MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MAY 18, 2020
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), 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 May 4, 2020 or the budget workshop of May 11, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of May 4, 2020 and the budget workshop of May 11, 2020 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Foster, and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $928,353.60.
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 Rev. Tolliver, and carried unanimously.
Ms. MacIntosh was present on behalf of Main Street. She said that she sent a slideshow to the Council earlier outlining ways to encourage outdoor dining in the downtown. Ms. MacIntosh stated that Town was busy after being allowed to reopen this weekend and everyone seemed to comply with the social distancing orders still in place.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that she was working on ways to accommodate outdoor dining when it is approved by the Governor’s Office. She said that Health Department shared guidelines with them, which included outdoor seating with no more than 6 people at a table, tables being spread 6’ apart, and no more than 50 people at one time at a restaurant. The business also had to make handwashing stations available.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that she was collaborating with Andy Goddard from the Downtown Chestertown Association to expand outdoor table placement by moving up and down the street (in front of other businesses) or by using parking spaces in front of the restaurant to create an area for tables. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she was also investigating areas for public dining areas in places such Fountain Park, the Marina or by the Broad Reach sculpture for families to use with the takeout option.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that outdoor dining was important for businesses to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and hoped for approval from the Mayor and Council. Mayor Cerino stated that there was an ordinance or ordinance that allowed for outdoor dining in Chestertown and some restaurants already have permits for it. He asked if this request was going to expand much further than what exists. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she asked the restaurants to let her know what their needs were to allow the number of tables they required. Mayor Cerino suggested tables to be spread out along the sidewalk, rather than into the street. He said that he was not sure about the public areas because it raised the question of who was going to be responsible for them, noting that Town did not have tables to offer.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that each restaurant’s solution might be different during this time and the accommodations the Town made may be different as well. She said that there were still many things that they were working on but said she was willing to work with Mr. Ingersoll to see what could be accomplished.
Mayor Cerino stated that outdoor dining was a great idea and that everyone had to be open for creative solutions to these problems in the absence of events in Town. Ms. MacIntosh stated that the idea of the parklets was a widespread idea in Towns where sidewalks were not as wide as they were in Chestertown. If the tables could spread out along the sidewalks and in front of other shops, it may help the economic vitality of the downtown.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that barriers would have to be put in place if they did use the parking spaces in front of businesses. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she would go by State and Health Department regulations in any scenario. Ms. MacIntosh stated that if there was not much going on in Town she did not see an issue using some parking spaces, adding that she thought it was a worthwhile tradeoff to sacrifice some parking in front of each building to make the seating worthwhile.
Rev. Tolliver asked if there was an idea to close streets for an open café ambience. Ms. MacIntosh stated that there was discussion of closing different blocks one night a week to allow the restaurants to spread out into the street.
Mr. Foster asked what regulations are currently in place and how approval would work. Ms. MacIntosh stated that there would be approval required for going beyond a business’ building and if parklets were requested.
Mr. Herz stated that trash is piling up and spilling over because of the extra carry-out which is burdening the street crew. He said that it was important that the business owners keep the refuse from their restaurants under control.
Mayor Cerino stated that conceptually this was a great idea and asked that Ms. MacIntosh work collaboratively with DCA and tell the Town what would be most helpful. He said that he was not a big fan of placing too many tables as this was not going to be permanent. Ms. Andy Goddard stated that this was great timing as their next DCA meeting was on Wednesday.
Mayor Cerino stated that if a restaurant’s property was expanding their footprint they should ask for permission from the Town and have agreement from the neighboring business owner. Mr. de Mooy stated that an extra layer of making sure that social distancing requirements were met was a good idea and a permit from the Town.
Ms. Goddard stated that she would ask the liquor inspector about serving liquor outdoors and defining perimeters and requirements to allow it.
Ms. Efland asked if there would have to be perimeter barriers showing where the business ends. Ms. Goddard stated that a physical barrier was necessary to define the service area. Ms. Goddard stated that some places will be compromised due to their limited space, but she would try to work with them to find creative uses of space.
Mr. Herz asked if the Health Department has been involved in these discussions. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she has been working with Erica Hercher from the Health Department. Mr. Herz stated that it was important to make sure that the Health Department is involved, approves the plans, and that all guidelines are met when outdoor dining goes into effect.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that she would return to the Town for approval once the approvals are received by the Health Department.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that permits for outdoor dining are always given on a provisional basis and a plan for seating will need to be submitted.
Chief Dolgos presented the police report for April 2020. Rev. Tolliver asked about the outcome of the abduction Chief Dolgos told them about a few weeks ago. Chief Dolgos stated that there as a missing juvenile from Sparks, Georgia and it was determined that the juvenile was at a residence in Kent County, Maryland. The individual living at the residence has been charged. The juvenile’s mother drove from Georgia where she was reunited with her child.
Mayor Cerino asked for the Town Manager’s report.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Phase IV of the Rail-Trail MDOT grants are now at a 20% match, rather than the 50% match that they have been in prior years. He said that it would cost $200,000.00 in total to fund the project and the grant request to the Bikeways program was due on Friday. Mr. Ingersoll stated that it was a good time to apply as the Town did receive funding from Bikeways in the past but could not come up with the 50% matching funds. Mr. de Mooy stated that in-kind services can be used for a portion of the 20% match and he thought that there was support in the community for this effort. There was a letter of support from the Town that required the Mayor’s signature.
Mayor Cerino stated that he was in favor the of the grant request if the Town could find the match. Mr. de Mooy stated that awards would not be presented until October so it gave the Town some time to strategize and if they could not find a match it was no loss to the Town.
Rev. Tolliver moved for Mayor Cerino to sign the support letter to Bikeways pursuing the grant for Phase IV of the Rail-Trail, was seconded by Mr. Foster, and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the group raising funds for 4th of July fireworks had reached the funding amount needed and we were past the 11th hour for getting the required permits. He asked if the Council could imagine having a fireworks show at all on the upcoming 4th of July. He said that many communities have postponed or cancelled due to the Covid-19 virus. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought the donations could carry over from each year.
Mr. Herz stated that he thought the Town should check with the Governor’s Office. Mr. to see if they would be allowed. Mr. Foster stated that he did not see how this could happen safely this 4th of July as it would be near impossible with the social distancing orders in place currently at the small Wilmer Park. Mayor Cerino stated that Rock Hall postponed their entire 4th of July celebration, which was much larger than Chestertown’s festivities. Mr. Herz asked if the decision could be postponed and perhaps they could have fireworks over Labor Day weekend. Mayor Cerino stated that the donors should be asked if they would agree to a postponed show or would they rather have their donations carry over to July 4, 2021.
Mr. Herz moved to postpone 4th of July fireworks to a date to be determined, was seconded by Ms. Efland, and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had a request for Resolution 02-2020 Urging the United State Congress to Enact the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019. Ms. Hope Clark was present to discuss the Resolution. Ms. Clark stated that this was an opportunity for Chestertown to address a danger in a positive way by supporting the imposition of a carbon fee at $15 per ton, which put a price on carbon at the source. Ms. Clark stated that this was really a question of whether Chestertown was affected by climate change and how the Town would adapt to the changes. She said that 109 local municipalities across the nation support this bill.
Mayor Cerino stated that he agrees that climate change is a real problem, but he did not know that his was local government’s job to endorse federal legislation. He stated that their position was to focus on local legislation. Mr. Herz stated that he thought if the Council support this Resolution it may bring forth competing bills. Ms. Clark stated that the question the Town had to ask was what the solution was going to be for climate change in Chestertown. Mayor Cerino stated that he felt as though Chestertown was doing their part on the local level and working on more immediate issues.
Mr. Foster stated that Chestertown does have a critical stake in climate change, and he thought people might ask why the Town did not take a stand by signing the Resolution. He added that Shore Rivers and Washington College have endorsed the Resolution. Ms. Clark stated that individuals and businesses have also endorsed the Resolution. Rev. Tolliver stated that he thought this type of action, especially with Washington College’s commitment to environmental studies, should be supported and he agreed with it. Ms. Efland stated that this was a non-partisan initiative and an issue critical to the Town and said she would support it as well.
Mr. Tim Trumbauer, chair of the Environmental Committee, stated that the Eastern Shore is impacted critically throughout their watershed and said that he thought this was keystone issue and opportunity for the Town to take a leadership role. He said that Shore Rivers and other regional environmental commissions are in support of the Resolution.
Ms. Efland moved to adopt Resolution 02-2020 , was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried with four in favor, Mayor Cerino opposed, adding that he agree with the Resolution and how it would impact climate change, but he did not think it was appropriate for local government to become involved in federal legislation.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that tonight was the introduction of Ordinance 05-2021 Budget for FY2021. He said that this was a balanced budget keeping the tax rate at $.4322. There will be a public hearing on the budget on Monday, June 1st at 7:00 p.m.
Mayor Cerino stated that Mr. Ingersoll and Ms. Miller crunched the numbers this year and did a great job in the middle of a global pandemic. He said that no personnel or major services were cut, and the numbers would be reassessed in December or January where both sides of the ledger will be reviewed.
Mayor Cerino stated that he has not been posting too much on the Covid Facebook site this week. Mayor Cerino stated that numbers were still ticking up and the cluster of the cases at Autumn Lake and Resort at Chestertown has seemed to calm down, adding that all of Chestertown sends their condolences to the families who were impacted by the outbreak. He said that that is not over and as more restrictions are lifted the Town had to think outside the box for ways to social distance while creating safe venues for everyone.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that a presentation was made to the County Commissioners in February and it was agreed at that time to set up a committee to work together on the issue of a tax differential. He said that it has been especially difficult to proceed since Covid-19 came along but he received a call from the mediation service and they were writing a letter to the County Commissioners asking if they would accept mediation to move forward with an outside accountant or auditor to study other counties and how they handle the tax differential.
Mr. Foster stated that he approached Senator Cardin’s office to see why there were “shall” and “may” counties when tax differentials are defined in legislation. He said that he was waiting to hear back from them.
Mr. Foster stated that Ocean City filed suit against Worcester County in the Special Court of Appeals about the tax differential and were awaiting the decision. He said that he was anxious to see the court’s ruling as Worcester County is defined as a “may” county.
Mr. Herz stated that he received reports of overflowing trash cans in the downtown area along the waterfront since carry-out only is allowed and with relaxed social distancing guidelines people are enjoying their food by the water but leaving their trash behind. He reported the problem to Mr. Ingersoll.
Mr. Herz stated that he asked Mr. Ingersoll to again contact vendors about the untidy wires all over the poles in Town. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he sent another message to Delmarva Power (Pepco) and learned that the wires were in preparation for aerial fiber lines for internet. Delmarva Power was going to contact the vendors as to why they have not been run yet. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he agreed that the wires were unsightly, but he did not think they were going to go away quickly.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he had a conference call with faith leaders in the community and the Health Department on ways to safely open churches back up for services when orders in place are lifted.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was working with residents of Washington Park residents to set up a committee to help maintain Carpenter Park.
Rev. Tolliver urged residents to continue to wear their masks and to stay safe and healthy. He also reminded citizens to fill out the census forms and send them in. Rev. Tolliver stated that information on how to vote has also gone out to registered voters. Rev. Tolliver stated that the redistricting committee was in place and should hit the ground running when things get back to a sense of normalcy.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to initiate the first meeting of the redistricting committee by sending out the maps. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would restart work on it.
Ms. Efland stated that Main Street Chestertown and the Downtown Chestertown Association put together an initiative for the Chester River Health Foundation and are selling display signs to show support and thank the frontline workers for their efforts throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Orders can be made online at www.mainstreetchesterown.org on the “Buy Now, Enjoy Later” page All proceeds go to the Chester River Health Foundation’s COVID-19 Fund to help cover expenses such as protective gear and support services for medical staff and employees at the hospital in Chestertown. Donations are requested in the amount of $20.00.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Ms. Efland moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:57 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor