MAYOR AND COUNCIL
APRIL 6, 2021
Acting Mayor Tolliver called the meeting to order at 7:48 p.m. The zoom meeting was immediately interrupted by Chip MacLeod, Esq. who announced his objection to the meeting being held without advanced notice of 24 hours. He said that it made no sense that the issue of the Ajax Park was being rushed. He said that the Open Meetings Law forbade a meeting without 24 hours’ notice and any decisions made at the meeting could be reversed due to the holding of the meeting. Ms. Mulligan stated that she had posted a public notice on the Town’s website immediately at 7:45 p.m., the evening before (Monday) when the Council and all attendees agreed to reconvene the Monday night meeting because a quorum failed to appear at the regular meeting due unexpected circumstances.
Mr. Ingersoll that he felt the Council should proceed with the meeting since all those attending the Monday night meeting had agreed to reconvene the very next night when a quorum would be available. He also stated that nothing of importance on the agenda would need to be decided in the meeting making the threat of reversal a moot point.
Mr. McLeod asked if the Council had voted to open the meeting (though the meeting had already been called to order by the Acting Mayor and no votes to open any Town meeting had ever been made in the past). The Council made several attempts to pass a motion to open the meeting, some that were not seconded and none of which passed. Rev. Tolliver stated that he was going to move forward with the meeting as scheduled.
Acting Mayor Tolliver again called the meeting to order at 8:08 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.
Rev. Tolliver asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of March 15, 2021. No motions were made or passed for the minutes.
Rev. Tolliver stated that operating funds on hand was $2,089,309.96.
Rev. Tolliver asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. Foster moved to pay the bills and with no second being made. The motion failed for lack of a second.
Mr. de Mooy stated that due to zoom limitations he would like to allow Mr. Frank Rhodes and the Recreation Commission to make their presentation and then hear from those in favor of the plan. Then the people present who were not in favor of the plan would be heard. Everyone would be given a turn to give their opinion.
Mr. Rhodes showed a mock-up of the proposal for the renovations at the Ajax Park and read a prepared statement into the record supporting the need for additional youth presence in Town. He read letters of support from several Chestertown residents into the record. He said that local fundraising will take place for the costs of the park which were approximately $174000.00. He said that the toddler area and playset will remain, and the existing basketball court will be enlarged.
Ms. Rebecca Murphy stated that she thought the proposal was a great idea and said that she sees kids coming back up the trail after having played at the court all the time. She said that making the court a larger size made sense, particularly because a decision was already made to use grant funds to move the tot lot to Wilmer Park, making room for an expansion of the court. She said that the Town should do anything that will bring more young people downtown and making the African American community feel welcome in Town.
Ms. Arlene Lee, SACJR, stated that they supported the improvements at the Ajax Park, which was approved unanimously by the Recreation Commission Committee. She said that the renovations amounted 20’ of asphalt and a second hoop.
Mr. Jim Bogden read a letter of support into the record by Nathan Shroyer who resides at 631 High Street.
Ms. Carol Dobson, 234 N. Kent Street, stated that she has seen teenagers playing there and she was in support of the renovations at the Ajax Park.
Ms. Wanda Boyer stated that she did not know why there was opposition from anyone about the park. She said that she was in favor of the Park and said that it is and always has been well utilized. She said that she did not want to make this a race issue or about parking, it was about doing the right thing.
Mr. Melvin Freeman stated that he was in favor of the Ajax Court.
Ms. Lee asked if people could wave or put in the chat if they were in favor of the park.
Mr. de Mooy stated that there were waves from Mary Fisher, Dante Johnson, Susan Rhodes, Paul Tue and Cheryl Hoopes who were in support of the park.
Ms. Carla Johnson was present and read a prepared statement into the record stating that there were four (4) outdoor basketball courts already in existence in Town. She said that what is called the Ajax Park is not the original location of the basketball court and the residents and businesses in the area wanted a small scale pocket park for toddler age children. She said that there were enough basketball courts in Chestertown and nowhere for children to play. The toddler playground is always in use by young families in Town. She said that the Wilmer Park playground has not yet been approved but the recreation planned for Wilmer Park is not for toddlers. She said that the CRC is making the business owners out to be racist if they do not support the park.
Ms. Johnson stated that the Recreation Commission has not listened to their concerns at all. In fact, they wanted to name the basketball court in memory of Darryl Cleats and the family was unaware of that and preferred something in his name to be at the Middle School in honor of him.
Mr. Matt Weir, owner of property close to Ajax Park, stated that he had no issue with the basketball court, but he was concerned that the area it was in was a business district. He said that it was not the place for a needed playground in Town. He said that he would celebrate more courts but did not think this was the right location.
Ms. Paige Morton was not in favor of the ball court.
Ms. Linda Moyer, 300 S. Cross Street, spoke in opposition of the park and said that the businesses will not benefit from the noise generated by the park and the area now available is too small for the proposed use.
Mr. MacLeod stated that he wanted to comment that there were two (2) letters from Ms. Johnson with exhibits and hoped that the Mayor and Council would review them before rendering a decision. He said that what is being proposed is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan (in fact not included in the Plan) and that was important to consider in a ruling.
Mr. Tyler Johnson was present and stated that he has seen Ajax over the decades in all its forms and the pocket park was just over 3,000 sq.ft. in size. He said he did not think that this size of basketball court was a good idea. He said that families with toddlers use that park much more than anybody playing basketball. He said that it was the perfect size for a toddler park. Mr. Johnson stated that he also did not think that so many basketball courts were necessary in Chestertown and said that the plan could not work as designed, especially when it is being proposed on property that is not owned by the Town. He asked that the plan be revisited by the Town.
Dr. Neil Brayton stated that basketball is really a half-court game and said that he did not see anything wrong leaving Ajax as it is, cleaning it up a bit and perhaps adding a smaller hoop where younger kids could play.
Ms. Heidi Usilton stated that she did not like to have such a divisive issue before the Council about a basketball court. She said that it seemed as though there were many questions that had to be answered before a decision was made and there seemed to be many legitimate issues raised.
Rev. Tolliver thanked everyone who came to discuss the play area.
Rev. Tolliver asked what next steps should be. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would recommend not taking any action at the present meeting when the presentation had been given and comments had been made. He suggested scheduling a decision on the matter at a future meeting and leaving the record open for anyone wishing to comment until that designated time.
Rev. Tolliver proposed that the Recreation Committee and Ms. Johnson and her group try to work out a suitable plan to bring forward to the Mayor and Council. If no middle ground can be found, then the Mayor and Council will decide what will happen to the space. He said that the issue will be addressed again at the first meeting in May.
Ms. Kay MacIntosh was present to give a presentation on Main Street. She said that the Mayor and Council revived Main Street several years ago. She said that downtowns are the heart and soul of a community. She said that $877,000.00 has been brought into the Downtown through grants to Main Street. In addition, Main Street raised $150,000.00 locally. She said that 27 businesses have opened in Town since 2017 and it was important to support them and keep local dollars local.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street has local counseling available to the downtown businesses and they produce maps with a calendar of events. She added that over 20,000 maps have been distributed. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she collaborated with other businesses in Kent County to purchase a year of programming spots on YPR 88.1 FM (Your NPR News station).
Ms. MacIntosh stated that the mid modern interior design of the Marina building was donated by Main Street.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that façade improvement grants have been offered through Main Street and over $147,924.00 has been distributed to businesses in Town already. She said that several businesses have received help with their storefronts, improving the downtown aesthetically.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that a wayfinding signage project was underway, and a grant has been received for $100,000.00 to fund signage. Planter boxes were made by a local business and are holding large trees until the soil is ready for planting in town. They also purchased four (4) recycling bins and one new trash can.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that events are important in Town and Main Street hosts several throughout the year. A mobile stage was purchased and donated to the Town for its use. She said that their signature event is “Dickens of a Christmas” and hoped it would resume in 2021. Cars on High was a monthly event from April through November. They hoped to resume the Chestertown Car Show as well. She said that the Tea Party Block Party was also hosted by Main Street and was enjoyed by all.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that this year they have been helping businesses deal with the Covid-19 crisis with community donations for frontline workers, signage, and they partnered with DCA to raise funds for staff Covid-19 support at the Hospital in Chestertown. She said that they held webinars to help improve online sales platforms and brought in photographers to give tips to showcase their wares online. There was also an online gift certificate purchasing site set up which provided $25,000.00 to businesses shortly after the shutdown. She said that outdoor dining was implemented with street closures and planters to block traffic in a cheerful way, and they were able to help restauranteurs lengthen the season for outdoor dining by purchasing heaters. They were also able to have Santa Zoom with the children.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that she helped secure $160,000.00 in State Covid-19 funding that will go to different downtown businesses.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street was looking to grow and enhance their online marketing for Chestertown. She said that through a grant they received, Main Street would like to light up the sidewalks with a local lighting expert and property owners upgrading illumination from the storefronts to the sidewalks.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street wanted to develop a Downtown Master Plan. They were creating a digital marketing plan with a new vibrant website full of information on what to do in Chestertown. An aggressive online advertising program would then take place.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street has been running for 4-years and looks forward to hiring a full-time director to build a more robust program for downtown, which it deserves. She said that she looks forward to the transition as she was retiring in June.
Mr. Paul Heckles, President of the Main Street Board, stated that he and the Board were proud of Ms. MacIntosh’s accomplishments over the last 4-years. He said that she can motivate people and will be missed when she retires. Mr. Heckles stated that he hoped for continued support from the Mayor and Council in expanding the program to the benefit of everyone in Chestertown.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. MacIntosh’s presentation made it so that everyone could visualize the work that has been done in Chestertown. He said that Covid-19 had not taken the spirit out of Chestertown.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mayor Cerino asked him to read a letter in which he resigned his position of Mayor. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mayor Cerino has done the best job, had a good heart and could not be swayed politically. He said that he was proud to work with him.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was an Acting Mayor appointed tonight and he would respond to whoever was appointed Acting Mayor in the meantime. If an Acting Mayor cannot be agreed to by the Council, there would be an interim Election held.
Mr. Ingersoll introduced Ordinance 02-2021 Ward Redistricting and read the document into the record. It was the first reading of the Ordinance and did not require a vote.
Mr. Ingersoll read a permit request from the Chestertown Garden Club to hold their annual May Mart on Friday, May 7th. Their plan called for the temporary closure of Memorial Plaza from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had a permit from the Black Union of Kent County for a Juneteenth celebration at Fountain Park on Friday, June 18th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Wilmer Park on Saturday, June 19th from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. He read the permit into the record and said that Mr. Queen will return with final details on Juneteenth in future meetings.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Arbor Day was being celebrated later in the month (Friday, April 30) and they would be honoring Terry Batchelor with a tree planting at the Remembrance Park. He read the Arbor Day Proclamation into the record.
The Council moved on to Ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he was shocked by Mayor Cerino’s resignation and said that nobody knows how hard he worked for Chestertown. He said that he will forever be missed. Mr. Foster commended Rev. Tolliver for his handling of the meeting tonight.
Mr. Foster stated that he was sorry he contributed to the meeting having to be cancelled on Monday, April 5, 2021, but he was in a Norfolk, Virginia Emergency Room with a family member in acute respiratory distress. He said that this was unavoidable but what had led to the postponement of the meeting.
Mr. Foster thanked Ms. MacIntosh for her work on Main Street and said that she would be missed when she retired.
Mr. Foster stated that one of the changes in the ward redistricting put his ward in with the Dollar General shopping center and said that he would like to help revive that center.
Mr. Foster stated that Rev. Tolliver’s idea that the Recreation Commission and Ms. Johnson’s group work together for a solution to Ajax Park was a great idea.
Mr. Herz stated that he was sorry to hear about Mr. Foster’s ill family member and sent well wishes.
Mr. Herz stated that he is distressed to hear of Mayor Cerino’s resignation adding that this is a great loss to the Town. He said that he understands the amount of work that goes into being the Mayor and that he will miss working with him.
Rev. Tolliver stated that Mayor Cerino was easy to talk to and he showed empathy and only wanted to make Chestertown a good place. He said that this was not an easy job, and he could only imagine how difficult it was for the Mayor.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was thankful to see Rt. 514 has been repaved.
Ms. Efland stated that Mayor Cerino was a great Mayor and always made himself available to her. She said that she was shocked at his resignation and that he will be missed.
There being no further business, Rev. Tolliver asked if there were any questions or comments from the public.
Ms. Wanda Boyer asked what will be done by the Town to clean up junk in the resident’s yards. She said that the yards are a mess in her ward and trash is everywhere. Mr. de Mooy asked that Ms. Boyer contact him directly.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Rev. Tolliver adjourned the meeting at 9:48 p.m.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor