CHESTERTOWN MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEETING
DECEMBER 19, 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, Town Manager W. S. Ingersoll and guests. The minutes of December 5, 2022, will be presented and approved at the January 3, 2023 meeting.
Mayor David Foster reported that the cash on hand was $2,891,963.34.
Mr. O’Brien made a motion to pay the bills. The motion was seconded by Ms. Efland and passed unanimously.
Elizabeth Watson presented the Draft Strategic Agenda. She reviewed the ideas and information that the Planning Commission ask to have put into a final draft. There are four different areas; people, place, opportunity, then vision, leadership and communication. The strategic plan is for three years, the things the council will accomplish. The work plan is for the first 12 months, activities for the 2023 calendar year. The three-year strategic plan is activities the council would like to have addressed or well underway by June 2026.
For people, the goal is to maintain a safe community with enriched visible connections, parks and sense of community. In each of those, there are long term progress or success indicators for the direction the council expressed they wanted to go in. The indicators for those three areas are public safety, parks, trails and recreation, and community.
For place, the goal is to maintain Chestertown as a vibrant, attractive and environmentally sound place. The topics under that is downtown and environment with success indicators for each of those.
For opportunity, the vision is growth which provides opportunities for economic stability and a range of good housing, especially for families and enhances the long-term sustainability of the community and helps to improve its environmental footprint. The goal stated is to encourage thriving economic growth, tourism and housing, support jobs, families and communities’ sustainability.
For vision, leadership and communication, the goal is for Chestertown’s elected and other community leaders to continually work to sustain the trust of the community through transparency, effective involvement of volunteers, and a provision of excellent services and actively seek collaboration of all groups and all levels of government with diverse constituencies and all age groups have a voice. The goal is a fiscally sustainable town government with robust community trust and involve its cultivated by innovative leaders and staff.
For town budget, town services, town leadership and communications, and government collaboration, the council emphasize, in terms of working with the county, working with the government at the state and federal levels.
The Draft Strategic Agenda is a work in progress, things the Council will work on and refine with experience and doing. The Council will proceed with scheduling to finalize. Twenty groups would need to come in and present to the Council.
Councilman Herz suggested considering weekly meetings for the first quarter of 2023 to meet with the twenty groups.
Councilperson Efland suggested to provide the groups with organized information so they each can make a ten-minute presentation.
Mayor Foster noted that these meetings are primarily sharing and decision-making meetings, and that a lot of the work will go on behind the scenes.
The Council agreed to get back to Ms. Watson by January 9, 2023.
Police Chief Ron Dixon presented the statistics report to the Council. The number of calls for service and criminal complaints were down in November as opposed to October. Traffic statistics were up as far as traffic stops, warnings, citations, things of that nature. Overtime was up slightly from the Highway Safety grant that allowed them to work the DUI patrol and driving under the influence patrol that took place over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This will be reimbursed in January for that money. Also, a bit of shift coverage for training in reference to firearms training to get ready for annual certifications. The Special Event used small amount of overtime for the Christmas tree holiday parade.
Chief Dixon noted the recent accomplishments and events attended and participated in since the end of November. The department participated in a food drive with Garner Elementary School and teachers wish list, which was very successful. The department, along with the Sheriff’s office, participate in their ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) lockdown drill at both the elementary and middle schools. This was a dry run of what it would be like if there was in fact an active intruder inside of the building. The parents, teachers, staff and students were given advance notice and both schools performed very well.
Chief Dixon listed various events he attended and participated in: the fall crisis and security meeting with the Board of Education in Rock Hall; the homeless conference; the Kent Youth Service meeting with juvenile justice where they review some law changes and ways to handle juveniles, moving forward; Calvert Heights to discussed their security camera setup to make things safer; the Washington College public safety planning session to discuss their active shooter drills that have been scheduled during winter break in January; the sexual assault response team meeting; Holiday Parade, with Santa’s arrival; the Dickens Festival; the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company Installation Dinner; and hosted the Chestertown Police Department holiday luncheon on Friday of last week.
Chief Dixon introduced Patrolman First Class, Brandon McGinnis and Officer Travis Burke. PFC McGinnis started out as a police officer in Chestertown in 2019 then went to Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office but reached back out over the summer and applied. He has experience, both as a dispatch supervisor, a firefighter, and emergency medical technician. He has worked with the rescue squad and is a member of the Chestertown Fire Company. He brings a lot of different experience and training. The department is most proud that he is a certified field training officer.
Chief Dixon introduced Officer Burke, from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He currently lives in Annapolis and went through the Anne Arundel Community College training program and graduated in late May or June and has been with the department for a little over a month, but he has been trained by PFC McGinnis.
Councilman O’Brien asked Chief Dixon about the FBI incident in Ward 1. The person of interest was present at the January 6, Capitol Riot. Mr. O’Brien asked if something significant that puts our town in the paper, who does the press reach out to.
Mr. Ingersoll noted that if the press knew about it in advance, they would call the town and he would call the mayor and alert the counsel. In this incident, the press did not reach out at all.
Chief Dixon noted that the FBI gave him a weeks’ notice, which is more than enough, and he did not breach their confidence or anything to do with their case. He gave the FBI access to their office to brief and go over their plan. There were about 20 federal agents. If the media had called with any inquiries, he would have referred them directly back to the special agent in charge.
Chief Dixon noted it took about an hour once they breached the door. The gentleman came out he did make a little bit of noise but was brought under control, put in the vehicle and taken to Baltimore.
Mr. Ingersoll reported that the curbside recycling bids went out today for opening next month for the pre-bid meeting, January 10. He sent them out to some of the bigger companies directly.
Mr. Ingersoll mentioned that the vacuum sweeper trucks is eight years old and for the second year in a row, it has cost the town about $15,000 to fix the NAVSTAR Maxforce diesel engine, which was a lemon of an engine, that attempted to fully meet the EPA standards. It has a regenerative system, 2 coolers and the motors. After a while, it starts putting fuel into the oil. With time it blows out seals. It was fixed last year. Years ago, the town switched to a vacuum sweeper to pick up leaves and sweep the streets before heavy rains to keep the debris out of the river. The engine is fixed and at its fixed value, it may be worth $100,000, but he does not want to sell a piece of equipment that is fixed but has a history of problems. As a town, he does not think it is the right thing to do. The town is getting bids. A new one cost around $300,000. He is looking for one that does not have NAVSTAR. Mr. Ingersoll does not want to tap the ARPA for this, but rather lease it for a five-to-seven-year period. That would make it more affordable, annually.
Mayor Foster thanked Mr. Ingersoll for getting the recycling depot up and running. He noted that it is not a substitute for curbside recycling, but it is a convenience to have it in town.
Councilman Herz asked how the Keystone Engineering Water Treatment Plant was coming. Mr. Ingersoll responded that it was at a standstill. Bob is handling it right now. He still has not received the plans from the architect.
Mayor Foster noted that he and Councilmen Herz and O’Brien were at the Fire House on Saturday night. He was amazed at the amount of volunteer time that goes into it and how they have created a sense of family. He felt it really was important that for the volunteers who serve in our various committees have proper training, so they can operate as efficiently as they can.
Mayor Foster reviewed the list of commission and committee nominations that would be voted on at the next meeting. The Historic District Commission has one vacancy with three strong applicants. He nominated Samantha Hall. The Planning Commission has two vacancies. He nominated Jim Gatto, who has been on the council and has a lot of planning experience and Jay Silcox, a professional civil engineer. The Ethics Commission has multiple vacancies and four applicants. He nominated Ted Gallo, Katherine Bushbee, Ron Saunders, and Christina Showalter. He nominated Bob Keys for the Public Parks Committee.
Mayor Foster asked for a vote for members already on the Tree Committee, Ruth Manaphy, Cynthia Saunders and Connie Shroff. Mr. Herz motioned to reappoint Cynthia Saunders, Connie Shroff and Ruth Manaphy to the Tree Committee. The motion was seconded by Ms. Efland and passed unanimously.
Mayor Foster asked for a vote for Harold Somerville, already on the Recreation Commission. Mr. Medrano motioned to reappoint Harold Somerville to the Recreation Commission. The motion was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and passed unanimously.
Mayor Foster asked for a vote for Owen Bailey on the Planning Commission. Mr. O’Brien motioned to reappoint Owen Bailey on the Planning Commission. The motion was seconded by Ms. Efland and passed unanimously.
Councilman O’Brien noted that Landy Parks, on the Zoning Board of Appeals, inform him that she is stepping away and did not want to continue. Mr. Ingersoll noted that there are three vacancies.
Mayor Foster reviewed the State Highway Administration Street Safety Task Force that was started with David Goering and some people on Washington Avenue several years ago. Recently, Michael McDowell become interested. The town has the attention of SHA and are going after things that does not require Annapolis or federal approval. They meet once a month.
The taskforce is working on an origin destination study for the problem of trucks leaving 301 and using 213. The taskforce is also working on speed feedback cameras, not like the one near the school, that literally issues a ticket, but something that catches people’s attention. One can be placed just as cars come off the bridge into Chestertown. Galena has purchased four of them and place one at each entrance into town. Galena is dealing with people avoiding the toll road coming and going to Middletown. Chestertown would have to get approval from the State Highway Administration to get these cameras. The cost will be between $3000 – $4,000 per camera. The mayor spoke with Chief Dixon and noted they currently have one speed trailer and the one camera that issues citations. SHA is willing to help get these cameras but have found that it takes longer to get permission for the stand alone versus the trailer mounted. The stand-alone cameras are solar operators, in addition to flashing the speed, they also record the speed, the number of people that are exceeding the speed limit and time of day.
Mayor Foster also suggested another piece of equipment to think about is the virtual weigh station to discourage trucks coming through to avoid the weigh stations. It can identify the size, weight, and speed of the vehicle.
Mr. Ingersoll reported the Pardoe’s update on the retrofit sidewalk project that was put down about 15 years ago, about a mile of sidewalks, from Washington Avenue all the way to Washington Square and out to Todd’s body shop. The town is going to build a sidewalk.
Councilman O’Brien noted that the environmental committee formally forwarded their request for an environmental award. The official first recipient is Ford Schumann for his decades long environmental and recycling work. There is a full document and presentation to consider at the next meeting.
The Council reviewed their Christmas tree nominations. Councilman O’Brien nominated the family at 201 Cedar for 1st place and 221 Philosophers for 2nd place. Councilman Herz nominated 204 Millstreet for 1st place and 21 Mount Vernon for 2nd place. Councilman Medrano nominated 329 Harlan Loop for 1st place and 207 Kennedy Drive for 2nd place. Councilperson Efland nominated 115 Elm Street for 1st place and 101 Elm Street for 2nd place. Mayor Foster nominated Cross Street Realtors for 1s place and The Peoples Bank, both branches and Chestertown Lumber for 2nd place.
Councilman O’Brien reported that historic home at 109 Maple is in ordinance violation. He noted that no one is living there. It is an inherited property and has been dealing in probate issues for many years. The violation has been addressed and the town is following up on it.
Councilman Herz reported the need to continue working on the performance evaluation and introducing merit increases and sorting out how to handle these review as they head into the budget cycle.
Councilman Medrano reported that the Upper Shore Community Development Partners are requesting the central journal operations quarter in the amount of $90,000 directly from the American rescue plan act funds. The Upper Shore Community Development Partners initiative is widely supported in the community, and in other jurisdictions on the shore. He sees it as an investment and a partnership with area nonprofits, local community leaders, small and medium sized businesses, within the town of Chestertown. Many local and committed stakeholders serve on its board of directors. Some of the key areas of interest they engage in will be areas of affordable housing opportunities and job readiness initiatives for the underserved members of society, and the minority entrepreneurship training assistance program. This request for general operating support not any programs.
Councilman Medrano reported that the father-ship initiative had a function last week to celebrate and recognize those that participate and to present some awards to Jamie from Bigg Mixx followed by a small reception at Fat Daddy’s BBQ.
Councilwoman Efland reported that DR Horton, a group that took over the Village at Chestertown, across from the YMCA, behind the townhouses. She reported that there are 41 new, single-family homes.
Councilwoman Efland also reported that the citizens can go on the CDC website and get up to four COVID tests per household. She also reported that there have been changes in the home test kit expiration dates. If home test kits show they have expired, a lot of those dates have been extended. The FDA has a website to look up the new expiration dates. She also mentioned the CDC website for isolation precautions.
Councilman Herz reported that the homeless shelter will be opening in January at the Church of the Nazarene. If there is anyone that is homeless and needs shelter, please contact social services, 410-810-7600. Social Services will connect people with the resources they need.
Councilwoman Efland also added that there is an energy assistance programs for anyone struggling with water, heat, and/or electric payments. Department of Human Resources with the state of Maryland has four grant programs. The local community service groups are also an advocate for linking people to needed resources.
Councilwoman Efland attended the Animal Care Shelter for Kent County soft opening. They will officially open April 1. She reported that the new building is really nice.
Mayor Foster reported that there is another round of art installations coming up.
Mayor Foster also reminded citizens to put their out trash out earlier. Trash collection will begin earlier.
Chief Dixon reported that the department has received all the axon equipment for the body cams. They have had the administrative training and the user level training. There are still a couple of small glitches to work out, as a user aspect not from the equipment. The department hopes to be live by early January. He will be submitted the grant reimbursement request to the Governor’s Office of Crime, Control and Prevention.
Jim noted that he had emailed the requested sketch of Carpenter Park to the council.
Mayor Foster noted the diagram for a potential site for the middle schools and felt they should send it to the school board so that they know that there are other potential sites.
There being no further business, Mr. O’Brien moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:20 p.m. was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
W.S. Ingersoll, Town Manager David Foster, Mayor