MAYOR AND COUNCIL
DECEMBER 7, 2020
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 8:13 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.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of November 16, 2020 and the special meeting with MDE and the Hospital on November 20, 2020. Mr. Herz moved to approve the minutes of the November 16, 2020 Mayor and Council Meeting and the meeting with MDE and the Hospital of November 20, 2020, was seconded by Ms. Efland carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $2,412,170.12.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Ms. Efland moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that former Mayor Elmer Horsey donated a giant pair of ceremonial hand crafted wooden scissors for ribbon-cuttings to the Town and thanked Mayor Horsey for the donation.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the next item on his agenda was the adoption of Ordinance 07-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission. Mayor Cerino stated that he received several emails within the last couple of hours from people asking that the Ordinance not be adopted.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the Ordinance has gotten too far away from what he thought was intended and moved to withdraw Ordinance 07-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission, until a time when it can be put together to meet the needs of those it was intended to serve. Mr. Foster seconded the motion for discussion.
Mr. Foster stated that a great deal of time has been spent on this Ordinance and to withdraw it without discussion was missing an opportunity to understand the reasons. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought they had reached agreements on the Ordinance in the past meetings.
Rev. Tolliver stated that in his opinion the final draft was watered down to a place where it did not do what it was intended to do. He said that the Town has made great strides in recognizing its racist history in terms of coming to grips with inequity in the Town, but the Ordinance has no teeth or substance. He said it needed to be pulled off the table.
Mr. Herz stated that he was excited about the proposed Ordinance stating that it addressed many needs of those wanting to live in Chestertown. Mr. Foster stated that when the original draft was presented there was reference made to other Human Rights Commission ordinances in Maryland and it seemed like the final product was more like those ordinances. Mr. Foster said that being told that this was not what they wanted when it followed those models was surprising to him, adding that now might be the time to go to the County level to see if their Human Rights Commission could be reestablished. Ms. Efland agreed, stating that she was disappointed and was in support of the final draft, asking if the issues that concerned Rev. Tolliver could be worked out with a more open dialogue.
Mayor Cerino stated that when this was first presented to the Council he was concerned about the Town’s ability to handle it well. He said that if a claim or charge was mishandled it could put the Town in legal jeopardy. He said that Kent County could not keep their commission filled and he had heard they were often dealing with nuisance claims that were not worth pursuing. He said also that citizens have recourse in human rights matters through the NAACP, ACLU, Maryland Human Rights Commission and others like them. He said that he was surprised to see this pulled from the table, noting that it initially focused on racial issues, but human rights encompassed much more.
Mayor Cerino called for the vote which passed with three in favor, Ms. Efland abstained, and Mr. Herz opposed.
Mayor Cerino asked for public comment.
Ms. Paula Reeder stated that she wanted to see the ordinance withdrawn and supplied the Council with a presentation which discussed her reasons why the Human Rights Commission would prove counter-productive as written. She said that Uniting Against Racism does not need support of a Human Rights Commission and that it would take the Town working with the community to further the originally intended purpose of the earliest proposed Human Rights Commission.
Ms. Reeder read a list of suggestions to help in the effort as follows:
- Commit to increase representation of residents of color on all Town Commissions and the Board of Directors of Main Street Chestertown;
- Commission production, publication and wide dissemination of a history of Chestertown African American community before their stories are lost;
- Dedicate Town-owned property for construction of additional in Town affordable housing units;
- Tangibly recruit and support establishment of minority owned businesses;
- Solicit town residents to identify townspeople of color who warrant special recognition and identify tangible landing ways to honor them;
- Enlist Sumner Hall to spearhead local delivery of Town funded educations programs that explain and discourage racism;
- Enroll key Town government officials in a racism awareness training program to heighten their ability to recognize and respond appropriately to racism-related issues and concerns.
Ms. Reeder stated that racism and discrimination are not synonymous. She said that discrimination is the unfair, inequitable treatment of a person. Racism is the many faceted manifestations of a belief that one’s race is superior to another.
The Mayor called on the Town Manager for his report.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Farmers Market Manager would like to speak to the Council about a holiday Market idea. Ms. Julia King stated that she would like to have a Christmas Eve Farmer’s Market on Wednesday, December 23rd. In addition, she asked to have the Market permanently held on High Street. Mayor Cerino stated that the High Street location is adding a festive atmosphere to Chestertown each Saturday and said that it was set up in a way that allowed for the Market to grow over time. He said that relocating the Farmers Market to High Street combined with all festivals having been cancelled due to COVID, took pressure off Fountain Park which looks better at the end of this this year than it ever has before.
Mr. Herz moved to approve the relocation of the Farmers Market to High Street permanently and to have hold a Christmas Eve Eve Farmers Market on Wednesday, December 23, 2020, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Rev. Tolliver asked that additional signs be put up at the crosswalks during Market hours. Ms. King agreed that she would like to have additional crosswalk signage. She said that many people ignore the crosswalk altogether which can be dangerous. Mayor Cerino stated that they will try to round up additional signs for the Market.
Mayor Cerino stated that there was request from Emmanuel Episcopal Church for permission to hold a Christmas Eve service on Thursday, December 24th at 4:00 p.m. The plan was to hold the service on the sidewalk and street of Memorial Plaza (between Court Street and High Street), closing that portion of the street to vehicular traffic from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Rev. Williams stated that she has approval from the Kent County Health Department for the event, adding that the congregation will socially distance and must wear masks. She said that they were able to accommodate more parishioners outdoors as COVID restrictions limited them to 25 parishioners indoors and they are only permitted to hold mass once every 4-hours. Ms. Efland moved to for permission to Emmanuel Episcopal Church to close off Memorial Plaza for a 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service with street closure beginning at 1:30 p.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 24, 2020, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was an MOU between Main Street and the Town of Chestertown for the new portable stage and said that he was fully in support of the agreement. Ms. MacIntosh described the MOU to the Council, adding that Barbara Jorgenson, Esq., a member of the Main Street Board of Directors, had drafted the document. Mayor Cerino read the MOU into the record. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the MOU between Main Street and the Town of Chestertown for the new stage, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that the annual Christmas Decorating Contest was underway and asked that the Council report their winners to Ms. Mulligan by Wednesday, December 29th. The winners will be announced at the January 4th meeting of the Mayor and Council.
Mayor Cerino stated that the COVID-19 numbers were on the rise and there was now wider community spread in Kent County and Chestertown. He said that he attends meetings on Mondays and Thursdays held by the Emergency Operations Center and the meetings are becoming more sobering each week. Since the previous Thursday there had been 40 new cases reported in Kent County, which is previously what the County would see each month. He said that 40% of those testing positive report having no idea where they encountered the virus, and that spread is probably going to get worse before it gets better. He said that the virus takes 2-3 weeks to show after contact and he thought numbers will escalate until the end of March when a vaccine becomes available to the public. He said that the most vulnerable population and healthcare workers will receive the vaccine first, perhaps as soon as the end of December. The vaccine may be available to the public by the second quarter of 2021. He said that everyone needs to be vigilant, wear their masks, space themselves apart, and honor all the CDC guidelines to slow the spread of COVID until vaccines are widely available.
Mayor Cerino stated that it was still difficult to get a test and if someone did get tested there is a 5-7 day lag on results. Mayor Cerino stated that the health and safety of residents is first and foremost on their minds. He said that there is now a positive case in the CPD and there are members of the department in quarantine. He said that he is trying to keep residents updated with videos on the Facebook site.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward Reports.
Mr. Foster stated that COVID was serious and he wanted to get tested but was not able to even schedule a test until December 17th. He said that everyone had to recognize that the virus was everywhere and asked that everyone hang in there and wear their mask.
Mr. Herz stated that he and Ms. Efland hosted a chat with several agencies relative to the issue of homelessness in the community. The chat was with Social Services, the Chestertown Police Department and other agencies. He said that they discussed what services were presently offered, when the shelter(s) would be open, and any changes that are being faced due to COVID. He said that some takeaways were that the homeless population that you see in Town every day is only the beginning and that there is a broad spectrum of people living month-to-month who could become homeless at any time. He said that the organizations involved work hard and do the best with what they have and asked that people support this cause in any way possible.
Ms. Efland stated that the Social Service employers work standard business hours while problems can arise outside of work hours, in the evenings and on weekends. Ms. Efland stated that the shelter will turn anyone away who is intoxicated or on drugs. She said that she hoped a temporary fix could be found while working on a permanent long-term solution. Mr. Herz stated that the shelter will be open from January through March from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. with bagged lunches given to those who stayed over in the morning. Mr. Herz stated that Social Services was working with the Health Department to deal with issues of COVID. Ms. Efland stated that there were suggestions of preparing safety boxes with heat retention blankets and other items to get people through the night.
Mayor Cerino stated that one of the problems is that sometimes a person will not accept the help being offered which was their right. He said that the Town fields calls about the people on the street but cannot force someone to accept help. He said that he was not a fan of having people on the street, or Chestertown becoming a tent city, but this was a difficult issue and there was no place for people to go right now. Mayor Cerino asked if someone working on behalf of the Samaritan Group could attend a Mayor and Council meeting and give an overview of services offered. He said that that this would give the community an opportunity to learn about ways where they could help.
Mr. Herz stated that he had prepared a draft memo for the discussion of the passage of the Human Rights Commission Ordinance. He said he was disheartened to see the Ordinance withdrawn but his memo contained the idea of seeking out a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant to help with a Human Rights Commission and Chestertown Unites Against Racism. He said that a point person with knowledge of how other areas address the issue would be helpful moving forward. He said that he still intended to send the letter out as a Councilperson.
Rev. Tolliver stated that Coventry Farms was getting in the Christmas spirit and he hoped that everyone in Town decided to get involved and decorate this year.
Rev. Tolliver stated that poverty was much larger than what people saw each day. He said that there were several homeless people living on the street in Chestertown and it was something that everyone needed to think about, try to help, and work toward a long-term solution.
Ms. Efland stated that many people in her ward have decorated for the holiday and it was nice to see people getting in the spirit.
Ms. Efland stated that the Hospital sends out press releases with different information and today she received one that said November was National Home Healthcare Month. She said that healthcare workers at both UM Shore Care and Chester River Healthcare (the two home health care agencies on the shore with 50 staff members in 5 counties) were honored for their work and she asked that people keep them in their thoughts, especially during this time of COVID. She said that the healthcare workers honored served over 1,000 patients this year making over 16,000 home visits with many of these visits to patients receiving home-care recovery from COVID.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Rev. Tolliver moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:18 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor