MAYOR AND COUNCIL
FEBRUARY 22, 2022
Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 6:32 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Tim O’Brien, Jose Medrano, and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk), and guests.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of February 7, 2022. Mr. O’Brien moved to approve the minutes of the meeting of February 7, 2022, as presented, was seconded by Mr. Medrano, and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that the operating funds on hand amount was $2,435,958.11.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. O’Brien moved to pay the bills as presented, was seconded by Mr. Medrano, and carried unanimously.
Chief Dixon presented the police report for the month of January 2022 adding that he also submitted a year-end report for 2021. He said that there was a recent robbery at 7-Eleven which was still under investigation. There were also unfounded bomb threats that had been sent to the State’s Attorney office.
Chief Dixon stated that he met with the SGA at Washington College and was meeting them again next week for lunch. Chief Dixon stated that four (4) officers were enrolled in Crisis Intervention Training which was taking place in Town and graduation was this coming Friday.
Chief Dixon stated that all officers were appreciative of the cost of living raises and premium pay funds granted to them. He said that the effort did not go unnoticed. He said that Officer Carmen had resigned and was moving to the Sheriff’s Office in Hartford County to work in the courthouse. He said that a new officer is coming in from the Anne Arundel Police Academy and is local to the area.
Chief Dixon stated that on the past Friday there was a robbery on Spring Street in the 200 block behind Bennett’s. He said that a knife was used to rob the victim and the assailants fled on foot. He said that the area was canvassed, and the Sheriff’s office located the suspects on Calvert Street and Lynchburg Street. Both people involved were arrested and in possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. They were in custody at the Kent County Detention Center without bond.
Mr. Medrano stated that there was also an incident involving a knife at the Kent County High School. Chief Dixon stated that the 15-year old involved is in custody.
Chief Dixon stated that there had been an assault of a female in the Downtown today in front of Dunkin Donuts. There were two (2) suspects in custody for the assault.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a request for an anti-bullying rally on Saturday in the Fountain Park. Chief Dixon stated that he would make his personnel aware once the permit is signed.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Peter Sweetser filed a permit request for an event to be held on National Vietnam War Veterans Day at Memorial Plaza on Tuesday, March 29th from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Mr. Sweetser explained that the purpose of the Vietnam War Veterans Day was to recognize, honor, thank, and welcome home veterans from the Vietnam War in a way that they had not been welcomed during the Vietnam War. Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a street closure involved in the permit and asked the Council for an approval of the permit. Mr. Medrano moved to approve the permit request closing Memorial Plaza for the National Vietnam War Veterans Day event on Tuesday, March 29th from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had been asked to submit the needs of the Town departments that would be eligible using ARPA funds. He discussed the equipment needs of the Street Department and the need to pave 10 major streets. The Police Department had vehicle, laptop, and body camera needs. The Utilities Department’s Water plant upgrade was outlined and the Administration’s need for a complete municipal software upgrade and related IT work was presented. Mr. Ingersoll completed the list with waterfront trail and Bailey Park recreational possibilities as some other needs of the Town, that could not be defined by department.
Mayor Foster stated that he asked for this list from the departments, and he thought that they would be remiss in not asking the department heads and employees what recurring and long-range needs were for the Town.
Mr. Medrano stated that the upgrades to the water plant listed were a pressing need, and the improvements should be made. He said that he would like to assess what road equipment could be purchased used from the State and County. He said that he would like some time to review the requests in depth before spending the ARPA funds, but dire needs should be tended to with the ARPA funding.
Mr. O’Brien stated that some of the lower price items should be given the green light. He said that IT upgrades should be permitted to get the ball rolling.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that they investigated leasing vehicles, and it was not permitted. ARPA did not allow purchases by leasing that ended up costing more than the item being purchased. He added that the cost of used vehicles have increased dramatically (by 30%). He said that he would continue to investigate getting used SHA trucks for the dump trucks, but he thought pick-up trucks can be new because they were used hard over their life.
Mayor Foster stated that he would like to wait for the full Council to approve the large expenditures.
Ms. Efland stated that she agreed to upgrade the water plant and she was happy that Town staff was given the opportunity to speak to their needs. She asked if this should be saved for the budget cycle or use the ARPA funds. Mr. Ingersoll stated that most of the list was not something that could be funded in a single budget cycle (such as the road paving) which was why he got some numbers together for that.
Ms. Efland stated that vehicle costs were something in the budget every year. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the vehicles requested for the police department would be to catch up to what the budget did not permit in past ten years. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Constant Yield figures received recently from the State showed that the Town’s assessable tax base was up by $18,000,000.00 from last year’s figure and a good sign that better things were on the horizon.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the employees were appreciative of the cost of living increases and the premium pay for their work during Covid. He said that people are burned out from Covid, and it was hard for most of the employees to pretend that they were satisfied and happy, though morale seems to be improving now.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he has a proposed list for street repaving that he will send to the Council, and he spaced it out among the wards. Mr. O’Brien stated that the purchase of equipment may be necessary for work that can be credited with “in kind” through grants.
Mr. O’Brien moved for up to $10,000 in laptops and a $25,000 IT upgrade, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Ms. Shannan Hannawald was present and discussed the complexity and hardships of Endometriosis and read a proclamation declaring March as Endometriosis Month. Mayor Foster stated that he will gladly sign the proclamation and thanked Ms. Hannawald for her presentation.
Mayor Foster asked the Council about the timing of the meetings moving forward. Ms. Efland stated that she did not strongly feel one way or the other but wanted to take the staff into consideration. Mr. O’Brien agreed. Mr. Medrano stated that he liked the time the meeting was held now. Mr. Ingersoll stated that early was better for him, adding that he would prefer meetings be held 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. rather than 6:30 p.m. Mr. Ingersoll suggested 6:00 p.m. on a probationary period. Mr. O’Brien moved to begin Council meetings at 6:00 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster asked if Zoom meetings should continue or was the Council comfortable meeting back in person in March. The Council agreed to meeting back in person beginning at the first meeting in March. Ms. Efland moved to begin in-person meetings in March at Town Hall, was seconded by Mr. Medrano and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that he would like to nominate Marianne Sade to the Public Arts Committee and would ask for a vote at the next meeting.
Mayor Foster stated that Jim Bogden was present on behalf of the Recreation Commission. Mr. Bogden stated that the Recreation Commission was fundraising for the Wilmer Park playground. He said that the contract signed for $280,000.00 was what was being shown on the screen and did not include benches. He said that there were additional funds from a grant for three (3) benches and one person would like to donate a bench privately for a total of four (4). The playground was underfunded by $30,000.00 due to inflation and he said that $15,000.00 has been raised already, adding that one individual came forward with a $10,000.00 donation. He said that once the playground is completed it will be easy to mow around. Mr. Bogden stated that members of the Recreation Committee believe there should be fencing around the playground.
Mr. Bogden stated that $30,000.00 will make up for the shortfall but another $10,000.00 will pay for a 3.5’ fence, walkway, and plantings both inside and outside of the fence. He said that maintenance might be an issue when it came to the plantings, so he was proposing a group of volunteers to maintain both Wilmer and AJAX parks, similar to the Friends of the Dog Park.
Mr. Bogden stated that a feature of the fundraising campaign was that they were selling bricks that could be engraved with the names of the donors.
Mayor Foster stated that fence was a bit controversial, but he thought a fence that close to the parking lot was a good idea. He said that he liked having a volunteer group to take care of the landscaping and maintenance as it would then truly be an investment by the community. Mr. Medrano agreed. Mr. O’Brien stated that he did agree with the walkway but at this point he would like to finish the install of the equipment before they agreed to a fence, adding that it might be something that could be incorporated into a Phase II. Ms. Efland stated that she thought the plan so far was fantastic, but she was also concerned about the fence.
Mayor Foster asked for ward reports.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he has been out of the area for personal reasons and therefore he did not have a ward report to present this evening.
Mr. Medrano stated that there was progress being made at the Brookmeadow Apartments. He said that there is a 15-acre lot where a sale was pending at the corner of Flatland Road and Route 20 where Benchworks is located. Mayor Foster stated that there was also a request for a bus stop in that location.
Mr. Medrano stated that he received an email that there were some homeless people living behind the trail and the new Tidewater Trader building. He asked if the owner of the property allowed this. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the area in question where the homeless were congregating was owned by someone from out of Town and he doubted that they owner had any idea about homeless persons congregating there. He said that they were looking into ways to clean up as the property was difficult to access with appropriate equipment. He said that he was not certain where the people who were living there are now.
Ms. Efland stated that she was happy to see Mr. Medrano recovering from Covid.
Ms. Efland asked if an overview of the budget process could be held before the process began. Mr. Ingersoll stated that a budget schedule would be coming up soon, but the most representative ¾ year figures would not be available to start the preliminary budget until after March 31st. He said that they could also have a pre-workshop meeting with a report to show the new Councilmembers the issues that they would address during the budget process.
Ms. Efland stated that outdoor spring sports have begun at Washington College which was uplifting to see.
Mayor Foster stated that the ribbon-cutting for the YMCA will be held at 2 p.m. on March 4th.
There being no further business, Mr. Medrano moved to close the meeting at 8:25 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan David Foster
Town Clerk Mayor