MAYOR AND COUNCIL
JANUARY 27, 2020
Mayor Cerino read the State of the Town Address for 2019 which provided the Town’s year-end financial position, discussed the year’s events and accomplishments and set forth goals for 2020. The address included a slideshow that gave highlighted the spoken address.
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, 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 January 6, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of January 6, 2020 as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $1,331,868.78. 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. Ms. Efland moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Acting Chief Dolgos presented the police report for December 2019. Acting Chief Dolgos stated that an officer had resigned at the beginning of January and Ms. Janet Legg (Office Manager) was planning to retire at the end of March. Acting Chief Dolgos stated that he thought there were three (3) other officers in the process of looking for new jobs. Mayor Cerino stated that one of the problems of a small-town police department was that it was difficult to keep up with larger agencies having more resources and offering higher wages.
Mr. Ingersoll read Ms. Legg’s letter indicating her intention to retire into the record, adding that she worked for the Town for more than 33 years. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. Legg was a wonderful person and he thought the Council might wish to honor her service in some way before her actual retirement.
Rev. Tolliver asked if the officers were trained to handle human trafficking issues. Acting Chief Dolgos stated that there were topics addressing human trafficking in their training each year. He added that the Maryland State Police have their own unit for human trafficking and fortunately this has not been an issue in Town.
Ms. Kay MacIntosh was present to give a report on the Main Street activities in 2019. She said that Main Street was a national program founded four decades ago and geared toward revitalizing historic downtown commercial centers. There were 28 Main Street programs in Maryland and grants through the program are competitive.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that the Main Street boundaries are within the Historic District and centered on the commercial businesses. Main Street has received $424,220 in grants since they have begun in Chestertown, the largest being for $100,000 for wayfinding signage. Another is the $145,000 grant for façade improvement grants awarded to different building owners in Town.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street won a grant for a mobile stage in the amount of $89,000.00, which will be delivered in Spring 2020 and turned over to the Town Crew. She said that the wayfinding signage project was in progress and they would be returning to the Council with final placement and design soon.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street was mainly focused on streetscaping, economic vitality, tourism and marketing, and events. Ms. MacIntosh stated that their festivals run seamlessly due in large part to help from the Police Department and thanked them for their assistance. Ms. MacIntosh stated that a part-time assistant was also funded by a grant and they hired Ms. Jody Bortz to fill that position.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street now puts out a weekly newsletter and runs the Facebook page called “Chestertown Life”. She said that in collaboration with Carla Massoni and other local businesspeople who donated funds, they now had airtime on NPR 88.1 for a different commercial message each month to attract visitors to Town.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that a requirement of Main Street is attendance at the National Conference each year. She said that she has been fortunate to have board members attend with her at their own expense. She said that this was a great chance to collaborate with other Main Street programs throughout the country and said that she also attends quarterly meetings throughout the state.
Mr. Paul Heckles, Board Member, stated that there were many volunteers that help with Main Street, many of whom were in the audience. He said that that moving toward the future they would like to work on developing a streetscape master plan; exploring lighting improvements downtown; l researching opportunity zone projects;, performing a retail analysis of the downtown, and incorporating more live entertainment into the downtown area.
Rev. Tolliver asked how Main Street knew that their program is working. Mr. Heckles stated that they have brought in almost $500,000.00 worth of grant money to Chestertown since they began but they do not have retail metrics at this time. He said that when events are over, they do hear from the merchants that they had successful sales that weekend. He said that he hoped Main Street would perform a retail analysis in the future.
Mr. Herz asked how a business would know about the façade improvement program and how would they apply. Ms. MacIntosh stated that there is information on the website and press releases went out about the program. They also put yard signs in front of buildings where work is taking place with information on how to contact Main Street about the program. Mayor Cerino thanked Ms. MacIntosh and Mr. Heckles for their presentation.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Parks and Public Ordinance was introduced at an earlier meeting and was modified by Ms. MacIntosh and David Hegland to include no smoking areas, which were included in the latest draft. He asked for the Council to review the draft in its entirety and comment, noting that he would like to adopt the Ordinance at the February 3rd meeting.
Mr. Herz stated that the “prohibited acts” section reads that sales cannot take place in parks without consent from the Town and asked how that would work. Mr. Ingersoll stated that during a large event, the permit approval for vendor sales is approved as part of the overall event permit. He said that this section pertains to singular vendors who wanted to peddle.
Mr. Herz asked about the “noise or amplification for less than 20 people” in the park. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Council can refer to the noise ordinance in that portion of the ordinance.
Mr. Herz and Rev. Tolliver asked about section 126-2 and the verbiage “known history of aggression” and how that would be monitored. Mr. Ingersoll stated that “known history” should be removed from that sentence.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would like to make changes and discuss adoption of this ordinance at the next Mayor and Council meeting.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that instead of an having an Ordinance for work in the right-of-way, he would like to work on a Resolution about required bonding and fees based on the size of the job as part of an Ordinance already on the books.
Mayor Cerino stated that in December there was an op-ed in the Chestertown spy, which was followed up by two (2) additional op-eds addressing the Town’s ward boundaries. He said that he then received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union dated January 17, 2020, which he read into the record. He said that the last Ward Redistricting plan was performed in 1995. The letter from the ACLU outlined a need to redistrict stating it was “seriously malapportioned” and “unfairly diluted black voting strength” since the Town did not redistrict keeping in pace with its legal and constitutional obligations. The letter went on to say that the Town had violated the constitutional principle of one-person, one-vote with a second problem with the existing plan it was “splitting the African American population between Wards 3 and 4, Ward 3 being the one district in the election plan considered to be a black opportunity district. Therefore, in the ACLU’s estimation, providing less opportunity for black voters and candidates than is possible, raising racial fairness concern under the Voting Rights Act”.
Mayor Cerino stated that the ACLU letter was seriously worded but in his tenure as the Mayor of Chestertown not one single constituent has raised an issue of unfairness in voting districts until now. He said that this was not an intentional slight and he did not know how often redistricting was supposed to be done. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought a bigger problem was getting people to run for office, not injustice in the wards, noting that 60% of the current Council ran unopposed. He said that claiming unfair voting wards among racial lines, while may be true, has not proven to be a burden in terms of getting representation that is appropriate for the community. Mayor Cerino stated that Ward 3, which is specifically mentioned as under-represented by the African American population, is represented by an African American person and has been in the past several terms. He asked Rev. Tolliver to correct him if what he said was done so in error. Rev. Tolliver stated that he agreed with Mayor Cerino’s statements.
Mayor Cerino stated that this issue can clearly be addressed before the next election and that he would like to create a committee to look at the ward lines. He added that he wanted to ease anyone in the community with concerns about this as he thought the issue had been sensationalized and unfairly represented. He asked that each Ward member find two members of their ward who would serve on a committee along with Town staff (Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. de Mooy) and a consultant, if necessary, noting that he would ask for the names of the representatives at the February 18th meeting.
Mr. Foster stated that in the 1960s, Maryland was a chief offender of the one-man, one-vote. He said that there was not that much activity in terms of elections and turnout but having elections in odd years certainly decreases the turnout. Mr. Foster stated that elections in the same year as gubernatorial and presidential elections would be helpful in getting voters to show up. Mr. Ingersoll stated that only larger municipalities and county elections have been allowed by the State to be represented in the Gubernatorial and Presidential election ballots.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would like to ask for the ACLU to support Chestertown in their action to try to align the Chestertown election with gubernatorial and presidential elections. He said that anytime in the past that he made the request it was denied by the State election offices but perhaps with the ACLU help, it would work. He said that Chestertown running its own election was a drain on staff and on the financial resources. He said with the staggered Ward terms, it would take about seven years to realign the elections and some Councilpersons would end up losing or gaining a year to their terms in the process.
Mr. Herz stated that both segments of work could be incorporated into a final plan to be finalized once the 2020 census numbers become available. Mayor Cerino stated that the ward lines were strange because of the Town’s distribution of people, with a heavily populated area in one spot and large lots in another. For the numbers to work it sometimes means that lines will not be straight down streets.
Mayor Cerino stated that the next item he wanted to discuss was how to move forward with the issue of the Chestertown Police Department. He showed a PowerPoint presentation and reviewed the details leading up to the discussion at tonight’s meeting.
Mayor Cerino stated that there were 4 options at this point:
- Continue the status quo;
- Maintain CPD looking at cost savings in the Department and keeping to 12 officers;
- Police Department falls to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office;
- Dissolve the police department entirely.
Mayor Cerino stated that Chief Dolgos was made Acting Chief after Chief Baker resigned. He said that Acting Chief Dolgos is amenable to keeping the force at 12 officers (including Acting Chief Dolgos). Mayor Cerino stated that he was in favor of that option as well and if they promoted Acting Chief Dolgos to Chief it would continue a cost savings for Chestertown. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought the option with the Sheriff’s Office made sense financially, but it would be difficult. He said that having their own police department gave the Town control over some situations. Mayor Cerino stated that the uncertainty of the police department was not helping with retention or morale. Mayor Cerino stated that Acting Chief Dolgos needs their guidance and support to continue the job and right now and that they were down to 11 officers total.
Mr. Foster stated that he was moving toward either option 2 or 3. He said that he was interested in exploring option 3, but he said that cooperation with Kent County was not great and he said he did not have much confidence that Chestertown would receive equitable allocation. Mr. Foster stated that low morale was not a good way to work and he applauded Acting Chief Dolgos for his effort to make this situation work, adding that he valued his work and leadership throughout these past few months. Mr. Foster stated, however, that he still wanted to have a search for Chief of Police as sometimes new ideas are a good thing. He said that it may not hurt to see if there were other people with more expertise in efficiency measures, and the process would include Lt. Dolgos’ application for the position.
Mr. Herz stated that he did not have experience in public safety but thought there was value in having a search for Chief of Police, although Acting Chief Dolgos has done a spectacular job through this time of transition. Mr. Herz stated that he would like a vote to take option 4 or “Nuclear Option” off the table altogether.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was in full support of the town police force and wished that they would be able to maintain a full complement of officers, but he also understood the budget constraints. He said that he was in favor of Acting Chief Dolgos becoming the Chief of Police because of the rapport he has with him and the force he is leading at this time.
Ms. Efland stated that she thought the force should remain at 12 and would like to look at better planning for overtime expenditures and planned time off. She said that an efficiency study or having someone from the outside looking closely at the detail would be the best option at this point.
Rev. Tolliver moved to keep the Chestertown Police Department at a force of 12 officers, including the Chief of Police position, with a possibility of returning to 14 officers if funding improved, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to have an executive session at the next meeting to discuss the Chief of Police position. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the session would have to be about the existing Acting Chief, not the idea of a Chief. Ms. Efland moved for an executive session for a personnel matter about the Chief of Police toward the end of the next meeting on February 3, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to hold a C-2 business forum, sometime in February, to hear from business owners and the Marina manager about the best way to collaborate moving visitors through Town by car and boat. Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like the businesses in his Ward 3 along High Street extended to be included. Mayor Cerino agreed.
Mayor Cerino stated that he requested a tax rebate of $250,000.00 or a 5-cent reduction of Kent County taxes for Chestertown residents from the Kent County Commissioners. He said that the Mayor and Council was meeting with the Kent County Commissioners on February 11th at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the issue. He said that he needed the support of the community on this issue.
Mr. Herz asked if a presentation could be developed to show the Kent County Commissioners and said that he would also like to put the presentation on the website, along with meeting minutes of the February 11th meeting.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he attended the Council of Governments meeting and said that this was a good meeting of municipalities each month. Chestertown would be the host of the February meeting of COG. The meeting would be on February 19th and Mr. Ingersoll was looking for a restaurant with a meeting room available for the luncheon. He said that at the COG meeting he spoke with Mr. Mason who told him that because Chestertown has money for trash collection and enough to buy a Marina, that financial help is not needed from the County. Mr. Jacob indicated that the Kent County Commissioners did not have the money for a tax differential and that Chestertown needed to build up their businesses and tax revenue. According to The Spy article on the issue, Mr. Fithian is of the opinion that the tax differential is what the Commissioners sent to the Fire House and Rescue Squad. He said that he can’t seem to get the County Commissioners to focus on the fact that a differential or rebate is for duplication of services for streets, police, and planning.
Mr. Foster stated that he scheduled a meeting with representatives of the Town of Centreville who were able to persuade the Queen Anne County Commissioners to agree to a tax differential. Mr. Foster stated that Ocean City sued Worcester County for a larger tax differential than they currently get and did not win but they were meeting this month in the Special Court of Appeals. In addition, there was an effort in place to try to change the legislation so that all counties in Maryland are “shall” counties instead of “may” counties. He said that at a meeting in Berlin, Maryland there was enthusiasm for the Maryland Municipal League taking this issue to the legislation.
Mr. Foster stated that he attended the ESAM meeting, along with Mr. Herz and Ms. Efland on Tuesday, January 21st.
Mr. Herz stated that he submitted information outlining the status of untidy electric poles to the Town Manager and they were finding out the responsible parties to fix the mess.
Mr. Herz stated that he went on a ride-along with Officer Guerriero and said that it was a unique experience and while they focused on crime, he also saw the community outreach that the officers perform and said he was thankful for the department. He said that the department’s equipment appears to be in good shape.
Mr. Herz stated that he was working on a list of constituencies and was working with local groups to put their mission, vision, and contact information in one place for a better idea of who was doing what throughout Town. Any information from the Council would be helpful.
Mr. Herz stated that he had a meeting with Commissioner Bob Jacob about business opportunities in Town and said that he thought it went well. He said that he also spoke with Scott Boone about IT issues in Town and they were planning a tour of the Wi-Fi node locations in Town.
Rev. Tolliver stated that all politics was local, and he thought in this instance that the ACLU overreached in their assumption that there needs to be a black voting bloc in Chestertown. He said that he agreed with the opportunity for parity in the wards in terms of numbers of voters, but he did not agree with a voting bloc dedicated to trying to elect an African American. He said that diversity in each ward was a good thing and was worried that a voting bloc would be detrimental to Chestertown. Mayor Cerino stated according to the ACLU’s letter and proposed redistricting areas, Ward 3 would change from 25% African American to 42% African American. Rev. Tolliver stated that this would dilute the efforts, although he was in favor of redistricting for equal numbers of voters in each ward. He said that he didn’t care to be bullied by the ACLU.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the Third Ward was looking good and he has not heard any other complaints about drilling from the fiber installation project.
Ms. Efland stated that College Heights had a lot of activity with drilling for the fiber installation and said that handholds were being installed improperly and seemed to be placed inside the property lines in some locations, adding that homeowners were not made aware that was going to take place and were upset. She said that she was happy to move forward with the Resolution being presented at the next meeting. She said that the responsibility of the company once the work was completed was an important element to include in the document, such as reseeding, putting down hay, etc. Mr. Ingersoll agreed that restoration was an important part of the process. He said that College Heights has 50’ rights-of-way which is usually 7’ to 10’ for the easement on the side of the road. He said that the company should never be more than 10’ on a property from the curb in any neighborhood.
Ms. Efland stated that at the ESAM dinner the big discussion was getting people to fill in the Census Form when it was received. She said that Federal and State funding is allocated based on census numbers.
Mayor Cerino stated that there was a late request to be on the agenda from Ms. Barbara Jorgenson and Ms. Nancy McGuire to discuss the Sultana Shipyard. Mayor Cerino recused himself from the discussion and Mr. Foster was approved as the acting Mayor.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that she was dismayed at the offer of purchase of the Sultana shipyard but was grateful for Mr. McMullen’s agreement that the highest and best use should be found for the property. She said that this 2-acre property could be a key to turning Chestertown’s tax base and she said she thought it was the residents’ job to have a Charrette as to what should take place on this property if it was sold. She said that she would like to have the support of the Town Council and asked that they be permitted to move forward in planning the Charrette.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that this was a generational opportunity and thought the property needed to be looked at carefully before any part of it was sold. She said that she submitted the “Mid-Cannon Neighborhood” sheet for the record.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that a letter was supposed to go to the Attorney General, and they have not yet heard or seen if it was written. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he tracked down the documents from 2012, which were sent to the Attorney General for the State Highway Administration at that time. Because the 2012 letter response letter said that the Attorney General would get back to the Town with an answer (and never did) he forwarded the documents asking for present contact information on who the letter should be sent to in order to address the reversion clause. He said that he was waiting for an answer as to whom should receive the letter.
Mr. Herz stated that he was happy to attend a charette and said that he would also like to learn about remediation issues that would be required for the site. He said that he is disappointed that the only rent from Sultana was one dollar per year, but he also understood the reasoning for it. Ms. McGuire stated that a lease to Sultana is one thing, but ownership is something entirely different. Ms. McGuire stated that once private ownership is given there is nothing to say what an owner might do with the land in the future.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that it was a wonderful thing for the Town to step forward and give Sultana a place to build the boat, but they were 20 years past that. She said that the entire property needed to be reviewed. Mr. Heckles stated that whatever was done should bring jobs or people to live downtown and that a prime lot like this should not be for parking and storage.
Ms. McGuire stated that economic development was important, and that Chestertown needs more residences as there were not enough people using the downtown businesses day-to-day. She said that this is the last piece of land owned by the Town of this size and she didn’t think that the opportunity for additional residents should be lost.
Ms. Efland stated that she was looking forward to hearing the answer from the Attorney General on the reversion clause but thought exploring options for the property was a good idea. She said that there were many changes taking place on Cannon Street and there was no reason to believe that it could not extend further.
Rev. Tolliver stated that Mr. Frasier’s property is right in that area and he should be invited to the Charrette. Ms. McGuire stated that anyone was welcome to attend.
Mr. Herz stated that he was unclear on the connection of this property to the access of donated property. Ms. Jorgenson stated that was something that could be addressed at the charrette and Mr. McMullen and others from Sultana would be invited to it.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there were monitoring wells on site from the past ownership of the State and County. There was a chance that the site was a Brownfield site. The reverter clause was the other serious and limiting issue. Ms. McGuire asked if the wells were still monitored. Mr. Ingersoll stated that they were not presently monitored as the testing program was stopped when the County owned the yard, but the wells themselves have not been closed.
Mr. Foster stated that he didn’t think that anyone was opposed to the Charrette. Ms. McGuire stated that there was a lot of work to be done before it took place and they would be back to discuss when it would take place.
Acting Chief Dolgos asked for direction on hiring now that the force was down to 11 officers. Mr. Foster asked if there were always still 2 officers on duty. Acting Chief Dolgos stated that there were always 2 officers on duty. The Council gave approval for Acting Chief Dolgos to move forward with the hiring of one additional officer at this time.
Mr. Hurst stated that the Council may want to look for lessons learned from other small towns about small police departments that may have information on costs they would be willing to share.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Ms. Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 10:10 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor