SPECIAL WORKSHOP MEETING
MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MARCH 15, 2023
Mayor Foster called the Special Workshop Meeting of the Town Council to order at 6:04 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers Tim O’Brien, Tom Herz, Jose Medrano and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager) and Lynda Thomas (Town Clerk). Also, in attendance were members of the ARPA Taskforce Charles Athey and Bob Altieri.
Mr. Herz thanked the Mayor and Council and the members of the ARPA Taskforce for attending the meeting. He noted that the ARPA Taskforce has spent the past year working on the process: understanding the rules and the ARPA law; defining a process necessary to achieve the Task Force goals; engaging the community through the media and social media; connecting with the Mayor and Council; accepting and reviewing applications; and producing the final recommended list to be considered by the Town Council at the workshop meeting.
Mr. Herz noted that at the beginning of the ARPA process they had the Ethics Commission come in and advise them of their ethical responsibilities to the Town and community. Each of the ARPA Taskforce members filled out a conflict-of-interest matrix and recused themselves from any discussion they had a conflict with.
The Mayor and Council decided to use anonymous code numbers to protect the identities of the organizations that applied until final decisions were made.
It was noted that the Council would not take any questions or comments from the public at the workshop except from the ARPA Taskforce members present.
It was also noted that there would be no motions made or passed during the meeting.
The Taskforce made a recommendation to set aside $75,000 of ARPA funding for administrative, legal and audit costs associated with the distribution and accounting of the funds.
Applicant #1 was a festival in Chestertown requesting funds to support hosting their annual festivals. The requested amount was $120,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $40,800. Mr. Herz had spoken with the applicant and noted that they said they could proceed with the reduced amount. This was a nonstandard request, asking for administrative fees and entertainer expenses. The funds received would be spread out over the 4-year term.
Mr. Obrien stated that he did not think they should extend 4 years out with any of the project. He felt that the support should be considered for a 2-year maximum. He felt there were too many immediate needs to be taken care of and that projecting 4 years out was too far. Mr. Herz noted that many of the applications came in last year and the four years stated was for the 2022-to-2026-time frame. He noted that the applicants understood that the money had to be used by December 31, 2026.
Mr. Altieri stated that the Taskforce looked a few important items when considering the applications, whether the applicant could sustain the funded project over a period of time, execution risks, and how many people were going to be positively impacted.
Mr. Athey said that the Taskforce was concerned by the applicants lack of funding sources and the large amount of administrative payroll. The applicant was asking for $40,800 a year for 3 years. The Taskforce felt they should fund the first year and the applicant could see how it went before looking for other sources of funding.
The Council agreed with the recommended funds of $40,800.
Applicant #2 is a town committee requesting funds for playground/recreational equipment and various activities around town. The requested amount was $216,800, the ARPA Taskforce recommended $113,386.
Mr. Foster noted it would be a good idea to earmark a portion of the ARPA funds to be used by this group to support a federal grant match for Wilmer Park and the Heritage Trail which are in the Town Comprehensive Plan.
Mr. Herz reviewed that the proposal was like a wish list that the applicant wanted to accomplish with these funds. Once the Council awarded the funds, there would be further discussion of how the applicant would best spend the money. Mr. Athey noted that this applicant had longer term plans but have yet to be developed and there was no mention of matching funds.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $113,400. Mr. O’Brien felt that the amount should be increased to $128,000.
Applicant #3 is an established festival in town requesting funds for short term rentals, chairs, tents, and various incidental items to help support the event over the course of the ARPA funds, until 2026. The requested amount was $88,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $88,000.
Mr. O’Brien asked what the amount the Town gives annually to support this applicant. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the main support from the Town is in kind for an adequate police presence at the event: street crew preparation of the parks and streets and cleanup those areas afterward.
Mr. Ingersoll asked if the Taskforce asked about the finances of applicants.in their process. Mr. Athey stated that they did investigate the applicant’s ability to raise additional funds. Mr. O’Brien asked if the applicant was seeking these funds to get them back to a self-sustaining level. Mr. Athey felt that it was and noted that was the largest event of the year that brings in revenue to the Town and benefits local non-profits that participate annually to raise funds.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $88,000. Mr. O’Brien commented that he agreed with the assessment and the need but felt they should fund two (2) years instead of four (4) years at the amount $44,000.
Applicant #4 was a mental health service requesting funds to establish an open access in Chestertown and to hire a nurse practitioner that would bring in clients that would support the service, long term. The requested amount was $288,288, ARPA Taskforce recommended $95,135.
Mr. Herz noted that this applicant could scale back and would look for additional fund or limit resources to start up the location.
The Council agreed with the recommended funds of $95,135.
Applicant #5 serves Chestertown and Kent County students during the summer by providing fun and recreational ways to continue the learning process over the summer months. The requested amount was $126,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $30,240.
Mr. Athey noted that the application was a combination of staffing and transportation side. The Taskforce was directing their recommendation toward transportation. The funds were not sustainable for staffing.
Mr. O’Brien asked if the funding would go only to Chestertown students and Mr. Herz responded that he didn’t think they were set up to track the funding to Chestertown students only.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $30,240. Mr. O’Brien recommended to increase the funding to $40,000.
Applicant #6 was an affordable housing resource that is relatively new to the community but has make a pretty strong impact already. The requested amount was $357,500 and the ARPA Taskforce recommended $178,750.
Mr. Athey noted that the funds would help a significant number of people while promoting economic growth and stability. They estimated that about 30 families would receive help over a two-year period. They would offer down payment purchase assistance and closing cost assistance as well as housing security enhancement. He also noted that there is a $37,500 cost for a program manager and security enhancements.
Mr. Foster asked for the assistance breakdown of the 30 families. Mr. Athey reviewed the following:
- 5 families with down payment assistance.
- 20 families by matching their savings for closing costs.
- 5 families with closing costs, providing the last dollars needed.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $178,750. Mr. O’Brien recommended to increase to $200,000. He also would like to have a discussion with them about having a revolving fund, a pay-back fund to help future families.
Applicant #7 was an established organization in town requesting funds to augment the Towns event spaces. The requested amount was $145,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $145,000.
Mr. Herz noted that Chestertown was an event town and there was a need to have various items, such as a smaller stage, tables, and chairs to rent out for various events throughout the year and there was a need for a shed to store these items.
Mr. Athey noted that $65,000 is for equipment and $80,000 is for advertising and rental budget. He stated that the Taskforce felt the applicant was a high impact, primary organization that brought tourism town.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $145,000. Mr. O’Brien noted that he felt they were tourism heavy and objected since there is a capital investment fund for things like the shed. He also felt that they are under utilizing the Kent County tourism funding and want to drop the recommendation to $140,000. Mr. Foster also objected to using the town funds that are limited.
Applicant #8 was a funding request to build a brick-and-mortar and/or trailer bathroom downtown. The requested amount was $300,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $150,000.
Mr. Altieri noted that not all the Taskforce members agree with the proposal. One Taskforce member felt that they could fund existing facilities at a lesser cost. The Taskforce majority ultimately agreed as they felt it important to the community to support this project. Several support letters were received from businesses. However, the public comments received did not agree with the location of a permanent facility.
Mr. Herz noted the purchase of the bathroom trailer, the Visitor Center being open for most of the day on Saturdays and some hours on Sundays plus a new business will be opening that will have public facilities available on Spring Avenue, somewhat changes the need for a brick-and-mortar facility. Other businesses, in the area, also offer public restrooms.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $150,000. Mr. O’Brien recommended supporting as is or increase funding to $250,000. Mr. Foster recommended increasing funding to $200,000.
Applicant #9 was a program to serve downtown beautification, such as trees and tree wells, facade improvement, brickwork, sidewalks, and other long-term capital improvements. Mr. Ingersoll noted that some of the items listed, especially sidewalks, were actually Town responsibilities, with some actually in the process of being scheduled (Park Row). The requested amount was $424,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $145,644.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $145,644. Mr. O’Brien recommended $50,000.
Applicant #10 is to tutoring program requesting funds for staffing. The requested amount was $75,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $75,000.
Mr. Altieri noted that this program would impact roughly 30 students that were affected by the learning gap created by COVID.
Mr. Herz noted that this was a private reading/tutoring program. They do their work with local public and private school students. They are not integrated with any school but want to use these funds to help to build a framework with schools to refer students to them.
The Council agreed with the recommended funds of $75,000.
Applicant #11 was an organization that provides housing repairs to allow elderly and disabled to stay in their home. The requested amount was $50,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $50,000.
Mr. Altieri stated that this was available to income eligible residents. Their budget is roughly $192,000. They have other funding sources to help make up the rest of their budget.
The Council agreed with the recommended funds of $50,000.
Applicant #12 was a request to fix up the Lelia Hynson pavilion. The requested amount was $100,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $40,000.
Mr. Herz noted that the pavilion needs replacement of the roof, railing, and some of the exposed decking.
Mr. Ingersoll said that the college built the pavilion on Town owned land, so it is also a Town responsibility. Further, the College had maintained the pavilion since building it and currently anticipated raising a large amount of money to complete the rehabilitation. He felt that whatever the Council did not provide with the ARPA Taskforce dollars, they could provide with their Town ARPA funding amount.
Mr. Altieri noted that the Taskforce understood that the pavilion is used by the community and the perception of an organization that has a big endowment they decided that as a community they need to support this project. The budget is $373,000. Part of the funding will come from a grant for $25,000 and a legislative bond for $200,000.
The Council majority agreed with the recommended funds of $40,000.
Mr. Herz reviewed applicant #13 which was a Minority Entrepreneurship Training Accelerator (META) requesting funds to provide training, consultant services, bookkeeping services, marketing strategy, membership to the Chamber of Commerce, business plan development, etc. to minority businesses with sales of less than $22,000. The requested amount was $100,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $60,000.
Mr. Altieri noted that the Taskforce felt that spending $20,000 for technical assistance to an organization was a lot. The Taskforce decided that $20,000 could be used as an incubate grow their non-profit.
Mr. Herz noted that this was new organization in this area. They can use a reduced award but $20,000 goes to help one (1) minority business. This organization is not currently a 501(c)(3) but they use a third party to obtain grants.
The Council agreed with the recommended funds of $60,000.
Applicant #14 was a private company and will have to go through a bid process and was not reviewed. The requested amount was $685,000, ARPA Taskforce recommended $250,000. $250,000 has been reserved if applicant #14 is approved.
The Mayor and Council thanked the members of the ARPA Task Force for their dedication to the project and the ARPA members thanked the Mayor and Council for their transparency and support.
Councilman Herz moved to adjourn the Special Workshop Meeting at 8:45 p.m., was seconded by Councilwoman Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Lynda Thomas, Town Clerk David Foster, Mayor
SPECIAL WORKSHOP MEETING
OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MARCH 15, 2023
The Mayor and Council of Chestertown will hold a special workshop meeting at Town Hall, 118 N. Cross Street on Thursday, March 15th at 6:00 p.m. to discuss the ARPA Review of the Recommendation of the Task Force. The meeting is open to the public, however public comment will not be received. The meeting will also be live streamed.
By Authority of David Foster, Mayor