MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MAY 4, 2020
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:50 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 April 20, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of April 20, 2020 as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland, and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $1,089,586.98.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. Herz moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland, and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino asked for the Town Manager’s report.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there would be a budget workshop on Monday, May 11th at 5:00 p.m. in Town Hall which will be live-streamed for the public, but the public would not be able to attend in person due to the COVID-19 virus.
Mayor Cerino stated that he was asked to sign letters of support for the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area grant requests ($33,000.00 management grant and $25,000.00 mini-block grant) to the Maryland Heritage Area Authority and asked for a motion to sign the letters. Ms. Efland moved for Mayor Cerino to sign a letter of support for the grant applications, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that there had been ninety-five (95) documented cases of COVID-19 and seven (7) fatalities to date in Kent County. He said that sixty-one (61) of the diagnosed cases were at Autumn Lake Healthcare in Chestertown and a few cases have been diagnosed at the Resorts at Chester River Manor. Mayor Cerino stated that the bulk of other cases were from employees working at a poultry plant in Massey. Mayor Cerino stated that nursing homes and packaging plants were hot spots across the country for contraction of the virus due to the close working environments.
Mayor Cerino stated that there was a soft opening of the Farmers Market, under the approval of the Health Department, on the private property located at East Coast Storage on High Street and Morgnec Road. The property is large with a wide driveway that wraps around the building. Products can be sold without interference because visitor traffic could only flow one-way. Mayor Cerino stated that the Farmers Market Manager asked that this information not be made public until they had a trial run to work out any kinks. Mayor Cerino stated that he had been there for an hour on Saturday and thought it was run very well with strict spacing requirements in place. He said that the people who did not agree with the market being open should simply not attend it.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he also attended the vendors market on Saturday and said he wanted to commend Ms. King (Market Manager) and the Environmental Committee who made sure that all requirements set by the Health Department were met. He said that not everyone was happy that the market was open, but they could choose not to attend at this time.
Mr. Foster stated that he thought residents were adapting as best they can to the Covid-19 situation. Mr. Herz stated that he did not attend the market, but he heard it was well-done. He said that this was a good solution to a problem for now.
Mr. Herz stated that there was discussion of getting masks out to the public at the last Mayor and Council meeting and they now have a channel for distribution. He said that Ms. Shipp and Ms. Hoopes wanted to keep control over mask distribution as they are being made by hand. He said that the DCA and Main Street are aware of how to get hold of masks. He asked that the Town staff be asked to see if they needed masks.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he filed the Town’s CARE Act request with the County for items and funds needed as a result of COVID outbreak. He said that some of the items were for a shield for the Town Hall front counter, masks, and gloves for all departments. Mr. Herz stated that they should extend the PPE to the families of the employees as well if they can.
Mr. Herz stated that he suggested a Block Captain’s program for neighborhoods and Mr. Webb at the Health Department was supportive of the idea in general but pushed back on some of the scenarios which could possibly violate someone’s privacy, property or lead to unintentional spread of the virus. He said that unless someone comes up with another way to make it work he was going to put this idea on hold.
Mr. Herz stated that he reached out to Andy Goddard at the DCA and the Council was invited to the DCA meeting at 5:30 on May 13th. He said that the businesses were struggling but were applying for the government loans being offered and said that the local banks were helpful in getting the loans secured for them. He said that a large problem is that businesses are not being allowed to have curbside pick-up and were looking for ways around that issue. He said that they were working on post-virus ways of operating and how to promote Chestertown for the future.
Mayor Cerino stated that Chestertownresponds.com was a way to automate the process for information on COVID statistics for residents. He said that he was continuing to work on the site and that comments have been favorable.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was extremely upset that people are dancing around the fact that people are dying and that the Farmers Market reopened without including him in the discussion or decision at all. He said that he found out about the market on Friday night in an email from the Mayor. Rev. Tolliver stated that the market was in his ward and he should have been included in the conversation. He said that moving forward, this was a heavily populated section of Town and as it grew he thought there would be problems and the market end up needing police protection at the intersection.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the Third Ward, with the largest African American population, was not the place to experiment and hold the market which could put more people at risk. He said that he did not want infection spreading in his Ward.
Ms. Efland stated that many of the Council attended a Zoom meeting with Senator Cardin which discussed stimulus funding for small towns and said that she would like to write a letter to the Senator outlining the needs of Chestertown and what types of legislation and funding would assist them.
Ms. Efland stated that she met with Jamie Williams of Kent County Economic Development who was assisting with the loan processes for small businesses through the Federal and State Government. She said that anyone with four (4) or fewer employees are not eligible for the loans which accounts for 35% of the small businesses in Kent County. She said that they must find a way to advocate for the small businesses in Kent County and have store owners write letters to the delegates explaining the problems.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that USDA is once again offering assistance to Chestertown with the Marina. He said that Mr. de Mooy had documents from USDA that needed execution to reserve additional grant funding. Mr. de Mooy stated that when construction of the Marina was winding down they knew that they did not have the funds to completely renovate and the Town requested an additional amount from USDA at that time. Mr. de Mooy stated that at 5:15 p.m. today USDA came through with $445,000.00 in grant funding for the project which will allow the payoff of the credit line, where matching funds could not be met, and some other things that the Town could not pay for out of pocket. He said that he wanted to give USDA his full appreciation for this grant and all other financial assistance they have provided to the Town. Mr. de Mooy stated that this was a lifeline and asked for a motion to allow the Mayor to sign the documents pertaining to the grant. Mr. Herz moved to have the Mayor sign the documents through the USDA Rural Utilities Service, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that this grant request took over 7 months of work and Mr. de Mooy working to ensure that it went through. Mayor Cerino stated that this was huge for Chestertown and the timing could not be better. Ms. Efland asked if there were any other expenses. Mayor Cerino stated that there was a 20-year Maryland DHCD property acquisition bond and a $598,000.00 USDA loan with a 40-year payout at 1.75%, plus the salaries of the Marina Manager and summer dockhands.
Mayor Cerino asked for questions or comments from the audience.
Ms. Hope Clark of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby stated that she requested to be on the agenda and said that she put forth a resolution to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. She said that she gave a presentation on July 1st of last year (2019) and was going to be meeting with Congressman Harris in mid-June and she hoped to have the signed resolution to present to him at that time. She said that she would be happy to discuss the resolution with anyone interested and hoped that the Town would endorse it.
Mr. Foster asked if other government organizations have endorsed this program. Ms. Clark stated that Shore Rivers has given their endorsement and she was waiting to present to the Town of Rock Hall. Mr. Foster stated that he thought this legislation was the best he has come across.
Ms. Clark stated that she presented to the Environmental Commission and that this would be the third time that she lobbied with Senator Harris. She said that the more she could share with him that people were concerned about climate change the better the outcome would be. Mayor Cerino stated that the effects of climate change can be seen today especially along the Town shoreline. Ms. Clark stated that this was a good way for the Town to let the legislators know that this was a problem and a way to be heard.
Mr. Foster stated that the Environmental Committee was going through a reorganization when Ms. Clark first presented and did not feel it was appropriate for them to endorse this on their own, ahead of the Town. He said that he thought they would be in favor of the bill and people should know that this effort is ongoing. The resolution would be added to the May 18th agenda, giving additional time for the Council to digest the information.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:38 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor