MAYOR AND COUNCIL
JANUARY 19, 2021
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:30 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 January 4, 2021. Mr. Herz moved to approve the minutes of the January 4, 2021 Mayor and Council Meeting, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $1,996,478.03 and said that $291,719.17 had been received in Town taxes earlier today for a total of $2,288,197.20.
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.
Mayor Cerino called on Kay MacIntosh and introduced Ben Tilghman, Chair of the Public Arts Committee to give a report on the activities of 2020. Ms. Macintosh stated that the Committee meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 4:00 p.m. Ms. MacIntosh thanked Mr. Tilghman for his efforts over the last few months. Mr. Tilghman stated that the focus of the committee to date has been figuring out how to execute the charges given them by the Town. He said that they use the Public Arts Master Plan as a guiding document. Mr. Tilghman stated that they were looking to provide public art to all of Chestertown. He said that the focus of their work has been to work on policies and procedures and how the art will be maintained in Town once it is installed. He said that the Town has been gifted a collection of twenty-four (24) sculptures from private owners and collectors and they are in conversations of how to accept this gift and where the pieces should be installed and displayed.
Mr. Tilghman stated that another project they were working on is for a memorial in Chestertown as part of Chestertown Unites Against Racism. He said that there were preliminary conversations on how to approach the memorial to date and the project will be best executed by incorporating a diverse group of people to work on it. He said that they were looking for guidance from the Council on how to best coordinate the execution of the memorial.
Rev. Tolliver asked if the donors are concerned about where the sculptures would be placed in Town. Mr. Tilghman stated that the donors understand that the Committee will decide where the art is placed. He said that the donors were civic minded and want the art to be something for the whole community to enjoy.
Mr. Herz stated that he was excited to learn more about the donation when the time is right. He said that he would like to discuss the memorial at a separate meeting once there has been time to research and learn more about what different groups would like to see as a tribute.
Mr. Foster stated that he was grateful for the gift of the art and said that he would like to educate the community on the importance of the gift and best ways to protect it. Mr. Tilghman stated that they have been researching on how other Towns protect public art and said that there had to be a plan in place should a piece be vandalized or damaged in any way. He said that an idea is for volunteer groups to adopt a sculpture and check on it from time to time so that none of the artwork falls into disrepair. He said that he has heard that teachers in the area are thrilled that these works of art will be available for the children.
Ms. Efland stated that she thought the gift was wonderful and asked how the artwork will be insured. Mr. Tilghman stated that fundraising will take place for care and maintenance, but he thought that insurance will fall to the Town’s liability policy. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she has engaged with a lawyer to guide them on insurance and other aspects such as liability and repair.
Mayor Cerino stated that he hoped this Committee would take the lead on the memorial and this project could be part of a good community dialogue for Chestertown. He said that if the Committee facilitates the discussion it would be a great first step. Mr. Tilghman stated that was a good start but what concerned him is capacity as the pieces that will be arriving will be done so piecemeal and logistics of it are tricky. He said that the importance of getting the memorial right and having it be meaningful would take time and fundraising, something that has become difficult due to Covid.
Mr. Tilghman stated that discourse over monuments this year has the public more interested in what a monument should do take time to complete and the 16 months may be rushing things.
Mayor Cerino introduced John Queen, Chair of the Equity Advisory Committee. Mr. Queen stated that meetings of the Equity Advisory Committee are held every second Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone wishing to attend the Zoom meeting or to ask to be placed on the agenda can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Queen stated that there have been a couple meetings so far, the first of which was to organize. He said that he thought this was a well-rounded committee and it was refreshing to see the different perspectives being shown by the members. He said that they were working on communication between the Equity Advisory Committee and the community and said he felt that the Committee was finding their niche at this time.
Mr. Queen stated that they were able to launch a website on MLK day, January 18th, called www.chestertownunites.com and hoped that this would be a good start to community interaction. He said that they would like input as to what residents wanted to bring to the forefront in way of discussion. Mr. Queen stated that the Kent County News and Chestertown Spy have reported on their meetings and he was thankful for their interest. Mr. Queen stated that Chestertown has done a great job keeping focus on the issues at hand.
Mr. Queen stated that they were working on videos of the Black Churches in Town with the help of Rev. Robert Brown and Bishop Ronald Fisher. He said that these two pillars of the community having a voice on these videos was important. He said that they were working with other organizations to see how they can work together on implementing the plan.
Mr. Queen stated that tomorrow, January 20th, there will be a community dialogue event with the Equity Advisory Committee, the Washington College SGA and the Black Union of Kent County from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on a Zoom platform.
Mr. Queen stated that momentum was important, and the non-profits and small businesses had to come into play to enrich the process and plan. He said that Washington College was helping with students and staff and they were speaking with other organizations who would fit in with the pillars of legislation, communication and education. Among others, to date the Bayside Hoyas, Sumner Hall, Downtown Chestertown Association have joined in on the process.
Mr. Queen stated that he met with Mr. Tilghman of the Public Arts Committee to discuss the memorial in the Unification part of the plan and he said that input from the community was important so the memorial will be meaningful to all members of the community. He said that they were working on small scale events for the future and said that those who have been chosen to serve on the committee were the right people for this task.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the Planning Commission would be working on their Comprehensive Plan, which creates a template for growth, and said that he would like to work with the Equity Advisory Committee on parts of the plan.
Mr. Queen asked everyone to check out the website. If they wanted to become involved they could email him. Mayor Cerino thanked the members of the Committee and said that they wanted to physically promote the Equity Advisory Committee with banners to display throughout Town. Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to order 30 banners at a cost of $600.00 and said that they will also solicit donations. Mayor Cerino stated that he would donate his next paycheck, which would account for half of the expenditure as a $100.00 donation was already received. Mr. Herz stated that he would also donate his next paycheck from the Council. Mayor Cerino stated that anyone who wanted to donate could send a check to the “Town of Chestertown” and designate it for Chestertown Unites Against Racism.
Ms. Efland moved to allocate $300.00 toward 30 banners for Chestertown Unites Against Racism, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino introduced Dawson Hunter of the Local Management Board. Mr. Hunter stated that he was working on ways to help the homeless in the area. He said that there will be a drive-by event on January 29th from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Driftwood Inn to reach out to homeless and those on the verge of being homeless. Information will be available on resources available to those in need and gift items such as food boxes, hats, gloves, gift cards, etc. will be distributed. Mr. Hunter stated that Caroline and Kent County Homeless Alliance is putting on the event. He said that there were many partners helping them with the event including Social Services, the Kent County Health Department, Mission House, Maryland Legal Aid and the Kent County Courthouse. He said that this was a critical issue that needed to be addressed.
Mr. Foster asked what was being done on the transportation front in Kent County. Mr. Hunter stated that he was trying to improve transportation as currently there is only taxi service and Delmarva Community Transit available. Mr. Hunter seated that he was researching a more robust system of transit for the area and was gathering information for the Commissioners and Towns on how to fill the gaps by augmenting services.
Rev. Tolliver asked about homeless population in Town was being helped. Mr. Hunter stated that the winter shelter is now open with seven (7) beds available. Currently, there are four (4) beds being utilized each night. Beds can be reserved through Social Services and background checks are required. He said that he has been working with the Chestertown Police Department to reach out to the homeless people in Town, but not everybody wants to accept the help they were being offered.
Rev. Tolliver asked if there were still people at the Driftwood Inn being covered by Covid funds. Mr. Hunter stated that he thought there may still be a couple people at the Driftwood because Covid relief funds had been made available.
Mr. Herz asked if information about the event was being circulated in the community. Mr. Hunter stated that all their partners on the Shore have been disseminated the information on the event.
Mayor Cerino introduced Sarah Feyerherm, Vice President of Student Affairs at Washington College, who stated that all classes are starting online this semester with a reevaluation at the end of March when spring break is over. Ms. Feyerherm stated that students wanting to live on campus have been invited to do so. The current on campus population is approximately four hundred (400) and there were two hundred thirty eight (238) students living off campus. She said that approximately four hundred (400) students have elected to stay home. The move in process began today with Covid testing upon arrival followed directly by quarantine. The same is happening with off-campus students where students agree to quarantine after testing. Ms. Feyerherm stated that off-campus students are aware that they are not to have gatherings outside of their suitemates at this time.
Ms. Feyerherm stated that weekly surveillance testing was being provided and quarantine areas are available on campus or in off-campus housing. She said that once out of quarantine, the students will be able to move a little freer on campus and student athletes will begin to train in a socially distant manner.
Ms. Feyerherm stated that their website has a coronavirus dashboard with results of their weekly surveillance testing. There will also be numbers of total cases available and that they are using alert levels which are reassessed daily basis based on community and state metrics, and their positivity levels on campus. She said that they have contracted with the University of Maryland for testing and that they can rapid-test symptomatic students at the Health Center.
Rev. Tolliver asked if the library was open to the public. Ms. Feyerherm stated that the library was closed to any visitors at this time, along with the rest of the campus.
Ms. Efland asked how to address concerns with off-student housing problems. Ms. Feyerherm stated that if parties are witnessed, the police should be called immediately. If there were more general concerns about compliance, a person can contact the College directly or Town Hall.
Mayor Cerino wished Washington College the best during Covid times, adding that there was some concern in Town because many younger people are asymptomatic and can be a spreading agent through Town. He said that he hoped the students adhered to the guidelines that the College has in place.
Mayor Cerino called forward Sgt. Lozar to give the December 2020 police report. Sgt. Lozar read the report for December 2020 into the record. Sgt. Lozar stated that there was a great deal of overtime due to Covid quarantines, with one officer testing positive and many exposures. Some officers had scheduled vacation where shift coverage was required.
Mr. Foster asked the status of the force. Sgt. Lozar stated that there were thirteen (13) officers and one (1) vacancy. He said that morale was improving due to being almost at full staff. He said that he thought that they were losing officers to other jurisdictions due to financial issues as other agencies are paying more, especially if you are an experienced officer. Mr. Foster asked about total turnover. Sgt. Lozar stated that at one point they were four (4) officers down but there was talk of a few officers looking elsewhere, largely due to money.
Mr. Foster stated that this appears to be a problem because salaries in Kent County seemed low to save money, but it may be costing more in the long run because of turnover. He asked if a study exists showing the costs. Mr. Foster stated that this was something that the Council had to consider seriously because Chestertown is not overstaffed. Mr. Foster suggested assisting in a study. Mr. Foster stated that the Town has a generous retirement but that is not necessarily something that a younger officer considers.
Mayor Cerino stated that a compensation study was performed 10 years ago, and which led to some bumps in salaries, and ultimately the purchase of the Police Department building. Mayor Cerino stated that CPD starting salaries may be lower, but some of those agencies did not participate in the LEOPS pension system. Sgt. Lozar stated that Centreville was looking to enroll in LEOPS, adding that when their new Chief began the first thing he did was raise salaries.
Sgt. Lozar stated that the LEOPS pension was terrific, but the agencies are boosting salaries as well as including the pension. He said that a younger officer did not think about pension until they reached their halfway point. Sgt. Lozar stated that it was important to stay competitive while having a good work environment. He said that the pension was not everything.
Mayor Cerino stated that the best time to discuss this issue was at budget time, agreeing that it was a discussion that needed to take place.
Rev. Tolliver asked if there was an update on the situation at LaMotte. Sgt. Lozar stated that the claims were unsubstantiated, but the investigation was still open.
Mayor Cerino asked for the Town Manager’s report.
Mr. Ingersoll thanked Sgt. Lozar with his help on the main frame computer back-up system in Town Hall.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a massive dead elm on North Queen Street which will be removed by Asplundh in the near future and would require street closures. He said that Mr. Sappington will close the streets and they may reroute residents’ traffic by reversing Church Alley temporarily.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there were new housing starts throughout Town and it was amazing to see the growth. He said that people are seeing Chestertown as a safe haven and he was grateful to see it. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought there was an exodus out of urban areas due to Covid that was helping Chestertown’s bottom line.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to nominate Rebecca Murphy to the Historic District Commission.
Mayor Cerino stated that Amy Crouch resigned from the Recreation Commission and he would like to nominate Nat Woodrow to serve on the Commission.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward Reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he would like to see the Police Department pull numbers before budget time for review.
Mr. Foster stated that he was able to make a reservation for his Covid shot. He said that the website asked for a good amount of information and it takes time, but it does work. He said that churches are assisting in disseminating information about the Covid vaccine. He thanked Chief Dolgos for his offer of assistance in getting the word out about the vaccine.
Mayor Cerino stated that Kent County was focusing on Group 1A for vaccines. He said that he thought the Mayor and Council and the staff of the Town may be eligible to receive their vaccine at the end of the month.
Mr. Herz stated that the incident at the Capitol building saddened him and said that he was thankful for Chestertown and its residents for their level of civility and kindness shown when it was sorely lacking in some other areas of the country.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted to congratulate the businesses in the Third Ward who have been able to continue to serve the people of Chestertown through these difficult times.
Ms. Efland stated that she met with Mr. Ingersoll, Mr. de Mooy and Mayor Cerino about finding safe passage for pedestrians to get to the YMCA, which was currently under construction. She said that she also met with Mr. Owen Bailey on the issue. She said that they were looking at a MD 291 crossing at Haacke Drive and funding for bikeways and future sidewalks.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:19 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor