Mid-Shore Health Futures: How Our Regional Hospitals Measure Up

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Susan Coe was in search of cottage cheese.

The chief experience officer and senior vice president at University of Maryland’s Shore Regional Health was looking in on a new patient at UM Medical Center at Easton. The patient, she learned, wanted her cottage cheese not in a small compartment on a tray but on a plate.

“She had her heart set on the platter,” Coe said.

The nurse immediately called food services to make the change but Coe said she decided to go get the plate of cottage cheese herself.

“It’s about respecting the patient,” she said.

That attention to patient satisfaction is part of a major change in hospitals, including at Shore Regional Health. Before 2007, hospitals largely measured their success by looking at “hard” data that evaluate patient safety and outcomes for specific procedures or events, such as heart attacks or infections. But in the past decade, the federal government began requiring that hospitals also measure how satisfied patients are with their care. Each hospital patient is given a 27-question survey that asks a range of questions, from how well the doctors and nurses communicated, to how noisy and clean the hospital was, to whether the patient would recommend the hospital to a friend.

And Shore Regional Health didn’t like what it was seeing, at least in one area.

Robert Carroll, regional director performance measurement & improvement, said that for the last eight quarters patient satisfaction ratings had been declining at the Easton and Dorchester facilities (considered one entity in ratings) and at its Chestertown hospital. The latest published data, from April 2015 to the end of March 2016, show that the Shore Regional Health hospitals score below average in patient satisfaction nationally and statewide. This is the despite the fact that the hospitals scored average or above average in most of its quality and safety ratings both statewide and nationally.

By contrast, the latest data show that Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis and Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury rate better than average statewide and nationally in patient satisfaction. Peninsula also scored better than average in quality and patient safety ratings statewide and nationally. And Anne Arundel rated better than average nationally in quality and a safety, while it rated average statewide. In Maryland, consumers can go online to get information on safety, quality and satisfaction ratings at the Maryland Health Care Commission website (http://healthcarequality.mhcc.maryland.gov).

In December, Shore Regional Health launched a program called HEART to change patients’ perception of their care. And that, Coe said, required that caregivers consciously reconnect with what brought them into health care in the first place. “It’s about empathy, communication and connection,” Coe said. “It’s listening, watching, understanding.”

In the first phase of the program, 25 peer counsellors were trained. From January through March, those counsellors then led three-hour sessions among Shore Regional Health’s more than 2,000 employees. The focus, Coe said, was on helping caregivers see the hospital experience through the patient’s eyes.

“Every patient is reluctant to enter the hospital,” said Trena Williamson, regional director of communications and marketing at Shore Regional Health. “But for the medical staff, this is their normal.”

A new mother with a sick baby might see things differently than a veteran nurse with other, sicker patients, Williamson said. The HEART program helps staff “recalibrate” so as to see the situation from the patient’s perspective, she said.

Coe said patient satisfaction surveys are helpful but it is the comments that are most useful.

“The scores give us a number but the comments give us gifts of insight and direction,” she said. “We really look at comments– and we follow up.”

Keeping a patient-centered focus is “baked into the culture” at Anne Arundel Medical Center, where about 10 percent of hospital patients and 1 in 5 office visitors are from the Eastern Shore, said Maulik Joshi, executive vice president of integrated care delivery and chief operating officer.

Joshi said new hires are made based on their willingness not only to deliver the best medical care but also to make sure patients feel a personal connection.

“We own ‘I care’ behavior,” he said. “I—I sit down and talk with a patient at the beside; C—I connect with patients by smiling and saying hello; A—I answer quickly when someone has a question; R—I always tell everyone my role; and E—I always escort people.”

At Peninsula, the team approach and employees who live in the community and have worked many years at the hospital are key to both a high quality of care and patients’ happiness, said Sheri Matter, the hospital’s vice president of patient services.

Nurses and doctors together visit the patient to ensure everyone—including the patient—understands the plan of care, both in the hospital and when the patient goes home, she said.

And, she said, there is a “direct correlation” between patient satisfaction and “higher quality outcomes.”

“You have to listen,” she said.

Coe, at Shore Regional Health, would agree.

There, HEART has entered Phase 2: coaching and helping hospital staff put the program into practice. After that, “we’ll expand, go deeper,” she said.

In the meantime, Carroll said he is not worried about the ratings.

“We’re doing this because it’s a better way to do it,” he said. “The numbers will take care of themselves.”

The Regional Overview

If you have a heart attack, bicycle accident or need knee surgery, it’s useful to know how your hospital rates in quality of care, safety, and patient satisfaction.

Thanks to a growing trend in healthcare that looks at outcomes instead of just treatments, many government and private groups collect and disseminate data on hospitals’ performance. The information includes everything from specific comparisons about the likelihood of getting a hospital-acquired infection to how quiet the hospital corridors are at night. Hospitals are graded on these benchmarks and can be compared across a state or against a neighboring state.

In Maryland, which has a unique arrangement with the federal government for hospital reimbursements, consumers can go to a state website to see how their hospitals compare on many of these milestones.

The Maryland Health Care Commission, an independent agency, has an online consumer guide that can help answer many of your questions:

For example, you can use the website to look at a combined quality and safety score for every hospital in the state. Most hospitals in the state rank average on combined quality and safety compared with other Maryland hospitals, including the University of Maryland Shore Medical Centers at Easton, Chestertown and Dorchester. The only ones listed as better than average statewide are Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. Anne Arundel Medical Center, rated average statewide, is among 21 Maryland hospitals rated better than average compared with hospitals nationwide.

Much of the data come from the federal government, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The federal site also has its own hospital comparison tools. You can also go directly to the centers’ site: Medicare.gov. The direct link to the hospital compare site is found here.

Using that site, you can find and compare hospitals across the nation and check them out against the ones in your own backyard.

With all the information that is collected, using the sites can be a little daunting. But there is a way to cut through the clutter to find what you’re looking for.

Start out with the overall ratings to see how the hospitals stack up

Zero in on areas that align with your procedure–for example, maternity care or orthopedic surgery.

Look at the patient satisfaction measures, which tell you things like how well the hospital staff communicates with patients about the discharge instructions, prescriptions, etc.

If you have to go to the emergency room, there’s also information on how quickly you’ll get attention from the medical staff. Easton, Chestertown and Peninsula hospitals were rated better than average in six measures for how quickly emergency room patients were handled compared with other hospitals in the state. Anne Arundel was below average in four of the six measures.

 

Spy Contributor Robert Tiernan was managing editor of Consumer Reports from 2006 to 2015. Spy Contributor Ridgely Ochs covered health care, personal health and medicine for more than 20 years at Newsday on Long Island. They both now live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Washington College Graduates 292

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Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, encouraged graduating Washington College students to keep an open mind to the constant question of “what comes next,” while knowing that their education has given them the strongest footing from which to answer it throughout their lives.

“Saying ‘I don’t know’ is one of the hardest things to do in life,” Lagarde told graduates, families, faculty, and alumni during the college’s 234th Commencement on the Campus Green, May 20. “We have all been trained from a young age to have an answer at the ready. But the reality is that the answer is not what matters most—it is knowing how to find the answer that is key. Your education—this wonderful, complex, classical, liberal arts training—has given you the foundation you need to begin to solve the puzzle of ‘What comes next?’ ’’

Although the future these graduates face is one where technology, automation, and artificial intelligence may take over the tasks now managed by humans, Lagarde said that the problem-solving skills, empathy, and perspective inherent in the liberal arts will become even more critical as time goes on.

“Many of the founders of this country, who were lawyers, businessmen, and farmers by training, could also recite orations from Pericles by heart. Those polymath skills not only gave their revolution historical context, it informed the society they hoped to build,” she said. “Your school embodies their vision and has instilled in you a love of knowledge. Success for your generation requires a commitment to life-long learning and an understanding that today is a milestone in your education, but it is not the end. The truth is that college has taught you how to learn, not what to learn.”

“By choosing Washington College, each of you has stood up and said that public service is important in your life. The values of this institution come directly from Washington himself; his example serves as the inspiration for your honor code. You have made a promise to help others and now you must follow through,” she said. “Think about what matters most to you—is it climate change? Homelessness? Improving education? Whatever it is, fight for it.”

Read the complete text of LaGarde’s speech here.

Before the address, President Sheila Bair awarded Lagarde an honorary doctor of laws.

Along with conferring degrees upon 292 graduates, the ceremonies on the campus green included multiple awards and citations:

  • James Allen Hall, associate professor of English and the director of the Rose O’ Neill Literary House, earned the Alumni Association’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.
  • Alex Aiello Roberts, a math and computer science major, philosophy minor, from Bel Air, Md., won the George Washington Medal and Award, given to the senior who shows the greatest promise of understanding and realizing in life and work the ideals of a liberal education.
  • Anna Elizabeth Inserra, a chemistry major from Dix Hills, N.Y., won the Clark-Porter Medal, given to the student whose character and personal integrity, in the opinion of the faculty, have most clearly enhanced the quality of campus life.
  • Alexandra D. Kurtz, of Lancaster, Pa., a political science major with minors in economics and Spanish, won the Louis L. Goldstein ’35 Award, for a graduating senior who, in the opinion of the faculty, has demonstrated unusual interest, enthusiasm, and potential in the field of public affairs.
  • Erika Louise Koontz, of Woodbine, Md., an environmental studies major with minors in Spanish and biology and a concentration in Chesapeake regional studies, earned the Eugene B. Casey Medal, given to a senior woman voted by the faculty to be outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership, and campus citizenship.
  • Patrick S. Ginther, of Harleysville, Pa., a double major in chemistry and biology with concentrations in biochemistry and organic and medicinal chemistry, won the Henry W.C. Catlin 1894 Medal, given to a senior man voted by the faculty to be outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership, and campus citizenship.
  • Two students won this year’s Jane Huston Goodfellow Memorial Prize, which goes to the graduating senior majoring in science who has an abiding appreciation of the arts and humanities and has shown scholastic excellence. They are Laura Elizabeth King, of Rising Sun, Md., a double major in biology and Hispanic studies, and Ryan Manning, of Chestertown, an English and chemistry double major and creative writing minor.
  • The Gold Pentagon Awards go to one senior and one alumnus, faculty, or friend of the College, selected by the Omicron Delta Kappa Society, in recognition of meritorious service to Washington College. This year they are Madeleine Morrissette, of Arlington, Mass., a biology major with a minor French studies, and Edward P. Nordberg ’82, former chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors.
  • Catalina Righter, an English major and creative writing minor from Manchester, Md., won the Sophie Kerr Prize, given to the senior who shows the most promise for future literary endeavor.

Shore Shakespeare to Present “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”

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To sleep, perchance to … Dream?

Shore Shakespeare is delighted to announce its forthcoming 5-county tour of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Written in 1596, this magical play has been in production constantly ever since!

Lovers and faeries, magic and mayhem, pageantry and poetry, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has it all!  Directed by Christian Rogers and produced by Shelagh Grasso, the production highlights the talents of Patrick Fee, Avra Sullivan, Brian McGunigle, and Colleen Minahan, with Christine Kinlock, Heather Oland, Robbie Spray, Troy Strootman, Lindsey Hammer, and Greg Minahan.  They are joined by Josh Hanson, John Terebey, Jane Terebey, and Sarah Gorman.

Choreography and original music are by Greg Minahan, with Magic direction by Ian Flinn.  Costumes are designed by Barbi Bedell.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on June 2nd with three special performances at Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely, MD.  Tickets for these performances are $15 and may be purchased directly from the Arboretum’s website.  Proceeds benefit the Arboretum and Shore Shakespeare Company.

 

Our Free Tour of performances opens with performances on June 9th and 10th at 6:00 pm at the Oxford Community Center in Oxford, and Idlewild Park in Easton on June 11th at 3:00 pm.  Then it’s on to Cambridge, with a performance at Long Wharf Park on June 16th at 6:00 pm, and two performances on the Cray House lawn in Stevensville, on June 17th at 6:00 pm and June 18th at 3:00 pm.  The tour concludes with two performances at Wilmer Park in Chestertown, on Friday, June 23rd at 6:00 pm and Sunday, June 25th at 3:00 pm.  Complete information and directions to all venues are available at Shore Shakespear’s website.

All tour performances are free and open to the public.  Donations in support of Shore Shakespeare are certainly welcome!  A donation of $15 per person is suggested but never required.  As an affiliate of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, all donations are fully tax-deductible.

 

Profiles in Spirituality: St. Peter and Paul’s Father James Nash

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The idea of being the leader of Saints Peter & Paul Parish could easily strike urbanites as the equivalent of being the classic country priest, whose time is spent leisurely ministering to a small flock of the faithful in a beautiful rural setting. But it didn’t take long for Father James Nash to dispel that myth very quickly from his modest office on Route 50 in Easton when the Spy caught up with him a few weeks ago.

In fact, Father Nash oversees an enterprise that is counted as one of the largest employers in Talbot County and includes an elementary school, high school, and three churches with membership in the thousands. And each week, he not only faces the normal challenges that come with any man of the cloth, but must manage over one hundred employees, fundraise for substantial building projects, and administer a $6 million annual budget during his spare time.

And yet none of this seems to weigh too heavily on the priest who left a successful accounting practice to find his real vocation within the Catholic Church. In our Spy interview, Father Nash talks about the business of St. Peter and Paul, but also about the timeless beauty of his faith, the teachings of Pope Francis, and his humble philosophy of leadership in caring for his parish.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Saints Peter and Paul Church and School, please go here.

 

Righter Is Sophie Kerr Winner

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Catalina Righter has won the 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the award.

Catalina Righter – winner of 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College in Chestertown, MD

Righter is an English major from Manchester, Md., who served as editor-in-chief of the Elm, the student newspaper. Her portfolio combined journalism, a travel essay on New Orleans, and a selection of her poetry.

In addition to editing the student newspaper, Righter was a poetry screener for Cherry Tree, the national literary journal published by the Literary House Press. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Douglas Cater Society of Junior Fellows, Sigma Tau Delta (the English honor society), and was active in the sailing and dance clubs. After graduation, she plans to look for a newspaper job, she said in an interview with the Spy when she was chosen as a finalist.

Poet Elizabeth Spires announced the award Friday night at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the nation’s largest undergraduate writing award, this year valued at $65,768. The cash award totals more than the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Penn Faulkner prize combined, according to Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator.

Accepting the award, Righter thanked her family, saying that “that my most true and unwavering sense of self comes from you.” She also thanked her teachers, and her friends and fellow writers, “especially anyone who has trusted me to read a piece of that work.” Finally, she said,  “Thank you for anyone who came today because you love someone enough to tell them to continue to write.”

Catalina Righter rises to accept award as finalists Allison Billmire, Ryan Manning and James P. Mitchell, and Washington College president Sheila Bair applaud.

“Catalina has an eye for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. She brings to bear on her poems a reporter’s objectivity and a journalist’s sense of what makes a story both memorable and beautiful,” said James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.

“Catalina’s writing evinces her remarkable ability to capture both the outrageous and the mundane, and to find surprising humor and beauty in both,” said Moncrief.

The ceremony, which drew a large crowd to the college’s Hotchkiss Recital Hall, showcased the five finalists reading from their work, which covered a range from poetry to political commentary.  (See more photos below article.)

Catalina Righter accepts Sophie Kerr Prize. Poet Elizabeth Spires looks on.

Spires, a faculty member at Goucher College, began her teaching career at Washington College in 1981. In a speech preceding the announcement, she reminisced about her days at the college, with memories of fellow faculty members Bob Day and Bennett Lamond, and offered advice to the finalists. Among her tips were learning from rejection slips and resisting the temptation to lose themselves in the online world.

Sophie Kerr Vanilla Cupcakes served at the reception following the award ceremony.

The Sophie Kerr award is named for a popular writer of the early 20th century, Eastern Shore native Sophie Kerr, who published 23 novels, hundreds of short stories, and even a cookbook. When she died at 85 years old, she bequeathed the College a half-million-dollar trust fund, stipulating that half of the annual earnings go to a graduating senior who shows the most promise for future literary endeavor. The other half funds student scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, and library books.

 

Catalina (3rd from left) with friends at reception after the presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prof James Allen Hall Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.) Catalina Righter, Prof. Kate Moncrief, chair of English Dept and Curator for Sophie Kerr Prize)

Edible Coffee Cups – Dark Chocolate with Mocha Mousse, Whipped Cream, and Raspberry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Allison Galbraith Announces for Congress

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Allison Galbraith is running for Congress.

Allison Galbraith

A small business owner and single mother from Harford County, Galbraith threw her hat into the ring on May 12 as a Democratic challenger for Rep. Andy Harris’s First District seat. Following the official campaign kickoff in Bel Air, she traveled to Chestertown and Salisbury to begin building a base of supporters on the Eastern Shore.

Galbraith’s Chestertown stop was at the Book Plate bookstore. About 20 attended, and the candidate, instead of giving a stump speech, engaged in a lively 40-minute question-and-answer session.

Tom Martin, owner of the store, opened the session by asking Galbraith about her background.

Galbraith said she is the daughter of two college professors. A University of Maryland graduate, she is “amicably separated” from her husband, a military veteran, and has a nine-year-old son and a stepson. She said her business specializes in program management and streamlining projects for the Department of Defense and in consulting with industries bidding on federal contracts involving medical technology that often ends up in civilian applications.

Asked why she is seeking the congressional seat, Galbraith said, “I think we need the perspective of the people in Congress.” The money it takes to run, and the sacrifices it takes to run are a deterrent to “everyday people” who might seek office, she said. “Right now, everything in our lives is under attack; we don’t know what’s going to be taken from us.”

She said her business was made possible by her ability to purchase private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Gender-based criteria such as having had a C-section were considered pre-existing conditions, making the rates unaffordable for her before the ACA. “If they’re going to take my health insurance and they’re going to take my business, I’m going down fighting,” she said. “And it’s not just for me, it’s for every one of us who isn’t adequately represented in Congress. Our voices are not heard, especially with Andy Harris,” who she said votes for the interests of his financial supporters “on the backs of working Americans.”

“I’m one of the working Americans,” Galbraith said. “Aren’t you sick of being trampled on by the  Republicans in government?”

Galbraith said she had spent considerable time traveling throughout the First District even before launching her campaign, “and I don’t intend to stop.” She said candidates from both parts of the district, the Eastern Shore and the Western Shore, tend to neglect the other half of the district, “and it’s not doing any of us any good.” She said she planned to visit each county “at least quarterly,” and that she would be available through social media and texting. “I have a lot of energy, I can run around the district and put 20,000 miles on my car. We deserve that from our reps, right?”

In terms of strategy, she said the Democrats need to flip about 45,000 votes to take back the district. To do so, she said she would probably fight for progressive values using “more conservative framing” of the issues. “If there were a party of critical thinking, that’s what I’d run as,” she said, but she places great importance of issues of personal rights and individual freedoms.

Other questions went into specifics including gun control (“responsible gun ownership is not a threat”), health care (“the health care system will never work out for us as long as they’re profiting by denying us care”), infrastructure (“we’re one of the richest states in the country, and there are parts of this district that don’t even have reliable internet access”), and public education (“if we care about the future, we need to care about education and preparing people for their future.”) Her answers were detailed and energetic, often drawing on personal experience.

A telling moment came when an audience member challenged her to respond to what he said would be the Republican characterization of her as “a tax-and-spend liberal” who doesn’t care about fiscal responsibility. “I have a proven record of saving millions of dollars a year for the federal government,” she said. “In terms of fiscal responsibility, I have a one-up on (Harris) because I actually save the government money.”

At the end of the visit, Galbraith’s campaign manager said her website, allisonforcongress.com, gives her positions on a range of issues. Also, anyone interested can sign up on the site for notifications of events near them, he said. He said she plans to have a series of small, informal meetings to allow people to meet her and discuss issues with her in a living-room type setting. If her appearance at the Book Plate is any sample, they would appear to be well worth attending.

Rock Hall Hosts 10th Annual “Pirates and Wenches Fantasy Weekend”

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The Greater Rock Hall Business Association and Town of Rock Hall

Present Rock Hall’s 10th PIRATES AND WENCHES FANTASY WEEKEND

On the weekend of August 11-13, 2017, landlubbers and buccaneers, young and old, will once again set sail to Rock Hall, MD for the town’s TENTH “Best of the Bay” award winning, Pirates and Wenches Fantasy Weekend!  The Greater Rock Hall Business Association’s Events Committee and the Town of Rock Hall will host this town-wide theme party–celebrating the pirate in all of us.

Come by land or come by sea to the Town of Rock Hall on the Isle of Delmarva located on the Upper Chesapeake Bay for a two and a half day town-wide theme party you will not forget! This is a wonderful opportunity to bring your boat – anchor out or raft up with your mates.  There is plenty of anchorage, dockage and raft-up space available – as well as plenty of parking for those arriving by land.  Rock Hall is less than a tank of gas from Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C and Northern Virginia.

This year we are celebrating 10 years and it promises to offer up even more mayhem and surprises!  Jump start the weekend with Music on Main Street, an evening Rum Tasting at the Inn at Osprey Point and Sea Shanty Sing – A- Long at Bay Wolf Restaurant.  Dine at one of the many award-winning restaurants, settle in and enjoy the night’s live entertainment offered at many of the town’s local watering holes, or just relax under the stars.  True to life re-enactors, The Skullduggery Crew and the Valhallas Pirates will take you into a world of wonder and fantasy fit for all ages!  Captain Black will return to entertain kids and wenches alike!

Take a stroll back into the authentic pirate encampment where you will find merchants and live entertainment fit for young and old.  On Saturday afternoon, visit Rock Hall Harbor for a magnificent view of the Chesapeake Bay and be sure to get your dinghy decorated for the Decorated Dinghy Flotilla and Pirate Dinghy Poker Run.  Cash prizes and trophies will be awarded to the Best Dressed Dinghies and Most Marina Participation!  Enjoy some grub and live piratical music by The Brigands at Harbor Shack for the ever popular Cast Off Party.  The flotilla of tiny pirate ships will float around the harbor and embark to Rock Hall’s public beach for a Caribbean Beach Party at high noon featuring Island Vibes.  Graybeard’s trophy will be handed down to the Best Decorated Dinghy and cash prizes will be awarded to the winners.  Before the party begins, kids are encouraged to come and plunder the treasures of Graybeard on Rock Hall’s beach.  Costumes and pirate attire is strongly encouraged!

  All weekend, the whole town will be in the pirate spirit as merchants, residents, re-enactors, musicians and other performers take you to the Golden Age of piracy on the high seas.  Main Street will be alive with music, mayhem, and plenty more surprises.  Be sure to enter the Costume Contests Saturday on Main Street as the royal red carpet is rolled out for young and old!!  Some of the pirate performers offering up music and mayhem this year include Bone and String, The Brigands, Pirates for Sail, Salty Dogs, Ships Company Chanteymen, Song Buccaneers, Spiced Punch, and the infamous Vallhallas Pirates. Artisans, crafters, pirate tale-tellers and more will invade the town.  There will be shopping and plenty of grub and grog for all!  Public parking and transportation will make getting around safe and worry free.

For ye old salts, The Grand Buccaneer’s Ball will take place at Waterman’s Crab House on Saturday night with live music, contests, prizes and excellent crabs and seafood.  Admission is free and pirate attire is requested for the evening.  Trophies will be awarded for the best-dressed king and queen at the ball.  Graybeard’s look-a- like will be chosen and his giant treasure chest full of surprises will be given away.  Earlier that evening, wine connoisseurs can enjoy a wine tasting at the Inn at Haven Harbour.

      The little scallywags will find much to do in the Kid’s Cove all weekend with entertainment, games, puppet shows, treasure hunts, a live pirate encampment, moon bounce, face-painting, tattoos and more!   The party doesn’t end on Saturday – be sure to stick around for more music and mayhem on Sunday, including, the Pirates 5K Run/Walk and Kiddie K!  This will be a chip timed event and trophies will be awarded in all categories.  Proceeds from the event will be given to Character Counts of Kent County.  The afternoon gets going with the annual Town-wide Treasure Hunt and more music, merchants and fun on Main Street and Kid’s Cove. The day culminates with the Kids and Pets Parade and Costume Contest on Main Street.  This is surely a weekend you won’t want to miss!

The Greater Rock Hall Business Association and Town of Rock Hall Present Rock Hall’s 10th PIRATES AND WENCHES FANTASY WEEKEND, August 11-13, 2017.  For more info, see Rock Hall town webpage and the official Rock Hall Pirate Page.

Going Solar in Kent County

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Generating your own electricity and saving money with solar panels on your roof is an exciting prospect. But it can also feel daunting. That’s why back in 2015 I was thrilled to learn about a group working here in Chestertown to help people go solar, the Chestertown Solar Co-op. I had been thinking about going solar for several years, but was a little nervous since I really did not know much about it. My husband and I had the help of the co-op to guide us through the process from day one. The group helped more than a dozen people go solar and is looking to increase that number with a new round this year.

One of our very first questions was whether we even had enough daylight to make solar a viable option. The co-op partnered with MD SUN (Maryland Solar United Neighborhoods) – a non-profit that works to assemble a group of residents who are interested in solar in towns and cities throughout Maryland. MD SUN reviewed our roof and the available sunshine using satellite imagery to see if we qualified. They held meetings for those of us in the Chestertown group to ask questions and get additional information when needed.

MD SUN worked with us to develop and send out a Request for Proposals to solar companies to solicit bids to serve the group. They then put together a small committee to review those bids and select the final contractor. Because the Co-op consisted of many residents, the contractor bids were significantly below normal cost which added to the financial incentives for going solar through the co-op!

Once the work was completed the group’s selected installer helped us submit our application for the State of Maryland $1,000 grant for solar installations. More significantly, we were able to take a federal tax credit for about a third of the total cost of the project. The power produced by our solar system reduces the amount of electricity we need to draw (and pay for) from our local utility. In addition, we receive periodic payments from utilities which take credit for our production to meet their renewable energy requirements.

Our system also came with a web-based app that lets us monitor our energy production in real time. We can see our production of energy on an hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly basis and compare it with previous periods. And because our electric meter records how much electricity we draw from the grid and how much we generate ourselves, our monthly bill shows what our production was and how much we saved.

Going solar has enabled us have some control over where our electricity comes from, a clean source that is providing us a financial return. We will have paid off our solar system within 10 years of the system’s 25-year lifespan. A win–win–win from my perspective!

What are you waiting for – see if solar energy works for you. A new round of the Chestertown Solar Co-op is starting this summer. More information is available at www.mdsun.org/chestertown. The folks supporting this second Chestertown Solar Co-op will lead you and your neighbors gently through the process!

If you want to learn more there are two public information sessions being held in Chestertown Town Hall, 118 N. Cross St., June 1, at 7 p.m. and June 3 at 11 a.m.

Ellyn Vail