MAYOR AND COUNCIL
OCTOBER 19, 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 October 5, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the October 5, 2020 Mayor and Council Meeting, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $2,143,261.85. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought the Town was finally seeing the return from raising the tax rate, reducing the police force and hiring the Chief from within. He said that some of the taxes from new developments and housing sales are helping with the general fund. Mayor Cerino stated that he said he wanted to remain conservative with expenditures and revenue projections as there could be a spike in Covid numbers causing another lockdown at any time.
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.
Chief Dolgos presented the police report for September 2020. Chief Dolgos stated that the department was working on a Halloween initiative this year where any residence with children in the household can sign up and officers will drop candy to their home. To request candy, email Officer McLaughlin at email@example.com. He said that he hoped this would help to keep down Covid exposure over Halloween.
Chief Dolgos stated that their office manager, Heather Smith, went through all unpaid parking tickets (some going back 10-years) and flagged them through MVA. He said that this would potentially bring in $10,000.00 in fines once they are paid.
Chief Dolgos stated that there was a CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) scheduled to begin in November in Salisbury and he was planning to send an officer.
Mr. Foster asked if the calls listed as “outside of jurisdiction” were training or calls assisting the Sheriff’s Office. Chief Dolgos stated that it could be assisting the Kent Sheriff, Queen Anne Sheriff, or the Maryland State Police. Mr. Foster asked how much time the Kent Sheriff’s deputies spend in Chestertown. Chief Dolgos stated that he does not track that, but the Sheriff’s Department may track that time.
Mr. Herz stated that there have been complaints from a Park Row shopkeeper of public urination and people drinking and sleeping in the Fountain Park and asked how it was being handled. Chief Dolgos stated that this is difficult because when the police are called the offenses are no longer taking place when they arrive. He said that foot and vehicle patrols have been stepped up at the Park and as a result there have been instances of people from the Park following the shopkeeper into her store and making rude comments.
Chief Dolgos recommended cameras be installed at the Fountain Park to record these activities as they were a deterrent, but instances would also be caught on video and charges could be pressed against the offenders caught on camera.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he has quotes for two (2) different camera types that could be installed in the Park. He said that there was an existing port at the Hospital Auxiliary building, and they could add a fixed infrared night camera for $1,300.00 or a pan-tilt zoom camera could be installed for $2,000.00. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he intensified the lighting on this block a few years ago but there was only one pole in this area. He said that the camera would have to be hooked up by Think Big.
Mayor Cerino stated that there was a group of people who sit on the benches and drink and carry-on, but there was also a gentleman basically living on a bench in the Park. He said that he did not think this was legal. Chief Dolgos stated that sleeping on a bench cannot be addressed as the courts have deemed that people can sleep in parks. He said that he would investigate the tent and whether this individual is setting up residence in the Park, because people were not allowed to live there. Chief Dolgos stated that once they can charge with criminal or civil citations it is a deterrent to the offenders, but they first need to see the activity to press charges. Mr. Herz stated that there was panhandling happening as well in the Park.
Mr. Herz asked when the homeless shelter opens. Chief Dolgos stated that the local churches run a homeless shelter, but only during the winter months beginning in January. Chief Dolgos added that people who have been drinking are not welcome in the shelter, but the person sleeping on the bench is harmless and any time there was an incident he is polite, noting that even assisted in CPR when someone needed it in the Park.
Ms. Carol Niemand stated that she helps run the homeless shelter which is only open in January, February and March and shared between churches. She said that they have also put people at the Driftwood Inn, but it is not sustainable due to the cost.
Mr. Herz asked if shelters would be open due to Covid. Chief Dolgos stated that he has not seen any mandates by the Governor but would ask when he meets with the Health Department.
Mr. Herz moved for the authorization to purchase and install a pan-tilt zoom camera for $2,000.00 to be installed in the back area of the Nearly New building, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mr. Jim Bogden and Mr. Frank Rhodes were present on behalf of the Recreation Commission to discuss the proposed renovations to the Ajax Basketball Court, which is located off the Rail-Trail behind the 300 block of Cannon Street.
Mr. Rhodes stated that the Ajax Committee discussed renaming the court after Darrell “Cleats” Deaton, who was a good friend and a part of the Ajax Committee who died recently. He said that Cleats was a great mentor and taught so many about the game of basketball.
Mr. Rhodes stated that they had two different versions of the plan showing vertical and horizontal alignment (with respect to the rail trail) of the court. Detailed diagrams were presented, and the plans also included a pavilion, toddler playground, lighting, a water fountain and a dog watering station adjacent to the trail.. He said that the court would be asphalt. Mr. Bogden stated that pickleball lines would be painted on the court in addition to the lines for basketball.
Mr. Foster asked if the easement issues have been resolved. Mr. Bogden stated that Mr. de Mooy has been working on the easements, but he did not think the issue has been resolved.
Mr. Rhodes explained the breakdown of the committee’s budget for the court renovations, adding that they would like to have an ongoing committee to oversee the park. He said that they would like to have lights on a timer, benches, picnic tables, and fencing. There would be an app to reserve court time. A 20’ x 32’ pavilion would be constructed adjacent to the court (by the Town’s salt shed).
Mr. Rhodes stated that he received three estimates for paving the court which ranged from $29,000 to $34,000. The overall budget for the project was upwards of $85,000.00 but Mr. Rhodes stated that he was aiming to fundraise $100,000.00 in total. He showed a sample of pavers that could be inscribed and installed to thank donors. He said that they would like to arrange for a brochure to be made to begin fundraising with approval from the Council.
Mayor Cerino stated that the easements were key to the scale of the project. Mr. Rhodes stated that two established trees will have to be removed from the site by the trail, but he was hoping to be able to save them and move them to another location near the site.
Ms. Efland asked which plan was preferred by the committee, the horizontal or vertical one. Mr. Rhodes stated that the horizontal was preferred but an issue there is that they want to install a fence along the edge of the court which will run very close to the trail. He said that he did not want any issues with balls leaving the site.
Mr. Herz asked why the pickleball was included. Mr. Rhodes stated that the pickleball lines could be temporary. Mr. Herz stated that pickleball was becoming popular, but this was a proof concept only. Ms. Baker stated that a dividing line may be older individuals scheduling pickleball meets over younger people wanting to play basketball.
Ms. Baker stated that there was no ADA access from the Gilchrest Trail to the area and parents with strollers or people with low-mobility will have trouble accessing the court. She said that during the late afternoon it is terribly hot in the area and trees being installed and maintained wherever possible was necessary. Ms. Baker stated that she would prefer a more natural way to contain noise, noting that the chain link fence will not help much with noise control and there are several businesses adjacent to this space.
Mr. Rhodes stated that he thought it would be nice to have the pavilion open from the trail but agreed that plantings would help buffer noise. Mr. Bogden stated that if the court were vertical, the large sycamore in the corner would remain.
Mayor Cerino stated that he was still not sold on the idea that this had to be a full-court. He thought a court at 80% the size they were proposing would seem to be ideal. He said that most of the people who play do so at half-court, especially in the summer months when it is hot on a court. Mayor Cerino stated that this would free up space for landscaping. Mr. Bogden stated that he thought a full-size court was needed so that competitive leagues between neighborhoods can play. He said that there was wide-spread support for full-court and believed that there will be pushback if they made the court smaller.
Mr. Rhodes stated that the Gateway Park and Washington Park were high-school regulation size, and the middle school is an NBA size court. Ms. Baker asked if parking spaces could be used from the lot off Cannon Street. Mayor Cerino stated that at busy times the parking lot was 80-90% full. He said that it may be possible to sacrifice back end spaces from the lot.
Ms. Efland stated that she was in support of a full-court and if there were too many restrictions on parking or easements they can always revisit the issue.
Mr. Rhodes asked if the work shed was going to be in place forever. Mr. Ingersoll stated that was where the street crew stored their salt for winter storms and would have to remain in place. Mayor Cerino stated that a good piece of the Town Yard was already taken to build the Cannon Street parking area that everyone said was needed..
Mayor Cerino asked if the Ajax Committee was going to fundraise for the entire project or were they looking for grants for the project. Mr. Rhodes stated that he wanted to get a brochure together and reach out for grants from basketball organizations and private citizens.
Mayor Cerino stated that the horizontal placement of the court seemed like a natural fit with the other area for toddlers. He said if trail easements could be granted he would be open to this plan and asked that the estimate be tightened up further and he would meet with the Recreation Commission for possible funding strategies. He said that three (3) basketball courts have been built since he was in office and if they applied for Community Parks and Playgrounds grant funding, it would not be available for a couple years because they have already applied for the playground at
Wilmer Park. If the Wilmer Park grant is approved, they would not be able to apply for another grant until it is expended. Mr. Bogden stated that they were planning to apply for private grants.
Mr. Herz stated that he did not think that they could move forward until the easements were granted. Mr. Rhodes stated that he thought Mike Scott was doing the work. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mike Scott could only perform the survey for the Town to present to the State, adding that Mr. Scott had borrowed a survey that he gave him from the old Penn Central surveys for his work. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the salt shed they discussed earlier is the reason that there is a basketball court at Ajax in the first place as the shed was built by the SHA and the old salt building concrete pad made room for the original Ajax court in the early 1980’s.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought placing the court perpendicular would allow the saving of trees and possibly not encroach into the rail trail easement area through redesign. Mr. Rhodes stated that it does go into the easement area with the perpendicular layout. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he meant pushing it back into the parking area.
Mr. Foster asked if any other community in the State has been able to encroach on the rail easements. Mr. Rhodes stated that he did not know the answer to that question. Mr. Ingersoll stated that if this was treated like the Rail Trail, there would be a 50-year easement lease (license) granted to the Town through DNR programs by the Maryland Department of Transportation, which might be easier to get than going to the MDOT. He said that the request needs to be made once the survey is provided.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought they should see a redesign with the fencing if there are going to be parking spaces removed from the lot. Mayor Cerino stated that if lots from the parking area are removed this would be right against the artist studios on Cannon Street and would think that the owners of that building would want to comment.
Mr. Foster stated that he liked the horizontal layout of the court. Mr. Herz and Rev. Tolliver agreed, with Rev. Tolliver adding that this all came down to getting the easements and fundraising. Mayor Cerino stated that Mike Scott had to finish the survey and then they would approach the State for the lease.
Mr. Foster moved to approve the layout of the Ajax Park with a horizontal court pending approval by the State for the easement, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mr. Bogden asked if fundraising should be put on hold until the easement is agreed upon. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought that was necessary. He suggested working with Mr. de Mooy to see how the survey was progressing and then work to get the easement in place to see if the build was possible.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there would be a public hearing on Ordinance 06-2020 Establishing a Human Rights Commission on Monday, October 26th at 7:00 p.m. The Ordinance will be considered for enactment at the regular Mayor and Council meeting of November 2, 2020. Mayor Cerino stated that he would like time limits on public comment for each person speaking at this meeting.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. Ken Kozel of Shore Regional Health and the new remediation team, along with representatives of MDE are proposing to meet with the Mayor and Council to discuss the oil remediation at the Hospital. He said that the proposed date to meet via Zoom was on Wednesday, November 11th at 7:00 p.m. and asked if that was agreeable to the Council. The Council agreed to the special meeting on November 11th. Mayor Cerino stated that he would like an outline to go by for this meeting.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to adopt Resolution 05-2020 Creation of Equity Advisory Committee at this meeting. He said that this was introduced a month ago when he introduced the 16-month plan for Chestertown Unites Against Racism. He read the Resolution into the record. Mr. Herz moved to approve Resolution 05-2020 Creation of Equity Advisory Committee, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he thought the Equity Advisory Committee would complement the Human Rights Commission that he was establishing for racial harmony in the community. Mayor Cerino agreed, noting that the two entities are quite different but should work nicely together and represent a broad cross-section of the community.
Mayor Cerino asked for nominations from the Council for the Equity Advisory Committee.
- Mr. Foster nominated Ms. Ruth Shoge and said that he was working on another nomination from his ward.
- Mr. Herz nominated Rev. Robert Brown and Vic Sensenig of Washington College (Washington College would elect another representative to the Committee once the College resumed on campus).
- Rev. Tolliver nominated Latoya Johnson and Thomas Hayman.
- Ms. Efland nominated Brandy Barrett and Kate Livie.
- Mayor Cerino nominated John Queen and Jennifer Baker.
Ms. Efland moved to appoint Ruth Shoge, Rev. Brown, Vic Sensenig, Latoya Johnson, Thomas Hayman, Brandy Barrett, Kate Livie, John Queen and Jennifer Baker to the Equity Advisory Committee, with the understanding that Mr. Foster would put forth one additional nomination, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that this Committee was diverse in every aspect, which was what he was hoping it would be. He said that he would like to schedule some form of a diversity and equity training soon.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he discussed the tax differential lawsuit in Worcester County at the last meeting and said that the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the County Commissioners and Ocean City will remain a “may” county when it comes to being paid a tax differential. He said that he did not know if Ocean City was going to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Maryland. He said that he thought a tax rebate to Chestertown would likely be achieved by raising awareness about the issue on equity and the fact that this the lack of a rebate is detrimental to economic development. Mr. Foster stated that he was gaining support from local businesses on the issue.
Mr. Herz stated that he wanted to thank Chief Dolgos and Mr. Ingersoll for helping with the issues at the Fountain Park. He said that it was a difficult problem to solve.
Rev. Tolliver stated that there was a clean-up at Carpenter Park last Saturday and thanked Shore Rivers, especially Tim Trumbauer and his family, for joining them in cleaning up the debris.
Rev. Tolliver encouraged everyone to get out and vote and to follow all directions to the letter if they are doing a mail-in vote.
Rev. Tolliver asked that the Councilmembers sign the Resolution for Black Lives Matter that is awaiting signatures in Town Hall. He said that anyone wanting to serve on Human Rights Commission should submit their documentation to the Mayor and Council.
Ms. Efland stated that there was some question on the shock trauma helicopter concerning funding and she said that she was happy to hear that the funding has been continued.
Ms. Efland echoed Rev. Tolliver’s sentiment to get out and vote. She said that registration was still open and there was a ballot box behind the Kent County Library. She said that anybody with questions should reach out to the Kent County Board of Elections.
Ms. Carol Niemand stated that along with the Christian Minister’s Association she has been working with the homeless population in Chestertown, but it was problematic that there was no shelter available in November and December, which is as cold as January through March. She said that it was expensive to pay for people to stay at a hotel and was not sustainable for their church groups, but something had to be done to help the homeless. She said that homeless people were going to continue to sleep in the parks and other areas until someone finds a solution. Mayor Cerino stated that the Town cannot fund a homeless shelter but has supported the Good Samaritan Group to try to help. He said that all community members and the Kent County Commissioners must try to help better serve these residents.
Ms. Meghan White, SGA secretary for Washington College, asked if it would be possible to have a student representative on the Equity Advisory Committee to serve in some capacity. She said that although a student may not be able to vote she thought it was important to recognize the experience of students and their needs would be beneficial. Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to have the Committee get seated and then they may be able to appoint an at-large member, noting that there were different needs of residents and students but keeping the lines of communication open and making more of a link between the community and college was important.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted representatives of the College, both faculty and students, to continue to come to Mayor and Council meetings. Mayor Cerino agreed.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:26 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor