MAYOR AND COUNCIL
JUNE 7, 2021
Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 7:54 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Sam Shoge, Tom Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Budget Workshop and Mayor and Council Meeting of May 17, 2021. Mr. Herz moved to approve the minutes of the meetings of May 17, 2021, as presented, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that operating funds on hand amount was $1,738,779.52.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Ms. Efland moved to pay the bills as presented, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that Bill Webb from the Kent County Health Department was present to discuss Covid vaccinations. Mr. Webb stated that progress was being made with vaccinations and the numbers of positive cases were dropping significantly now that the vaccine is widely available to the public. He said that those over the age of 12 can now receive a vaccine.
Mr. Webb showed a graph of positive cases throughout the pandemic and how it was waning since vaccinations became available. He said that 54.7% of Kent County’s population was fully vaccinated.
Mr. Webb stated that the Kent County Health Department would continue to offer vaccination clinics and were more than willing to go onsite to provide vaccinations at places of employment. If transportation was an issue, arrangements could be made for someone from the Health Department to go to private homes to give the vaccinations. Anyone with questions should call 410-778-1350.
Mr. Shoge asked if vaccination clinics could be held at a barbershop that wanted to give free haircuts as an incentive. Mr. Webb stated that he would work with a shop owner to make that happen.
Mr. Herz asked if information has come out on booster shots. Mr. Webb stated that studies were being performed and they should know when and if boosters were needed as soon as the studies were published.
Mr. Webb stated that they hoped by fall that vaccinations numbers would be high enough to mute spikes in positive cases. Mr. Herz asked if variants were of concern in Kent County. Mr. Webb stated that three (3) different variants are already in Kent County, but they were also down significantly. He said the key is for people to get the vaccination because mutations of the virus will continue.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that they were looking to going back to in-person meetings and asked if Mr. Webb had recommendations for doing so. Mr. Webb stated that there were no limits on numbers of people in the building anymore but anyone who has not had their vaccination should wear a mask.
Mr. Andre DeMattia of Talkie Communications was present to discuss the subsidy for customers in need of broadband, which was up to $50.00 per month. Any person on a lifeline program or on a reduced or free school lunch is entitled to the subsidy and to service. To receive the benefit, they must have their form approved by the FCC and then submit it to Talkie. Mr. DeMattia stated that there was also a program for devices up to $100.00 through a non-profit. Mr. DeMattia stated that Kent County sent information about the program to everyone who was already on the free and reduced lunch program.
Mr. DeMattia stated that the American Rescue Plan Act had funds for use to install broadband and water and sewage. He said that internet is now available everywhere in Chestertown but the downtown, as the telephone poles are a challenge. He said that Talkie did not want to drill in the downtown area and right now they could not get on the telephone poles through Delmarva and Verizon due to the costs to use them. He said the American Rescue Plan Act allowed for costs to be used to run broadband where it was more difficult to get the service.
Mr. DeMattia stated that they were looking to bring free better hotspots downtown for events like Tea Party and the Farmers Market. They would also like to hotspot the Wilmer Park.
Mr. Herz stated that a Task Force has been formed for how to spend the American Recovery Plan funds and broadband connection was a top priority.
Mr. Shoge stated that this conversation has been taking place in the community for years and said that now may be the time to make some headway with the Recovery Funding coming in. He suggested outlining priorities for the funds with broadband being high on the list.
Mr. John Queen was present on behalf of the Black Union of Kent County and Juneteenth, which will be held from Monday, June 14th through Saturday, June 19th. He said that festivities will take place at the Fountain Park and Wilmer Park. This fell under the “Unification Pillar” of the Chestertown Unites Against Racism campaign.
Mr. Queen stated that JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) trainings will be held through Washington College beginning Monday, June 14th at 6:30 p.m. and throughout the week which were free and open to the public. He said that the trainings benefit the community.
Mr. Queen stated that there will be a block party on Friday, June 18th in the Fountain Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with live music from the Dell Foxx Company Band. Presentations will be given on race relations and minority businesses during the block party. Food and drink will also be available for purchase.
Mr. Queen stated that on Friday, June 18th and Saturday, June 19th the African American Humanities Truck will be on site for people to archive documents and to review already archived documents.
Mr. Queen stated that on Saturday, June 19th the festivities move to the Wilmer Park for ceremonies, arts & crafts for the children, mural signing, and vendors, music by DJ Zandon, and food from noon to 8 p.m. RiverArts will be hosting a barber’s lounge on Saturday. There will also be a reveal of the Historic Signage at the waterfront. Delegate Andrea Harrison will be a special guest at the celebration, along with social action activist Savanna Shepherd. Awards will be distributed, one being the John Queen Community Impact Reward recognizing a leader in the African American community. An Advocate Award will be given to an individual or organization for their advocacy of the African American community in Kent County.
Mr. Queen stated that Karen Sommerville and the 3DC Band would be playing throughout the afternoon on Saturday. A candlelight ceremony will end the evening celebrating history, culture and achievements.
Mr. Queen stated that volunteers were still needed for the event, and anyone interested should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Sam Shoge was sworn in as First Ward Councilmember on May 28, 2021.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that next on his agenda was a discussion by the Council of resuming in-person meetings. Rev. Tolliver suggested beginning to meet in person beginning the first meeting in July. Mr. Shoge suggested beginning in person meetings at the next meeting and then incorporate other functions like Zoom, as necessary. Mr. Herz agreed.
Mr. Shoge moved to resume in-person meetings at the next Mayor and Council meeting of June 21, and have staff deliver reports on progress to allow remote or off-line participation in meetings, as necessary. Ms. Efland seconded the motion and the motion passed with four in favor, Rev. Tolliver opposed.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ordinance 03-2021 Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 was introduced at the May 17, 2021Mayor and Council meeting and was scheduled for adoption this evening. A public hearing was held just prior to this meeting to discuss the budget. Rev. Tolliver moved to adopt Ordinance 03-2021 Budget for Fiscal Year 21-2022, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Janes United Methodist Church was requesting partial closure of Cannon Street for the dedication of their new roof on Sunday, June 13th. Mr. Herz moved to approve the application as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that thirty-eight (38) applications have been received for the Chief of Police position. He asked if a member of the Council would like to vet the applications with him. Rev. Tolliver and Ms. Efland agreed to review the applications and make recommendations for interviews to the Council.
Rev. Tolliver asked if the Councilmembers would each make a list of what they were looking for in the new Chief and submit them while they review the applications.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Town Attorney Stewart Barroll has taken another position and a new Town Attorney would need to be selected. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. Barroll did provide a recommendation as to who he would like to see as the new Town Attorney and asked how the Council wanted to move forward. Rev. Tolliver asked if an RFP could be sent out. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would ask the MML for information and RFPs that other similar jurisdictions used.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. MacIntosh is recommending an expansion of the A&E District. She said that this would double the size of the district, allowing tax credits for a larger portion of Town in both residential and commercial properties. The expansion included upper Cannon Street and Upper High Street (to the traffic roundabout). A letter of intent was due to the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) by August 21st with the full application due October 1st. Mr. Schratwieser sated that there was a great opportunity for those owners along High and Cannon Streets.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the C-3 zoning of upper High Street now allows for mixed-use buildings which makes this application more acceptable for the requirements of the MSAC program.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a letter of support to the DHCD was requested from Kent County for additional infrastructure assistance at the Chestertown Business Campus on Rt. 213. Ms. Efland moved to authorize the Mayor to sign the letter of support as drafted by Mr. Ingersoll, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that he was thrilled to hear that Kent County was providing a tax set-off in the amount of $42,000.00 to the Town. He said that he was happy to see that the County has seen the need for the tax offset.
Mayor Foster stated that the 4th of July Fireworks could not be arranged this year due to complications of the Covid pandemic (all fireworks shows had been sold out from the existing fireworks inventories).
Mayor Foster stated that the new town stage was dedicated on Saturday and thanked Main Street and Ms. MacIntosh for the donation.
Mayor Foster stated that the JEDI training offered at Washington College for the Juneteenth celebration was a great training and said that he would like to look for a shorter program for the Council to take part in.
Mayor Foster asked for ward reports.
Mr. Shoge stated that all was well in Ward One.
Mr. Herz stated that he wanted to thank Ms. MacIntosh and Main Street for the event this past Saturday. He said that Ms. MacIntosh has done great work for the Town and would be missed upon her retirement.
Mr. Herz stated that he would like to nominate Bob Alteiri of Chesapeake Bank and Trust as he second nominee to the Recovery Task Force committee.
Mr. Herz stated that Robbi Behr was present to discuss the Wilmer Park playground and asked how the Council felt about the playground, adding that he was in support of the playground proposed for the park. Ms. Efland stated that she was in support of a playground at Wilmer Park. Rev. Tolliver agreed and stated that he was in favor of the plan. Mayor Foster stated that he was in full support of a playground at Wilmer Park.
Rev. Tolliver stated that all was well in Ward Three and thanked Ms. MacIntosh for recommending the upper end of High Street for inclusion in the A&E District.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he thought that a dangerous precedent was being set by allowing committees and commission to be run the way that they are, especially with the Recreation Commission. He said that public input should be received when it is solicited and not after the fact when a third party decided that they wanted something different. Ms. Efland stated that she agreed with Rev. Tolliver and that if someone was coming in with a different preference of playground equipment, they should go through the Recreation Commission who would then present their recommendation to the Council.
Ms. Efland thanked the County Commissioners for offering to help pay for the study at the Hospital.
Ms. Efland stated that there was a ribbon-cutting for the Hearing Center in Chestertown on the 500 block of Washington Avenue.
Mayor Foster stated that Ms. Robbi Behr had asked to be on the agenda to discuss the Wilmer Park playground grant. She thanked the Mayor and Council and Recreation Commission for the work on the grant funding and said she was excited that the playground was going to be a reality. Ms. Behr stated that she thought due to Covid the public comment on the playground had been somewhat stymied and the current design was almost a standard design. She suggested coming up with something more unique to Chestertown for play equipment at the waterfront playground.
Ms. Behr stated that a destination playground could be a real economic driver for businesses, especially with Wilmer Park’s proximity to the downtown shopping district. She said that the open waterfront was beautiful, and this was an opportunity to revitalize and engage the area for residents and visitors alike. Ms. Behr stated that she submitted letters of support for the project and submitted them to the Council.
Ms. Behr stated that her statements tonight were mainly to suggest a different design process with feedback from the entire community to make this playground unique to the area. Ms. Behr stated that the playground will be in a gateway space and thought that additional discussion on design would be a bonus.
Mr. Charles Lerner stated that almost two hundred (200) people use the Wilmer Park daily, and he said that he was concerned that the design and impact not hurt the natural playground that it already is, adding that he did not think this was the place for a destination park because that type of playground should be much larger. He suggested that a larger destination type playground area be planned at Bailey Park.
Mr. Herz asked if Ms. Behr had a plan for how to approach the redesign of the playground equipment. Ms. Behr stated that she thought people would be interested in a charrette to give ideas on design and thought an opportunity was missed without having a larger discussion on the design of the space.
Mr. Jim Bogden, Recreation Commission Chair, stated that the next meeting of the Recreation Commission would be on Monday, June 14th at 6:00 p.m. in the Wilmer Park and he would be happy to discuss a process on new designs. Ms. Behr stated that she did not think that the actual final design of the playground was submitted for the grant, it was more of a placeholder.
Mr. Lerner stated that the playscape that is in the Wilmer Park now was meant to be a play area and the park was a naturalistic setting so the play equipment should fit in with nature and not overwhelm the area.
Mr. Herz suggested getting a plan together and submitting it to the Recreation Commission. Mr. Lerner stated that the Town should go to a designer and let the designer come up with the design for the area.
Mr. Shoge asked how Ajax Park fit into this scenario because there were really two parks under discussion.
Mayor Foster stated that he thought both parks should be turned back over to the Recreation Commission for consideration of how the parks would look and function. Mr. Bogden stated that he would be happy to work on framework for the project with Ms. Behr.
Mr. Herz stated that Ms. Behr should work with the Recreation Commission on the design and then have the Recreation Commission report to the Council in eight (8) weeks or so.
Mr. Bogden stated that the recommendation was made to the Council for the plan at Ajax Park, but they were engaging in a town wide plan to revisit all parks. Mr. Bogden stated that they could revisit Ajax at that time.
Mr. Bogden stated that he thought that the Recreation Commission could return with recommendations on Wilmer Park and Ajax Park at the first meeting in September.
Ms. Joyce Moody stated that on behalf of Janes Church she was thankful for the Town allowing her to use Cannon Street for the consecration of the roof. She said that the roof took so long to come to fruition, and this would be a special service. She said that everyone was welcome to attend.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Rev. Tolliver moved to adjourn the meeting at 10:38 p.m. was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan David Foster
Town Clerk Mayor