MAYOR AND COUNCIL
DECEMBER 16, 2019
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Linda C. Kuiper, Ellsworth Tolliver and Mauritz Stetson, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of December 2, 2019. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of December 2, 2019 as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $1,538,457.23. Restricted funds for the Marina were set aside in the amount of $8,649.16.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. Foster moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.
Acting Chief Dolgos presented the police report for November 2019. Rev. Tolliver stated that he noticed that public relations was listed as an activity in the Third Ward and asked what took place. Acting Chief Dolgos stated that the department was invited to and attended a meeting at the Gospel Church of God on Calvert Street.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he met with Mr. Scott Boone, IT Director for Kent County, about multiple issues of concern to the Town such as fiber, the extension of fiber, Downtown Wi-Fi, an inventory of existing in Town fiber options, and fiber to the MVA bus. In the meantime, a larger project by Delmarva Power for approval of night work was before the Council tonight.
Mr. Ingersoll introduced Mr. Richard Doherty and Mr. Steve McCallister from Delmarva Power. Mr. Doherty distributed a map showing where the proposed expansion of fiber cable that will be installed aerially on the existing poles in the right-of-way.
Mr. Doherty stated that Delmarva Power was doing a fiber expansion to all substations in Kent County. Direct fiber optic cable has been added to all three (3) of the Kent County installations in Chestertown, Lynch, and Massey. He said that new electrical conductor and optical ground wire was being hung at the top of the structures and served as a shield wire to protect the electric system. There was a coating of fiber optic cable inside the shield wire and “reclosers” which are controlled electronically between each substation. If an outage occurred in Town the power can be relocated to eliminate extraneous outages, making for shorter durations of outages. He said that they would like to expand the fiber optic and recloser capability within the grid to the River in Chestertown, initially along High Street, which will take a total of four (4) nights for the build. They would like to proceed as soon as Wednesday, December 18, 2019. The wires would be hung on Delmarva’s electric distribution poles and would probably not be noticeable. Delmarva Power will use approximately 4-5 small utility vehicles for the build, during off-business hours (2 hours after all Downtown stores close) from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Mr. Doherty stated that they were seeking approval of night work in order to get the system up and running without interference to the merchants during the busy holiday season. Mayor Cerino thanked Delmarva for coming before the Council and for their understanding how important the daytime business hours are for the merchants at this time of year.
Mr. Doherty stated that they would try not to use construction lights and were using smaller trucks that would not make too much noise. He said they will get as close to the poles as possible with minor interruption to the traffic, although there would be signs saying that utility work was taking place. Mr. McCallister stated that since the employees would be in bucket trucks, the light from their hardhats will likely be enough to get the work done. No vehicles would be left overnight.
Mr. Doherty added that there were many wires on their poles, but they did not all belong to Delmarva Power. He said that there are no restrictions to attaching to the poles if a utility company receives a permit (except when the poles can no longer hold the weights and wind loads). He said that he didn’t have any say in wires that did not belong to Delmarva Power and his work was providing communication capability to their own network, which was a closed network.
Ms. Kuiper moved to approve Delmarva Power’s request for a permit for nighttime work beginning Wednesday night, December 18, 2019, or soon thereafter to allow for wiring, with the understanding that the work would take approximately four (4) days to complete, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll asked Mr. Boone if there was anything he wanted to add to the conversation. Mr. Boone stated that this work would plug into an open access network facilitating connection to the police department.
Mr. Doherty asked if there were questions from the Council or the audience. There were none. He said that anyone could call the office with concerns and that he would be on site each evening to make sure the project ran smoothly.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he wanted to give a report on the College Height water main break, noting that the work to fix the damage was in the range of $20,000.00. He said that he would allow Bob Sipes to explain fully what occurred at the next Utilities meeting, including whether there had been any repayment by the insurance company representing the contractor or company doing the work.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. MacIntosh requested passage of Resolution 06-2019 Talkie Communications, Enterprise Zone Tax Credits, noting that Talkie created four to six new employment opportunities. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Talkie met the job provision requirements of the Enterprise Zone in Chestertown. Rev. Tolliver stated that he has an issue endorsing this Resolution until Talkie resolved the problems in his Ward and the rest of Town due to the installation of their fiber network. He said that Talkie hired an independent contractor that is not ensuring that work is done correctly. Rev. Tolliver stated that Talkie should not be looking for tax breaks of any kind until they have corrected all mistakes and damages caused to the Town of Chestertown.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would check with counsel to see if they can deny the Resolution based on the issues with the company or if the Resolution had to be approved because the company was in the Enterprise Zone and met the eligibility requirements.
Rev. Tolliver stated that Mr. Ingersoll has been clear with the company and the contractor about what needs to be done to remedy the issues and the company has not addressed them. He said that they are circumventing any direction from the Town, particularly the depth at which they are installing the fiber. Mr. Ingersoll acknowledged that there are issues with this company and said that Mr. Sipes told them no weekend work, but they did it anyway which was when the break in College Heights took place. He said that this company is not able to fix what they break so Chestertown Utilities had to come in and fix it immediately before any repayment funds are advanced for the work.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he has been researching an Ordinance for utilities in the right-of-way and he said that there was already language in the existing street ordinances about bonding.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to defer this matter until Mr. Ingersoll could review whether the Resolution can be granted given the problems that the Town was presently having with the company. Rev. Tolliver stated that there should be recourse when something of this nature occurs. Mr. Ingersoll agreed, stating that if the contractor was not going to follow their own plans or direction from the Town it was going to lead to future problems.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that she did not think there was a specific deadline for the Resolution.
Rev. Tolliver moved to postpone a decision for Resolution 06-2019 Talkie Communications, Enterprise Zone Tax Credits until information was received from legal counsel, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mr. Stetson stated that there was a kind letter to the editor in the Kent County News regarding the work of Chestertown Utilities Commission after the water main break, but it gave credit to Kent County. He said that the repair work was performed by Bob Sipes and the Chestertown Utilities Department, not Kent County.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had received a permit request for Chester Gras which was scheduled for Saturday, February 22, 2020 and read it into the record. He said that this was basically the same request as last year. Ms. Kuiper moved to approve the permit for Chester Gras as submitted for February 22, 2020, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he has revised Ordinance 03-2019 Parks and Other Public Areas several times and with the approval of the Council would like to introduce it. He said that this ordinance would then be voted on at the first meeting in January 2020. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the introduction of Ordinance 03-2019 Parks and Other Public Areas, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. Pete Heck has covered Town Council meetings for the past 12 years and he was now changing over to feature stories for The Chestertown Spy. Mr. Ingersoll thanked Mr. Heck for always reporting the goings on at Town meetings in a precise manner.
Mayor Cerino reminded the Council to judge their Wards for Best Christmas Decorations and to report their winners to Ms. Mulligan by the end of the year.
Mayor Cerino read Proclamations into the record for Mr. Stetson and Ms. Kuiper as the meeting was their last as members of the Council. Mayor Cerino thanked Mr. Stetson and Ms. Kuiper for their service and dedication to the Town and presented them with keys to the Town.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward Reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he attended a meeting on Friday, December 13th in Berlin relating to the tax differential. Mr. Foster stated that Ocean City sued Worcester County to be made a “shall” county instead of a “may” county when it came to tax differentials or tax rebates. Mr. Foster stated that “shall” counties are required to provide some form of a tax differential or rebate and “may” counties are not. He said that the interesting thing is that in 1975, the legislation made all counties as “shall” and for reasons that are unclear, all Eastern Shore Counties became “may” counties. Mr. Foster stated that Ocean City receives a tax differential each year from Worcester County, but they feel the amount is not an adequate representation of the duplicate services that they provide.
Mr. Foster stated that when the lawsuit was heard in court, the judge agreed that the case had merit but felt as though enforcement lies with the State Legislature. Mr. Foster stated that the case is under appeal, but Ocean City is going to move to introduce State legislation, which if approved, would make all Counties in Maryland “shall” counties.
Mr. Foster stated that that there were approximately 25 people in attendance at the meeting including Rick Meehan (Mayor of Ocean City), Jake Day (Mayor of Salisbury), Abigail McNinch (Mayor of Denton) and representatives from Cambridge and other towns on the Eastern Shore. He said that there was there was unanimous agreement to endorse the effort and he said that he encouraged that they work with the MML in any way they can to garner support. Mr. Foster stated that both Mayor McNinch and Mayor Day are active in MML and will be working on the issue. He added that Mayor Day would be running for president of the MML next year.
Mr. Foster stated that Ocean City’s differential was in the millions (much larger than Chestertown) but nevertheless, Chestertown provides services that relieve the County of their duties and the Town should receive compensation for it. Mr. Foster stated that the median income in the municipalities is actually lower than outside the Town, therefore the current system calls on those with lower income to subsidize those with higher incomes. He said that he does not think most residents understand the issue.
Mr. Foster stated that he would like to hold a Town Hall style meeting on this issue, with other incorporated towns in Kent County, so that everyone understood what exactly is meant by a tax differential or rebate. Mr. Foster stated that he was still working with Mr. Fithian toward a study and they have qualified a couple people who would be competent to perform the work.
Mayor Cerino stated that Ocean City receives $3.3 million as a tax rebate as a “may” county and feel as though that amount does not represent the services Ocean City provides that Worcester does not have to provide. Mayor Cerino stated that Chestertown receives nothing as a “may” county and that was unfair. Mayor Cerino stated that he was going to advocate for the residents of Chestertown since they are paying the full county rate but do not receive services from the County. Mayor Cerino stated that this was not only a matter of changing the law from “may” to “shall” as there should be something in the legislation determining a fair amount. Mr. Foster stated that he thought the matter could also be written into law that an arbiter decides an equitable amount each year.
Ms. Kuiper stated that she wanted to thank the Chestertown Police Department for the honor of working with them for the past 8 years. She said that she hopes that the Town does the right thing and keeps the police department in Chestertown. She also thanked Acting Chief Dolgos and Sgt. Lozar for volunteering for the Tea Party Festival each year.
Ms. Kuiper stated that the Town promised up to $2,000.00 in a match to the “Go Fund Me” account for the Farmers Market. She said that $985.00 was needed to reach the goal and asked for donations.
Ms. Kuiper stated that an icon of Chestertown, Ms. Hilda Hopkins, passed away last week which was great loss for the Town.
Ms. Kuiper stated that the Historical Society had grant requests filed but needs $21,000.00 in matching funds for renovations on the front of the Bordley Building at 301 High Street. She said that anyone wishing to donate they could do so at www.kentcountyhistory.org.
Ms. Kuiper stated that the Ms. Sabine Harvey is stepping down as president of the Tea Party Festival Committee and retiring after this year’s activities. Ms. Kuiper stated that the committee was desperate for volunteers as they are critical for the festival to continue. Mayor Cerino stated that Tea Party was, by far, the largest festival in Town and a great way to make an impact on the Town if people had time to donate to the cause.
Ms. Kuiper thanked the Downtown businesses for their support over the last 8 years. She said that it has been her absolute and total pleasure working with everyone while she served on the Town Council.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was feeling melancholy over the terms ending for the Second and Fourth Ward Councilmembers. He said that he hoped to encourage the new members of the Council to use this opportunity to steer Chestertown toward the future. He thanked Ms. Kuiper and Mr. Stetson for their mentoring since he joined the Council.
Mr. Stetson stated that he attended the Community Breakfast Group meeting where Samantha Branham, Marina Manager, gave a terrific report on the first season at the Marina. He said that the audience had asked her questions for close to an hour and she gave great answers to everyone.
Mr. Stetson stated that his long time in public service to the Town Council has not always been fun, but it was a positive experience overall. He said that social media criticism bothered his wife more so that it did him, but he felt as though criticism comes with the job. He thanked his wife, Patty, for her support while on Town Council and throughout his career. He said that they will be celebrating 60 years of marriage in July.
Mr. Stetson stated that he felt as though Town government was being left in good hands. He said that the Mayor and two (2) remaining Councilmembers were the best there are and the Town employees are dedicated and do a great job. He said that the incoming members of the Council seem to be capable and kind. Mr. Stetson stated that he planned to continue to run the Dog Park and hoped to continue playing on the bocce team. He said that he loved Chestertown since he moved here 50 years ago and that everything was fine in the Fourth Ward.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Foster moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:35 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor