MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MARCH 21, 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), Jennifer McCann (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the Mayor and Council meeting of March 7, 2022. Mr. O’Brien to approve minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of March 7, 2022, as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that operating funds on hand was $2,256,883.18.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to pay the bills. Mr. Herz moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Ms. Barbara Kelly of the Samaritan Group stated that she coordinated local outreach in a partnership between the Samaritan Group, Good Neighbor Fund and the Salvation Army. Their clients were referred to them by the Department of Social Services. She said that there is a great need in the community and that to date, 199 men, 359 women, and 405 children have been helped in Kent County alone since the group was formed. Ms. Kelly stated that over $80,000 in financial assistance has been provided for temporary housing, rental assistance and utility payments. In addition, an emergency shelter has operated during the winter months.
Pastor James Digges stated that he directed the shelter in Kent County, and it had been difficult to tell how many people would need it from year to year. He said that 15 beds were provided and this year the total cost per person was $27.00 per night (if all the beds were filled). There was overnight staff and supplies, including lunches that were packed for daytime hours. He said that before Covid hit the shelter had been opening at 5:30 p.m. and dinner was cooked and served each night by volunteers. During Covid no volunteers were allowed, and the hours were changed to opening at 8 p.m. Vouchers were provided for dinner at different restaurants.
Pastor Digges stated that the local police often bring people to the shelter, even if someone just needed a place to stay for the night. Three (3) churches take turns using their fellowship halls for the shelter and other churches partner through fundraising and volunteering.
Pastor Digges stated that when more people used the shelter, the costs per person go down. He said that the shelter provides community engagement and that volunteers have gone out of their way to navigate the guests towards employment and other agencies that can help them.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was funding set aside by the Council for the Samaritan Group in years past and next year’s budget time was approaching. He suggested that the Samaritan Group submit a request for annual funding. Mayor Foster asked who else funded the shelter. Mr. Dave Menzie state that the two biggest donors were the Mid Shore Association and the United Way. Other donations were from private individuals and local businesses. Pastor Digges stated that the Coalition for the Homeless removed four (4) of the clients who had been staying in their shelter, which reduced their funding numbers.
Pastor Digges stated that there were some gaps in the program, one of which is that there is no daytime shelter (although the library was helpful in allowing the clients to stay there). There was also no place for people to keep their things while staying in the shelter. There was no case management by Social Services that followed the homeless who were in the shelter. Pastor Digges stated that mental health and affordable housing within city limits was also lacking and that there was no transportation readily available.
Mr. Herz asked who should be called when a homeless person was on the street. Pastor Digges stated that the Samaritan Group can be called but there were obstacles when people had mental and drug issues because they sometimes did not want to be in a shelter. He said that a shelter does not guarantee that people will not choose to live on the street.
Mr. Jim Gatto was present to discuss the Chester River Parkway (previously Chestertown Bypass). He said that this parkway would be vital in linking the community on both sides of the Chester River with spaces for small urban parks on either side. He said that this has been a vision for many years in Chestertown and now that funding has become available he thought it was time to bring the plan back out and try to make it a reality.
Mr. Gatto stated that backups were becoming an issue. He said that 20% of the truck traffic would be taken out of movement through Town with a parkway and it would also remove other vehicular traffic headed toward the shopping center or out of Town.
Mr. Gatto stated that this parkway was part of Chestertown’s Comprehensive Plan and he believed it was in Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties Comprehensive Plans as well. He said that he thought a commitment was needed from all phases of government on a local and state level. Mr. Gatto stated that education on the project was key in getting the parkway back on the State Highway’s long-range plans.
Mayor Foster asked Mr. Gatto if there was any delegate or senator that would go to bat for the parkway. Mr. Gatto stated that he did not know if there was, but he said that the approach cannot begin until Kent and Queen Anne’s County joined together on the project.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the last this issue was addressed, the Kent County Commissioners were in full support of the project, but he was not sure about the Commissioners in Queen Anne’s County. He suggested speaking to State Delegate Jay Jacobs before moving any further.
Mr. Herz asked if the parkway would affect the solar project planned for Morgnec Road. Mr. Gatto stated that he thought by the time this would come about the solar equipment would already be out of date.
Mr. Gatto stated that pulling the truck traffic off the existing bridge will extend its life. He said that if something happened to the existing bridge, Chestertown would really suffer. Mr. Gatto stated that funding for transportation is accessible and now is the time to try to get it for the parkway.
Mr. Herz stated that he would like to discuss how to move forward with a letter at the next meeting.
Chief Dixon was present and gave the February 2022 police report. He said that there was an increase in calls for service over January, but he thought that it was due to better reporting in the office. He said that the rape in the current report was a case from 3 years ago and the robbery was opened and closed in the same day with 2 arrests.
Chief Dixon stated that there was an assault in front of the Dunkin Donuts on High Street and the case was solved. There was no robbery, only an assault by a juvenile female from Laurel, Maryland who has been charged accordingly.
Chief Dixon stated that fire service calls were inflated since an alarm was malfunctioning at Taco Bell sometimes 3 and 4 times a day.
Chief Dixon stated that there was a shooting in Calvert Heights last week. He said that Sheriff Price and the Kent County Sheriff’s Office helped in that case and have now taken the lead. This was not a random act, and they have a suspect and a warrant. The victim’s condition is serious but not life-threatening.
Chief Dixon stated that a light pole was struck at High Street and Cross Street and the vehicle with the damage had been located. They were trying to figure out who was driving the vehicle.
Chief Dixon stated that four (4) officers finished crisis intervention training since his last report. All but one (1) officer in the department now have the training. The last officer will receive it as soon as it can be scheduled
Chief Dixon thanked the Council for the new vehicles purchased with ARPA funds.
Chief Dixon thanked Officer Carmen for his work with Chestertown the past 2 years, adding that he has taken another position with a different agency. He said that the recruit from the Academy was taking his final steps to finishing the academy.
Chief Dixon stated that he attended the YMCA ribbon cutting and met with Washington College Student Government along with other organizations at the college.
Mr. O’Brien asked if there could be more police presence at the Dog Park as there had been a purse stolen and there were some indications of drugs being sold.
Mr. Medrano asked if there was any thought to bicycle patrol. Chief Dixon stated that he was encouraging foot patrol as only two (2) officers are certified for bicycle patrol.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Tea Party Festival had their permit request in for this year’s event. Ms. Efland stated that she served on the committee and recused herself from the vote. Mr. Thomas Hayman stated that fireworks were being added to the festival this year. Mr. Herz moved to approve the Tea Party Festival permit as submitted, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried with four (4) in favor, Ms. Efland recused.
Mr. Hayman stated that the permit was also in for the Tea Party Parade. Mr. Herz moved to approve the permit for the Tea Party Festival Parade as submitted, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the permit for Cars on High was in for the 2022 season which will be held on the third Thursday of each month beginning April 21st and run through October. Mr. Herz moved to approve the permit for Cars on High as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Blue Bird was having a hearing for off-sale services and the Town received notice of the hearing. Ms. Efland moved to support the application as submitted, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the 12th Annual Earth Day Festival was scheduled for Saturday, April 23rd from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mr. O’Brien moved to approve the permit for Earth Day as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Kent County High School had a permit request to hold the Junior and Senior Prom on Saturday, May 14th at the Wilmer Park from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mr. Herz moved to approve the permit as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that on Saturday, March 26th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Washington College was hosting a rowing regatta at the Wilmer Park and had submitted a permit request for the park. Mr. Herz moved to approve Washington College’s Rowing Regatta permit for March 26, 2022, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Garden Club had a permit in for May Mart which will be held on Friday, May 6th. Mr. Herz moved to approve the closure of Memorial Plaza for May Mart and the event as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he received a Ukrainian Flag and asked for the Council’s approval to hang it. Ms. Efland moved to approve hanging the Ukrainian flag on the Town Hall building, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Infinity Recycling was going out of business, and he would like to bid out for curbside recycling once a letter is received in writing from Infinity. He said that he would like to keep trash collection separate from curbside recycling.
Mayor Foster stated that the rates on Covid 19 have dropped but they were rising in Europe with a new variant. For that reason, he said that it was time for anyone who had not been vaccinated or received a booster to do it.
Mayor Foster stated that there was a request from the Recreation Commission to allow Danielle Cudone as a member to fill a vacancy on the Commission. Mayor Foster stated that Ms. Cudone does not live within Town limits but has been volunteering her time and thought that having her become a member should be allowed in this instance. Mayor Foster nominated Danielle Cudone to the Recreation Commission. A vote will be taken at the first meeting in April.
Mayor Foster asked for Ward reports.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he has been reaching out to separate groups to introduce himself and he said that there were many groups working for the betterment of Town. He said that he was going to have a listening session in his neighborhood to hear comments and concerns.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he reviewed the Comprehensive Plan and said that he would like to have a discussion on updates. He said that funding was available, and he would like to have the plan updated in a more strategic matter using ARPA funds to do so. He thought a consultant could distill a 1 to 2 year plan on strategic needs of the Town and that the plan could identify short and long-term needs.
Mr. Herz stated that he talked with Thad Bench and the Coalition for the Homeless who was working on information on their request to the Town for funding. He said that he met with Dawson Hunter of the Local Management Board and an all-call meeting is being scheduled for groups that work with these problems and an elected representative from each town.
Mr. Herz stated that he has not met with the Upper Shore Community Development Partners to date.
Mr. Herz stated that the first meeting of the ARPA Committee was held on March 15th and discussion on the membership and open meetings law was discussed along with government services and some other items. Ms. Kate Van Name was made the President of the Committee and Andy Goddard was elected secretary. The next meeting will be held on March 29th at Town Hall at 7 p.m. He said that they were looking into fast-tracking items and said that he asked them to come to a Council meeting and discuss the process once it has been established.
Mr. Herz stated that he asked the Coalition for the Homeless to meet with other groups once their proposal is finished and then come before the Mayor and Council as a united front with their needs for the homeless population.
Mr. Herz stated that he thought a fund should be established by the Town to help the homeless. He said that in an emergency he thought that the Police Department could use those funds to pay for temporary shelter at the Driftwood.
Mr. Herz stated that an email was sent earlier about the fact that there is no patio furniture at the Marina. He said that he thought it was important to think of creative ways to offer amenities to the Marina patrons, especially since the fire at 98 Cannon. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the proprietor of 98 Cannon Street Riverside Grill was planning to try to open just the bar portion of the restaurant while repairs to the rest of the building were made. They planned to have a food truck(s) outside on the lot and those buying food could take their food into the bar to eat or eat outside on the plaza.
Mr. Medrano stated that his report and questions were addressed during the meeting and during the discussion with the Chief.
Mr. Medrano state that he and Mr. O’Brien met with Kent Forward and they were eager to help Chestertown with different initiatives.
Ms. Efland stated that USA Fulfillment was closing as of June 30th. There were between 80 and 210 employees at that business depending on the season. She said that this will affect many employees at that location as they cannot all be relocated.
Ms. Efland asked if they could have a budget estimate and to use a normal year budget for expenditures.
Mayor Foster stated that he would like to form a task force on the Tax Differential. He said that this was important now that an election is coming up for all three (3) County Commissioners.
There being no further business, Ms. Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:25 p.m., was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer McCann David Foster
Town Clerk Mayor