Cerino, Landgraf Give Waterfront Updates

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The winded boat ramp and new floating dock at the Chestertown marina

At a meeting of the Greater Chestertown Initiative, Nov. 29, Mayor Chris Cerino and Washington College President Kurt Landgraf gave updates of plans for Chestertown’s waterfront.

Cerino’s talk was largely a recapitulation of a report he gave the town council at its Nov. 20 meeting. The mayor emphasized the reasons for the town’s purchase of the marina several years ago, including the need to preserve access to the river for residents and the town’s ability to get grant funds unavailable to a private owner. The potential of a fully-updated marina to enhance the town’s economic development has been a key reason for the work, the said.

Cerino showed photos of the work already done, primarily the bulkheads, walkways and boat ramp on the downriver side

The new floating dock awaits installation

of the marina. The boat ramp has been widened to about twice its original size, while the bulkheads and walkways have been raised roughly two feet above their previous level. A floating dock – just delivered on Monday – and six finger piers will be installed over the next few months.

 

Also, an old boat shed on the property has been demolished and the foundation for a new marina store and interpretive center has been laid. The interpretive center was originally planned to be a two-story building, but it has been downsized to one story in view of higher-than-expected costs.  The town has grant funds totaling roughly half the $1 million the project is expected to cost. Cerino said the town would be happy to accept private donations to complete the building. The existing marina store will be demolished and an open plaza created in its place.

The next phase involves refurbishing the river-side bulkheads and replacing two of the docks currently in place with one longer dock. The basin will also be dredged to a depth of six feet to allow larger boats to use the slips closer to shore. The Cannon Street dock, where schooner Sultana usually berths, will remain in place but be extended farther into the river.

Foundation of the new marina store and interpretive center

The final phase of the work will involve filling in the parking lot, shared with the Fish Whistle restaurant, and raising the level about two feet to inhibit flooding which has become a chronic problem on the site. This will also require replacing water and sewer connections to the restaurant. Cerino said the owners of the restaurant are on-board with the project, and the town expects to work closely with them in scheduling the work to minimize disruption of the restaurant’s business.

Landgraf began by observing that the town and college have had a relationship since 1782, when the college was founded. He said the two are at their best when they work together – and their waterfront projects are one of the best examples.

Washington College is a member of the Centennial Conference, he said, and that sets a high bar for its athletic facilities. The old boathouse was an embarrassment to the college and the town, but its replacement will be “world class,” he said, with a LEED platinum environmental rating. The Chester River rowing club will continue to be welcome to use the college’s facilities, he said.

Still on the horizon is the new environmental studies center, to be build on college-owned land between the boathouse and the armory. Landgraf said ground-breaking for the new building will take place after the boathouse is completed.

Also to be determined is the long-range fate of the armory, which Landgraf characterized as “an eyesore” but also “an

Washington College President Kurt Landgra

underutilized resource.” He said the college is looking at a number of ideas for putting it to use, including the possibilities of a B&B or hotel. A barrier to any major changes in the building is its status as a national historic site.

Landgraf then turned to several other subjects the community has asked him about. The most common question, he said, was why the college bought the Blue Heron restaurant, which is slated to become the “Eastern Shore food lab.” In fact, the college did not buy the building; the buyer was Larry Culp, who sits on the board of visitors and governors, and who will be leasing the property to the college for the food lab. And because the owner is a private individual, the property will remain on the tax rolls.  He gave a brief description of the kind of work Prof. William Schindler is doing to explore unconventional food sources, such as insects.

Other subjects Landgraf touched on were the college’s efforts to improve education in the county, including a reinvigoration of Kent Forward and the expansion of the college’s dual enrollment program, in which high school students take college courses for credit. He said better schools will make the community more attractive to prospective faculty members at the college. He praised Dr. Karen Couch, the county superintendent of education, for her openness to working with the college to improve the quality of the school system.

He also mentioned the college’s $10,000 donation to the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, which he noted responded to a serious fire on college property a couple of years ago. “I want the college to be part of the community,” he said, including a stronger commitment to the United Fund of Kent County. Landgraf said he had increased the number of contributors from the college from four to 75, with contributions totaling $20,000. And he praised the efforts of the Save Our Hospital group.

The floor was then open to questions. One of the first, directed to Cerino, was about how the closure of the Blue Heron and the rumored closure of other restaurants would affect the town’s dependence on tourist business. Cerino said the town government has limited resources as far as recruiting new businesses, which he finds “a bit frustrating.” He said the Main Street Chestertown program, which has taken on economic revitalization efforts, may be able to have more impact.

Gallery owner Carla Massoni said one difficulty is the condition of many downtown properties, which need renovation but must stay within historic district guidelines. She said the Main Street program was trying to find ways to address the problem.

Landgraf said the college dining halls are open to the general public, and offer “really good” food. He said he eats there every day.

Another audience member asked whether the marina parking lot would be repaved with pervious material. Cerino said the town wanted to do so, but the cost was prohibitive. He said there would be pervious areas to manage stormwater runoff as well as several green areas.

Linda Dutton asked whether the marina work could be a vehicle to employ low-income local residents. Cerino said the work was subject to a bidding process, and that the contractors would make the ultimate decisions on employment. Dutton said the town might include such a requirement in its bid specs.

Landgraf was asked why the college doesn’t have a presence in the downtown shopping district, where college-related clothing or souvenirs are generally absent. He said the college has a contract with Barnes & Noble, which runs its bookstore. He said he thought it was a good idea to have a college presence in town, and that discussions with the bookstore could explore ways to achieve that goal.

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“Dickens of a Christmas” Brings Victorian Fun Dec. 1-3

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Horse carriages will offer rides through the Historic District Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Photograph by Michael Wootton.

Chestertown’s first “Dickens of a Christmas” event will bring the excitement of Victorian London and the spirit of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale A Christmas Carol to the downtown district Dec. 1-3, 2017.  Sponsored by the nonprofit Main Street Chestertown organization, the weekend promises themed entertainment, food and music, along with spirits tastings and talks by Dickens experts.

Visit DickensChestertown.org for schedule updates and to purchase reservations for ticketed events.

First Friday Fun. The weekend officially kicks off with an extra-festive First Friday, Dec. 1 from 5 to 8 pm. Horse carriage rides will clip clop up Cross Street and through the historic district. The 300 block of High Street will be closed to traffic, and — weather permitting — fire pits will be set up so guests can cook hot dogs and roast marshmallows for S’mores. From 5 to 7 p.m., local talents including Andrew McCown, Melissa McGlynn, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Marcia Gilliam, Jake Swane, and Michele Volansky will share “Stories and Songs by the Fire.“

Fire Dancers! At 7 pm, two professional fire dancers from the D.C.-based Pyroxotic troupe will perform a sizzling hot show on the street.

A full Saturday of activities starts with a Victorian version of the award-winning farmers market in Fountain Park and extends through the day with live performances, food vendors, and ticketed events including a historic house tour, Victorian high tea, a Sweet Shop and gingerbread house display, sherry and whiskey tastings, and “beer and bonfires” party.   Throughout downtown, restaurants are offering special Dickens-themed menus with items such as Beef Wellington and Yorkshire Pudding, oyster pot pie, sticky toffee pudding, and ploughman’s lunches. Find more information on food options at DickensChestertown.org.

Minstrel Jerry Brown and his monkey Django will entertain all ages

Open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Dickens Welcome Center, in the former Chestertown Bank Building, 211 High Street, will orient guests, hand out official programs and sell tickets to special events (as available). It also will house the Main Street Millinery Shoppe, where guests can buy bonnets, top hats and other Victorian headgear.

Other Saturday highlights:

The Peoples Bank Sweet Shop, in the Spring Street lobby, will be lavishly decorated and will feature gingerbread houses made by staff, family and friends.

Minstrel Jerry Brown and his monkey Django will perform throughout the day, with two longer shows at 11 am at Peoples Bank and 2 pm in the Welcome Center.

 A full day of live music will include Dovetail, Tom McHugh and the Chester River Beggars, Bells of the Bay, Jigs and Reels, the Kent County High School jazz ensemble, and several strolling artists.

RiverArts Clay Studio is offering ornament workshops from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  $15 for two ornaments. (Also available Friday night.)

Author Paul Mast will read from his novel, A Cratchit Family Christmas, at The Bookplate at 11 a.m.

Strolling musicians will include washboard artist Dr. Jim Porter.

Washington College professor Katie Charles will talk about Charles Dickens and the angst the success of A Christmas Carol created for him.  The Bookplate, 1 p.m.

A 10-foot-tall walking Christmas tree will promenade around town, and for a donation to the Food Pantry you can hang a bell ornament on her branches.

The Wheelmen antique bicycle club will pedal up and down High Street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Holiday House Tour offers ticketed entry to seven homes in the Historic District. Info and tickets, $20 in advance, $30 same-day at the Welcome Center.

Victorian High Tea welcomes guests to Hynson Ringgold House from 3 to 4:30. Reservations required, $35.

Spirits expert Neyah White has organized two tastings:  The Sherry Salon, a guided tasting of six styles of sherry, will take place in the future home of the Washington College Food Lab, 236 Cannon Street, 4 p.m., reservations required, $40.

The Chester River Nightcap aboard the Chester River Packet will be a tasting event of fine Glenlivet pours and a quality smoke from Ashton Cigars. Reservations, $40 in advance, $50 at the door.

The Kent County Young Professionals are hosting a Beers and Bonfires event Saturday night from 7 to 9 at the foot of High Street.  No tickets required. Craft beers, $5 a glass.

Also on Saturday, the 200 block of High Street will be closed to traffic, and vendors will sell food and gifts with a Victorian flare.  Participating food purveyors include Barbara’s on the Bay, Kirchmayr Chocolatier, FishWhistle (fish and chips), Happy Chicken Bakery, Gluten-Free Girl Bakery, and Apotheosis Teas.  Orchard Point will shuck raw oysters in front of the White Swan Tavern, where craft beer and wine will also be available.

            On Sunday morning, ages 12 and older can compete in the Chestertown “Run Like the Dickens” foot race. Starting at 8 a.m. at High and Cross streets, the route takes runners up High Street, into the Chester Cemetery, back downtown via the Rail Trail into Stepne Farm and around Wilmer Park before returning to High Street and the finish line near the White Swan Tavern.  Younger runners can compete in the “Dickens Dash” at 9 a.m.  Find registration information ($30 per runner) at DickensChestertown.org.

Main Street Chestertown, organizer of the event, is a 501(c)(3) whose volunteers work to support an engaging and prosperous downtown. It is part of a national network of historic downtowns created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and follows the Trust’s tested model for revitalization.  For information, visit MainStreetChestertown.org.

Earthquake Off Delaware Coast

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The area in red where the November 30, 2017, earthquake was felt.

Did you feel anything odd just before 5:00 pm yesterday, Thursday, Nov. 30?  Some shaking? A bump or jolt while driving?  Did anything fall or break in your house?  If so, you might have experienced the 4.1 magnitude earthquake that struck yesterday at 4:47 pm off the Delaware coast about 6 miles northeast of Dover, Delaware.

A 4.1 earthquake is considered strong enough to cause moderate to considerable damage. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is trying to determine the extent and severity of the quake.  If you felt the quake, MEMA would like to hear from you. The full message from MEMA–with a link to report where you were and what you felt–is at the end of this article on the Dover earthquake, along with a copy of the earthquake survey questions. MEMA needs help from residents to make a “shaking intensity map” of the affected areas.

Earthquakes are rare in the Mid-Atlantic area. In fact, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), earthquakes are rare east of the Rockies Mountains. The last tremor felt in Delaware was in 2011–that from the 5.8 earthquake centered in Virginia that was felt all up and down the East Coast and, in DC, caused cracks in both the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.  Thursday’s quake was felt as far inland as the I-95 corridor in Maryland, Delaware, and southeastern Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and New York to the north.  It was felt over 90 miles away in Washington, DC, in Baltimore, in Philadelphia, and 125 miles north in New York City. However, many in these areas said they didn’t notice anything. The USGS said that light shaking was felt as far south as Virginia and as far north as Poughkeepsie, New York and Connecticut.  The quake registered at a depth of five miles, which is considered a shallow quake and that shallowness causes the quake to be amplified and felt over a larger area. Earth tremors on the East Coast tend to cause shaking in a wider area than those in western states due to the type of quake, the depth of the quake, and to the type of bedrock.

Partial map of Eastern Shore of Maryland showing epicenter –starred– of the Thursday, Nov. 30, 4.1 magnitude earthquake. The quake’s epicenter at the wildlife refuge is roughly 36 miles from Chestertown.

Closer to the quake’s center in Dover, houses shook, windows and loose items rattled, and many people reported a boom and a sound like a train that was loud but only lasted a second or two.   In Dover, the ground shook for 10-20 seconds, sending people pouring out of buildings and into the streets where others were already gathering for the Dover Capitol Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting ceremony. The celebration, which was scheduled for 5 -8:00 pm., continued despite the disruption of the earthquake.

The quake was originally reported at a magnitude of 5.1 then shortly afterward downgraded to 4.4.  After examining readings from multiple monitoring stations, the tremor was downgraded to a probably final magnitude of 4.1.

No aftershocks have been reported so far.

The Delaware Emergency Management Agency believes the epicenter was in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. No injuries, major damage, or interruption of services were reported in the first few hours after the quake. The wildlife refuge is roughly 36 miles from Chestertown.

The Delaware earthquake was one of five earthquakes registered on Thursday in the US’s lower 48 states. But it was the strongest.  It was not just the strongest quake on Thursday, Nov. 30, but also the strongest in the US for the month of November.  Just 30 minutes after the 4.1 quake in Delaware, there was a tremor–magnitude 3.6–near Salida, Colorado.

Here are the questions on the earthquake survey form from MEMA.  To record your experience click on the “jump” link below then click on the 3rd box in the first row with the title “Felt Report–Tell Us!”

Jump to Navigation

  Magnitude 4.1 Earthquake – 10km ENE of Dover, Delaware

Felt Report – Tell Us!   Expires 05/31/2018

Your location when the earthquake occurred

Choose Location

Did you feel it?


  • Yes

  • No

The remainder of this form is optional.

Help make a shaking intensity map by telling us about the shaking at your location.

What was your situation during the earthquake?


  • Not specified

  • Inside a building

  • Outside a building

  • In a stopped vehicle

  • In a moving vehicle

  • Other

Were you asleep?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Slept through it

  • Woke up

Did others nearby feel it?


  • Not specified

  • No others felt it

  • Some felt it, most did not

  • Most felt it

  • Everyone/almost everyone felt it

How would you describe the shaking?


  • Not specified

  • Not felt

  • Weak

  • Mild

  • Moderate

  • Strong

  • Violent

How did you react?


  • Not specified

  • No reaction/not felt

  • Very little reaction

  • Excitement

  • Somewhat frightened

  • Very frightened

  • Extremely frightened

How did you respond?


  • Not specified

  • Took no action

  • Moved to doorway

  • Dropped and covered

  • Ran outside

  • Other

Was it difficult to stand and/or walk?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes

Did you notice any swinging of doors or other free-hanging objects?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, slight swinging

  • Yes, violent swinging

Did you hear creaking or other noises?


  • Not specified

  • Yes, slight noise

  • Yes, loud noise

Did objects rattle, topple over, or fall off shelves?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Rattled slightly

  • Rattled loudly

  • A few toppled or fell off

  • Many fell off

  • Nearly everything fell off

Did pictures on walls move or get knocked askew?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, but did not fall

  • Yes, and some fell

Did any furniture or appliances slide, topple over, or become displaced?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes

Was a heavy appliance (refrigerator or range) affected?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, some contents fell out

  • Yes, shifted by inches

  • Yes, shifted by a foot or more

  • Yes, overturned

Were free-standing walls or fences damaged?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, some were cracked

  • Yes, some partially fell

  • Yes, some fell completely

Was there any damage to the building?


  • No Damage

  • Hairline cracks in walls

  • A few large cracks in walls

  • Many large cracks in walls

  • Ceiling tiles or lighting fixtures fell

  • Cracks in chimney

  • One or several cracked windows

  • Many windows cracked or some broken out

  • Masonry fell from block or brick wall(s)

  • Old chimney, major damage or fell down

  • Modern chimney, major damage or fell down

  • Outside wall(s) tilted over or collapsed completely

  • Separation of porch, balcony, or other addition from building

  • Building permanently shifted over foundation

Additional Comments

Contact Information (optional)

Name

Email

Phone

Submit Cancel

New Jersey is also surveying their residents to discover the range of Thursday’s quake.  Their site has an interactive map and totals per town of those who felt the quake.

Official Message from Maryland Emergency Management Agency Monitoring After Earthquake Near Delaware Coast

REISTERSTOWN, Md. (November 30, 2017) — In the wake of the earthquake that hit off the coast of Delaware this afternoon, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency is monitoring for any reports of damage.

The quake, which the United States Geological Survey currently lists as a 4.1 magnitude, hit just before 4:50 p.m. off the Delaware coast, about 6 miles east/northeast of Dover. Reports say it was felt as far east as the I-95 corridor in central Maryland.

The United States Geological Survey asks anyone who may have felt the quake to report it on their website.

While earthquakes are not common in this region, they do happen. In August of 2011, most of Maryland felt a magnitude 5.8 earthquake that was centered near Mineral, Va.

For more information about earthquakes in Maryland, please visit the MEMA website.

For more general information about earthquake preparedness, visit the federal government’s earthquake website.

End Official Mema press release

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Bay’s Oyster Aquaculture Harvest Closing in on Wild Fishery

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More than a century after the first oysters were planted on a Virginia bar, aquaculture has firmly taken hold in the Chesapeake Bay. The value of Virginia’s oyster farms production has eclipsed the public fishery, and many oyster experts believe Maryland is heading in the same direction.

As of last year, 173 Maryland oyster farmers have leased more than 6,000 acres of the Bay and its tributaries, all of which are actively producing oysters. Harvest from those leases yielded almost 65,000 bushels in 2016 — an increase of 1,000 percent since 2012. In the meantime, Maryland’s public oyster harvest, suffering from mediocre to poor reproduction since 2010, saw its harvest drop 42 percent in 2016 to about 224,000 bushels.

“Each year for the past five, lease numbers and acreage have risen along with aquaculture harvest, while public harvest numbers declined,” said Donald Webster, a University of Maryland aquaculture specialist. “This year and next will be very difficult for the public fishery and, frankly, I doubt it will ever recover to amount to anything again.”

Oyster aquaculture in Maryland wasn’t always destined for success. Jon Farrington has been growing oysters in Southern Maryland for about 10 years and has experienced changes in the state’s permitting process, as well as methods for oyster production, that have moved the state’s aquaculture industry past its rocky start.

Farrington left his aerospace engineering job in 2006 to try growing oysters in a Calvert County cove. One of only six oyster farmers in the state at that time, Farrington was battle-tested with the various bureaucracies that needed to sign off on permits to grow shellfish. When the state changed its laws in 2009 to allow oyster farming in every county, Farrington was first in line to apply for his second lease. He was hoping the new law would mean quicker approvals, more encouragement for watermen to enter the field and less resistance from shoreline property owners who don’t want cages and floats disrupting their view.

The law helped, and so have changes in the oyster farming process. But those changes took years. Now, nearly a decade later, Maryland has a $5 million aquaculture industry that has created close to 500 jobs in coastal areas, according to state figures, and shows little signs of slowing down.

Oyster aquaculture in Virginia is still far ahead, with $18.5 million in oyster sales in 2016. But Maryland aquaculture has definitely gotten its sea legs.

“I kind of thought maybe it would happen a little bit faster than it has,” said Farrington, who sells his oysters directly to restaurants. He also has a hatchery operation, selling “seed” oysters to fellow farmers. “On the other hand, the market has developed a lot more strongly than I had probably expected back then. All in all, I’d say, Maryland’s done a pretty good job.”

Several factors propelled aquaculture forward in Maryland after more than a century of resistance to the idea. First, more oyster farmers are raising “triploids,” sterile oysters bred from the Bay’s native species, Crassostrea virginica. Because they don’t expend energy on reproduction, triploids can grow to market size twice as fast as wild oysters — 18 months in Maryland waters, as opposed to three years for traditional oysters. In Virginia’s saltier water, they grow even faster.

Also, new techniques and equipment have made it more efficient: floating up-weller systems, which help seed oysters feed on plankton and grow more quickly, and a pulley system from Australia that rotates cages to reduce fouling and labor.

Many oyster farmers also find themselves in the equipment business; they can’t locate a cage or float that works in their location, so they make their own, and then other farmers want it. For years, Farrington sold a device called the Revelation that rotated oysters. Another oyster farmer, Johnny Shockley in Dorchester County, sells systems for cleaning and shaping oysters.

The state tackled bureaucratic hurdles for lease applicants. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources now coordinates the review process, sparing applicants the complexities of what used to be a multi-agency gamut.

At the federal level, oyster farmers complained that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which required a separate permit, put them through duplicative reviews, so there too the processed was streamlined. Leases generally take six months to be issued now, instead of a year or more, said Karl Roscher, the DNR’s aquaculture manager.

Roscher’s office has added staff to speed application processing, which is helpful, as his office has received more than 50 new applications in recent months. Also crucial, according to fisheries director David Blazer, is an online mapping tool that allows an oyster farmer to see if there are potential obstacles to getting a lease in a particular location. For example, if the proposed lease is on top of a public oyster bar or a well-worked clamming area, the state won’t approve it.

Money and training have helped, too. About 80 percent of the leases are worked by a spat-on-shell method, where watermen let larvae set on natural oyster shell and reach a certain size before moving them to bags or containers on the bottom. Webster, with help from University of Maryland Sea Grant, has been training watermen how to set oysters. The number of prospective oyster farmers seeking training has grown from six in 2011 to 45 last year.

Since 2011, the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp. has approved $3 million in shellfish aquaculture loans to help growers acquire the needed equipment. The fund, known as MARBIDCO, originally prioritized loans to traditional watermen who were new to aquaculture. But MARBIDCO has since helped plenty of non-watermen, like Farrington and fellow Southern Maryland oyster farmer Patrick Hudson. The loans are low-interest and, if the borrower makes all of the payments, MARBIDCO forgives 25 percent of the principal.

Hudson, who was on his way to law school when he made a U-turn into the oyster business, said the MARBIDCO loan was critical. Banks, he said, aren’t inclined to lend tens of thousands of dollars for a start-up oyster enterprise.

“You have to buy cages and oysters before you sell anything. You need at least a million seed. And then you sit on it for a year and a half,” Hudson said. “Being able to pay just a couple hundred dollars a month was critical. Otherwise, you’re just leaving oyster aquaculture to the really rich people.”

For decades, that’s what watermen feared: that large seafood companies would gobble the leases, while the workers struggled. That has not come to pass. In several cases, watermen have become equity partners in oyster farms. Eric Wisner, a waterman, has about 500 acres under lease in the Nanticoke River. Ted Cooney, who owns Madhouse Oysters on Hoopers Island, has two watermen partners.

Cooney, who came to oyster farming after a career in healthcare financial services, said he’s pleased that the state is encouraging aquaculture. But the process still has problems. Almost three years ago, he applied for two leases in the Honga River; the state recently told him he couldn’t have one because it’s too close to a hunting blind.

“I was out of the swing of the gun, as far as I could tell, [but] two and a half years later, they tell me no. They should have told me 60 days after I applied,” he said. “In that time, I could have applied and already gotten another lease.”

Roscher said the goose blind didn’t show up on the state’s siting tool, so staff had to take measurements in the field.

Tension still occurs between user groups. While public oyster areas are generally established, clam beds and pound net locations are more intermittent. A few years ago, an Eastern Shore delegate introduced a bill in the legislature that would have made farming in clamming areas more difficult; the bill didn’t pass, so clammers and oyster farmers compromised, and the state promised to delineate clamming areas so farmers could avoid them.

Some influential property owners are still flexing their muscles, but Roscher noted that many of those efforts fail. Dialogue, he said, is far preferable to long lawsuits or boutique legislation. Last year, influential property owners in St. Mary’s County persuaded a state delegate to introduce a bill restricting oyster farms at historic sites; that bill, which was specific to the viewshed at Sotterley Plantation and Historic St. Mary’s City, died.

Roscher said that the public relations and bureaucratic problems are surmountable. What worries him is a shell shortage. The state and University of Maryland have grown oysters on alternative substrates built from granite and concrete, but they’re much harder to harvest from.

“There are a lot of different ways to grow an oyster,” Farrington said. “People are still trying to figure out what works best for their application, but as they do, we’re really going to see some production grow in the next couple of years. It’s still a relatively young industry, and people are really dialed in.”

Bay Journal staff writer Rona Kobell is a former Baltimore Sun reporter.

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.

The 1st District: Introducing Candidate Jesse Colvin

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It’s too bad that one of Jesse Colvin’s most compelling examples of his character is pretty much reserved for those who know something about college basketball.

A candidate in the Democratic primary for the Congressional 1st District seat now, and with four active tours of duty in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger behind him, Jesse still has a hint of horror in his voice when he recalled before our formal Spy interview of being a freshman reporter on Duke University’s student newspaper and asking the famed Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) why he had ‘screwed up’ after a critical match against the University of Maryland.

The crowded press room fell silent as Jesse’s basketball heroes started to awkwardly shuffle their feet as Duke’s only living god, who is referred to on the Duke campus as “GOAT,” as in “Greatest of All Time,” came down on the cub reporter in a rage of fury that would crush a typical nineteen years old. But that might be the point; Jesse Colvin is not your ordinary anything.

A gifted student with a bright future in the field of international relations, Colvin instead signed up to not only serve in the military but sought out and earned a position in the 75th Ranger Regiment, perhaps the most elite fighting force in the world.

With all that in mind, it doesn’t seem so shocking then to see someone of Jesse’s age, with no significant political background, decide that he has what it takes to win what is turning out to be a hotly contested Democratic primary contest in June of next year and then defeat Representative Andy Harris in November.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. We have included Jesse Colvin’s “Coach K” story after the credits. For more information the Jesse Colvin for Congress campaign please go here

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!