MAYOR AND COUNCIL
JULY 19, 2021
Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Samuel Shoge, Tom Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), 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 July 6, 2021. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the meetings of July 6, 2021, as presented, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that the operating funds on hand amount was $1,577,776.29.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Ms. Efland moved to pay the bills as presented, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster called forward Tim Abeska, Esq. representing Mid-Shore Pro Bono. Mr. Abeska stated that he was visiting the local jurisdictions as outreach so that residents of the community knew that there was a place for free legal help. He said that the organization treated each person they assisted with respect, compassion and dignity.
Mr. Abeska stated that Mid-Shore Pro Bono holds clinics for clients and one-on-one consultations. The main Mid-Shore Pro Bono office is in Easton but there is a smaller office located in Chestertown at 205 S. Cross Street.
Mr. Abeska stated that Mid-Shore Pro Bono reaches the disenfranchised who are in most need of their services, adding that he thought that many additional services will be needed soon with landlord/tenant issues and mortgage defaults due to Covid. He said that they also cover adult guardianship, wills and powers-of-attorney, bankruptcy, family law and consumer debt to name a few. He said that they also provide legal immigration services. He said that there have been over 600 walk-ins in the Chestertown office since 2018 and wanted to make local government leaders aware of the resources available in the community.
Mr. Abeska stated that anyone in need could contact Mid-Shore Pro Bono and if someone was interested in helping by making a monetary donation, the donations are tax deductible.
Mayor Foster called forward Acting Chief Dolgos for the June police report. He said that there were two (2) non-fatal overdoses in June. He said that there was overtime for shift cover, special events, scheduled leave and last minute call-outs.
Acting Chief Dolgos stated that the Kent County Task Force provides the Town with seizure money from the drug raids and said that the was expecting to receive approximately $20,000.00 later in the year. He said that he recently applied for two (2) grants for funding DUI patrols. He said that he was also looking into grants for body cameras.
Acting Chief Dolgos stated that there was a vacancy in the department and to date he has not received any applications for employment from certified officers.
Mayor Foster stated that he thought that take-home cars were already permitted for the officers. Chief Dolgos explained that an officer on a 3-day tour is permitted to take the police car home after the first shift and through the 3-day tour, but at the end of their last shift they must leave the police car at the station. He said that police cars can always be used while an officer is on duty, but there are some agencies that allow officers to use the car for personal business as well. Chief Dolgos stated that he thought an officer assigned to a particular vehicle always takes better care of that car. Mr. Herz asked what other jurisdictions allow their officers to have full-time take home cars. Chief Dolgos stated that most other agencies allow officers to have their cars full-time. He said that all CPD officers live within a 25-mile radius, noting that the officer living the furthest resides in Stevensville.
Mr. Shoge stated that he did not see take home cars as an incentive. He said he felt that most officers would rather see the impact in their pay. Rev. Tolliver asked who would be paying for the gasoline use in the car. Chief Dolgos stated that the Town would be paying the bill for the gas, but there could be limits on mileage while off duty.
Mr. Shoge stated that the police force is the only agency where take home vehicles are a benefit, but they still must report to the police station. He said that he would prefer to use that money towards financial incentives directly to the officers rather than using the money on cars.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a possible compromise might be considered where officers could use the police cars during the time that they were off-duty during their 3-day tour. He said that CPD could put limits of on the off-time use of cars in terms of miles and local trips.
Mayor Foster asked that Chief Dolgos investigate estimates on the costs of providing cars to the force in terms of depreciation and gas costs and report back to the Council. Mr. Ingersoll stated that expenses could be tracked for six months. Chief Dolgos stated that he would provide estimates at the next meeting.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Rebuilding Together Kent County asked for a letter of support for a grant application to the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust. Mr. Shoge moved to approve the letter of support, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Twigs & Teacups asked for a letter of support from the Council for a microgrant from the Department of Housing and Community Development which would allow them to build out their second story for their business, set up online ordering, install an elevator for handicapped access to the second floor, and put solar panels on the roof. Mr. Herz moved to approve the letter of support as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Hearing Center of Chestertown is applying for tax benefits for their building and improvements in the Town’s Enterprise Zone at 500 Washington Avenue. Ms. Efland moved to sign the Resolution to allow the Hearing Center to access tax benefits for being part of the Enterprise Zone, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Legacy Day will be held on Saturday, August 21st in the Wilmer Park and read the permit request into the record. Mr. Shoge moved to approve the Legacy Day permit, asking to be listed as a sponsor and waiving the fee for the stage and trash removal, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. de Mooy has been working on the FEMA plan for Chestertown and read Resolution 03-2021 Hazard Mitigation Plan making the town FEMA eligible for insurance purposes into the record. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve Resolution 03-2021 Hazard Mitigation Plan, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that Minary’s Dream Alliance proposal for the American Legion has run into a zoning snag as a non-conforming use with Kent County and is going through a County Board of Appeals hearing on the use. He said that he sent a personal letter on behalf of the project and asked if the Town would send a letter of support for the program. Rev. Tolliver moved to support a letter to the Kent County Commissioners on behalf of the Minary’s Dream Alliance and requesting a positive outcome of the zoning decision, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that he had met with Kent County Commissioner Bob Jacob earlier in the day to discuss the tax differential. Mayor Foster stated that it was important that people knew what a tax differential was and how it should be part of reimbursement from the county each year for duplicate services. Mayor Foster suggested that a task force might be formed for the tax differential. He said that the court case was ongoing in Worcester County.
Mr. Shoge stated that it would be good to work with the County and know if tax revenues will be lowered or raised each fiscal year before decisions are made. Mr. Shoge suggested working on a resolution with the County Commissioners. Ms. Efland stated that the Commissioners encouraged the Town to ask for funding for specific projects in Town, which the Town has not done to date. She said that adding what cannot be taxed in Town may be a good optic for the Commissioners to see and show where there are disproportionate services. Mr. Herz suggested coming up with the real tax differential number so that they are all on the same page.
Mr. Foster stated that the issue of Airbnbs and VRBOs has come to light at the County zoning level and there was an agreement that it was not fair they were not paying the taxes that hotels and bed and breakfasts are required to collect. Mr. Shoge stated that the Land Use ordinance for the County needs more teeth to collect taxes from VRBOs and Airbnb.
Mr. Ben Tilghman was present to discuss the Public Arts Committee and the gift of the collection from Peter and Hanna Woicke. Mr. Tilghman stated that the total donation of 24 pieces of art would be received over 3-years, but there had to be decision on how to handle the funding for the public arts collection. He said that donors were eager to donate. He said that the contracts for gift agreements also need approval for promised gifts (the entire collection) and the actual gift donation (sculptures received each year).
Rev. Tolliver asked if there was any chance of the donor backing out of the donation. Mr. Tilghman stated that he thought the only thing that may give the donors pause would be if the pieces were not being cared for. Mr. Herz stated that some of the pieces were on private property and asked how that would be handled. Mr. Tilghman stated that he anticipated MOUs between the owners and the Town in that circumstance.
Mayor Foster stated that he thought the Town may be able to handle the financial aspect of donations. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he was concerned about insurance. Mr. Tilghman stated that the works would not be insured for cost of replacement, only liability. He said that they would fundraise for a maintenance fund and accept a loss if that occurred.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that some money should be set aside to pay Town staff for the additional work they would take on if it was decided that Town staff would handle the financial and administrative functions. He said that that according to the Town Attorney, none of the changes he offered to the contract were made.
Mr. Tilghman said that he will contact Mr. Ingersoll to set up the funds and work with Ms. Odenton on the legal documents. Mr. Tilghman asked how public comment will be received by the Town adding that he would be happy to give a presentation for those interested in the undertaking.
Mayor Foster asked for Ward Reports.
Ms. Efland encouraged people to get their Covid vaccines as there were shutdowns occurring in other countries due to the new variants.
Ms. Efland stated that Flagship Cinemas is now open and encouraged everyone to support them.
Rev. Tolliver stated that many people are staying in due to the heat and said that his ward has been quiet.
Mr. Herz asked if there was any movement on a replacement of the Town Attorney. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had completed the outreach documents and would have them put on the website and advertised in the paper.
Mr. Herz asked if there was any word on the ARPA funding. Mr. Ingersoll stated that no word had been received from the State about the amount to be received or when it would be delivered. He felt that the award of the funds was imminent. Mr. Herz stated that he was still waiting on members for the Task Force for the ARPA funds.
Mr. Herz stated that there has been a problem with trash recently. He said that on North Queen Street near High Street there is a parking lot where trash containers are stored for both The Kitchen (restaurant) and the building at 200 High Street. There was a situation presently where the garbage collector for both businesses had been in a serious accident and the lot has not been serviced regularly since.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Town removed nine (9) cans of trash two weeks before and on the previous Friday he had gone to The Kitchen and asked them to find someone to remove their trash and in the meantime remove the full containers from the street. Ms. Alexander stated that raccoons are now at the trash and the residents were worried about rats.
Ms. Saunders stated the containers with food had been sitting out in the heat for days on end. Mr. Ingersoll stated that his most recent phone call to The Kitchen had ended with an agreement from the owner that the trash would be picked up in its entirety on the next morning.
Mr. Shoge moved to change the start time of the Utilities and Mayor and Council meetings from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried with four (4) in favor, Rev. Tolliver opposed.
Mayor Foster stated that there was a discussion at a prior meeting of having members of the Mayor and Council as liaisons on commissions and committees. He said that he would like to check with the Ethics Attorney to see if a person should recuse themselves if a discussion on the topic came up if they were ex-officio members. Mr. Shoge stated that he saw it as an extension of Town business. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought the Attorney General would have plenty of on record legal opinions on this topic as well.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Shoge moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:30 p.m. was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan David Foster
Town Clerk Mayor