MAYOR AND COUNCIL
NOVEMBER 2, 2020
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:45 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), 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 October 19, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the October 19, 2020 Mayor and Council Meeting, was seconded by Mr. Herz carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $2,039,821.46.
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.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a new connector street/alley built off the 400 block of Cannon Street that goes from Cannon Street to Radcliffe Street. The developer gave it a place name of “Colonial Lane” on the plans. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would like to know if the Council would prefer a name honoring someone from Chestertown or if they wanted to leave the name as it was. Mr. Herz asked if it would be possible to hold a contest where the school children pick the name or at least make suggestions for a name. Mr. Ingersoll stated that would only be appropriate if it included learning about and presenting names that reflected the local history of Town.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to name this for a former resident of Chestertown that impacted the Town’s history. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he sent an email to the Council with suggestions of names of prominent residents who lived in that area for review.
Mr. Herz moved that the Council reserve the right to name the new alley, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a new entity was looking to operate the movie theater at Washington Square to replace the operator who was ruined by Covid19 regulations that restricted movie theatres from operating. He said that he would like authorization to entertain discussions with the new operator. Mayor Cerino stated that when Chesapeake Theaters reopened the theater they were $75,000.00 short on funds and the Town and County partnered together, using Kent County’s revolving loan fund, with an agreement to pay back the loan with the quarterly amusement tax revenues. Mr. Ingersoll said that he would work to continue the revolving loan with the new company continuing to use the amusement tax revenue to repay the outstanding loan, adding that there has already been $25,000.00 of the $75,000.00 loan paid back to the County through the amusement tax. The Council authorized Mr. Ingersoll to proceed with the new operator, extending the loan payments to be accepted through the amusement tax.
Mr. Foster asked what the current rules are for opening the theater. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought movie theaters could operate at 50% capacity.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a four-way tie for the Scarecrow Contest as follows:
- Sydney Brookes Team
- Ellen Gale Team
- River Arts
- Bee Crafty.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the award for “Family Favorite” went to The Finishing Touch.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that on Saturday, November 28th and December 4th and 5th, Main Street was requesting to close some streets for holiday activities and to use the new stage for socially distanced meetings with Santa. He said that he would email copies of the permit requests to the Council. He said that the requests are similar to last year but modified due to Covid conditions and regulations
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Council could adopt Ordinance 07-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission at this meeting, adding that there was a public hearing on the matter held on October 26, 2020.
Mr. Herz stated that before adoption of the Ordinance was discussed, he would like to move that the Mayor and Council reach out to the Kent County Commissioners regarding their Human Rights Commission, which was seconded by Mr. Foster for discussion purposes.
Mr. Herz stated that he thought that many services would be missed (like the schools and Kent County Sheriff’s Office) by having this as a Town Commission only. Mr. Herz said that he heard the Kent County Human Rights Commission disbanded but can find no documentation to back it up. Mr. Herz stated that there were many people in Town who think this is a County issue, but the County has not been given the opportunity to comment on the status of their Commission. Mr. Herz stated that if the Town has a Human Rights Commission it could align with the County’s commission. Rev. Tolliver stated that this Ordinance has been worked on for quite a bit of time and the Council had to decide, adding that there were many people in support of the Commission. He said that he thought the Town pushing the County at this time was premature.
Mr. Herz stated that there was no hurry for creating this Commission in Chestertown and thought a discussion with Kent County was in order. Rev. Tolliver disagreed.
Mr. Foster stated that he thought people may see this as a delaying tactic, but there were valid comments made about schools and where the Town did not have any control which made this a County issue.
Ms. Efland stated that this Ordinance has been discussed for weeks now and they already held a public hearing. She said that she thought the Town was ready to do this and was in place to make the Commission a reality, adding that working with Kent County could be the first order of the Commission.
Rev. Tolliver stated that opening the Commission to a larger level will dilute the feel for Chestertown residents that they have somewhere to go if they feel their rights were violated.
Mayor Cerino stated that he was frustrated that Chestertown is voting on something unprecedented at every meeting and he thought that other municipalities and the Kent County Commissioners have been asked to do nothing and have done nothing. He said that this is a countywide issue. He said that the Mayor and Council of Chestertown was the only entity that was working hard to do the right thing and there had to be component where the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice attempted to meet with the County. He said that Chestertown has been a receptive audience, but he feels that the Council is now being taken advantage of because no other municipality or the Kent County Commissioners have been asked to be accountable in any way.
Mr. Herz stated that he was not trying to stall a vote, but he did want a letter to go to Kent County to see where the County stood on this issue. Mr. Foster stated that many members of the SACRJ are County residents and do not live within Town limits. Mayor Cerino stated that everyone was trying to do the right thing, but when outside residents are asking the Mayor and Council to spend tax dollars from Town residents it became unfair.
Mr. Herz stated that reaching out to the County does not dilute the mission of the proposed Commission, rather they can ask them to join in on the effort. Rev. Tolliver stated that anything that would be done by this Commission would be done under the Mayor and Council.
Mr. Herz again moved to send a letter to the Kent County Commissioners asking the status of their Human Rights Commission, officially asking them to re-establish their commission to serve all residents of Kent County, was seconded by Mr. Foster and failed with Ms. Efland, Rev. Tolliver and Mayor Cerino opposed.
Mayor Cerino stated that he received letters to be read in the record regarding the Ordinance and read letters into the record from the following:
Not in favor:
- Kate Gray
- Mary Celeste Alexander
- Airlee Johnson
- Maria Wood
- Judy Fuhrman
- Tawnese Butler
- Lucy Maddox
- Barbara Slocum
- Phil Dutton
- SGA Officers at Washington College on behalf of the students
Rev. Tolliver stated that the letters that he had were the same letters that Mayor Cerino read into the record. Mr. Herz concurred.
Rev. Tolliver moved to adopt Ordinance 07-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission and the motion was seconded by Ms. Efland. Mayor Cerino asked if there was any discussion.
Mr. Herz stated that he thought there was a duplication in the “Authorities and Responsibilities” section of the Ordinance. He said that both 2 and 4 read, “Accept complaints relating to discrimination and refer the complaints to appropriate authorities”. Mayor Cerino suggested removing that language from 2 and making it its own statement in number 4.
Mayor Cerino asked if anyone had been able to find another town of Chestertown’s population with a similar Ordinance that they could examine. He said that he is concerned about resources to oversee the Commission in such a small Town. Mr. Herz stated that he could not find anything comparable to Chestertown. Rev. Tolliver stated that he thought the Ordinance was tailored specifically to Chestertown, and with the pool of talent in Chestertown they would be able to find competent members to serve and perform independent reviews for policy change.
Mayor Cerino stated that the verbiage of “empowered to investigate and resolve” was still in the text of the Ordinance.
Mr. Herz stated that the Ordinance is non-standard in that the Resolution is included at the top and whereas clauses after. He said that the Resolution text of number 5 still exists in its previous form in the Ordinance and there was a final whereas clause reading “and be it further resolved that the Chestertown Human Rights Commission be empowered to investigate and resolve allegations of racial discrimination in employment, housing, by town agencies and by businesses”. He said that he thought it was agreed that those would be removed.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the Resolution was already passed. Mr. Herz stated that the Resolution was correct, but the text of the revised Resolution did not carry over into the Ordinance. He said that if the Ordinance were to be passed as written, they would be passing an Ordinance that allows investigations and independence of the Human Rights Commission.
Rev. Tolliver asked what exactly was Mr. Herz’s problem with the Ordinance. Mr. Herz stated that he did not have a problem with and supported a Commission but the wording in the Ordinance was not accurate.
Mr. Herz moved to amend proposed Ordinance 07-2020 by removing the preamble section and replacing the text with the following statement: “The purpose of this commission is to encourage and insure that all persons residing in Chestertown, Maryland regardless of their age, race, religion, color, sex, ancestry, national origin, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation may enjoy equal opportunity to live, grow, work, learn, play, worship and exercise the responsibilities of citizenship unhampered by invidious, unlawful discrimination in compliance with the applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Further, a Mission Statement. Missions of the Chestertown Human Rights Commission includes developing positive human relations in Chestertown, Maryland, education and encouragement of greater respect and understanding of adversity and equal opportunity rights among Chestertown residents. Advancing means for alleviating social friction and prejudice and furthering the American ideal of equality and justice”.
Mr. Herz asked for a second to his motion. Mayor Cerino seconded for discussion purposes only.
Mr. Herz stated that this proposed verbiage alleviates the problem of the disjointed text between the resolution and ordinance, specifically in number 5 and it also alleviated the problem that the Council had with “investigation”. He said that this offered a broader statement to acknowledge the human rights of our seniors, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA community and so forth.
Mayor Cerino stated that this would change number 5 and make it inclusive to other areas of discrimination. Mr. Herz stated that it removed from the first “whereas” clause all the way through to “be it finally resolved”.
Mr. Herz discussed moving the issue to a committee of the whole because he had additional changes to the Ordinance. He said that the rules of the committee would be to have a quorum of three members present, meet publicly for one hour before regularly scheduled Council meetings to hash out the details of the Ordinance, and there will be no special compensation for members. The committee will report back to the Council a precise and agreed upon Ordinance for public session. Mr. Herz stated that the committee would be a public meeting so anyone that wanted to watch could certainly do so.
Rev. Tolliver stated that this was another delaying tactic to put them behind in making this an Ordinance. Mr. Herz stated that the Council could vote to not put the issue to committee, and he would bring up his changes one by one this evening, adding that he had fifteen (15) changes. Rev. Tolliver stated that this has been talked about for months and said he did not know why this was coming up tonight. Mr. Herz stated that he asked for an amendment and because the amendment was complex he wanted to commit it to committee.
Mr. Foster stated that if the Ordinance is not in sync with the Resolution passed then they must fix that before the Ordinance is passed in the most efficient way to resolve the language. Mr. Foster stated that he also received several comments from his constituents asking if this was just to address racial discrimination or would it serve a host of discrimination issues.
Mr. Herz moved to move the proposed ordinance to committee for a 3 member quorum to sync the Ordinance to the Resolution and streamline the language in the Ordinance, make changes, and deliver back an Ordinance that they can commit upon, and was seconded by Mr. Foster. The motion passed with four (4) in favor, Rev. Tolliver opposed.
Ms. Efland stated that she did not want to wait two weeks to have this meeting. Mayor Cerino asked when the working group would meet. Mr. Herz stated that he would set up a meeting to discuss the proposed changes within the week. The meeting will be open to the public and the vote will take place on the Ordinance at a regular Mayor and Council meeting.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that all of the “whereas clauses” fall away at codification and the actual text of the Ordinance begins only after be it therefore resolved. He said that all the motions on the floor beforehand cannot possibly be tracked and that the Council and staff should have known about comments before the meeting and at least been provided a draft of the proposed changes.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a Zoom meeting was scheduled for November 11th with the Hospital and MDE, but MDE was not able to attend. Mr. Ingersoll stated that an additional meeting with MDE could be scheduled in the future and asked if the Council still wanted to meet with the Hospital on November 11. Mr. Foster moved to postpone the November 11th meeting with the Hospital until a date where the Hospital and MDE together could meet with the Mayor and Council, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that MDE can meet either this Friday, November 6, which was too soon in his opinion, or on Thursday, November 19th between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or Friday, November 20th between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. He said that he would try to make it so that the Hospital, MDE and Mayor and Council were both represented at the meeting.
Mayor Cerino stated that he was becoming increasingly concerned with Covid statistics as they are on a slow and steady rise. Mayor Cerino stated that as weather got colder there would be a spike in numbers and he said that mask wearing in public was critical. He said that people could not let their guard down.
Mayor Cerino asked if there was a decision on holding the Christmas Parade. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the holiday requests were part of Ms. MacIntosh’s permit submission but there would not a parade like has been held in years prior. However, Santa will still be in Town. Ms. Goddard stated that Santa will not be arriving the Friday after Thanksgiving, but he would be in Town that Saturday and he will continue to arrive on Saturday mornings with a special ride to Town by the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company. Ms. MacIntosh stated that there would still be excitement for the holidays but this year it would be in a Covid-friendly environment.
Mayor Cerino asked when the holiday lighting of Town would take place. Ms. Goddard stated that they were still working on that event.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Presidential Election was tomorrow and said that there may be some unrest through the Country in the coming days, but he hoped that nothing like that would happen in Chestertown. He said that people need to be ready for anything after this election. Mr. Ingersoll was asked to see that the police stepped up patrols after the election results were in.
Mayor Cerino stated that he gave a presentation at a prior meeting about the problems with the bulkhead at the Wilmer Park. He said that he was meeting with a team of stakeholders to brainstorm the process and how they would move forward to fix the issues on Thursday, November 5th at noon in Wilmer Park.
Mayor Cerino stated that he sent out three letters of support between meetings for the following:
- Echo Hill Outdoor School for a Maryland Heritage Area Authority grant for signage;
- Sumner Hall for a National Museum award for Cultural Heritage;
- Bayside Hoyas for a small grant to help fund the Juneteenth celebration in Town.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward Reports.
Mr. Foster stated that Sumner Hall appreciated the letter of support from the Mayor for their grant request and said that the letter was already sent to grant funding agency.
Mr. Foster stated that he wanted to echo the Mayor’s comments about Covid, noting that Covid fatigue is a real thing and it was happening everywhere. He said that people could not let their guard down in the coming months. Mr. Foster stated that his sister tested positive and subsequently died, even though they were not certain it was due to Covid. Mr. Foster stated that testing has greatly improved and that nobody should hesitate to be tested.
Mr. Herz stated that the Town looked great for Halloween and the Scarecrow Contest was a wonderful addition to the holiday.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the new modular house by Kent Attainable was delivered to College Avenue and would be a nice home for a good family. He said it was interesting to watch the house being delivered.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was looking forward to seeing how the Ordinance for the Human Rights Commission will play out, even though it has been a long process. He said that it was great to see Chestertown to make the effort on this important issue that will serve every member of the community. Mayor Cerino stated that this was a new concept for him and said that he wanted the final product to be something that they can do, and do it well, in helping anyone who is discriminated against. He said that he wanted to see camaraderie come out of this exercise and people of all races coming together as one.
Ms. Efland stated that the final plans for the YMCA were approved by the Planning Commission and she thought the YMCA would be a wonderful venue for all age groups and skin colors to mingle once Covid times are over.
Ms. Efland stated that the new Dunkin Donuts being constructed on Washington Avenue was now hiring and information on who to contact for a job was available at the site.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Foster moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:15 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor