MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MARCH 7, 2022
Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 6:17 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Tim O’Brien, Tom Herz, Jose Medrano 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 Special Meeting of February 15, 2022. Ms. Efland moved to approve the minutes of the Special Meeting of February 15 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously. Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the Mayor and Council meeting of February 22, 2022. Mr. Medrano moved to approve minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of February 22 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that operating funds on hand was $ 2,525,663.88.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to pay the bills. Ms. Efland moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Ms. Carol Niemand was present along with Rev. Henry Sabetti to discuss the Coalition for the Homeless. Rev. Sabetti stated that this was a rescue operation for a few individuals downtown who were homeless and being housed at the Driftwood Motel. He said that they were now paying for a total of eight (8) rooms for sixteen (16) people. He said that the Kent County Commissioners offered some funding, they received private donations and another local church had donated funding for the Coalition.
Rev. Sabetti stated that part of the program was to try to rehabilitate and find work for the people who were able to work. He said that unfortunately not every person was able to be rehabilitated. He said that hot meals were also being provided by Minary’s Dream and parishioners of Shrewsbury Church.
Rev. Sabetti stated that he was in touch with an attorney and was looking to form a 501(c3) formally establishing the Chesapeake Coalition for the Homeless, but it was currently running under Shrewsbury Episcopal Church.
Ms. Carol Niemand stated that this operation has taken off in the past three (3) months. She said that people do not stop being homeless after the weather improves and the distance between the churches where overnight shelters were offered are quite a distance apart. A reservation was also required for a bed at the churches’ shelter and most of the homeless do not have cell phones. She said that the people need to arrive on their own accord, but the program has not been working well because there is no wrap-around care, and the program ends each year at the end of March.
Ms. Niemand stated that all but one (1) person is vaccinated and there are twice daily check ins at the hotel. She said that volunteers are taking the residents to the supermarket as there is no local food bank open on weekends. She said that they have provided haircuts, cleaning supplies, and enrolled two (2) children in school. The residents have helped by cleaning around the Driftwood, and each has been put in touch with social services. Three (3) of the sixteen (16) have become employed and two (2) have applied for jobs.
Ms. Niemand stated that this is not a one size fits all program and she said that she hoped that the community sees the need for a year round 24-hour shelter. She said that March’s bill alone will be $12,000.00.
Mr. Thad Bench of Benchworks stated that they had accounting of all funds received and a board and bylaws were put in place to do the job correctly. He said that this was a pressing need in the community, stemming from a good Samaritan. He said that they were looking at State and Federal levels and should be staffed with appropriate people and coordinator to help with job training and other aspects of the program.
Mr. Ingersoll asked where the sixteen (16) people currently taken care of are from. Rev. Sabetti stated that they were all from Kent County and there were some children included in that number. He said that for the month of February the County provided $5,500.00 (with the Coalition paying the hotel and reimbursements were made to the Coalition once receipts were provided to the County). He said that Kent County asked for a letter to provide additional assistance in March.
Mr. Herz stated that there were people in the shelter and at the Driftwood and asked if the people in the Driftwood were precluded from the shelter. Rev. Sabetti stated that those at the Driftwood were not precluded from attending the shelter.
Mr. O’Brien stated that this was an amazing job but the network in place was not working. He said that needs to be addressed to get the programs working. He said that he wants to learn more and have an in-depth discussion on a larger level so that it was not the burden of Chestertown to carry the homeless population of Kent County.
Ms. Efland asked if there has been outreach to other shelters. Ms. Niemand stated that Mr. Gale went to Talbot County to see how their program was run. She said that she met with St. Mary’s County representatives who said that that they received Town and County funding and they were given a van for their operation. She said that she was also exploring other places to see how they were run. Ms. Efland said the Chester Valley Ministers Association was accessing a portion of the Whitsitt Center to dovetail the homeless into a permanent housing and support system. The Samaritan group does a tremendous job with the overnight shelter but were limited because there was no place to go during the daytime hours.
Mr. Herz asked about response from the other towns in the County. Ms. Niemand stated that they have not reached out to the other Towns yet.
Mayor Foster stated that every County on the Eastern Shore has a shelter and asked what was unique about Kent that there was not one available. Ms. Niemand stated that there were chronically homeless or temporary homeless. She said that most involved in their program are chronically homeless and need mental health treatment in addition to other services.
Mr. Bench stated that this was just the beginning process. He said that there had to be other sources of funding. At this present time, they were just looking to not have a lapse of services.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Street Department had studied how the Town would clean up the encampment off the Rail Trail, but he did not want to do that until there was a dual approach that involved the knowledge of whether the encampment was abandoned. Ms. Niemand stated that the people who were on the Rail Trail were not at the Driftwood, and she was not sure if there are still people in place on the land where the encampment is located.
Ms. Carla Johnson stated that the encampment is behind her office and there has not been anywhere there for the last month, adding that it was a man and two women who were living there.
Ms. Johnson stated that there seemed to be drug-trafficking taking place along the trail in that area, but it has quieted down.
Rev. Sabetti stated that Mid-Shore Behavioral Health is referring people to the Coalition. Mr. O’Brien stated that they need to find out why Kent County Social Services was not more involved in helping these individuals. Rev. Sabetti stated that nobody in the County has any direct access to housing, and transportation was lacking to get people services if they were not in the downtown area.
Mr. Bench stated that there was a cash flow problem at this point that they were trying to address. He said that he would ask for an expedient review and then asked the Council to move forward with a donation.
Mayor Foster stated that if Chestertown took this on they would be tasked with providing another County service without aid from the County. He said that he did not see an end to the problem but said that he would collaborate with them to take this matter to the County, but it could not be a long-range matter. Mr. Herz stated that this could also be brought up at the County of Governments meeting.
Mr. Bench asked who they should reach out for next steps. Mr. Herz stated that he would be the point person. Rev. Sabetti stated that Dawson Hunter from the LMB will be part of the team as well.
Mayor Foster called for the Upper Shore Community Development Partners for their presentation. Ms. Rebecca Murphy, Rebecca Flora and Sam Shoge were present and gave a PowerPoint presentation.
Ms. Murphy stated that the Community Development Corporation (CDC) would be able to see what gaps need to be filled in services to help organizations to stand themselves up and find funding from a broad array of agencies.
Ms. Murphy stated that the CDC would help to close the equity gap and aim to provide services to every resident. She said that they have become a non-profit organization and Mid-Shore Community Services would manage their funds. Their board has been growing and it was their goal to be a collaborative entity reflective of the entire community.
Ms. Murphy stated that repeated contact was important in their program to facilitate an effective CDC.
Mr. Shoge stated that he was stepping down from the Kent County Chamber of Commerce to do this work full-time.
Ms. Flora stated that an electronic version of their presentation was sent to the Council before the meeting. She said that she was excited to bring her international experience to her hometown in Chestertown. She said that she has been running CDCs for over 30 years. She said that she worked with distressed and disadvantaged neighborhoods and focused on a sustainable and economically viable programs.
Ms. Flora stated that they were looking to respond to key topics brought up by the Council at a previous meeting. She said that the racial breakdown by County is not obvious or easy to find. She said that the census data did not provide a breakdown. Mr. Shoge was able to find the Delmarva Index through the Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative which was able to provide the information that they were seeking but the data was not broken into race. Race was an important factor to know as there is an existing gap. Mr. Shoge stated that this would be one of the first things they tackled so they could prioritize programs in different areas.
Ms. Flora stated that she would like this CDC to be a model for the area. Ms. Murphy stated that meeting a need post-Covid is attractive for funders as this type of program does not exist on the Eastern Shore.
Ms. Flora stated that there were case studies and they showed sources that exist in other areas that are community-based. She said that there was a hole in this area where CDCs lacked. She said that the closest certified CDC is in Dover, Delaware (formed in 1976). She said that it has taken that CDC 30 years to become certified. It is noted as a regional CDC, but she did not think that they came to this part of the Delmarva peninsula.
Ms. Flora stated that Tunica County, Mississippi was the closest model to what they were trying to do in Chestertown, and she showed their information and what they did in ways of helping. Ms. Flora stated that a needs assistance assessment was something that had to be done in Chestertown. Ms. Flora stated that the CDC she worked on in Pittsburgh was a network CDC and what they were hoping for with the current proposal here was a community partnership that would be most beneficial to everyone. Ms. Murphy added that they would focus on growing greater resources for fund development.
Mr. Shoge stated that equity was directly imbedded in ARPA funds, and they were seeking some of those funds for their effort. He said that PPP funds were given to businesses but many of the minority owned businesses missed those funds because they lacked access to a banker or accountant to help with the paperwork.
Ms. Flora stated that ARPA funds are once in a lifetime funds and she said that equity should be incorporated into the use of the funds. She said that this was an opportunity to move forward with a process and they wanted to be part of the solution.
Ms. Murphy stated that capacity, collaboration and compliance are ways that the CDC can help to keep things organized and to help advocate for different entities in the area. She said that this organization will collaborate with already existing entities to see that they are working together.
Ms. Flora stated that grant applications are opening, and they would be looking for letters of support and participation in start-up funding. She asked that a town representative serve on the USCDP Board of Directors as an ex-officio member, and for the Town to be a partner in the program.
Mayor Foster asked if they have been working with the Upper Shore Regional Council for funding. Mr. Shoge stated that he had begun the conversation with Upper Shore Regional Council.
Mayor Foster stated that the ARPA Task Force would be the ideal body to present to as they work through their efforts. Mr. Herz would be the contact. Mr. O’Brien stated that he would like to collaborate with them as well.
Mr. Herz stated that they were hoping to have the first ARPA committee meeting on March 15.
Mr. Ingersoll called forward Mr. Larry Wilson and Mr. Phil Dutton who were present with a permit for Justice Day which would be held on Saturday, May 14, 2022, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The James Taylor Coalition was asking for the portable stage and the closure of Park Row for the event. Mr. Ingersoll suggested that the event may be better positioned for safety if it was held behind the Kent Cultural Building, where they could use the entire parking lot. He said that there were issues with how the stage turns that need to be addressed. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would work through the details of the program with the applicant. Mr. Dutton asked that the Town be a co-sponsor of the event and if a proclamation could be written for Justice Day. Mr. Dutton stated that the soil collected will be transported on a civil Rights tour in Alabama and installed at the Equal Justice Institute.
Mr. Herz moved to approve the date for Justice Day on Saturday, May 14 from 1 to 3 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried with four (4) in favor, Mayor Foster recused, citing a conflict of interest (his wife serves on the board of Sumner Hall).
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a permit for an Easter Event by the Bayside Hoyas at Washington College on Saturday, April 16th on the greenspace at Washington College on Washington Avenue. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the fee for the stage could not be waived for this event as it was a fee for the delivery and deployment by the employees. Ms. Efland moved to approve use of the stage for a fee of $500.00, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was request for use of the stage for Juneteenth on Friday, June 17th and June 18th. Ms. Efland moved to approve the use of the stages for Juneteenth at Fountain Park and Wilmer Park, waiving the fee for the event, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. Nina Fleegle of Main Street Chestertown requested a letter of support for a Maryland Heritage Grant for heritage and eco-tours through CES and Kent County Tourism. Mayor Foster stated that he signed the letter earlier in the day.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Girl Scouts sent a letter and were hoping to have a community trash pickup day along the walking trail on March 20, 2022. Mayor Foster stated that he thought it was a terrific idea.
Mr. Ingersoll handed out a proposed budget schedule. He said that if there was going to be a meeting before May 9th, they could schedule it.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was an opportunity to purchase three (3) police cars using ARPA funds from a company in Pittsburgh. Each vehicle was listed at $35,000.00. These vehicles were available immediately, whereas all other orders have up to six month delays. Mr. O’Brien moved to approve the purchase of three (3) police cars as outlined by Mr. Ingersoll, was seconded by Mr. Medrano and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster read a proclamation for Vision Days into the record.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to appoint Marianne Sade to the Public Arts Commission. Ms. Efland moved to appoint Marianne Sade to the Public Arts Committee, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster asked for Ward reports.
Mr. O’Brien stated that Phat Daddy’s received a nice recognition this past weekend and Mr. Shoge did an excellent job of getting people to the event.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he toured the Rail-Trail extension today and it is nicely done.
Mr. O’Brien stated that the homeless issue was a complicated one but was being worked on, including cleaning the area directly off the Rail-Trail.
Mr. Herz stated that the first meeting of the ARPA Task Force was scheduled for March 15th.
Mr. Herz stated that Mr. Sappington and his crew did an excellent job working with on the sidewalks in his ward.
Mr. Medrano stated that the debris from the homeless encampment was on private property and said that he was concerned it was an environmental issue. Mr. Ingersoll agreed, stating that there were also monitoring wells on that site that were related to the abandoned gas facility.
Mr. Medrano reported that a street sign was knocked down on South Kent and High Street.
Ms. Efland stated that a parked car was hit on Greenwood on the opposite side of the road of traffic. The streets were wide, and people drive too fast. She said that Chief Dixon had agreed to keep an eye on the streets for speeding.
Ms. Efland stated that the water leak on School Road would be fixed this week.
Ms. Efland stated that the YMCA had their grand opening over the weekend, and it was a nice ceremony.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any requests or comments from the public.
Mr. Jim Gatto was present and left a map of the proposed Chester River Parkway (aka the Chestertown bypass). He asked if copies could be emailed to the Council and said that he would return to the meeting on March 21st for further discussion.
There being no further business, Mr. O’Brien moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:55 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan David Foster
Town Clerk Mayor