CHESTERTOWN MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEETING
NOVEMBER 21, 2022
Mr. Ingersoll informed the council that the mayor would not be present, and an acting mayor needed to be elected in order for the meeting to begin. Mr. O’Brien moved to elect Ms. Efland as mayor for the current meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Ms. Efland called the meeting to order at 6:03 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Tim O’Brien, Tom Herz, Jose Medrano and Meghan Efland, Town Manager W. S. Ingersoll, and guests.
Mr. Ingersoll apologized for not having the minutes from the last Mayor and Council meeting completed but noted that the Council had been provided with the minutes for the Utilities meeting held on November 7, 2022. Mr. O’Brien moved to approve the November 7, 2022, Utilities meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Ms. Efland reported that operating funds on hand were $2,405,165.12. Mr. Herz moved to approve the bills. The motion was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Chief Dixon stated that the police department had been busy and listed their activities. Chief Dixon said that he made a presentation to the senior citizens at Heron Point about scam fraud protection. The Department participated with the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Department and the Kent County Rescue Squad in Chestertown for a birthday party for special needs youth at Calvert Heights; events monitored by the Department were Downrigging Festival, the Lions Club Halloween parade, a costume party and parade at the elementary school, a trunk or treat at the Christian Academy and at Social Services. The Department also held an open house at the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company.
Chief Dixon said that he had attended the Law Enforcement Torch Run conference in Austin, Texas. He said it was a very good experience and he brought back information that will benefit the town. Chief Dixon also participated in the recent homelessness roundtable held at Town Hall and a resource fair for English as a second language at Garnet Elementary School.
The Department made multiple patrol checks at polling places for early voting and on Election Day. Chief Dixon reported that Officer Travis Burke began work on November 14, 2022. Officer Burke has completed firearms training and he will be starting his field training next week, which will last until sometime in January. A trained and certified officer should be hired by the end of December, leaving a deficit of two officers.
The kickoff meeting for body camera training is scheduled for November 28, 2022, and training is scheduled for the second week in December. Cameras should begin to be utilized by mid-December. The Department is looking forward to using this technology.
Chief Dixon recognized Corporal Jay Walker and Officer James Henderson. Both officers were present at the meeting. Chief Dixon described the afternoon in October 2022 when Officer Henderson and Corporal Walker were working together. Chief Dixon received a 911 call from a distraught female who reported that her boyfriend had left their home following relationship difficulties and he had made it very clear that he was going to intentionally overdose on some form of controlled dangerous substance in an effort to end his life. This was a very difficult situation because the female had no idea where her boyfriend was. Officer Henderson and Corporal Walker immediately jumped into action and assembled a team to track his phone. Within a few minutes, the phone pinged, and the officers obtained further information that led them to determine that the subject was likely in the Wilmer Park area. The officers responded to the area and located the subject who had in fact overdosed. They administered two doses of Narcan prior to EMS arriving.
Chief Dixon stated that in his 29 years in law enforcement, he has only seen a handful of times where he felt like a police officer has absolutely 100% positively saved a life and this is one of those times. Chief Dixon noted that although these types of situations are a part of a police officer’s duties, in this particular case, had it not been for the aggressive actions of Officer Henderson and Corporal Walker, the young man would have been found deceased at a later time based on his location and what he had ingested.
Chief Dixon then presented each officer with a certificate recognizing their efforts and awarded each officer a lifesaving ribbon for their uniforms. Chief Dixon thanked the Council for allowing him to recognize Officer Henderson and Corporal Walker publicly during the meeting.
Mr. O’Brien thanked Chief Dixon for putting out timely crime alerts to the community and noted that the Chestertown Happenings Facebook group is a good avenue for distributing the information. Chief Dixon noted that the suspect in the Dollar General theft was identified and charged thanks to bystanders who provided good information as well as social media exposure.
Mr. O’Brien stated that rapid distribution of crime alerts is important as community response is often immediate. Chief Dixon will develop a plan to distribute the alerts to multiple platforms.
Mr. O’Brien stated that the State Highway Administration inquired if the Chestertown Police Department includes pedestrian accident information to the SHA program. Chief Dixon does report these statistics and is working with Washington College to assist the Department with capturing additional data.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Dwight Zilinskas submitted a permit for an event at Wilmer Park on Saturday, June 10, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on June 10, 2023. The event will be a non-alcohol family fun event with food trucks, lawn and water-fronting demonstrations, face painting and karaoke entertainment. The permit included a request for electrical service and trash pickup. Mr. O’Brien moved to approve the permit for Dwight Zilinskas. The motion was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll reported that there was a flood at the Visitor’s Center on November 10, 2022. There was an unknown stoppage caused by tree roots in the parking lot sewer pipe. Also unknown was an upstairs toilet stopper that was not functioning and as a result the downstairs bathroom flooded, which is designed to drain but did not due to the stoppage. The Utilities commission located and removed the blockage and Mr. Ingersoll noted that their quick response prevented major damage.
Mr. Ingersoll announced the resignation of Jennifer McCann and read her resignation letter to the Council. Mr. O’Brien described Ms. McCann’s recitation of her experiences as a recorder of the Historic District Commission as disturbing. He noted that committee chairpersons are responsible for maintaining the order of the meetings and that the Council has the responsibility to remove a chairman if necessary. Mr. O’Brien stated that he was unaware of prior similar experiences that Ms. McCann had endured from the public.
Mr. Ingersoll described Ms. McCann as an invaluable employee and noted her many job duties and her enormous knowledge of town government. The Council discussed the issues documented by Ms. McCann and all Council members described Ms. McCann as a key employee and that her departure would be a great loss to the town.
The Council agreed that employees should be able to perform their job duties without fear of recrimination from the public and that any questions regarding ethics and inappropriate behavior be reported through the proper channels. The Council agreed to discuss the issue at another time. Mr. Herz moved to reluctantly accept the resignation of Jennifer McCann and noted that she is resigning in good standing and is welcome to return at any point. The motion was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll reported that the Street Department had been leasing a slightly used backhoe that would be very useful to the Town and recommended that the town purchase the equipment. The Town had rented the backhoe for a month to test it and the company agreed to deduct the cost of rent from the price of the backhoe. Mr. Ingersoll noted the positive Utilities Commission financials reported by Ms. Efland and suggested that the backhoe could be purchased as an added capital item in the regular annual budget. Mr. O’Brien moved to purchase the backhoe as described in the documents presented to the Council using funds from the Utilities capital budget and not the ARPA funding. He was seconded by Mr. Herz. The motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll reported that the street sweeper is not working, and one is being leased for 30 days while it is repaired. The leasing was necessary because it was leaf season, and the leaves need to be picked up to prevent piles of them from washing into the storm drains during heavy rains. Mr. Ingersoll noted that the equipment is seven years old and has been repaired twice before for the same fuel in the oil problem.
Mr. Ingersoll reported that the Town’s bond counsel will be attending the December 5th meeting to explain the requested reissuance of a 2018 Heron Point Bonds. Mr. O’Brien stated that this is a complex issue, and he feels that it should be reviewed by the Town attorney. Mr. O’Brien questioned whether the processing fee is waived, as he understood that it has been waived in the past. Mr. O’Brien stated that he needed to be educated with regard to the bonds. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Lindsey Rader, the Town’s bond counsel, would answer any questions at the upcoming meeting.
Ms. Efland reported that the Mayor and Council and Mr. Ingersoll participated in a strategic planning session on November 12 & 13, 2022 with Elizabeth Watson. Ms. Watson facilitated a large survey that was distributed to nonprofits, organizations within the town, town departments and town staff. Survey topics were a safe and healthy community, a clean and healthy environment, a vibrant and inclusive community, affordable housing, a livable community, a thriving local economy, a connected community, a financially resilient town, and collaborative and responsive organizations talking about the town. The participants completed a typical SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Items included stormwater management initiatives, trash and recycling, the town equity plan, transportation plan, economic development plans for broadband access, and the comprehensive capital plan review. Also included was the capacity to seek grants, the tax differential, recruiting the committee volunteers with job descriptions citing the requirements to serve on the committees, how to make Council meetings more efficient, annual, or bi-annual strategic plan check-ins and ways the town can advocate with state and federal representatives. Ms. Efland noted that both of the meetings are available to view on the town website. Mr. Herz thanked Ms. Watson for her time and expertise and noted that the end result will be an important product.
Ms. Efland refreshed the Council regarding the specifics of the middle school project. Kent County Middle School is being considered for demolition and for its replacement there are currently three options being reviewed: replace the school at its current location, build a new school at the Worton campus, or adding on to the high school in Worton.
Ms. Efland stated that at the recent Board of Education meeting she, Mr. O’Brien and Mayor Foster spoke with Brian Matthews and Kent Ford and reiterated their excitement with Kent County obtaining a new school which they prefer to be in Chestertown. They discussed ways to partner with the Board of Education, parking and stormwater management, resources that are unique to the town such as the YMCA, the public library, nonprofits providing after school programming, and the accessibility of the middle school being in town. Without many transportation options besides standard school busses, the middle school is the most easily accessible option for the most students.
Ms. Efland said that Mayor Foster had also noted that a fourth option could be a land swap. Superintendent Couch thanked them for attending the meeting and reported that less than 150 people had responded to the survey on their website (kent.k12.md.us – Kent County Middle School project). Ms. Efland stated that you did not have to have a student in the school system in order to respond to the survey and encouraged all taxpayers to participate and give feedback. Ms. Efland stated that the middle school project will be on the agenda at the next school board meeting on November 29, 2022. Ms. Efland reiterated that the town needs to continue to advocate for the middle school staying in Chestertown.
Ms. Efland is serving as a community member on the Washington College Strategic Planning Steering Committee. The meeting is December 13 and 14. Ms. Efland requested that if anyone has suggestions or ideas related to community relations with the college, please email her.
Mr. Herz noted that Kirk Douglas is very interested in getting the college students connected to the town. Mr. O’Brien pointed out the unique advantage that the Chestertown Enterprise Zone give the Town. He said there were few areas on the Eastern Shore with such huge tax benefits to offer.
Ms. Efland reported the Kent County Family YMCA was asking for a $5000 donation for membership subsidies. Mr. Herz stated that it is important that the YMCA understands that Chestertown is a committed partner to their efforts in the community. He noted that if someone cannot afford to join the YMCA there is a financial aid process so that no one is turned away due to financial reasons. Mr. Herz made a motion to approve the $5000 donation request for the Kent County Family YMCA. The motion was carried unanimously.
Mr. Herz reported that Kate Van Damme has resigned from the ARPA Task Force effective November 15, 2022. He said that Ms. Van Damme resigned for no other reason than personal commitments. Mr. Herz stated that Ms. Van Damme represented all of the constituents of Chestertown very well in this process and thanked her for her contributions.
Mr. Herz said that he had received an email from Joe Holt at Washington College regarding the disposition of their ARPA funding request letter of intent regarding enhancements to the pavilion at Wilmer Park. Due to a technical glitch on the email addressing, the letter (which was submitted a couple of days before the deadline) was not reviewed by the ARPA Task Force or voted on by the Council. Mr. Herz recommended that the Council extend the application. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the pavilion was built at Wilmer Park on Town owned land, with the idea being that the town could always share the use of it because it was on town property. Mr. Herz made a motion to extend the application to Washington College specifically Wilmer Park Pavilion Project. The motion was carried unanimously.
Mr. O’Brien reported that he had made the request to the Board of Education to look at the commercial kitchen space at Worton Elementary School. Two professional restaurant persons accompanied him, and they thought that using the space would be an excellent opportunity to support farmer’s market vendors who are required by law to use a commercial kitchen. Mr. O’Brien said he would continue to communicate with the Board of Education and report back to the Council.
Mr. O’Brien said that he and his wife attended the ACTS Heron Point 50th anniversary celebration. He noted that Heron Point is managed remarkably well and the relationship between the administration, staff and residents were wonderful. Mr. O’Brien reported that the residents have a wealth of knowledge and experience and many of them would like to volunteer to assist the town in any way.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he had attended a meeting with the State Highway Administration (in the absence of Mr. Foster) with two community partners (David Bowering and Michael McDowell). Statistics were needed regarding the number of tractor trailers that were caught in the speed camera. Mr. O’Brien recommended reaching out to the Centreville Town Council to see if they had similar issues with heavy tractor trailer traffic. The SHA had suggested in the meeting that there might be greater access to funding by the collaboration of two historic towns (Chestertown and Centreville) that were requesting similar corrective measures.
Mr. Herz brought up potholes, one on the 100 block of High Street and two on the 100 South block of Cross. Mr. Ingersoll reported that all three were Utilities Department responsibilities,.
Mr. Ingersoll reported that the holiday parade is Friday, November 25, 2022, at 5:30 and Santa will arrive. The parade will follow the normal route on High Street. Mr. Ingersoll requested that any council members who wish to judge the parade please let him know.
Mr. Medrano reminded the Council that the Recreation Commission will meet on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall. Representatives from the Washington Park community will be in attendance to discuss Carpenter Park. Mr. Medrano also reported that Harold Sommerville, a former member of the Recreation Commission would like to be reinstated. Mr. Medrano moved to recommended Harold Sommerville be given the opportunity to continue as a member of the Recreation Commission. The motion was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Medrano reported that the renovations to Brookmeadow Apartments could be completed by the end of the year. Additionally, more residents will be able to move in before the end of the year.
There being no further business, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:00 p. m. was seconded by Mr. Medrano and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager David Foster, Mayor