2021, Mayor and Council, Town Agendas & Minutes|

MAYOR AND COUNCIL

NOVEMBER 15, 2021

Mayor Foster called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m.  In attendance were Councilmembers Samuel Shoge, Tom Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk), and guests.

Mayor Foster asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of November 1, 2021.  Mr. Efland moved to approve the minutes of the meeting of November 1, 2021, as presented, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.

Mayor Foster stated that the operating funds on hand amount was $2,279,418.05.

Mayor Foster asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills.  Mr. Efland moved to pay the bills as presented, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.

Mr. Bryan Matthews and Mr. John Carroll were present on behalf of the Kent County Chamber of Commerce to discuss the installation of fiber in the downtown.  Both Mayor Foster and Mr. Shoge recused themselves from the discussion, citing a conflict of interest (Mr. Shoge was the Chamber of Commerce Director and Mayor Foster’s wife is a member of the Board).  Mr. Matthews stated that he would like to focus on high speed fiber in the downtown Historic District adding that ARPA funds could be dedicated to solving the challenge of fiber in the downtown area.  Mr. Carroll stated that Wi-Fi hotspots would be beneficial in the downtown area, noting that they were used in Galena with great success.  He said that air packs were utilized through Verizon Wireless and boosters were installed off the County fiber installed at the municipal buildings.  Mr. Matthews stated that high speed internet attracts businesses and helps underserved businesses do better.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that in 2019 at around the same time of year, Delmarva Power came in and asked for permission to hang more wires on the electrical poles on High Street to install fiber along the block and into the Downtown.  They wanted an expedited permit through the holiday season and the permits were granted immediately by the Council.  Now these wires and assemblies which looked like large mufflers are hanging down from many poles in the Downtown awaiting implementation.  The County has also seemingly disappeared from the scene and needed to help Chestertown in the same way that they helped Galena.

Mr. Herz stated that the County has been trying to get fiber and internet to underserved areas for the school children during Covid.  He said that boosters were in place at the Fountain Park, but people were unplugging them.  He said that there were some easy ways to fix some problems but there had to be a definition of an underserved business in Chestertown.  Mr. Matthews stated that an internet advisory committee might be a good idea to research ways to provide fiber downtown.  Mr. Herz suggested beginning with an audit of the present availability of fiber in the area.

Mr. Owen Bailey was present on behalf of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy to discuss a bike path on Haacke Drive.  Mr. Bailey stated that a Demonstration Project was proposed on Haacke Drive and said he met with residents to discuss ideas for pedestrian and bicycling safety in the area.  He said that safety was especially important with the new YMCA getting ready to open.  He said that the north side of Haacke Drive was set as a bike lane on four (4) separate occasions beginning with a 9’ wide path used for the bike lane.  He showed photos of the area when it was marked.  He said that Dixon Valve and KRM participated in the study, using their trucks to maneuver the street with the bike lane in place.  Ultimately, the test area lane was reduced to a width of 8’ with the agreement of all parties involved.

Mr. Bailey stated that the residents seemed excited and interested in a dedicated lane for bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the area.  He said that they were proposing flex meters to be installed at 8’ to 12’ intervals along Haacke drive providing access to driveways.  Current and proposed cross-sections were shown.  He showed images of what the infrastructure could look like with painted lines instead of delineators.  After an initial test phase, if there were no safety concerns, he proposed painting the interior of the bike lane a to identify the use.

Mr. Bailey stated that he submitted letters of intent and pending approval of the Council he would submit for the grants and work with residents and business owners to implement the project.

Mayor Foster asked about crossing at Morgnec Road.  Mr. Bailey stated that since Morgnec Road was a state road he had not contacted them yet but if the bike lane was successful they may feed off the path.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had developed road resurfacing specs for approximately eleven (11) of the streets most in need of repaving.  He said that Haacke Drive was one of them and that the residents on that street have been petitioning the town for some time to have traffic calming measures installed.  Mr. Bailey stated that the budget for his project on the street was approximately $6,000.00.  This proposal would be bike lane on one side and if there was to be a sidewalk installed, the bike lane should be installed next to the sidewalk.  Mayor Foster suggested including the police chief in discussions as well.

Mr. Shoge stated that streets in Chestertown are wide and wide roads tend to make people drive faster.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that most of these streets were built prior to 1970 and there was always input from the fire company for wider roads.  Mr. Shoge suggested a study to see if narrowing the road would provide a case study for the Town for other areas.  Mr. Herz stated that when cars approach the delineators on High Street they do slow down and although some of the neighbors are not happy with it, traffic is slowing down.

Mr. Matthews stated that he had concerns in this area due to the tractor trailer traffic as there are more trucks in this area than anywhere else in Town.  He said that two (2) tractor trailers can cross the road currently, but it does force them to either side of the road.  He said that trucks had to be able to turn at Morgnec Road and Haacke Drive and thought an attractive nuisance was being constructed with a bike lane only along Haacke Drive with no crossing being created on Morgnec Road.  He said that a crossing at Morgnec Road should be created first.  Mayor Foster asked that Mr. Matthews submit written comments on the topic to the Council as suggested solutions would be helpful in their decision making.  Mr. Bailey stated that anything less than 8’ wide makes it difficult for bikes to ride side by side.

Mr. Shoge suggested initiating a conversation with SHA while simultaneously implementing the bike lane. Mr. Bailey stated that the easiest way to proceed in incremental development would be to paint the bike lane and pressure SHA to install additional barriers.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would contact the SHA District II Engineer to arrange a meeting between the Engineer and the Mayor to discuss the possibility of creating a safe crossing of MD 291 (Morgnec Road) so that in anticipation of walking and bike lanes on Haacke to the new YMCA.

Mr. Shoge moved to approve Phase II of the Demonstration Study, painting two (2) strips with delineators from Rt. 291 to Scheeler Road to replace the traffic cones on Haacke Drive from Rt. 291 and approach SHA and work with Dixon Valve and KRM for suitable crosswalks, was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.

Mayor Foster called forward Chief Dixon who present the October 2021 police report.  Chief Dixon stated that he has a growing concern over overtime and was working to improve the situation moving forward. Chief Dixon answered several question from the Council concerning policy and practice.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Charter states that within forty-eight hours after the closing of the polls the Board of Elections must certify any Town election and that the Town Manager will be responsible for reading the results into the record.

Mr. Ingersoll read the results into the record for the Election from the minutes as follows:

Mayor:           David Foster:    348

Ward One:     Robert Miller:     35

Tim O’Brien:    211

Ward Three: Edward Gallo:    33

Jose Medrano:    35

Mayor Foster stated that there were questions from citizens regarding being asked for identification and asked what happened.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Charter was specific about the Town’s power to hold an election and does not make any reference to state election laws. It gave the full power of election decisions to the Chestertown Board of Supervisors of Elections.  The Charter goes on to say that if someone is aggrieved by any act or decision of the Board, their first course of appeal is to the Mayor and Council.  If they then disagree with he Council’s decision on their complaint, they could take the matter to the Kent County Circuit Court.

Mr. Ingersoll said that in the past there was full support of the State Board of Supervisors of Elections (providing the voting machines) and the Kent County Supervisors of Elections (who helped with oversight and the staffing of the elections during the elections).  However, that support had ended prior to the 2019 election.

He said that with the diminished support of the County and State, the Town turned to the Maryland Municipal League for advice on who the Town might use to conduct their elections. The Town was given the name of a firm who did the 2019 election and recently the 2021 election. He said that they did a fantastic job.  He said that in the recent election there was a nice turnout, and nobody was turned away for lack of id.  He said that the Town’s election ordinance does not have specific instruction on when or when not to ask for identification in elections.  The firm conducting the election were not local and the Town also had a total redistricting conducted in 2021.  He said that because of that the election techs were being extra careful to make sure that everyone was voting in the correct ward.  He said that the “good old days” of having cooperation from the State and Kent County Board of Elections and the associated extra of having local poll workers who knew everyone were over.  He said that the Chestertown Board of Supervisors of Elections are competent and did exactly what had to be done to ensure that the election was held properly.

Rev. Tolliver stated that he heard that certain people were treated differently at the polls with the implication that identification was required when the State did not actually require it.  He said that a letter was received from Barbara Jorgenson and a couple other people indicated that being asked for identification made them uncomfortable.  Rev. Tolliver stated that after some research he thinks that the company the Town used does this (check id’s) wherever they go regardless of the state requirement  He said that if they used the excuse that they checked ids’ because they “don’t know the people”, he felt that they were using a “loaded statement” that someone who is uncomfortable about voting in the first place might get  the perception of being hindered in their right to vote.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that 398 people voted and there has been a lot written about it by the same one person, but no other complaints had been received.  Mayor Foster stated that if this discouraged one person to vote, it was one too many.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Town had multiple options if they felt that something needed to be corrected in the election process:

  • They could not use the same firm again;
  • They could revise their election ordinance to address what not allowing ids’ to be checked or under what circumstance an id would need to be checked. He said that this was not local people running the polls anymore and he said that identification could be needed for several reasons, and he did not think it was a barrier if properly described in an ordinance.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that if this was an issue, the poll takers can be directed by the Chestertown Board of Election Supervisors on the id policy at the next election.  Mr. Shoge asked if this was Electec’s standard policy to ask for identification.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that he verified it was their procedure today, adding that they manage elections in a dozen or more municipalities in the State of Maryland.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that Electec stated that the wards changed, and they felt there had to be some way to make it clear that people were voting in the correct ward.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that a motion could be made to the Board of Elections on requirements and reasons for ever asking for identification.  Mr. Shoge stated that the Board of Elections oversee the elections, and they should decide the requirement for voting.  Rev. Tolliver stated that the Town should follow the State.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that the State did not provide guidance to the municipalities.  Rev. Tolliver stated that more research should be done on the matter.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Board of Supervisors commented on the matter at their meeting and stated them for the record in their final minutes.

Mr. Shoge stated that this company has been used in two different elections and there has been one complaint.  Rev. Tolliver stated that he did not think that was a fair ratio of discontent.  He said that if he wants to go to an agency to adopt a dog, he will do whatever he had to do to get the dog.  He said that the argument was that the voter was asked to do something that they did not have to do and the perception was a that the identification was a hurdle for someone who was voting.  He said that it might turn someone away from voting if they were met with obstacles.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Mayor and Council had the power to promulgate and changes or statements of their rules.

Rev. Tolliver moved for a thorough investigation of what occurred during of the election via asking for identification, with the findings of the investigation brought to the Council and to come up with ideas for future elections.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously. 

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. Herz asked for a resolution to create a task force for use of the ARPA funds and said that he would have that prepared for the next meeting.

Mayor Foster stated that the hearings for the Morgnec Solar project took place last week and he encouraged people to read the reports and Kent County’s Comprehensive Plan.  Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Commissioners were filing a brief and he asked for an authorization to join in that brief behalf of the Town of Chestertown.

Mayor Foster stated that he was meeting with the student senate at Washington College and was also to meet with the president of the College later in the week.

Mayor Foster asked for ward reports.

Ms. Efland stated that all was well in Ward Four.

Rev. Tolliver stated that he was excited for Mr. Medrano to take over for the Third Ward and wished him luck.

Mr. Herz stated that all was quiet in Ward Two.

Mr. Shoge stated that all was well in Ward One.

Mayor Foster stated that Mr. Tim O’Brien, the new First Ward Councilperson was also present at tonight’s meeting.

Mr. O’Brien stated that he was happy to hear about new hires in the Police Department and asked Chief Dixon if he was familiar with federal funding available for police departments.  He said that there are large municipal funding grants available. Chief Dixon stated that he was familiar with the grant funding and said that it was lengthy but also valuable.

There being no further business, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:38 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:                                                             Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                                             David Foster

Town Clerk                                                            Mayor

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