The Chester River Bridge

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We often cross the Chester River Bridge several times a day, appreciating the view of the river as we go but not really thinking much about the bridge itself.  Yet this bridge is a lifeline, a vital link connecting Chestertown and Kent County to Queen Anne’s County and the rest of Maryland.

The bridge’s importance came into focus not so long ago when The State Highway Administration (SHA) announced that the bridge would be closed for inspection, maintenance, and painting for four to six weeks in the summer of 2016.  In the summer?  Tourist season?  Unthinkable!

The proposal met with opposition from the entire local community, which cited the disruption to businesses, access to the hospital and other facets of local life. Traffic between Queen Anne’s and Kent counties would have been required to cross either at Crumpton or Millington, a rather long detour for many who live just across the bridge from Chestertown, who can often see Chestertown from their own yards .  What was normally a quick, five-minute drive from Kingstown to the grocery store in Chestertown would suddenly be a 30-minute, 15-mile drive down to Crumpton, across the bridge there, then back up to Chestertown.  Then reverse it for another 30-minute, 15-mile drive back home.  Given that choice, Chester Harbor residents and others on the QA side of the river might decide it was easier to drive 20 minutes to Centreville for groceries. Chestertown might never regain their business.

However, those who live on one side of the Chester River but work on the other would have no alternative.  They in their cars would have to schlep through Crumpton and over that bridge every day.  Both ways.

Emergency workers worried about quick access to the hospital for residents on the other side of the bridge.  Could heart attack or accident victims get there in time?  And what about fires?  Could firetrucks get to the scene in time?  The Chester River Bridge was not just scenic; it was essential.

Eventually, a task force of residents, business owners and government officials from both counties hammered out a plan requiring closure of the bridge only at night for the necessary work and in the fall after the summer season. The agreement left the bridge open for the town’s Harry Potter festival and Downrigging weekend, both of which bring significant numbers of tourists – and revenue! – to town.

The maintenance work and painting was completed in the fall of 2016, and the SHA gave the bridge a clean bill of health, stating that the paint was expected to last another 20 to 25 years. And in fact, the older bridge it replaced had lasted more than a century.  (Bayly La Palme, in a presentation at the Historical Society of Kent County in November last year, gave a fascinating overview of the Chester River crossings – of which the current bridge is the third. Copies of her article “The Old Chester River Bridge” are available from the Historical Society.)

But that completion of the maintenance just over a year ago didn’t end the controversies about the span. As long ago as the 1960s, residents proposed the need for a second bridge to take heavy truck traffic around rather than through Chestertown.  A second bridge would also serve as a backup, an alternate route whenever there might be problems or closures of the other bridge. With an estimated 17,000 vehicles crossing the bridge daily, the congestion on local streets can be considerable, especially on Rt 213 – Maple and Washington Avenues.  The SHA now prefers the word “boulevard” to “bypass” but the function is the same.  Many residents blame the vibration of heavy trucks for damage to historic homes along the main routes through town. The Kent County Commissioners have regularly included a second Chester River bridge in their annual list of infrastructure priorities presented to the state for some 25 years.

The SHA, between 2007 and 2010, conducted a study for a second bridge over the Chester River at Chestertown. In the process, it looked at several options for the location, including a bridge entering Chestertown at the foot of High Street – an idea instantly rejected by residents as making the existing problems even worse. The route eventually identified as best ran east of town, running from the vicinity of Chester Harbor on the QA side to a route behind the property currently owned by KRM and being used for the new Dixon Valve warehouse. It would have connected to route 213 in the vicinity of Worton road.

That proposal met with strong opposition from Chester Harbor residents, who objected to a major road and bridge being built in close proximity to their quiet residential subdivision. Perhaps more important, from SHA’s point of view, was the multimillion-dollar cost of such a project, especially as it was in one of the less populous areas of the state. And while a second bridge across the Chester is high on Kent County’s priority list, Queen Anne’s is much more interested in the heavily-traveled Route 50 corridor between the Bay Bridge and Ocean City.

Recently, a Spy reader raised the question of the bridge’s condition in an email, writing, ” I understand that the Chester River Bridge was built in 1929 and was presumably sized for vehicles at that time. I was again startled driving across it on Friday to see a large semi-trailer loaded with pallets coming the other way.  God only knows how much it weighed.  I looked to see if there are any weight limits on the Chester River sign and there are none.  I do not know about you but I find that surprising because I frequently see less essential bridges with size limits.  Why is there no size limit on the Chester River Bridge? Why can’t the large trucks simply be routed up 544 to 301 and then down?”

The Spy checked and discovered that, in fact, according to the SHA website, there is no weight limit for the bridge – or, for that matter, on the other two state-maintained bridges in Kent County, one in Georgetown and the other in Crumpton.

Given the age of the bridge, it seems rather surprising that there is no weight limit. The question arises, has the bridge gone beyond its normal life expectancy?  The SHA’s 2010 study rated the bridge as “functionally obsolete,” though it also found that the bridge is “NOT structurally deficient.”

The study found that “The bridge across the Chester River has an ADT [Average Daily Traffic] of approximately 17,000 vehicles per day with about 10% of the vehicles being trucks or buses. Most of the trucks are classified as light or medium. The light and medium trucks are 7.5% of the total traffic. The average daily traffic volumes along High Street range from 2,000 vehicles per day south of Cross St. to approximately 11,600 vehicles per day between MD 291 and MD 514.”
The study continued by forecasting that if no second bridge is built by 2030 “…traffic volumes are anticipated to increase to approximately 9,000 to 28,600 vehicles per day along MD 213 with the highest volumes being south of the MD 291 intersection. The traffic volume across the Chester River Bridge is expected to grow to approximately 26,000 vehicles per day [by 2030].”

The complete 2010 SHA study is online here.

It has also been suggested that improvements on Route 301 now underway in Delaware may lead to much of the truck traffic now using Route 213 shifting to that route, which could potentially eliminate the need for the “boulevard.”

But that is only a possibility. There are still many questions about the current bridge and the need/prospects for a second bridge.  What does the state’s pronouncement of the bridge being “functionally obsolete” mean in practical terms?

The last study was completed in 2010; is a new study in order?

Hopefully, the various issues concerning the current “functionally obsolete” but “NOT structurally deficient” Chester River bridge will continue to be explored.  However, the towns and counties affected can argue and lobby all they want, but  the decision will ultimately be made at the state level. The state is not averse to spending money on local infrastructure — the roundabout at the top of High Street in Chestertown is a recent example. But realistically, the financial constraints and a lack of agreement on a location mean that a second Chestertown bridge with accompanying bypass, no matter how much they are needed, are unlikely to be in the cards in the foreseeable future.

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The Artists of Heron Point

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Members of the Heron Point Art Interest Group in front of large canvas painted by HP residents in an art therapy class. L-R Standing Joanne Scott, vice-chair; Olga Owens; Karen Fitzgerald, treasurer; Collette Moffatt, chair; Barbara Finneson, secretary; Seated – Leslie Baldwin, head of permanent collection; Linda Atcheson, studio chair & coordinator for outside artists

Chesertown is a thriving arts community, with many active and well-recognized artists. But while the local tradition of art goes back a long way, it has certainly gone to a new level at Heron Point. Shortly after the retirement community opened some 25 years ago, a group of residents formed an art group — which quickly established itself as one of the focal points of the local arts scene.  And now artists at Heron Point are looking forward to a new, purpose-built, studio, currently under construction by Yerkes construction of Chestertown and scheduled to be completed by spring 2018.

Collette Moffatt, chair of the Heron Point Art Interest Group, in the current Artists Studio.

Collette Moffatt, the current chair of the Art Interest Group, said in an interview that artists of all levels of experience are members. The gamut runs from former art teachers and professional illustrators to neophytes  — like herself — who decided to pursue an interest in art after retirement. There are classes for all levels of artists. One class is “Zen Art,” which is designed to give aspiring artists a chance to try their hands at creating work without some of the more intimidating aspects of a typical art class. Moffatt said about 16 members have signed up for space in the new studio when it becomes available.  The art group as a whole has 44 members, though not all work in the studio.

Joanne Scott with one of her paintings in the Heron Point studio

Joanne Scott, whom the Heron Point artists consider their “artist in residence” because of her extensive experience – including exhibits of her work at Chestertown RiverArts and nationwide — is perhaps the best known of the group. (Click here for a Spy feature on Scott from 2012.)

Scott, a retired professional artist and art teacher who lived in Annapolis for 30 years, has given classes to other Heron Point residents for about 5 years, and has been instrumental in encouraging other residents to take up art for the first time. She also continues to exhibit regularly, with a show, “Elements,” scheduled for Chestertown RiverArts Feb. 1-24. An opening reception for the show will take place Feb.2, First Friday.

Several Heron Point artists, including Linda Atcheson, Jack Fancher, and Olga Owens, have works in the current members’ exhibit at RiverArts.  The exhibit will be on display through the end of January.

The hallway along the administrative wing of Heron Point regularly features a rotating exhibit of Heron Point artists, including Fancher, long a fixture of the local arts community and now a Heron Point resident. While the hallway is currently being refinished, with fresh paint on the walls, a new exhibit will be up as soon as the work is completed. And there are pictures spread around Heron Point from artists who belonged to the group from the early years of the program — Anne Frye, Hilda Green and Loraine Hall among them.

Other works by the resident artists hang at various points around the facility – a large painting by Scott is above the stairway leading to the dining room, and a triptych by Fancher is on the wall outside the current studio. A large abstract canvas done by members of the art therapy program hangs at the foot of the main stairway.

As the latter painting indicates, art is a pervasive feature of the Heron Point community, with an active art program available for residents in the assisted living section of the facility. “Even dementia patients can paint,” said Scott, noting that the ability to express oneself often survives past the point where verbal communication becomes difficult.

The paintings shown here are from a display of Heron point residents’ art last fall.  In addition to regular shows of artwork by Heron Point residents, the Art Interest Group also arranges for visiting exhibits by outside artists.

All this is in addition to the permanent collection of art which is displayed throughout the main building and outside on the grounds.  While most of the artworks are paintings, there are also statues, ceramics, and large installations such as the wooden boat which sails the ceiling of the lobby and the whimsical “larger than life” Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel that currently sits beside the main staircase.

Main parlor in lobby of Heron Point with sail boat

The current studio also hosts a weekly bird-carving group led by the  Bill Reinhold. A display cabinet with some of their work is visible on one wall of the studio.

The artists are especially excited at the news that they are about to get a new, larger, purpose-built studio.  Leslie Baldwin, one of the members of the Art Interest Group, said there is now studio space for about 10 artists. Also, the limited space doesn’t allow sufficient ventilation for some media, notably oils and pastels, which can generate dust and odors that bother many people. Even so, when visitors from one of the other retirement homes in the Acts group visited Heron Point, they were “very jealous” of the local artists. Heron Point is the only facility in the chain with a dedicated studio space. Linda Atcheson said the studio is “a big selling point” for prospective residents. “Many Chestertown people see Heron Point’s art program and want to come here because of it,” she said.

At present, the art studio is in an unoccupied apartment along the river side of the complex – offering permanent working space for about 10 members, though others get to share the facility. Because apartments in the facility are in high demand, the location of the studio has changed three times since it was set up. However, about two years ago when planning began for the new permanent studio began, Heron Point’s executive director, Garret Falcone, promised the artists that they wouldn’t have to move again until the new permanent facility is completed.  And now that time is almost here.

The new studio, being built on the front of the building near the main entrance, will have room for about 14 artists at a time – and will have upgraded ventilation. It will also have generous windows in the “bump-out”, allowing plenty of “wonderful light” for the artists to work in. There will also be space for classes and other individual and group projects.

The studio space, being built by Yerkes Construction, is expected to be ready by Spring 2018.

Photo Gallery – photography by Jane Jewell.

Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel guards the staircase at Heron Point

Statuettes of herons grace the circular drive in front of main Heron Point building.

Architect’s rendering of Artists Studio at Heron Point as it will look when completed in spring 2018

Map of Heron Point main building

Carved wooden bird in display case in a corner of the Heron Point art studio

Carved wooden bird in display case in a corner of the Heron Point art studio

 

 

 

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The Legacy of Fireworks at Washington College

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An artist’s rendering of “Radiant Echo,” the light sculpture to be installed  at Washington College as seen from the green

Former Washington College President Joseph McLain is remembered for many things – but his most enduring legacy may well be the tradition of fireworks displays at the college.

Joseph McLain shares a laugh with students

McLain, a chemistry professor with a lifelong interest in pyrotechnics, attended Washington College as an undergraduate. After college, he served in the World War II chemical corps, working on such projects as an improved hand grenade fuse and underwater cutting torches. After the war, he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Johns Hopkins, then returned to Washington College to teach. Over the course of his career, he made the college a center for the study of fireworks, both in the academic community and in the commercial fireworks industry. His work focused, among other things, on improving fireworks ignition systems so as to avoid timing errors, which can be dangerous as well as spoiling the artistic effect of a display. He became the 22nd president of the college in 1973 and served until his death in 1981 — the only alumnus ever to fill the position. McLain was also responsible for establishing the annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Chestertown, which he staged on the Washington College campus.

John Conkling

In 1969, McLain hired one of his former students – John Conkling, also a Hopkins Ph.D. – to join the chemistry faculty at the college. McLain steered Conkling toward the study of pyrotechnics, which resulted in the first federal safety standards for fireworks, jointly created by the two and enacted in 1976 by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. In 1985, Conkling resigned his full-time teaching position to become Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association– a position he held until 1998. He continued to teach adjunct courses without taking a salary, and hosted the annual Summer Pyrotechnics Seminars at Washington College.

Largely because of the legacy of McLain and Conkling, fireworks displays have become a tradition at Washington College, welcoming students back to campus in the fall and celebrating graduation and other occasions such as the inauguration of current president Kurt Landgraf. Residents near the college often come out to see the shows, which are visible and audible from a wide area of the town.

Chestertown also had a history of fireworks before McLain, most notably with the Kent Manufacturing plant, which, beginning in 1941, produced defense materiel for World War II and then added fireworks to its line after the war. After his return to Chestertown, McLain became a partner in the business, along with founder Tony Fabrizi, whom he had met during his time in the service. That venture came to an end when a fire and explosion destroyed the plant in 1954. But McLain continued to work with the pyrotechnics industry, with a special interest in safety standards.

Now, to create a more permanent monument to McLain, Conkling and their pyrotechnics work, McLain’s daughter Lynn McLain, is raising funds for “Radiant  Echo,” an innovative art installation planned for the atrium of the Toll Science Center at the college. Intended to serve as an enduring art piece for the college and the town of Chestertown, “Radant Echo,” designed by Flux Studio of Baltimore, will be a three- dimensional grid of LED fixtures suspended in the 3-story atrium. The fixtures, which will hang to within 14 feet of the floor, will flash and flicker in emulation of a fireworks display, with chrome spheres suspended within the field to reflect and amplify the lights. According to a prospectus for the program, “As with fireworks, spectators will know that something will happen, but they won’t know exactly what, or exactly when.”

An artist’s rendering of”Radiant Echo” as seen from inside the atrium

The prospectus adds, “The choreography of the sculpture will draw from both the chemical behavior of fireworks and the phenomenal experience of observing them, contrasting familiar aerial exploding with inward collapsing at the atomic scale.” It will be programmed to operate in two states, depending on the time of day. Its default, resting state will feature short bursts of light at the outer edges of the sculpture, a “momentary flickering at the corner of one’s eye that vanishes almost as soon as it appears.” In its nighttime, or active, state, the tentative flickerings will “crescendo and then explode, piercing the darkness and dissolving into a cascading shower of light. At times the whole sculpture will erupt in a cacophony of explosions, recalling the grand finale of a fireworks show.” The displays will be visible from the campus green outside Toll Science Center and from Washington Avenue.as well as to those inside the building.

“Radiant Echo” will also have an educational function. Glenn Shrum, who designed the sculpture, plans to teach an interdisciplinary workshop while the piece is being installed. Also, college faculty will be able to use the sculpture in their classes on physics, chemistry, psychology, computer programming, and art. And as part of its installation, there will be a symposium on fireworks drawing on many different disciplines. There will also be a public honoring of Dr. Conkling and his wife Sandy.

Lynn McLain said on Jan. 7 that she hopes fundraising for the project will be completed within the year. Installation of the project is expected to take 14 to 16 months, she said. The final contacts for the construction of the project are in process.

To help promote the project, Lynn McLain has written an illustrated coffee-table book, For the Love of Fireworks, published in 2017. Proceeds from the book will help to fund the creation of “Radiant Echo.” The book is full of fascinating detail and would make a great gift. The book explores the history and cultural associations of fireworks, and includes a series of trivia questions such as when fireworks were invented, where the largest fireworks display on record took place, components used in their manufacture, and so forth. For the Love of Fireworks is available online at $56.99 from Amazon and other online booksellers.  Or buy the book, hard or softcover, directly from author McLain at http://www.loveoffireworks.com .   The price is the same and a direct purchase, McLain said, will result in a larger contribution to the project.

Fundraising is underway to cover the estimated $250,000 cost of building and installing “Raidant Echo.” McLain said on Jan. 7 that the campaign had raised just over $100,000. To contribute to the effort, contact Lynn McLain at 410-778-4515 or lmclain@ubalt.edu.  You can also contribute through the Washington College Office of Advancement at 410-778-7801. Checks can be made out to the Washington College Office of Advancement, with “Atrium Sculpture Project” in the memo line. The address is Washington College Office of Advancement,  300 Washington Ave.,  Chestertown, MD 21620.

And then look forward to fabulous firework displays on Washington College campus, both real and simulated via “Radiant Echo.”

 

 

 

Local Drug and Alcohol Council Unveils Heroin Education Trailer

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Inside the “Heroin Van” — a replica of a teenage drug user’s bedroom

On Wednesday, Jan. 3, the Kent County Local Drug and Alcohol Council unveiled “a new initiative in an effort to create awareness, education, and treatment intervention opportunities for folks dealing with substance abuse issues.” This new program involves a traveling “teenager’s bedroom on wheels.”   This bedroom on wheels will provide an educational opportunity for parents. Staff will use the van to show parents what to look for and to let them know about other resources to assist people with substance abuse problems– especially opioid related.

​The 7’ x 14’ trailer was purchased by the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff John Price said, “The trailer was purchased using seized drug related funds. It is our hope that this will help educate families and provide a unique way to deliver resources throughout Kent County for people who need help dealing with substance abuse.” Sheriff Price also recognized Warden Herb Dennis of the Kent County Detention Center and Director Wayne Darrell and Ginger Gregg from the Office of Emergency Services for their help with the project.

Volunteers and staff associated with the Kent County LDAC at the unveiling of the new van on Wed. Jan 3.

The trailer made its public debut in the parking lot of the Kent County office building at 400 High Street. After a meeting of the Local Drug and Alcohol Council in the County Commissioners’ meeting room, members were given a chance to view the trailer, which at first glance appears to be an innocent replica of a teenager’s bedroom. But on closer inspection, many “ordinary” objects are revealed as hiding places for drugs or drug paraphernalia.

Gregg said the trailer will be open to adults (over age 18) only, so as to avoid giving young people ideas about ways to cover up drug use. For the same reason, she asked the Spy not to publish details of the hiding places in the bedroom.  We can note, however, that despite the road sign on the bedroom wall, there is no Interstate 420.  There were originally plans to build a by-pass around Atlanta, GA, off Interstate 20 that would have been called I-420, but it was never built and has been officially canceled.  The term 420 has been a code word for smoking marijuana since the early 1970s.  It supposedly refers to the the time 4:20 pm after school when kids would meet to smoke.  Other stories offer different origins for the term, but whatever the source, young people have been buying — or stealing — road signs with the number 420 for years.  It’s appearance on a teen’s bedroom wall does not, of course, prove drug use but it is an indication that the teen is aware of drug slang.  This sign was just one of many “clues” in the van.

​The trailer will travel around the county where staff will show it to people, while explaining what to look for.  There will also be informational pamphlets that parents can take home with contact information on other resources for help on substance abuse. Gregg said the LDAC plans to bring the bedroom on wheels to community events such as Chestertown Tea Party and Galena Dogwood Festival and to schools and churches to spread awareness. Organizations wishing to schedule a visit should call Ginger Gregg at 410-778-7472 or Sheriff Price at 410-778-2279. Every effort will be made to accommodate requests.

According to Price there were 18 verified opioid overdoses, including one death, in Kent county in 2017.  However, he said, not all overdoses are reported, so this is a conservative number.

Gregg said, “We are working hard to deliver the needed awareness and resources for our communities throughout Kent County. Please call us!”

A side view of the heroin van

The rear of the heroin van, with a list of sponsors

Chestertown Council – New Year, New Members

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Mayor and Council of Chestertown at first meeting of the new year, Jan 2, 2018. L-R: Marty Stetson, representative Ward 4; Ellsworth Tolliver, representative Ward 3; Jen Mulligan, town clerk; Chris Cerino, mayor; Bill Ingersoll, town manager; Linda Kuiper, representative Ward 2; David Foster, representative Ward 1

The Chestertown Council, at its first meeting of 2018, swore in two new council members, David Foster and the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver. Mayor Chris Cerino was also sworn in for his second term by Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford.

Mayor Chris Cerino swears Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver in as representative for the Third Ward. Tolliver’s uncle, the Rev. Robert Brown, holds the Bible for the induction.

Both new council members said they were excited at their new responsibilities. Tolliver. representing the Third Ward, said he was looking forward to representing the interests of his ward, while Foster, who represents the First Ward, said he had been greatly encouraged during the election campaign to learn how many voters were eager to talk to him about their concerns.

Cerino then delivered the annual Report on Municipal Affairs, as mandated by the town charter. Highlights of 2017 included the groundbreaking for the Dixon Distribution Center on the newly annexed property along Route 213 north of town; progress in upgrading the town-owned marina and in obtaining funding for the remaining phases of the project; improvements in Margo Bailey Park, Wilmer Park, and Washington Park; and the sale of the old police station to Sultana Educational Foundation. Ongoing projects included the agreement with the hospital concerning the oil leak on its grounds, and the effort to retain hospital services adequate to the community; the various festivals and celebrations that bring visitors to town; and efforts to market the town to visitors and potential new businesses.

Mayor Chris Cerino swears David Foster in as representative for the First Ward. (Town Manager bill Ingersoll in background.)

In addition to summarizing the past year’s achievements, Cerino outlined the following goals for the coming year:

“Keep taxes at the same rate ($0.37 per $100 assessed value) if possible while maintaining our chartered service responsibilities;

“Work with the Kent County Commissioners to discuss the possibility of reinstating a tax differential and/or tax rebate for Chestertown;

“Work with the County to address the apparent unfairness of hotels and B&Bs paying room rental taxes while newer forms of transient rental activities such as Air BNB and VRBO elude the tax;

“Aggressively pursue all forms of public and private funding to complete the revitalization of Chestertown Marina;

“Continue our work with businesses, business associations, industries, and institutions to improve the local economy and keep storefronts filled;

“Support all events, festivals, and celebrations that bring our Town to life;

“Protect the Town’s drinking wells at all costs;

“Repave or repair streets as part of a comprehensive, long-term plan;

“Complete Phase IV of the Rail Trail to Foxley Manor;

“Create a new branding for Chestertown that will be incorporated into Town signage. Add directional signage throughout the community;.

“Work with Washington College to design, engineer, and identify funding sources for the planned waterfront walk along the Chester River on College-owned lands between Wilmer Park and the mouth of Radcliffe Creek;

“Continue to improve our recreation programs, expand recreational activities for all ages in Chestertown, and involve the input of our youth in the decision-making process;

“Encourage and expand recycling and all other greening efforts, increase public awareness of the need and advantages of these efforts, and continue to plant trees to reach the Town’s canopy goal;

“Increase efforts to bring heritage and eco-tourism to Chestertown through the use of the web site and social media, and promote the community as an arts and entertainment destination. Work with the medical community, Eastern Shore delegation, Kent County Commissioners, and residents to advocate for retention of services at our local Hospital.”

Mark Mumford swears in Chris Cerino for his second term as the mayor of Chestertown,

The Chestertown Spy plans to focus on several of these issues in depth in the weeks to come.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll reported on recent town activities, including the MVA bus schedule and permits processed for upcoming events including Chester Gras on Feb 10.     John Queen presented a report entitled “Reconnect to Life” about a state-sponsored program to identify youth at risk and connect them to resources for education, employment and other life skills.  Queen, who is well-known locally for his involvement with the Bayside HOYAs, is the director of the local branch of the “Reconnect to Life” program. There were several other short reports – all of which will be included in the official minutes if the meeting and will be available online in the near future.

Photos by Jane Jewell

Marty Stetson, Ellsworth Tolliver, Jen Mulligan

 

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Samaritans Group’s Shelter to Open Jan. 2

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Church of the Nazarene, in Kingstown, hosts the Samaritan Group homeless shelter beginning Jan. 2

The Samaritans Group’s Emergency Winter Shelter is open Tuesday, Jan. 2. January through March each winter. The shelter provides a place to sleep and stay warm in one of the local churches, staffed primarily by volunteers. The Samaritans make efforts to allow guests to attend school, get to work, and have access to resources for other services they may need.

Guests are referred by the Kent County Department of Social Services. All guests are required to remain drug- and alcohol-free during their stay in the shelter.

Guests in the shelter receive a free hot dinner, a breakfast and a bag lunch the next day.

First United Church hosts the Samaritan Group homeless shelter in February.

Three local churches provide space for the shelter: The Church of the Nazarene hosts in January. First United Methodist Church takes over in February, and Chestertown Presbyterian Church hosts for the month of March.

Martha Wefelmeyer, a Samaritan Group board member, wrote in an email Dec. 28, “January – March 2017 we served 670 bednights with approximately 180 volunteers. In 2016 we served 557 bednights. A bednight is one person sleeping at the shelter, eating dinner & breakfast there and having a packed lunch to take with them for the day.”

Wefelmeyer added, “We have hired a new Shelter Director this year, James Diggs, Pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. His phone number for more information is 443-480-3564. We have also hired a Resource Worker to assist our guests with finding permanent housing, employment, and other community services.”

The Samaritan group provided almost 700 bed nights for guests during the winter of 2014, averaging eight to ten guests a night for the three months the shelter was in operation. In 2015 and 2016, the shelter provided more than 700 additional bed nights. During the remaining nine months of  the year, the Samaritan Group serves those who need emergency shelter by providing temporary stays in local motels.

The Samaritan Group, a non-profit community organization, has been working to shelter Kent County’s homeless since 2001. In addition to the winter homeless shelter, it provides outreach services including help with finding permanent residences or paying utility bills, working with landlords to avoid evictions, help with the cost of emergency medical care and coordination with local agencies to provide clothing, furniture and child care necessities.

To volunteer, go to the Samaritans’ website and fill out the volunteer form, or call 443-480-3564 and leave a message for the volunteer coordinator.

For more information, or if you know someone in need of a place to stay, call 443-480-3564 or email samaritangroupkent@gmail.com.

 

Community Sing-Along Fills Park With Joy

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Fountain Park was full of smiling faces and singing voices Sunday, Dec. 16 as the Chester Valley Ministers’ Association presented a sing-along. Christmas Carols and Holiday songs were the order of the day.

The Rev. James Van de Wal stands at the podium as members of sponsoring groups lead the singing

The Rev. James Van de Wal, president of the CVMA, acted as master of ceremonies. Pianist Phil Dutton provided accompaniment, and representatives of sponsoring organizations came to the stage to lead singing. Sponsors included The Chestertown Spy, The Peoples Bank, Kent County Arts Council, Tidewater Trader, The Kent County News, WCTR Radio, Kent Printing, the Town of Chestertown and JBK Hardware.

While there was a touch of snow still on the ground from Friday, the weather was comfortably warm. The organizers provided colorful booklets with words and music to songs. In addition to Christmas favorites, the book included songs for Hannukah and Kwanza.

Van de Wal, in a letter of thanks to the Chestertown Spy, said the CVMA received donations at the event and additional pledges sufficient to cover expenses and to make a generous addition to the organization’s Good Neighbor Fund, which provides one-time payments to residents in need of help with rent, bills, and other emergency financial assistance.

Caroling around the fountain

Cantor Gary Schiff leads the crowd in “I Have a Little, Dreidel,” a Hanukkah song.

Cast Set for Church Hill Theatre’s “Biloxi Blues”

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Fresh recruits on their bunks in Church Hill Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. Clockwise from the top left: Robbie Spray, Jeff Rank, Troy Strootman, Morgan Jung, Timothy Daly, Anthony Daly.

Director Michael Whitehill has announced the cast for Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues, the lead off production in Church Hill Theatre’s 2018 season. The Tony Award winning play is set at boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi during World War II. Loosely autobiographical, the comedy pits the cruel and caustic Sgt. Toomey against the draftees, especially the sensitive Arnold Epstein. His friend Eugene Morris Jerome channels Simon’s own memories of military service as a fledgling author. This classic coming-of-age tale includes danger, sex, love, prejudice, bravery and some pretty salty army talk.

Arnold Epstein will be played by Robbie Spray and Eugene Morris Jerome by Troy Strootman. Other draftees are Anthony Daly as Roy Selridge, Timothy Daly as Joseph Wykowski, Morgan Jung as Don Carney, and Jeff Rank as James Hennesey. John Haas takes the role of their nemesis, Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey. Kendall Irene Davis is the sweet Daisy Hannigan and Christine Kinlock is the not-so-sweet Rowena. Scarlett Chappell completes the cast, playing a USO dancer.

Whitehill, one of Church Hill Theatre’s most experienced directors, most recently directed the thought-provoking Doubt: A Parable.  His production team for Biloxi Blues includes Sylvia Maloney, Laura Crabtree, Steve Atkinson, Katie Sardo, Douglas Kaufmann and Brian Draper.

Biloxi Bues will open at Church Hill Theatre on January 19, 2018, and run through February 4, with weekend performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.  Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for members, and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. CHT offers two for the price of one tickets on opening night, Friday, January 19, to those who reserve by phone. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online here.

 

Cerino Looks Back at First Term

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Mayor Chris Cerino gives a retrospective of his first term in office

At the final council meeting of his first term as Mayor of Chestertown, Chris Cerino took a look back at the four years since he took office. It was a remarkable reminder of just how much has happened in just a short span of time.

Gilchrest Rail Trail in Chestertown

At the top of the list were the capital projects the town has taken on, whether on its own or partnering with county and state governments, many of them enhancements to the town’s recreational facilities. The list included extension of the Gilchrest Rail Trail from Lynchburg Street to the top of High Street near Radcliffe Creek, where it connects to Gateway Park, also completed during Cerino’s term. Upgrades to the Kent County Middle School playground, done in conjunction with the school district with state Parks and Playgrounds funding, included a new track and fitness stations and repairs to the basketball and tennis courts. In Fountain Park, sidewalks were widened and a new pathway was created from the High Street side to the fountain; benches were replaced and the turf was resodded. The Ajax basketball court was repaved and playground equipment and benches were added.

Installation of Broad Reach sculpture in Wilmer Park. Photo by Jane Jewell

In Wilmer Park, the new Broad Reach sculpture was installed, initiating the town’s new public art program; also, the brick sidewalk on Queen Street was extended from the vicinity of Sumner Hall to Wilmer Park. Washington Park was upgraded by installing the benches removed in the Fountain Park renovation; there are also grant applications for additional work to upgrade the neighborhood park. And the parking area at Margo Bailey Park was expanded, improving access to the popular dog park as well as the other facilities in the park.

The town moved its police department to a larger, more modern facility at 601 High Street, closing the old police station on Cross Street and eventually selling it to Sultana Educational Foundation. A large solar field was installed at the wastewater plant, providing significant savings in the town’s power bills. The bridge on East Queen Street by Horsey Lane was also repaired, and speed bumps were installed on Calvert Street to slow traffic near Garnet Elementary School. And the holiday lights in the downtown area were upgraded, along with a renovation of Santa’s house, thanks to Yerkes Construction and Washington College’s Habitat for Humanity group.

Progress on the marketing and economic development front began with an upgrade of the town’s website, producing a more user-friendly and visitor-oriented tool for publicizing the town and its events. Cerino also cited several forums where the town heard the concerns of the business community. Designation of the Arts & Entertainment District and appointment of Kay MacIntosh as the district manager were also important steps in giving the town a fresh look, along with the revival of the Main Street Program under MacIntosh. The town also worked with Kent County and the state of Maryland to create an enterprise zone, which has already realized benefits in the form of the KRM development at the north end of town.

Visitors enjoying the Harry Potter Festival

Cerino also listed the new events that have been created to draw visitors to town. Among them were Chester Gras, sponsored by Peoples Bank; Legacy Day, sponsored by the Historical Society; the Harry Potter or HP Festival; the Young Professionals’ Brew Fest; and the Winterfest, which this year morphed into Dickens of a Christmas.

There were two major annexations, including the northeast plot where the KRM development is taking place and the site of the wastewater plant.

The town’s relationship with the hospital was a central issue throughout the term. Issues included an agreement over the oil contamination under the hospital property, under which the hospital agreed to cover the town for any damage caused by possible leakage of the oil into the town’s water supply. Also, the Save the Hospital Group worked hard to counteract reported plans by the University of Maryland Medical System to close or downsize the local hospital; ultimately, Cerino said, efforts by the town and the citizen groups led to the creation of the state’s Rural Health Care Workgroup.

The Chestertown Marina during Downrigging weekend 2017. Drone photo courtesy of ShoreStudio, by Sam Shoge

A major focus of the town’s efforts went into upgrading the town-owned marina, including replacement of bulkheads and piers, raising the level of the parking lot, replacement of the existing marina center with a new building, and an agreement to allow expansion of the Fish Whistle restaurant, which shares the waterfront with the marina.

Washington College also went through a significant period of growth during Cerino’s first term, with a new dormitory building and a new academic center on Washington Avenue. Ground has also been broken for a new boathouse and an environmental center on the college’s riverfront campus.

Cerino also noted the closing of a number of businesses, including Stam’s Drugstore and Chestertown Pharmacy, Paul’s Shoe Store, the Blue Heron restaurant, Radio Shack, Rose’s, and the Washington College Sandbox. But a number of new businesses have sprung up to replace them, including Redner’s, Tractor Supply, the Verizon store, the 7-Eleven, Bad Alfred’s and many more.

Cerino thanked the council members for working together to deal with the large load of work. “It was an honor and a privilege to work with you guys on it,” he said. “Here’s to another four years.”

Council members Liz Gross and Sam Shoge, both attending their final meeting, expressed their thanks to the town staff for making their work on the council go smoothly. Both said they were surprised by the diversity of issues and by how much they learned about the workings of the town during their time in office.