MAYOR AND COUNCIL
JUNE 18, 2018
Mayor Cerino called the Mayor and Council meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Linda C. Kuiper, Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver and Mauritz Stetson, 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 Public Hearing on the Constant Yield Tax Rate, Public Hearing on FY2019 Budget and Mayor and Council Meeting of June 4, 2018. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the Mayor and Council minutes for the Public Hearing on the Constant Yield Tax Rate, Public Hearing on the Budget FY2019 and meeting of June 4, 2018, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating cash on hand for unrestricted use is $535,616.17. A total of $61,851.92 in bills has been paid for construction work at the Marina which the Town was waiting to be reimbursed through grants, bringing the total to $597,468.09. Mayor Cerino stated that a category has been added for Private Donations to the Marina project, to date receiving $564,231.97 and spent $203,170.22 in matches to grants leaving a balance of $361,124.75 which will be used for one to one matches as the Marina project progresses.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay bills. Mr. Stetson moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino called forward Chief Baker for the May police report. Chief Baker reviewed the May 2018 statistics. He said that the recent Tea Party had some issues raised regarding parking which he plans to bring before the Tea Party Committee for changes that they may want to consider next year.
Mr. Foster asked if there were statistics on the amount of time the Kent County Sheriff’s Office or the Maryland State Police spent working in the town limits of Chestertown. Chief Baker stated that he did not have those statistics, but both entities have jurisdiction in Chestertown, noting that the busiest place in Kent County on the weekends is Chestertown.
Rev. Tolliver asked Chief Baker to share on the panel he sat on at the MML Conference. Chief Baker stated that he was asked by MML to participate on a panel discussion about crisis interventions, along with the Chief of the University of Maryland, David Mitchell, and Kevin Simmons, Deputy Fire Chief in Annapolis. Chief Baker stated that Chief Mitchell and Deputy Chief Simmons had many first hand experiences dealing with crisis situations on a larger scale. Chief Baker stated that he focuses on smaller towns including permitting processes for marches or protests and other proactive ways to handle situations that could possibly become a crisis situation.
Ms. Amy Meeks, Chair of the Recreation Commission, was present and gave an overview of things that the Recreation Commission has done over the past year, including the addition of 3 new members, a partnership with the Kent County Health Department participating in Halloteen and an Easter Egg Hunt, a partnership with the Kent County library with game nights and a family paint night. The Commission sponsored a bounce house for the Earth Day Festival. Movies in the Fountain Park began at June’s First Friday and will continue through the summer. The Commission would be participating in Washington Park Day by sponsoring a movie and a bounce house.
Ms. Meeks stated that the Commission was thrilled with the grant that came through for the Washington Park park area through Community Parks and Playgrounds which will improve the walking trail, play area, and resurface the basketball court.
Ms. Meeks stated that there was $2,700.00 in the budget left over for this fiscal year and the Commission proposes to purchase a swing set in Bailey Park with those funds. She said that the Recreation Commission members would like to place the swing set between Rolling Road and the large Dog Park on the hill. Ms. Meeks stated that the literature shows the playset on grass. Mr. Ingersoll stated that they could begin with the set under grass but if it needed a base the Street Crew could help install the surface.
Mr. Stetson moved to approve the purchase of a swing set for Bailey Park in the amount of $2,700.00 in the area specified at Bailey Park, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Chestertown Environmental Committee had asked to give a presentation on a community garden this evening but there was nobody present from the Commission. Ms. Mulligan would check to see if the Commission wished to reschedule.
Mayor Cerino asked Mr. Ingersoll for his report.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that in the budget process there was discussion of a small increase in the administrative fees for building permits. Mr. Ingersoll read Resolution 02-2018 Establishing New Fees for Building Permits in Chestertown into the record. Mr. Ingersoll stated that changes could have done administratively but a Resolution was a good way for the public to be aware of the changes that would take place as of July 1, 2018. Fees were based on square footage and showed a modest increase, noting that fees have not been changed since 2008. Mr. Stetson moved to approve Resolution 02-2018 Establishing New Fees for Building Permits in Chestertown, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the he received a request from Sultana to purchase a 1.16 acre lot declared surplus property by the Mayor and Council in 2006. Mayor Cerino recused himself from the discussion. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this was a remnant parcel from the purchase of the train station from Penn Central circa 1980. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the parcel was landlocked uplands wetlands and was declared excess by Ordinance in 2006. It was first offered to the neighbor at that time, who had no interest in the property. Mr. Ingersoll read a letter of offer from Sultana for the 1.16 acre lot. Their plan was to unite the land with an adjoining 7.5 acre parcel currently owned by Washington College to create an educational wetlands preserve for use with the K-12 educational programs for Eastern Shore students. SEF (Sultana Educational Foundation) had secured a legally binding option from Washington College giving them a 12 month exclusive window to purchase the adjoining property. SEF was now ready to move forward at the earliest possible date, offering the Town $15,000.00 for the property. Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a comprehensive site plan of the preserve that would go through the Planning Commission for approval. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this property was not presently on the tax rolls and would not be after the sale. Mr. Stetson moved to accept the offer from Sultana to purchase the 1.6 acre upland wetland parcel from the Town of Chestertown upon a favorable review from the Planning Commission, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried with 4 in favor, Mayor Cerino recused.
Mayor Cerino stated that the floating dock was installed at the Marina and work was taking place on the electrical systems. Finger piers will be attached to the floating dock. A separate crew will be added to the Cannon Street fixed pier and will begin work next week. Mayor Cerino stated that the Council would have to decide how the facility should be managed once the project is finished, whether it be in-house or through an outside management agency. Mayor Cerino stated that over the weekend, the floating dock was full of boats even though the Marina was completely closed. Rev. Tolliver suggested signs indicating that boaters were docking at their own risk while the Marina was under construction.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to nominate two (2) members to the Recreation Commission: Ms. Dinah Hicks and Mr. Harold Somerville. The Mayor had copies of information on the nominees and said that he would ask for a motion to appoint them at the next meeting.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward Reports.
Mr. Stetson stated that he attended the annual MML Convention in Ocean City from June 10 – 13 and that he once again carried the Chestertown flag in the opening ceremony. Mr. Stetson stated that he attended the Small Town Session as he does each year.
Mr. Stetson stated that the Town Bocce Team is in first place, along with 5 other teams. He said that there is a single elimination game on Thursday, June 21st at 6:00 p.m.
Rev. Tolliver stated that Ward Three was busy, having opened 3 new businesses and having two (2) street festivals within the last 6 months. Bethel Church was included as a performance site for the National Music Festival and Congressional Candidate Jessie Colvin attended a ribbon-cutting at Germaine’s and then had a chat-and-chew at the Bethel Church.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the Chestertown Garage received certification to become a NAPA Auto Care Center and would be seeking permission to change signage.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he attended the MML Convention and a highlight for him was a gentleman who spoke about what towns need to do to prepare for the future, including aging populations and flat tax revenues.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like to see the Planning Commission, Historic District Commission, and the Economic Development Commission make regular reports to the Mayor and Council to prepare for the future. He said that these commissions are the ones that most affect the quality of life of those in Chestertown.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was hoping to find a representative of each neighborhood to volunteer so he could create a neighborhood council in his ward.
Ms. Kuiper stated that she requested Main Street come before the Council to discuss the façade and signage grants. Ms. MacIntosh stated that she would be happy to update the Council when the time was appropriate.
Ms. Kuiper stated that the Farmers Market contract is being rewritten as the 2014 draft is already obsolete. She said that when the new draft is finished she will submit it to the Council for review.
Ms. Kuiper asked that residents and visitors be mindful that the parking meter bags are susceptible to bees this time of year.
Ms. Kuiper stated that the Tea Party Committee had a festival wrap-up meeting and there were some issues discussed to make for an even better festival next year.
Ms. Kuiper stated that there was a concern from the Historic District Commission that the new appointment wasn’t known to everyone on the Commission as they had not received a resume. Ms. Mulligan stated that the Mayor and Council appoints new members but it is not the norm to send Commissions the resumes for potential members. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Chair is welcome to introduce new members.
Ms. Kuiper stated that if Music in the Park receives funding from the Town she would like the email to credit the Town for funding.
Mr. Foster stated that when he first heard Mayor Cerino speak about the tax differential last year he did not know what it was. He said now that he was on the Council he understands the tax differential and Mr. Ingersoll did a great job of explaining the impact the loss the reimbursement has had on the Town. Mr. Foster stated that at the MML Conference he had the opportunity to speak with other municipalities across the State, confirming that not only does most every other municipality receive some form of a tax differential but they have grown by almost 60% over the last 10 years. He said that some of the municipalities are mandated by the State to provide a tax differential. Wicomico County is being sued by Ocean City due to a lack of a tax differential. Mr. Foster stated that he spoke with president-elect of MML, Brian Segal, who encouraged that the Town write a request for MML to consider a required tax differential as a legislative issue to be lobbied on in Annapolis.
Mr. Stetson stated that right now the law only requires that the Commissioners speak to the Towns about a tax differential each year. Mr. Foster stated that there were 9 counties in Maryland where the rules are “shall provide” instead of “may provide”. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought the State Delegation may have to get behind the municipalities and he was not sure that would happen, although he said he thinks that the municipalities should receive a tax differential.
Mayor Cerino stated that Chestertown was a quarter of the population of Kent County as a whole and the residents in Chestertown were paying full property tax rates to the County and not receiving services from them in return. The Chestertown taxes provide road maintenance, snow removal, trash and recycling removal, and police coverage. Mayor Cerino stated that the taxpayers of Chestertown were underwriting services for the County for work not performed in Chestertown. Mr. Foster stated that small businesses are mainly in the towns of Kent County and it was not just an equity issue; it was an economic development issue.
Ms. Kuiper stated that one of the County Commissioners explained that money has been put into high speed internet, the advantages of which cannot be seen to date. She said that the internet was to be up and running by Tea Party and it never happened.
Mr. Foster stated that a letter or online form can be submitted to the Maryland Municipal League and a research and lobby team will review the matter. If they agree with the Town they will seek out help in Annapolis. He said that this was not just a Kent County issue. Mr. Foster stated that he would draft a letter and submit it to the Council for review and signatures. The Council agreed. Mayor Cerino stated that he would be happy to sign the letter, although he was not optimistic of a good outcome.
Mayor Cerino stated that there were two ways that counties reimburse their municipalities for duplicate services, either through a tax differential to the tax payer or a rebate to the municipal in the form of a check.
Mr. Foster asked why Kent County is in the “may” category as opposed to the “shall” category for a tax differential. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the counties that must pay municipalities tax differentials are probably the larger counties such as Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George.
Rev. Tolliver suggested a public information campaign on the meaning of a tax differential. Mr. Foster stated that the newspaper could write on the topic and groups such as the League of Women Voters that are holding candidate forums should ask the question. Mr. Ingersoll stated that an easy way for residents to understand the issue was “double taxation” and asking if the residents like paying for services twice. He said that the Town has now asked on more than one occasion for a grant in aid or rebate to tax payers in order to help balance the budget only to be denied.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that last year Main Street applied to the Department of Housing and Community Development for façade improvement grant money in the amount of $70,000.00, of which they were awarded $40,000.00. The program was for a 60/40 match up to $20,000.00 and launched in February of 2018. There were four (4) applications received and all four (4) had merit and received grant money. Grants were awarded to the Taylor Loughry Construction building on Park Row, a front porch restoration on Park Row by Peter Newlin and Chesapeake Architects, Hoon & Blitzer for new wooden windows, and Jeff Maguire for supplies on South Cross Street (Play it Again Sam’s). The program will go to 50/50 matching funds next year and an application was submitted for $100,000.00. Ms. MacIntosh stated that aesthetic improvements to buildings will help the entire neighborhood in revitalization.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that Main Street applied to Department of Housing and Community Development for a signage grant last year but did not receive any money. They have applied again for $200,000.00 in grant funds which would provide an analysis of where the signs should be placed and for design and production. Ms. MacIntosh stated that if the grant was not received they would come up with another way to use signage such as sandwich boards. She said that the need is urgent, especially on Cannon Street and at the southern end of Cross Street.
Ms. Kuiper stated that she received an application for a handicap parking space on Mount Vernon. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Charter indicates the Mayor is the only person to establish handicap spaces. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this request had merit. Ms. Kuiper said that she hoped that all residents realized that handicapped parking is for any individual with a documented handicap and not for use as a personal parking space.
Mayor Cerino stated the he presented a key to the city at the National Music Festival to the Chestertown Mentor at the last performance. Mayor Cerino stated that the National Music Festival was a subtle pulse to the Chestertown economy that lasts longer than any other single event. He said that the music was spectacular and he thanked the National Music Festival for another successful year.
Mayor Cerino stated that Mr. Michael Lawrence, the first donor to step forward in a major way to the Chestertown Marina contributing $100,000.00, passed away on Sunday, June 10th after a long battle with cancer. He sent his condolences to all of Michael’s family and friends.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were questions or comments from the audience.
Ms. Trish McGee of the Kent County News clarified that Mayor Cerino had recused himself from the sale of excess property discussed earlier this evening. Mayor Cerino stated that he did not vote. He said that that would be a conflict of interest due to his employment with the Sultana Educational Foundation.
There being no further business and no questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Stetson moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:45 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor