MAYOR AND COUNCIL
SEPTEMBER 6, 2022
Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 6:18 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Tim O’Brien, Tom Herz, Jose Medrano and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager and guests.
Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the Mayor and Council meeting of August 15, 2022. Ms. Efland moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of August 15, 2022, was seconded by Mr. O’Brien and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that operating funds on hand was $1,862,910.21.
Mayor Foster asked for a motion to pay the bills. Mr. O’Brien moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Chief Dixon was called upon to give a follow-up presentation (to the initial presentation given by Lt. Linz at the August 15 meeting) regarding the purchase of body cameras for the police department. Chief Dixon stated that he was working on a contract with Axon for the body cameras, adding that he received a grant in the amount of $33,000.00 to go toward the purchase of the equipment. Chief Dixon stated that body cameras are mandated by the State of Maryland to be worn by July 1, 2025. He said that the total bill for a five (5) year lease was $107,080.04. He said that $100,000.00 was set aside from ARPA funds so less money will need to be used from that funding and he will search for additional grant funding each year. He said that the lease can be paid all at once, or once per year, and they should be able to begin wearing the body cameras by December 1, 2022.
Mr. Herz asked about training for the camera. Chief Dixon stated that the Axon company is used in the area by most law enforcement and that there will be front-end training for all officers provided by the company. Each officer will be provided their own camera and they would have administrative reviews of the cameras in addition. Mr. Herz asked about policies in place. Chief Dixon stated that he was sampling policies and procedures from other jurisdictions and said that the Maryland Police Training Commission dictates when recordings take place.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he thought this mandate added a significant cost to the Town as an unfunded mandate and asked if there were monies available to offset the costs. Chief Dixon stated that he hoped the grant that was received this year would be a recurring grant to help offset costs.
Ms. Efland asked if there was the possibility of working in a co-op for a larger contract. Chief Dixon stated that he would look into that, but they were saving over $7,000.00 as a result of using Axon’s product because the company has so many other contracts in the area. Axon services most law enforcement agencies on the shore.
Chief Dixon stated that Kent County uses the exact same device from the same vendor. He said that holster guards were added to Chestertown’s cameras which will automatically activate the camera if an officer removes a gun or taser (or has them removed) from their holsters. There was a total of thirteen (13) cameras provided for in this grant, with complimentary upgrades built into the contract. Chief Dixon stated that it was his belief that the State Police will also be using this camera and company for their body cameras.
Ms. Efland moved to approve the five (5) year contract with Axon for body camera equipment, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Herz asked about Crisis Intervention Training. Chief Dixon stated that the Chestertown Police Department got an award for their compliance rate with CIT Training. He said that there are only three (3) officers who do not have the training, but they were scheduled to take the course by 2023.
Mayor Foster that part of Chestertown Unites Against Racism was police reform. He said that along with the duty to intervene was crisis intervention training and they now will be adding the body cameras as well.
Mayor Foster stated that he signed a letter of support for the Kent County Commissioners’ grant application for the final portion of the Dixon Campus infrastructure.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had several future permit requests from the Bayside Hoyas. Mr. Queen stated that he was not here to discuss those applications this evening.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the recycling program has been an abysmal failure. He said that he will be sending a letter through the attorney, with approval of the Council, that the contractor has five (5) days to correct the contract failures and that is all that he would say due to the contractual nature of the issue. Mayor Foster stated that there was no recycling at this time. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he was working to get recycling igloos in Town and there are igloos available in Worton and Kingstown. The Council agreed that a letter should be sent to the recycling contractor that would be approved by the Town Attorney.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Council received a letter from NAACP requesting donations for their annual Banquet Booklet, which the Town usually helps sponsor with a half-page each year for $150.00. Mr. Herz moved to purchase a half-page advertisement in the NAACP Banquet Booklet, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Foster stated that there were a number of citizens in attendance regarding the historical marker for Charlie Graves and the Uptown Club. Mayor Foster stated that he made a decision that temporarily delayed the placement of the marker further, as he felt it important to meet with the tenant and the owner of the property where the plaque was planned for placement. Mayor Foster stated that with any project where there is opposition he was willing to meet to discuss the issues. Mayor Foster stated that at the meeting on Friday, there was not much change, and the owner did not seem to know where their land ended and the Town’s began. They also told him that nobody knows who Charlie Graves was and the owner and tenant proposed moving the sign from Calvert to College Avenue to which the Mayor agreed. Mayor Foster stated that the owner and tenant both wanted the sign mounted on the ground and he told them that he would consider it. He said he thought that he left the meeting with an overall agreement.
Mayor Foster stated that the Town was unaware of any opposition until late in the game, but he at least wanted to listen to those who took issue with the sign. He said that after meeting with Mr. Queen it was brought to his attention that putting the sign on the ground would be disrespectful to Mr. Graves and Mr. Queen and his committee were opposed to that idea.
Mayor Foster stated that he went back to the owner and tenant who would no longer discuss the matter with him. He said that after speaking with Mr. Queen on Sunday, he concluded that the sign would be erected on College Avenue, which it was, today.
Mayor Foster stated that he did not purposely delay the placement of the signage and he apologized if there were people who thought that was the case. Mayor Foster stated that this was part of a larger project for signage, and he said that if there were any opposition to a sign he would like to know about it earlier. He said that there have been delays on many worthwhile activities in Town but that happens when you are trying to discuss all avenues with constituents. He said that they always try to minimize those delays, but they do happen.
Mr. John Queen stated that he co-authored and chaired the Equity Advisory Committee and said that he was going to make sure the Mayor and Council were being held accountable for their actions. He said that he wanted to know what Chestertown Unites meant to each Councilmember and began asking each of them individually.
Ms. Efland said that this Chestertown Unites Against Racism was the plan to help the Town move forward against racism in a small town. Ms. Efland stated that she thought that they were moving toward success, but it was not a finished product.
Mr. Herz stated that he had a blind spot to the issue and wanted to help. He said that there was impactful conversation about race but there were many issues coming together at once. The plan brought some order to the issues as it was strategic in nature. He said that they were trying to move forward with tactical steps, noting that one of the most important committees was the Equity Advisory Committee, which he hoped would continue.
Mr. Herz stated that the owners of the property next to this sign pay taxes and should be heard if they have issues. He said that although they wanted to fully engage and respect the outcomes of the Equity Advisory Committee, they also had to listen to all residents’ concerns.
Mayor Foster stated that there were many ideas that came out of the Equity Advisory Committee and Chestertown Unites Against Racism and he was proud of all the good that has come out of the strategies put in place, but it was a work in progress.
Mr. Queen asked that the Vision Statement be read into the record. Mayor Foster read the Vision Statement. Mr. Queen stated that he wrote that to make the Town accountable, not individual members to decide how to manage an issue. He said that recognizing the contributions of all citizens to build an equitable community was what he wanted to address tonight.
Mr. Queen stated that the pillars all tied into the three steps in the overview of the plan. He said education, legislative and unification are the pillars to help the Black community feel empowered and the community as a whole to move forward. He said that Chestertown Unites Against Racism adopted Resolution 05-2020 to govern the plan with their legislative power.
Mr. Queen stated that the sign was supposed to go in the ground on Juneteenth so it could be celebrated. This did not happen.
Ms. Monica Graves Bentley stated that she is the daughter of Charlie Graves, proprietor of the Uptown Club in Chestertown. She said that when she was approached by the Committee that they wanted to add historical signage about her father she was excited as she knew that he was instrumental in bringing the entire community together. Ms. Graves stated that she thought the sign was going to be installed on Juneteenth but there was some opposition from the owners of the property, and she had planned to meet with them but that did not happen. She said that she found a place where she thought the sign should be installed and it was voted on at the meeting of August 15th. She said that it took 3 weeks for the sign to be installed which she felt was too long. She said that she appreciates that the sign was installed today.
Mr. Queen asked if Ms. Graves wanted the sign on Calvert Street or College Avenue. Ms. Graves stated that she wanted the sign on College Avenue. Mr. Queen stated that the original post was installed on Calvert Street. Mr. Queen asked if her interactions with Mr. Ingersoll were delightful. Ms. Graves stated that she has known Bill for years and she was just annoyed that the sign took so long to be installed. Mr. Queen stated that Mr. Ingersoll contacted the owners of the property who did not support the sign and worked with them to get the sign in the ground.
Ms. Karen Somerville was present, along with other members of the Equity Advisory Committee who answered in the affirmative that they were in support of the signage. Ms. Somerville stated that she reviewed footage of the meetings where the signage was discussed and thought that there were some questions that had not been answered. Ms. Somerville stated that the proposal was to install historic signage and the Town of Chestertown has not paid for any signage (it actually came from private donors and Washington College through the Chesapeake Heartland’s Project).
Ms. Somerville stated that the order was placed through a company recommended by the Town Manager and once signage was paid in full the Town would place the order. There were signs at the waterfront, the Uptown Club, and two (2) planned at the elementary school (which falls under the Board of Education) being placed. She said that she was disappointed that nobody was present from the Town when the Uptown Club signage was unveiled. There will also be signage planned for Bethel Church and Janes Church.
Ms. Somerville stated that the signs provide support to tourism for the town and county. The history is accessible in the classroom as documentaries about the Uptown Club have been made and they are at your fingertips due to the QR codes in place on the signage.
Mr. Queen asked if there was opposition to the signage in the course of her work. Ms. Somerville stated that there was no opposition presented to her. Mr. Queen stated that if the sign was going to be on private property, they would speak to the owner of that property, but not if it was to be on Town property.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he met with Ms. Somerville, Ms. Fulton, and Mr. Queen about the installation of the first historic sign on Cannon Street at the waterfront. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought the second process should have gone equally as well, but it was not because the Town had objections to it. He said that the neighbors objected to the signage and stated that it would not last very long there, and that was the issue.
Mr. Queen stated that the last lines on the sign at the waterfront were supplied by Mr. Ingersoll and the words were “We Support Them.” He asked if Mr. Ingersoll felt that the Town was supporting the community. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he did feel that the support was there, and that this situation with the adjoining property owners was very unfortunate. He said that he has been working in this exact community for 47 years and worked to help people find affordable housing, starting by removing terrible housing conditions.
Mayor Foster stated that the program is called “Chestertown Unites” and he thought it was a bad idea to install a sign to help unite the community, only to have it vandalized once it was in place. He said that the purpose of the program is unity, not a sign. He said that he was trying to avoid problems and he caused the delay, for which he apologized.
Mr. Queen asked if the Mayor attempted to speak to the owners of the property any time after June when the matter was brought to their attention. Mayor Foster stated that he did not, but Mr. Ingersoll had on behalf of the Town.
Mr. Queen stated that there was an entire Advisory Committee in place and support for that committee went away once Mayor Cerino stepped down. Mayor Foster stated that there were some things in the plan that were not solely the Equity Advisory Committee. Mr. Queen said that there was never a closing given by the committee because they were never given the privilege. Mr. Herz stated that he came to a meeting and asked the committee to continue their work, but the Committee voted to disband. Mayor Foster stated that the Committee disbanded in November. Mr. Queen stated that as a whole the Town should have told them to continue.
Mr. Herz stated that organizations come to the Mayor and Council with requests and there are many committees in place for Town. He said that there was no reason the Equity Advisory Committee could not have come to the Council. Mr. Queen stated that the Council is not governing by the rules they set. Mr. Herz stated that the Council needs guidance from the Black community to formulate plans. Mr. Queen asked Mr. Herz what he has done for the Black community. Mr. Herz stated that he initiated Aunt Sarah’s Playground. Mr. Queen stated that with Aunt Sarah’s Playground, it is “a white politician saying what is best for the Black community.” Mr. Queen stated that the sign was only placed in the ground today because the council knew that there was going to be a rowdy group at the meeting.
Mr. Queen stated that he wanted to hold the Council accountable for their actions. Mr. Herz stated that Mr. Queen was coming at this from both sides and there was no winning. Mr. Queen stated that was why he was here. Mayor Foster stated that the first sign went in without any problems. Mr. Queen stated that the point is that the Council is not listening. Mayor Foster asked how they can move forward.
Mr. Queen stated that as Equity Advisory Chairman, there should be a commitment from the Town to fund the next two signs that go on Town property and to Commit to Chestertown Unites Against Racism for the next 4-years. He said that there has to be a constant dialogue.
Mr. Queen stated that the Town was divided on the murals but they were put up, and in this instance the Council allowed one family to stop them from moving forward. He said that the perception on the street is that there is a community that needs their support but not just when the Council wanted to give it.
Mr. Queen asked Ms. Boyer the reason for the mural. Ms. Boyer stated that the mural was for knowledge, information and reform, many of which were in the Equity Committee’s guidelines, and she did not think that the Council has fulfilled their mission. She said that they ask the Black community what they want but give them what they think they want.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he asked why the Committee was not working and was told that they disbanded and that the members would not want to continue. Mr. Queen stated that was correct. Mr. O’Brien stated that he thought the Committee should continue and asked if they were going to answer the questions for the Strategic Plan. Mr. Queen asked if they were going to answer the requests of the Black community.
Ms. Wanda Boyer stated that a lot of information was provided to Mayor Cerino and a lot of information was created but not disseminated to the Council, only Mayor Cerino. Ms. Efland stated that she met with Chris Cerino and Mr. Queen and read minutes, so they were informed in those ways. Mr. Queen stated that there was no action based steps to the mural. The plan was to hold people accountable and move forward and it has been lost. He said that the elected officials have the power, and the installation of the sign today shows the level of power over the community.
Mr. O’Brien stated that there was no new orientation for Council members on what has come before them, and the Equity Advisory Committee was not in effect when he came on. Mr. Queen stated that there should be something where Councilmembers know what is going on. Mr. Queen stated that he does not want progress stopped because the Council is taking away their power to celebrate their heritage.
Mr. Queen stated that there are decades of proof that they are not being served and a couple of people should not affect a decision. He said that decisions should be made for the masses. He said that the plan is going to hold them accountable, and they should read up on it. He said that one voice stopped them from installing the sign and asked about the rest of the community.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that what he was hearing is that Mr. Queen was requesting that the Town pay for the next two signs on town land and that the Chestertown Unites Against Racism plan be followed for the next 4-years. He said that he though the Committee should be permanent.
Mr. Queen stated that the Council could email the Equity Advisory Committee and see who wants to return. Ms. Graves stated that it sounded that there should not just be the committee, but she thought there should be diversity and improvement in all of the community and open it up to new members. She said that she would volunteer for the committee. Ms. Boyer stated she thought a set term for the committee with reevaluation was necessary. Ms. Boyer stated that she tried to get into the committee and ask questions of the committee and it was difficult to get a response.
Mr. O’Brien stated that delays would happen, but delays are seen as broken promises by the Black community. He said that now that they are aware, they would be more cognizant of that.
Ms. Cindy Fulton said that the points made by John Queen were good points and this should be a learning experience. However, bringing this to a human level, if she moved into a house on Cannon and Queen and was told that there was going to be a sign in front of her house, she would have been told that it was on Town land and that would have ended the conversation. She said that race should be removed from this situation. The sign was on Town land and the majority of the people wanted it. Ms. Fulton stated that instead of having a Black person or a white community, they should have a human community.
Mayor Foster stated that communication was a two-way street and in the next iteration of the committee they should remember that the community is trying to unite. If there was the perception of not communicating, communication went both ways.
Ms. Boyer stated that there were pole signs (banners) made by someone with Chestertown Unites on them and asked what happened to them. Mr. Ingersoll stated that there were banners designed and ordered by Main Street that combined their goals and added the logo of Chestertown Unites at the bottom. They were passed on to Kent Cultural Alliance after the director retired and John Schratwieser made a presentation for them to the Town. During that presentation, the issue of the logo came up as a problem of not having permission to use as they had not been approved by the Equity Advisory Committee. Mr. Herz stated that there was a discussion about the banners which had the Black Lives Matter murals on them and read Chestertown Unites.
Ms. Boyer stated that the only reason the banners were not hung was because they did not have Chestertown Unites Against Racism logo. Mr. Queen stated that if they wanted to work with the Town the Social Action Committee should have used the proper logo. Mr. O’Brien stated that the issue never surfaced before the Council.
Ms. Maria Wood asked what the process was if someone wanted to make a presentation before the Equity Advisory Committee. Mayor Foster stated that not everyone had to go before the Equity Advisory Committee for approval. If someone wanted to make a presentation to the Mayor and Council, they could ask to be on the agenda or speak at the end of a meeting. Mayor Foster stated that there were many committees, but the Equity Advisory Committee was to advise on equity issues, it was not a gatekeeper to who can see the Council. Mr. Queen disagreed.
Mr. Herz stated that in the absence of the Equity Advisory Committee, a person should contact Town Hall and request to be on the Mayor and Council agenda.
Ms. Boyer asked if what would happen with the murals in place due to the repaving that is scheduled, and what should she do if she wanted to make improvements to the murals. Mr. Ingersoll stated that right now he did not think the mural on High Street would be involved with the repaving, but sustainability is important. He said that if there was going to be a change to the mural, that plan should be brought before the Council.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that a contract was signed for paving six (6) streets that should begin at any time. There had been delays due to huge increases in the price of fuel oil making it impossible to repave all eleven streets in the original bid documents.
Ms. Boyer stated that there was a property owner on Calvert Street who was not cutting the grass. Ms. Boyer stated that it was the second house in on Calvert Street on the right side.
Mayor Foster stated he invited Mr. Bogden to the meeting tonight to discuss a request for a public safety grant that Mr. Bogden had volunteered to write for the Town. Mr. Bogden stated he worked in public policy before moving to Chestertown and was familiar with grant writing. He said that he has focused in on the Rail-Trail to Worton and met with a group a few weeks ago, where there was discussion of not only focusing on the trail, but also bikeways throughout Kent County.
Mr. Bogden stated that there was a federal grant opportunity with a deadline of September 15, 2022. He said that he worked with Mr. de Mooy on the grant called “Safe Streets for All.” This was a $6 billion program to configure streets safe for bicycles, wheelchairs, scooters and all pedestrians. Mr. Bogden stated that this was included in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and there were areas all over Town where improvements could be made.
Mr. Bogden stated that planning and implementation grants were available, but he was applying for a planning grant at this time in the amount of $260,500.00. He said that an implementation grant cannot be applied for unless there is a Comprehensive Safety Action Plan in place, which the planning grant would create. The catch is that there is a 20% match required for the grant and he was looking into State funding for a match, but otherwise it would be $54,100.00 required in matching funds. Mr. Bogden stated that this may be a good use of ARPA funds, which would not have to be committed at this time. He said that the grant application needed the approval of the Town in order to be filed by September 15. Ms. Efland moved to authorize Mayor Foster to act in the Council’s name for the submittal of the grant application, was seconded by Mr. Obrien and approved unanimously.
Mayor Foster read Chestertown Resolution 02-2022 entitled Twigs and Teacups Enterprise Zone Tax Credits, 111 South Cross St. into the record. The purpose of the Resolution was to certify the added capital investment and creation of new employment opportunities by qualified businesses located in the Enterprise Zone (Twigs and Teacups) in order for those businesses to be eligible for certain Maryland income tax credits; all pursuant to Section 9-103 of the Tax Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland Mr. Herz moved that the Council adopt the Resolution, was seconded by Mr. Medrano, and passed unanimously.
The Mayor called on the Council for Ward reports.
Mr. O’Brien reported that he would bring up the idea of using the Cerino Center at the Marina as a public restroom at the next Council meeting. He recommended that the rest of the Council visit the site to get an idea of what would be involved.
Mr. Herz reported that he intended to update the Council on the ARPA Task Force at this meeting but would do so at the next meeting.
Mr. Medrano reported that a Coventry farms property owner required repairs on the water line from their house to the main. He asked Mr. Ingersoll whether the Town repaired water laterals in the street area or whether it was the responsibility of the property owner. Mr. Ingersoll said that in Chestertown, the Water and Sewer Ordinance has always required that the property owner maintain their individual water and sewer laterals from their house to the mains in the street.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he thought other jurisdictions might maintain the lines in the streets and asked what kind of impact that would have on the Utilities Commission budget. Mr. Ingersoll said that it would have a fairly substantial impact and that the Town had always made sure that repairs were affordable for the work in the street, indicating that the costs for new water and sewer laterals under the streets were about $1200-$1500 depending on where the mains were under the street.
Ms. Efland reported that she had been part of a discussion group with new college students about civic involvement. She reminded the Council that the upcoming weekend: events for the 10th anniversary of River Arts that included an Imagine Street Festival and the Jazz Festival. Ms. Efland said that she had contact with the new owners of Washington Square and that they seemed very interested in the community and their place in it.
The Mayor asked if there was anyone in the audience who wanted to speak. There being none and having no further business, Mr. Medrano moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:30 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer McCann David Foster
Town Clerk Mayor