College Asks for Safety Measures at Campus Ave. Intersection

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Washington College is concerned about pedestrian safety at a major intersection used by students.

Jerry Roderick, the college’s Director of Public Safety, came to the Chestertown Mayor and Council Monday, Nov. 20, to outline problems at the intersection of Washington Ave. and Campus Ave. Displaying images of the busy intersection from all four directions, Roderick outlined the problems at the crosswalks and suggested ways it could be made safer.

While there is a traffic signal at the intersection, Roderick said, there is no left turn signal in any direction, requiring cars to wait for a gap in the often-heavy traffic to make a turn; this could cause them to overlook pedestrians in the crosswalk, who would be crossing with the light. Also, southbound traffic approaching the intersection for a right turn has poor visibility because of a large electrical box on the corner, partially shielded by bushes. This means pedestrians crossing from campus to the alumni house may not be visible before the car is making the turn. Also, given the flow of traffic, pedestrians sometimes “wait for a break, then dart across.”

There are approximately 225 students, faculty, and staff who use the intersection on a daily basis, Roderick said, many of them to attend classes in Cromwell Hall on the east side of Washington Ave, A fair number of Kent County Middle School students also cross at that point in the morning and mid-afternoon, going to and from school. And as one of the main routes through town, the road is heavily traveled, with a considerable number of trucks going through town.

Roderick suggested three measures to improve pedestrian safety at the crossing.  A separate left turn signal for traffic would unclog the intersection and reduce the number of vehicles trying to beat the light. Also, signs prohibiting right turns on red would reduce the number of times pedestrians crossing with the light have to deal with turning traffic. Finally, he suggested, a four-way stop signal allowing pedestrians to cross in all directions would improve safety, especially when large numbers of students need to cross for classes in Cromwell.

Several council members agreed that the intersection presents problems. Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said the lack of a left turn signal often makes her wait several changes of the light before she can turn.

Councilwoman Liz Gross agreed there are problems, but she pointed out that Washington Ave. is a state road, so any changes will require the State Highway Administration to act. She said any study by the SHA should be conducted while there are students on campus so the agency can see the nature of the problem.

Councilman Marty Stetson said the majority of accidents involving cars and pedestrians are the pedestrian’s fault, but he added that the college students he had observed seem particularly aware of safety and use appropriate caution crossing the street. He said there was a study by SHA several years ago, but nothing came of it.

Mayor Chris Cerino said the best approach would be for the college to send the council a letter outlining its concerns and proposed remedies for the council to endorse and forward to SHA. Roderick said he would follow up with a letter and appreciated the town’s cooperation in trying to solve the problems.

Family Support Groups Now Available in Queen Anne’s & Kent Counties

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National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) sponsors Family Support Groups

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has recently started Family Support Groups in Queen Anne’s and Kent Counties.  These groups are peer-led groups for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. Support group members gain insight from the challenges and successes of other group members facing similar circumstances.

Family members or friends of someone with mental illness find from the support group that they are not alone and that they can find the support they need from the group.  The family support group is unique because it follows a structured model, ensuring everyone the opportunity to be heard and to get information and the support that they need. The support groups are free, confidential, and led by people who have loved ones with mental illness.

By sharing your experiences to a group in a safe and confidential setting, you gain hope and develop supportive relationships.  The group encourages empathy, productive discussion and a sense of community.  Members benefit through others’ experiences, discover inner strengths, and learn how to identify and use local resources.

One group member said, “The most beneficial thing for me to learn was that I am not alone.  I found the NAMI Family Support Group at the time I really needed it!”

NAMI offers its Family Support Program the first and third Monday of the month in Centreville and the first and third Tuesday of the month in Chestertown from 7 pm – 8:30 pm.  For more information contact:  443-480-0565 or email to namikentandqueenannes@gmail.com

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Corn on the Curb! – UPDATED

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Photo Credit – James Dissette

Editor’s note — this story has been updated with details not available at press time Tuesday. 

A grain truck en route from Rock Hall to Church Hill overturned around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, trying to navigate the roundabout at High Street and Morgnec Road, near the new Royal Farms store. The truck flipped on its side and spilled its load of corn by the roadside. The arrow on the yellow pedestrian sign in the above picture is pointing directly at the green cab of the truck as it lies on its side.

Traffic was rerouted through an adjacent parking lot due to hydraulic fluid leaking from the overturned truck. Because the crash site is close to Radcliffe Creek, containment booms were placed to prevent any leaking fluids from entering the watercourse. However, diesel fuel spillage was minimal, according to the Chestertown Fire Company. The southeast corner of the circle remained blocked as State Highway crews and a private crew sent by the truck’s owner conducted the cleanup and removed the damaged vechicle, which took about four hours all told.

According to emergency personnel on the scene, there were no injuries.

Photo credit – James Dissette

The Maryland State Police, the Chestertown Police Department, the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, the Kennedyville Volunteer Fire Company and the Rock Hall Volunteer Fire Company  responded.

See a more detailed report from the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company here.

Corn on the Curb!      Photo credit – James Dissette

Help Our Student Radio – Support WKHS!

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Chris Lobely, senior at KCHS and member of the Trojans’ football team

It’s fundraiser time at WHKS radio, the on-air voice of Kent County High School. Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 14 and continuing through Friday, Nov. 17, the student disc jockeys and announcers will be seeking the community’s help to purchase equipment and perform needed upgrades to the station. The fundraiser runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. To make a pledge, call 410-778-4249 or 410-778-8100 or click here.

Station manager and instructor Chris Singleton said on Monday that the station seeks to raise $20,000 to $25,000 for structural renovations and to replace outmoded equipment. Needed renovations include upgrading the soundproofing of studios — including replacing the deteriorating foam on the walls — and bringing in new furniture to make them more “guest-friendly. The radio station has also expanded into the old photographic dark room where students used to develop their own pictures before digital cameras.

Vincent Wilson, KCHS senior and WKHS radio student announcer

Among the equipment needed is a new audio console, at about $10,000. Professional quality microphones can cost $400 each.With these upgrades, and others done this past summer, the station will have state-of-the-art equipment, comparable to that of many medium-market commercial stations, Singleton said.

On air for more than 43 years, WKHS is one of the most powerful student radio stations in the country, boasting 17,500 watts for a clear signal as far as sixty miles away. The station has been an educational platform for students and a labor of love for volunteers who provide on-air talent during the evening.

Alison Rameika, KCHS senior and WKHS radio student announcer

The student disc jockeys present an eclectic mix of music — pop and rock hits spanning 40 years, Singleton said.  Student announcers get the world, national, and state news from the Associated Press as well as local news adapted in part from Chestertown Spy stories.  The students get practice in writing through re-writing news stories in their own words.

In addition to the student hours, local adult volunteers conduct shows daily during evening hours, including the evening programming includes Bill Staples “Big Band,” “Honky Tonk Jukebox,” and “Bluegrass” shows on Wednesdays; Lain Hawkridge’s “Musicology” show, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays; Ron Lockwood’s “Thrill of the Night,” 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays, and Bill Wright’s “Road Trippin’,” 8 p,m. to midnight, Thursdays. The station simulcasts the University of Pennsylvania radio station, WXPN, during non-local broadcasting hours. See the station’s website for a complete schedule.

Between 35 and 50 students are involved in the station at any given time. Singleton estimated that some 1,200 to 1,500 students had taken part in the program over the years. Among them are June Fox, a 1982 grad now working with a high school station in Seattle, and Camri McKee, now the floor director at the WBAL TV (Channel 11) morning news show in Baltimore.

Any list of graduates of the program should include Singleton himself, who graduated from KCHS in the early 1980s. He returned to the station as a part time engineer while he was in college. Then beginning in 1989. Singleton became working part-time at the radio station. He stayed on as a part-time engineer until ten years ago, when he became full-time, adding on duties as an instructor. He described his current position as “instructor, station manager, engineer, chief cook and bottle washer – the whole nine yards.”

The last couple of years, WKHS has also had the services of Ken Collins, formerly of WCTR radio, as a part-time fundraiser.

While many students go on to study broadcasting and communications at college, Singleton said that the high school station gives them all the skills they need to get a job in broadcasting. Students also are taught the basics of marketing including branding, reaching an audience, and creating quality content, Singleton said.

But long-term and more importantly, these students are doing more than just having fun while learning career skills. They are gaining a deeper understanding of all communication media – from television, social media, movies, to broadcast news in all its myriad formats.  These students will not be as easily taken in by “fake” news or other scams, in whatever areas of their life they may meet them.  The Kent County High School radio program combines academic skills with hands-on experience that enriches their lives and provides a community service.

The school system pays the basic costs of operating the student radio station such as overhead, maintenance, and consumables but there is no extra budget — especially in these days of monetary constraints — for modernizing the studio and its equipment.  Some of the equipment is 30 years old.  There has been a lot of technological advances in the past 30 years!

B K Saunders, KCHS senior and WKHS radio student

WKHS is owned and operated by Kent County Public Schools. The studios and transmitter are located on the campus of Kent County High School, 25301 Lambs Meadow Road, Worton. The broadcasting program is a Kent County High School Career Technology Education pathway and is staffed with students in grades 10-12 during school operating hours.

 

WKHS Old Radio Equipment that the station hopes to replace with state-of-the-art audio equipment.

WKHS – The first of the new modern radio equipment. This industry-standard equipment was installed last summer just before the start of the new semester.

 

 

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Ladies’ Shopping Night Nov. 16

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Expanded Holiday Store Hours in Downtown Chestertown

A popular shopping tradition continues this year in Downtown Chestertown. On Thursday, November 16, several local businesses are keeping their doors open until 8 p.m. for shoppers to get a head start on their holiday lists before the rush begins during Thanksgiving weekend. Many will offer in-store specials, discounts or prizes, along with refreshments. With more than 10 businesses participating, this will be a great opportunity to explore the variety of gifts and goods available in Downtown Chestertown, including clothing, books, home decor, children’s items, and one-of-a-kind local art and crafts.

In addition, many businesses will offer extended shopping hours the week before Christmas, beginning Monday, December 18. Most locations will stay open until 7 p.m. for added convenience, with business owners available to help you find the perfect gifts (and wrap them beautifully, too).

“We are proud of the quality and selection of merchandise available in Downtown Chestertown, and strive to create more opportunities for local residents to get to know what we have to offer,” said Kristen Owen, President of Downtown Chestertown Association. “Our local merchants enjoy getting to know their patrons and tailoring shopping experiences to meet their needs.”

Details about Ladies’ Night promotions and specific extended holiday shopping hours can be found on the Downtown Chestertown Facebook page  and at individual store locations.

Council Hears Updates on Hospital

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Ken Kozel of Shore Regional Health reports to the Chestertown Coucil.

Ken Kozel, CEO of University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, gave an update on projects involving the Chestertown Hospital at the Chestertown Council meeting, Nov. 6. Included in the report was a summary of the Maryland Rural Health Workgroup report concerning the long-term future of the hospital.

Kozel said the workgroup held its last meeting Sept. 28, and concluded its study at that time. All the recommendations were approved unanimously, he said, and added that Shore Regional Health concurs in the approval. The recommendations must now make their way to approval by various bodies, including the General Assembly, the Maryland Healthcare Commission and the Health Services Cost Review Commission.

Kozel said Shore Regional Health will work closely with the Assembly to see that the recommendations are enacted. However, the two state commissions are also important to the approval process, he said. In particular, the designation of Chestertown as a rural community access hospital, which would allow it to remain fully open past 2022, is under the purview of the Healthcare Commission. Also, funding for the hospital’s programs must be vetted by the Cost Review Commission.

“I think we did a really good job of defining why we’re unique and what some of the additional expenses are associated with running rural healthcare in Maryland,” Kozel said. But getting the recommendations approved is the key next step, and that is “where the heavy lifting comes in,” he said. He asked the community at large to support the recommendations to ensure that they are approved.

Preserving inpatient beds at the hospital was one of the recommendations, Kozel said, along with a 24/7 emergency room and surgical services. He said Shore Regional Health had asked for 10 inpatient beds. However, he said, the state would make the final determination on the number of beds, depending on census figures and other data. Shore Regional Health had set the number of beds at 10 based on current conditions and the mandate to reduce the number of inpatient admissions, he said.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked how many beds the hospital now has. Kozel said the facility is licensed for 30 beds. “Based on the time of year, we could run anywhere from six inpatient beds to 30,” he said – during flu season, it could be even higher, he said.

Mayor Chris Cerino asked what the time frame would be for full implementation of the workforce’s recommendations. Kozel said some would be in place early next year, while others would have to wait to the next fiscal year, beginning in July. “But the wheels of the state government sometimes move a little slowly,” he said.

Councilman Sam Shoge asked what factors determine the number of beds the state will set for a given area. Kozel said population density is a key issue, but also the age of the population and whether the long-term trend is toward growth or shrinking. Length of stay is also a factor, along with the severity of the conditions being treated.

In addition to the workgroup report, Kozel reported on the hospital’s relations with Compass Regional Hospice and with the Shore Manor nursing and rehabilitation facility. He said a recent assessment of the hospital’s assets showed that Shore Manor is the only rehab and nursing home in the University of Maryland Medical System. Because of changes in the nursing home industry, he said, “we are really not the right party to be managing that facility for the benefit of the patients and the community.” Consequently, UMMS is looking for a buyer for Shore Manor.

Kozel, said UMMS recognizes the value of Shore Manor to the community, and as a result has “very specific conditions” any prospective buyer must meet. In particular, he said, UMMS doesn’t want to sell to someone who plans to “flip” it for a short-term profit.  “We see it as definitely part of the continuum of care” that the community needs. The manor should be able to see more acute care patients, to reduce pressure on inpatient beds. He said the facility currently has 92 licensed beds. Also, any prospective buyer must be willing to commit to upgrading and modernizing the facility. He said more than 19 potential buyers had taken the preliminary step of filling out a nondisclosure agreement. “I’m encouraged,” he said. If all goes smoothly, an agreement could be reached by spring.

Shoge asked if UMMS was open to the idea of combining the nursing home with a day care facility, as has been done in some other communities. Kozel said UMMS is open to any ideas that increase the viability of the facility, as long as the new operator complies with the conditions of sale.

Kozel also detailed the agreement with Compass Regional Hospice to install a four-bed hospice center in the hospital, as detailed in a recent Spy article. He described it as a win-win for the two facilities, with the hospital providing support services while Compass provides the medical care. The facility should be running shortly after the first of the year.

Also at the meeting, the council voted, after a brief public hearing, to annex the property housing the town’s wastewater plant. The property, along John Hanson Road just past Radcliffe Creek, comprises some 149 acres. It will be zoned Institutional, and is not subject to development.

In addition, the council approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to approve loans to cover infrastructure improvements at the town-owned marina. Cerino said the state granting agencies expect the town to spend grant funds it has already received before applying for more, so the town will push forward with raising the grade of the parking lot and beginning work on the shell of the interpretation center using funds currently on hand.

The council also approved permits for “A Dickens of a Christmas” and for the Downtown Chestertown Association’s Christmas parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foster, Tolliver Win Council Seats; Cerino Re-elected (Updated)

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David Foster 

David Foster has been elected as Chestertown’s new First Ward councilman.

In the election Tuesday, Nov. 7, Foster received 135 votes to 104 for Owen Bailey and 38 for Bob Miller. While there are 25 absentee ballots outstanding, and one provisional ballot, the total is not enough to change the result.

Mayor Chris Cerino, running unopposed, received 344 votes. The Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver, running unopposed for the Third Ward Council seat, received 27 votes. A total of 379 voters turned out for the election, despite heavy rain for much of the afternoon and evening. Just before noon, 180 voters had come to the polls.

Foster, who has lived in Chestertown for 20 years, campaigned on his experience as an urban planner with extensive international experience. He has worked as an environmental advisor in Asia, and also served as Chester Riverkeeper after his move to Chestertown. He has called for more consistent long-range planning for the town, including a possible conference on the future of small towns at Washington College. Look for a more detailed report, including quotes from the candidates, in tomorrow’s Spy.

Foster replaces incumbent Councilwoman Liz Gross, who announced her retirement because of family medical issues. The new councilmen will take office at the first council meeting in January 2018.

Cerino, in a phone interview Wednesday, said he was pleased with the turnout for the election, especially considering that there were no state or national issues on the ballot and the inclement weather. He said he was glad there were “really good people running” in all the races. He expressed his thanks and respect for everyone who put themselves forward for office. “It’s really uplifting to know that people are willing to support me for another four years,” he said. “I congratulate the winners and look forward to working with everybody and finding out what their priorities are for their wards, so we can work together as a team for Chestertown.”

He said the town faces several major projects over the next few years, including the marina upgrades, which he said should show significant progress over the winter. “We still have a couple of years of work and fundraising left to do,” he added. Also, Cerino said he would like to work closer with Kent County to see the fiber-optic network extended into Chestertown. “It has a lot of potential to help in economic development in the community as a whole,” he said. Upgrading cell phone reception in the downtown area is also an issue that concerns both business owners and visitors, he said. Finally, he said, “I’d like to keep an eye on our finances, make sure we’re being responsible fiscally — really make sure we’re stretching every dollar as far as it will go and be responsible to our taxpayers.”

Bailey wrote in an email Thursday, “Though this is not the result I was seeking, congratulations to David Foster. It was a good campaign in which I learned a lot about myself, the town, and the issues we all face. I still plan to be involved in the Friends of the Kent County Public Library and the Chestertown Environmental Group as I remain invested in this community.”

Miller, in a phone interview Wednesday, said “David worked very hard — he deserves it. He’s been in town a long time and knows a lot of people and a lot about what’s going on. I’m really very excited for him.” Miller noted that he’s been in town less than two years, so running for office allowed him to meet a lot of new people. He described the campaign as “a gentleman’s race,” with no negative feeling among the candidates. “It should be an example to all political races,” he said, describing it as “about proposition, not opposition.” He said he felt his candidacy had “added value to the race,” allowing discussion of a wider range of ideas and issues.

Foster and the other candidates could not be reached for comments before press time Wednesday. We will add any comments we do receive after deadline.

Cheemoandia Blake, Kent County Election Director (L), and Jen Mulligan, Chestertown Town Clerk, check totals at the close of polls Tuesday as Robert Ortiz of the Chestertown Board of Election Supervisors observes.

Election Day in Chestertown — Have You Voted?

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Town Council candidates Bob Miller, David Foster, Owen Bailey and Congressional candidate Michael Pullen stand outside the Chestertown firehouse, greeting voters on Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 7. Photo credit: Ryan Ewing

Tuesday, Nov. 7 is Election Day in Chestertown, with the Mayor and two Town Council seats on the ballot.

Incumbent Mayor Chris Cerino is unopposed, as is the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver, running for the Third Ward seat currently occupied by Councilman Sam Shoge, who is not seeking re-election.

But three candidates are in the running for the First Ward seat being  vacated by Councilwoman Liz Gross, who is retiring after a single Council term due to family health issues.

Owen Bailey, David Foster and Bob Miller are seeking to replace her. All three were present outside the Chestertown firehouse, the polling place for the town election, earlier this morning, greeting voters and making a final pitch for support.

The Chestertown Spy interviewed all three candidates, as well as covering the League of Women Voters candidates forum Nov. 1 at Heron Point — see a Spy video here.

Turnout has been strong so far, according to Town Clerk Jen Mulligan, who said 180 votes had been cast as of just before noon. We urge voters, especially First Ward residents, to get out and vote — the polls are open til 8 p.m. The future of your town is in your hands today!

 

Chestertown Town Council: Candidates for Ward 1 Answer Voters’ Questions

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The above video from the candidate forum is just under 22 minutes, edited down from the full hour and a half meeting. 

Three candidates for Chestertown’s Ward 1 Council seat took the stage at Heron Point Wednesday night in a League of Women Voters forum. Owen Bailey, Bob Miller and David Foster are running to fill the seat vacated by Councilwoman Liz Gross, who announced earlier this year that she would not seek re-election. A substantial crowd, almost 200, was present to hear the candidates’ views, with very few vacant seats in the Wesley Hall meeting room.  The election is next Tuesday, Nov 7, 2017, with voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m

David Foster, candidate for Ward 1

After a brief introduction by League representatives, outlining the format for the discussion, the candidates made introductory statements. Foster said he loves Chestertown, but like other small town across the nation, it faces perilous times, with shrinking tax bases, growing costs and the loss of young residents who have trouble finding jobs. He said he has the expertise and experience to tackle those problems, bringing in jobs and young families to sustain the amenities residents have come to love.

Bob Miller, candidate for Ward 1

Miller said he and his wife moved here two years ago and want to make a contribution to the community. He said he has 35 years of experience as a Certified Public Accountant for nonprofit organizations. He said Chestertown is essentially a $5 million nonprofit, with the council serving as its board of directors. His background, he said,  would be useful in helping the town find the best way to allocate its resources to best serve its residents.

Bailey said he was born in Chestertown and has spent most of his life here, with most of his career working for nonprofits including the Washington College Literary House and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. He said many young people leave the community in search of work and affordable housing. His focus, if elected, he said, would be on issues such as alternative transportation and the creation of job opportunities.

Owen Bailey, candidate for Ward 1

The candidates were then asked to answer three questions from the League, which they were given in advance. First, they were asked how, given limited resources, they would ensure that road maintenance would be funded.

Foster said infrastructure maintenance is one of the town’s largest budget items. He said the current approach, as developed by engineering schools, is a system to manage roads on a regular basis, similar to getting regular medical checkups instead of waiting for a medical crisis. He said regular maintenance would reduce costs by some 40 percent over waiting until complete repaving is needed.

Miller said the town has an adequate budget for road maintenance. He said he is generally mpressed with the condition of the town streets, having seen far worse in travels to other parts of the world. He said the state Department of Transportation may have grants available to support road work within the town.

Bailey said the town needs to plan ahead to keep its streets in repair. He said heavy truck traffic does most of the damage to the town streets. He said an investment in bicycle and pedestrian paths would help remove cars from the roads, decreasing wear.

The second League question concerned ways to encourage the upkeep of properties in town, either by enforcing current regulations or proposing new ones.

Miller said he favored a “see something, say something” approach to derelict properties. He said he had called attention to two properties at an October council meeting, He said a system of stiff fines would make a difference. He said he would work to see that rules are followed.

Bailey agreed that residents should call attention to problems they see. He said it might also be good to encourage volunteers to help residents, especially elderly ones, to maintain their property and perform such tasks as shoveling snow.

Foster said poor maintenance is a chronic issue, noting that he and his wife had renovated a High Street building that had been a problem. He said clear building codes and fair enforcement were key, but the real issues are public awareness and prompt enforcement.

The third League question asked the candidates what they would do to help downtown merchants increase their profitability, including ways to increase the number of visitors to town.

Bailey said people come to town “for the experience,” something they can’t get at malls or online shopping sites. He said the town needs to enhance its character, improve access to businesses and support events that bring in visitors. He said the town should also encourage minority investments in downtown business.

Foster said he agreed about selling “the experience”. He said not all events draw the same number of visitors, and not all benefit downtown merchants the same way. He said the Harry Potter festival, by including a scavenger hunt sending participants to businesses all over town, was among the most successful. He said the festival organizers had worked together with business owners, and that was the reason for the success. He said another factor would be to promote nearby attractions, thereby encouraging people to prolong their stays in the area.

Miller said the council has been supportive of businesses, especially with its development of the Arts and Entertainment District. He said the real key is an emphasis on careers instead of jobs, to give the young the ability to stay here and raise families, He suggested a conference center as a way to attract more business, along with night-time entertainment. Keeping the hospital here is a central issue, he said.

Hope Clark asks a question while Nancy Smith holds the microphone transmitter.

The moderator, Lyn Dolinger, then accepted questions from the audience. Hope Clark, a member of the Diversity Dialogue Group, said there has been considerable discussion of race and racism in the community recently. She asked how the candidates would address racial issues if elected. She also asked how they would encourage members of minorities to open businesses in town.

“We need more cultural sensitivity and inclusion.” Miller said, citing Washington DC as a city where different races and cultures mingle more freely. “We need to make it easy” for members of minority groups to open businesses downtown, he said. He cited Legacy Day as an example of how different groups can work together to reach valuable goals.

Foster said he has been involved with Sumner Hall and the Diversity Group. He said that the issue is the existence of barriers, some of which are self-imposed.  It’s necessary to reach out personally to reach many members of the black community, he said, citing the Reconciliation event held at the Garfield Center a number of years ago as an example of how that can work.

“Kent County always seems to be starting from farther behind,” Bailey said. He said the focus at Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is “going to the people you need to attract and dealing with them in person.” He said you need experts to make it work, mentioning Rosemary Ramsey-Granillo of the Local Management Board as someone with the experience to reach members of minorities.

Another audience member said he was worried that too much emphasis on tourism could turn Chestertown into a “t-shirt and ice cream center.” He asked how development could be kept in control.

Foster said the town is trying to attract people. He said there are sufficient regulations to prevent unchecked development. “I don’t see it as a problem,” he said. He suggested working with Washington College to study ways to encourage development without letting it run away.

“Washington College is a great resource,” Bailey said, citing departments like the Center for Environment  and Society. He said many college towns have a town-and-gown committee to facilitate communication between the two. He said both institutions need to understand each other and work together.

Miller said he saw the results of 30 years of development in Kensington before moving here. Growth equals prosperity, but it needs to be kept within limits, he said.

Former Ward 1 Councilman Jim Gatto asked about town finances and the lack of a CPA in the town government.

Miller said he had looked at the town budget. He said the budget needs to be more transparent, with clear statements of where the town’s expenditures are in relation to the budget on a regular basis. He said the town isn’t in danger of failing an audit, but it does need a CPA in the office.

Foster agreed there should be a CPA in the town government. He said it isn’t clear whether the town’s debt is increasing, or what to do if it does. Chestertown already has some of the highest taxes in the state, he said.

Bailey said he would need to work with the town staff to see how things work. “I agree there should be long-term planning,” he said.

Another audience member asked how to increase affordable housing in town.

Foster said the town does have some affordable housing, but not enough. He said there are no easy solutions – “Rent freezes don’t work,” he said. He said restoring some of the dilapidated houses in town might be the best solution.

Bailey said infill development is part of the solution. He said Easton has had some success in lowering rents, and Chestertown might learn from its approach.

Miller said rents are too high, possibly because many college students’ parents can afford them. He said rent controls in some sections of town might be an answer.

Candidates for Chestertown Ward 1 Council Member (L-R) David Foster, Bob Miller, Owen Bailey

Margie Ellsburg asked whether the candidates support the marina project.

“It’s vital to preserve access to a natural resource, the river”, said Bailey. He said it would bring people into town. It’s important to raise the parking lot at the marina to counter the effects of flooding, but it needs to pay for itself.

Miller said he has looked at the budget, and the marina seems to be paying its way. He said a better marina will be self-supporting and a draw for the town.

“We need to do what we can to make it a success,” said Foster. He said the town should work with Washington College to see about the possibility of making the Armory, owned by the college, into a conference center to bring people into town. “It’ll be a major challenge,” he said.

After several more questions, the candidates summarized their appeals in closing statements.

Bailey said the town has much to offer, thanks to those who love it and have worked for it, but not everyone has benefitted equally. “I want it to work for everyone,” he said. “It’s my home – I want to see it thrive.”

Miller recapitulated his qualifications and said he is running because he wants to give back to the community. He said the town needs to save the hospital and improve relations with the college. He said that while he is “a come here,” he is now a “be here” who is committed to the community and willing to work to make it better.

“We’re all here because we value the lifestyle, but we have to be aware of the challenges,” said Foster. “Win or lose, I commit to continuing the conversation and searching for solutions.” He said he was willing to work with anyone to solve the town’s problems. “We can all be problem-solvers – get out and vote!” he said.

Ladies of the League  – Sandy Bjork, Lynn Dolinger, Nancy Smith, Lillian Zelinkski, members of  the League of Women Voters of Kent County

The evening’s  candidate forum was organized by the League of Women Voters of Kent County, a nonpartisan political organization whose mission is to inform voters and to encourage citizen’s active participation in government and to encourage all citizens to vote.  For more information, call 410-810-1882 or visit the League’s web site.

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