr. O’Brien stated that people were asking why the bathrooms outside of the Marina were not public restrooms as they were the closest to the Wilmer Park and the restaurant. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this complaint was a regular one. He said that there were two (2) port-o-johns at the Wilmer Park and said that before a decision was made on this he thought that the Marina Manager and Shore Rivers should be asked for their input. Mr. Herz stated that more facilities were necessary now that the bathrooms at the restaurant were closed.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that each Saturday they install and remove a port-o-john at the Farmers Market. He also said that the Visitors Center could open at 9 a.m. instead of 10:00 a.m. on Saturday to accommodate visitors if the Council would like. He suggested installing another port-o-john at the corner of the Marina for the summer. The Council agreed.
Mayor Foster stated that he spoke with someone at 98 Cannon Street Riverside Grille, and he did not think that using the deck area was going to be an option this summer. Mr. Herz stated that he reached out to several individuals to get together on a call to make sure that people know what is going on and keeping the Marina as great as it can be.
Mr. Herz stated that he met with Chief Dixon on the terms of an emergency shelter policy for the Town in inclement weather. He said that many questions were raised as a result and additional information was required before coming forward with a policy.
Mr. Herz moved to reserve 45% of the total remaining ARPA funding for the ARPA Advisory Task Force. Ms. Efland seconded the motion. Mr. Herz that this would give the ARPA Task Force the ability to recommend and identify uses for the funding to the Council while reviewing Requests for Proposals on projects. Mr. Herz stated that he thought the total amount remaining was $4,031,000, which would leave $1,801,395.00 for the ARPA Committee to comment to the Council for use. The motion carried with four (4) in favor, Mayor Foster opposed.
Mr. Herz stated that he would like to discuss a capital budget account for road, trucks, etc. at this year’s budget discussions. He asked that the Council think of ways to effectuate this in the coming budget. Mr. O’Brien asked when the numbers would be coming to the Council. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he sent some information today and there was room for capital items this year. He said that the paving season is not over, and unspent capital items money could be spent by the end of the year.
Mr. Herz stated that some of the seed money for a capital fund could be used by the ARPA funding.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that some of the items being presented under Ward Reports were not really Ward issues but policy issues that should be on the agenda and brought up during the regular agenda. He asked that the agendas be updated early enough to give the Council an idea of what would be discussed.
Mr. Medrano stated that he had received positive comments from the Coventry Farms neighborhood for the work done on the water drains.
Mr. Medrano stated that he was asked about a tot lot at Washington Park and asked if that was something that could be implemented. He said that there was also a request for additional fencing at Gateway Park behind the pole facing the woods as the people playing basketball are getting cut when they go to retrieve the ball from the bushes. He said that he was also asked about lighting at Gateway Park. Mr. Ingersoll stated that parks in Chestertown were dawn to dusk but it was something that could be discussed at budget time. He also said that he thought that two (2) streetlights were part of the plan for Gateway Park and had been purchased but not installed. Mr. Ingersoll stated that lighting could be on a timer and off at 9 p.m.
Ms. Efland stated that Bayside Hoyas partnered with Washington College and had a large Eggstravaganza over the weekend which was a great event. She said that there were many people in attendance.
Ms. Efland stated that the Eastern Shore Association of Municipalities dinner would be held tomorrow evening and she and Mr. Herz were signed up for a Learning Exchange on Thursday and Friday.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any questions or comments from the public.
Mr. Paul Heckles was present on behalf of the board of Main Street and introduced Mr. Tom Kocubski (who was a licensed architect and planner and newly appointed to the Main Street board). Mr. Heckles stated that he would like to discuss interest in Main Street developing a Master Plan on the next agenda. He said that Main Street would be making an ask at the next meeting and said that a Commercial District Master Plan was a key pillar to have, and they have been doing one-off projects for several years. He said that they wanted to have plan for the future which was a big undertaking, and they were looking for the Council’s support and participation. He said that they spoke with over a dozen stakeholders and non-profits who would like to be involved in the creation of the Master Plan. Mr. Heckles stated that because this was such a big undertaking they would have to hire a planner which would be a $75,000.00 price tag. He said that they were looking for funders. Mr. Heckles stated that they had a request into DHCD for up to $50,000.00 in grant money to go towards the implementation of the plan, but it was denied because Main Street Maryland felt strongly that there should be a dedicated financial commitment from the Town before a grant is awarded, using $15,000.00 as a figure.
Mr. Heckles stated that the window for this year’s application was already open but they needed the commitment from Chestertown before May 11th when the application process closes. He said that this was not a check, but a promise of the money if the award was granted, which would be in February 2023.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a plan like this should be incorporated into Chestertown’s Comprehensive Plan either directly or by reference. He said that the Town should join arms in a project like this by adding the rest of the Town, that part being under the aegis of the Chestertown Planning Commission.
Mayor Foster asked how far their study would cover. Mr. Heckles stated that it would cover the entire downtown. Mr. Heckles stated that this plan was something that the entire Town would benefit from.
Mayor Foster asked for an illustrative example of what the plan could include. Mr. Heckles stated that one of the items he can think of would be burying some of the electric wires downtown. He said that the big part is getting the community consensus that this is what the stakeholders want to see. He said that nobody hands out funding without a plan in place.
There being no further business, Ms. Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:00 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Medrano and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer McCann David Foster
Town Clerk Mayor