Chestertown Movie Theater — Back in the Picture?

Share

 

The Horizon Cinema team at the Chestertown Council meeting. Monday, March 19. Shown are Mike Klein (standing), Ira Miller and Bob Weinholdt.

The on-again, off-again saga of Chestertown’s movie theater took a new twist at Monday’s town council meeting. The principals of Horizon Cinema, which originally planned to reopen the theater last November under the name Chesapeake Theaters, came before the council to propose a deal that could get the theater open by Memorial Day weekend.

Kay MacIntosh, the Chestertown economic development coordinator, introduced Mike Klein, Ira Miller, and Bob Weinholdt of Horizon Cinema, which operates four multi-screen theaters in and around Baltimore. She said Silicato Development, which owns the Washington Square mall where the Chester 5 Theater is located, had been willing to work with a theater operator to reopen the business since it closed nearly two years ago. However, initial talks between Horizon and Silicato broke down sometime before a projected November/December 2017 opening. The deal is now back on track, she said, but the parties are about $75,000 apart in their negotiations. Horizon is asking the town to advance that amount to Horizon to help close the deal and allow the theater to reopen. The town would be repaid by the revenue from the 4 percent amusement tax on theater receipts, a source of income it has not received since the closing of Chester 5. She said the reopening of the theater would benefit the local economy, with movie patrons coming from out of town and spending money in local stores and restaurants as well as going to the shows.

Klein took the floor and said he was happy to answer any questions from the council. “I wish we’d opened in November,” he said. “This project can be really successful, and we want to make it a real community theater. There’s been a lot of community interest.” Klein said he’s been speaking to various local groups, including MacIntosh and Jamie Williams, the Kent County economic development coordinator, and to Washington College about Horizon’s plans.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked whether the theater would show first-run movies, and how many screens it would offer. Klein said the group was aiming for first-run films and plans to operate all five of the screens currently in the building. The building will be completely renovated, including the restrooms and the concession stands. Plans are to build platform seating to give viewers in the back part of the auditorium a better view. New drapes and sound systems, as well as larger screens, are to be installed, and the food offerings will be expanded to include pizza and other finger foods such as fries.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver asked who would decide what films to program. Ira Miller said he would be in charge of the booking. “We’ll have all kinds — family films, sci-fi, art films. We want to bring everybody to the theater,” Miller said. He said the theater would do fundraising projects for local nonprofits, “to give back to the community.” He said they were also considering offering special prices for Washington College students. “You’ll have people coming from Millington to Chestertown for the movies,” he added. Responding to a question by Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, he said the theater would have between 12 and 15 employees.

Mayor Chris Cerino asked Ingersoll to give the background on the amusement tax, from which the Horizon group said the proposed $75,000 advance would be repaid.

Ingersoll said the tax dated to about 1991, and was designed for special events. It originally included arcade video games, but with the decline of that fad, it was recently almost entirely dependent on movie revenues. Since the closing of the movie theater, “It’s currently close to zero,” he said. He said the tax would possibly return up to $20,000 annually if the theater did well. Horizon’s request for the $75,000 advance was unusual, he said, but he didn’t see why the theater wouldn’t generate that amount over a reasonable time period. He said Horizon is ready to invest some $500,000 in renovating the theater. He said the deal should be structured so the advance would be paid back if the theater closes before the entire sum is raised. “We need to support the theater to make sure it’s a success,” he said.

Weinholdt, who supervises construction and renovation for Horizon, said the town was not to blame for the closing of the theater. He said the previous operators had not renovated or upgraded the facilities since the theater opened. “You can’t expect people to sit in a theater like that,” he said. He said the new projection and sound systems would cost some $270,000, which Silicato has agreed to finance. He said the theater would initially have “rocker back” seats, but plans were to replace them with recliner seats, which would take about 16 weeks to arrive once they were put on order. The theater as a whole will be unlike anything Chestertown has ever seen, he said. “We want to open for the summer — that’s our biggest season,” he added.

Cerino said it would be better for the town if Horizon made up the $75,000 difference with Silicato and the town refunded the amusement tax to them. “You’re asking for about 10 percent of our cash on hand,” he said.

Weinholdt said the principals had just spent $750,000 to open a new theater in Fallston. “We don’t have a lot of cash flow,” he said. Theaters have a small profit margin, especially in small markets like Chestertown, he added. Asked if Silicato could advance the amount, he said the developer has already promised $270,000 for the projection and sound systems. “We need the money up front to do the job,” he said, adding, “We’re willing to work with you.”

Cerino said the town has given tax incentives to other businesses, particularly in the new Enterprise Zone. “I can see us doing that” for the theater, he said. While he was “interested in helping,” he said he wanted to “eliminate the risk for the town.” He said he was also worried about setting a precedent other prospective businesses might use to ask the town for a payment to help them locate here.

Rebecca Murphy, standing at right, tells the council about the benefits of reopening the movie theater.

Rebecca Murphy, a real estate development specialist who has worked with Miller’s theaters in Baltimore, and who is a part-time Chestertown resident, said the amusement tax would provide a “finite and guaranteed” source of income to repay the advance. “If you all agree this is something the town wants, the question is, do you want to put a deal together to allow [Horizon) to get from today to an opening?” She said the old theater was paying $12,000 annually in a bad year. “If that’s the floor, you’re out in seven years. It’s money you won’t get any other way.”

Councilman David Foster questioned whether the tax revenue is “guaranteed.” “I can assure you we’re interested,” he said, but “we need to know what happens if you don’t succeed.”

MacIntosh said the town needs the theater to remain attractive to residents and potential residents. She said the town would miss an opportunity if it doesn’t make the deal work. The property could end up as another big box store if it can’t reopen as a theater.

Tolliver moved to authorize Ingersoll to negotiate with Horizon on behalf of the council; the motion passed without opposition. “I think we can get a win-win,” said Ingersoll.

Cerino told the Horizon group, “We appreciate your coming in. I’ve got your back, but I’ve got to do due diligence for the town.”

Miller said, “When we open, it’ll be a great day for Chestertown.”

The Chester 5 Theaters at Washington Square shopping center in Chestertown

 

Chestertown Plans to Have its Own “March for Our Lives” Saturday

Share

Chestertown will march in solidarity with communities throughout the country to support prevention of gun violence in schools. To date, this is the only March on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that is listed on the National Website, “March for Our Lives.”

Organizers will meet participants on March 24 at the Kent County Office Building, 400 High Street in Chestertown, at Noon and march to Wilmer Park for a rally which will feature guest speakers, music, food and other activities, including voter registration information.

Speakers will include students and representatives of Kent County Citizens to Prevent Gun Violence, as well as Dr. Kathryn Seifert, one of the country’s leading experts in the fields of multi-victim violence, bullying, trauma and mental health related violence. Counselors will also be on site to assist participants.

For more information please contact Lynn Dolinger, 410-778-0295 or lynn.thirdwish@gmail.com

Fiber Installation Underway in Chestertown

Share

Kent FIBER Optic Systems (KentFOS) has begun construction of the Fiber Infrastructure in Chestertown as part of Kent County’s Dark Fiber network project.

The construction in Chestertown started February 21 along sections of College Avenue, Calvert Street, Kent Street, High Street, and Mill Street (Green line on the map below).  For the next two to three weeks, teams will be constructing on sections of Brown Street, E. Campus Avenue and Philosophers Terrace (outlined in orange on the map).

In the coming months, KentFOS intends to install along the Maple Avenue section of Route 213, and parts of Queen Street, Cross Street and Cannon Street as indicated by the map’s red line. (An updated map will be coming soon.)

In addition to burying conduit to hold the fiber-optic strands, the network requires the installation of “Hand Holes,” which are boxes strategically placed to maximize the efficiencies of splicing the fiber. The style of Hand Hole boxes being deployed in Chestertown was specifically requested and approved by the Town in an effort to minimize the aesthetic impact of the installation.

The infrastructure, including the Hand Hole boxes, is being constructed within the public right of way, a distance which extends approximately 7 feet from the curb or street edge. If you have questions about work being done in your neighborhood, KentFOS asks that you please call 443-215-0330 or email Sales@KentFOS.com.

Fiber being installed near H.H. Garnet Elementary School on Calvert Street, Feb. 27

 

 

Linda Dutton Sermon on “What Makes Us Activists” at UU Church March 11

Share

On Sunday, Mar 11, at 10 a.m., Ms. Linda Dutton will give a sermon entitled “What Makes Us Activists?” for the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River, 914 Gateway Dr., Chestertown. Linda explains, “Am I a social justice activist because I’m Unitarian Universalist? Am I doing ‘the work’ for me, for you, for us, or for others? What is it about our UU experiences and teachings that inspires many of us to get ‘more’ involved? The UUCR Social Justice and Welcoming Congregation Committee members will explore and express various responses to these questions. You will be surprised to learn that not all motivations are altruistic!”

Special music for this service will be performed by Fredy Granillo. Religious exploration for youngsters and childcare for infants and toddlers will be available during the service.

Following the service will be a Gun Violence Prevention Forum, featuring Ms. Liz Banach, Executive Director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, as well as a representative of the Kent County Citizens to Prevent Gun Violence. For more information cal 410-778-3440, or visit us on Facebook.

All are welcome!

United Way Annual Meeting Set for April 3

Share

Elizabeth Everett, Executive Director, announced that the annual meeting of the United Way of Kent County will be held on Tuesday, April 3 at 8:00 am at Heron Point in Chestertown. At the meeting, Volunteers of the Year for each of its 24 Member Agencies will be honored. Additionally, the agenda includes recognition of United Way’s Business Partner of the Year and elections of officers for the coming year. The meeting is open to the public, and a breakfast buffet will be available for a price. Please call United Way of Kent County at 410-778-3195 for a reservation.

Council Looks at Cutting Trash Pickups

Share

 

David Sobers of the Chestertown Environmental Committee speaks to the Mayor and Council about a proposal to reduce trash pickups in town to once a week

Waste disposal and the town’s website were the top subjects at a two-hour long Chestertown council meeting, March 5 in Town Hall.

David Sobers and Ford Schumann, representing the Chestertown Environmental Committee, presented a proposal that the town adopt once-a-week trash pickup. Schumann read a letter from former mayor Margo Bailey pointing out that anticipated savings from scaling back the trash service could be used to promote recycling.  Seventy percent of households in Chestertown currently participate in the town’s recycling program which has once-a-week curbside pickup every Friday. And with fewer trash pickups, residents would have an incentive to recycle an even greater proportion of the waste. “There’s no such place as away,” Bailey concluded. “When you throw something away, it has to end up somewhere.”

Sobers then gave a more detailed presentation, giving statistics in support of the proposal. The town generates 1,687 tons of waste annually, compared to 265 tons of recycled materials and 200 tons of yard waste, which is composted. It pays $166 a ton for waste disposal, of which $102 is the fee for collection. The cost per household is $101 annually. For recycling, the annual cost per household is $46.

Moving to once-a-week pickup would result in a savings of $40,000 to $80,000 annually, not counting yard waste, Sobers said. Meanwhile, increasing the participation in recycling from 70% to 90% would cost between $20,000 and $40,000. At the same time, the environmental committee recommended upgrading the recycling containers in use, providing larger, wheeled containers to households at a one-time cost of about $45 per container. Street containers should also be improved, the committee said, increasing usage by making the difference between trash cans and recycling containers more obvious.

Increasing participation would involve sending notices to households. publishing articles in the local press, and involving the public schools and Washington College in spreading the word. Another possibility would be giving awards or certifications to businesses that reached certain milestones for recycling. Residents wishing to join the recycling should contact town hall.

Councilman Marty Stetson expressed support of moving to once-a-week trash pickup. He said he had made the suggestion when he was first elected, but Bailey, who was mayor at the time, was opposed. “I’m glad Mayor Bailey finally saw the light,” Stetson said with a smile.

Mayor Chris Cerino said the current waste disposal contractor may be “getting out of the business,” due to the recent death of one of the owners. Thus it might be the right time to consider moving to once-a-week pickups. He said it would be something for the council to look at more closely during budget deliberations later this Spring.

Francoise Sullivan of Moo Productions gives the Chestertown council a virtual tour of the town’s website (on screen at top) at the March 5 council meeting

The town’s webmaster, Francoise Sullivan of Moo Productions, was on hand to discuss the town’s website. She gave a brief overview of the website, showing some of the submenus and links, partly for the benefit of the two new council members.

Stetson said the website should be designed to attract visitors to town. He said the current design is primarily aimed at residents, with information on subjects primarily of local interest. He suggested making the front page a rotating series of pictures of the town, featuring the approach across the Chester River bridge. “That’s what’s unique about the town,” he said. He also said a voice-over by Cerino would be a good way to give the town an appeal to visitors.

Cerino endorsed the idea of making the site more appealing to visitors. He said the Sultana Education Foundation website, which Sullivan also maintains, could be a model, and volunteered to supply some photos for the front page.

Sullivan said the suggestions were all workable. She said she would get together with Cerino and start making the suggested changes.

Also at the meeting, Prof. Elena Deanda of the Washington College Department of Spanish and Larry Samuels of the Diversity Dialogue Group gave a brief presentation on a community street fair scheduled for April 14. The group has requested a street closure for College Avenue between Campus Avenue and Calvert Street. The event will feature activities for kids, music by local and college bands, information booths by local organizations, and food trucks.

The council approved the appointment of Owen Bailey to fill a vacancy on the Historic District Commission. After the vote, Councilman David Foster said the town should routinely publicize openings on commissions to allow more residents to apply for the positions. He said he would have been interested in being appointed to the Planning Commission over the last few years if he had known of the vacancies. He suggested letting residents who are interested in such positions put their names on a list to be notified when openings occur.

Cerino also gave a report on a bond bill to raise $500,000 for renovations on the Chestertown Marina. He said Kees de Mooy, the town zoning administrator, will testify before the state Senate in support of the bill. Cerino also gave an update on work at the marina, noting that if the bond bill is ratified, it will allow the town to make significant progress toward completing the project.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, during her ward report, requested a review of the town’s policy regarding participation of non-profit organizations in the farmers market. She said churches should be allowed to set up booths at the market on the same basis as other nonprofits.

Cerino said the suggestion was “a slippery slope” because of the principle of separation of church and state. He said a church conducting a bake sale to raise money for a project was probably OK, but distribution of religious materials was problematic. He said the question should be put on the regular agenda if the council wanted to discuss it.

Stetson said he opposed allowing churches to distribute religious materials in the park. He said if you allowed one to do so, you would need to allow all of them, and there is limited space in the park. “What if the Ku Klux Klan wanted to set up a booth?” he asked.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the policy for issuing farmers market permits was worked out several years ago. He said the non-profit section of the park is pretty heavily used, judging by the wear on the grass in that area.

At the Utilities Commission meeting, Utilities Manager Bob Sipes updated the council on a project to generate a map of the town’s water supply system. He said the project would probably cost between $50,000 and $120,000 if it was done properly. Grants might be available to pay for most, if not all of it. He said the project had been moved to the back burner last year when other priorities came up. He said he would reprioritize the mapping project.

The meeting which began promptly at 7:30 p.m. adjourned at 9: 30.

Clifford Coppersmith to Become 6th President of Chesapeake College

Share

The Chesapeake College Board of Trustees has selected Dr. Clifford P. Coppersmith to be the school’s sixth president. Dr. Coppersmith was chosen by a unanimous vote of the Trustees from a pool of 72 applicants in a nationwide search that was narrowed down to four finalists who visited the campus in late February.

Coppersmith, 55, is currently Dean of City College, an embedded community college within Montana State University Billings with 1,400 full and part-time students. He’s been the school’s chief executive officer in charge of academics, student affairs, finance and facilities since July 2015.

Dr. Clifford P. Coppersmith

Prior to City College, Coppersmith held several administrative and academic positions including over 19 years at two institutions: Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University; and Utah State University – Eastern, formerly the College of Eastern Utah.

“Dr. Coppersmith’s background and experience were a great match for the qualifications and expectations established at the outset of our national search for a new president,” Chesapeake College Board of Trustees Chair Blenda Armistead said. “We were looking for someone with a proven track record in developing programs to address workforce needs in the community, and he brings that experience to the Mid-Shore. Dr. Coppersmith also understands and has extensive experience with the transfer mission of community colleges. As an individual who began his higher education in a community college in upstate New York, he is committed to ensuring that Chesapeake College will serve as a gateway to further education for all of our residents.”

Armistead noted Coppersmith’s ability to collaborate with public school leaders, local government, and business and industry partners to develop both credit and non-credit programs focused specifically on workforce needs. These have included programs in emergency management, nursing and allied health, computer science, metal and construction trades, diesel technology and automotive repair.

“Cliff has worked effectively with state and local government, and this was one of our priorities in our search for a new president,” she said.

“He understands the economic and social challenges in rural areas similar to the Shore. Moreover, the trustees are confident in his ability to strengthen the sense of community among all constituencies within the College, which was another expectation established for our new president.”

Community engagement will be among Coppersmith’s first priorities.

“Right off the bat, I want to establish those relationships and connections that are so critical to the success of the College,” he said. “I anticipate working closely with the members of the Board of Trustees, civic and public education leaders and the local business network to strengthen Chesapeake and its vital role in serving the five-county region as a center for higher education, cultural activities and economic development.”

Coppersmith met with the Board and participated in on-campus forums with students, faculty, staff and Mid-Shore community leaders last month.

“I had a great exchange with all those groups when I interviewed,” he said. “I was extremely impressed with the quality of the campus and its facilities and the engagement of the faculty and staff, and I considered my meeting with the students the highlight of the visit.”
Coppersmith and his wife Kathleen have strong personal connections to the region.

“Kathy and I are excited to return to a part of the world we love in which we’ve had many great experiences,” he said. “We were married in Kensington outside D.C.; spent the first night of our honeymoon in Chestertown; and for 11 years, the Chincoteague and Assateague Island seashores were our family’s favorite vacation spot. The Eastern Shore has been a special place for us for that reason and others.”

Born in the West Indies, Coppersmith said saltwater is in his blood. He looks forward to sailing, kayaking and canoeing on local waters and visiting the beach.

The Coppersmiths have three adult children – including two living in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – three grandchildren and close family members in Frederick and Northern Virginia.

A former commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard and an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, Coppersmith believes strongly in executing the mission of the College which is critical to his vision for Chesapeake.

“It comes from my military background,” he explained. “Almost everything I do on a daily basis is premised on serving the mission of the school and its students. I’ve been successful in figuring out what the strengths of an institution are, what its mission is, and then connecting that to the community I serve.”

His service background also includes 45 years in scouting with the Boy Scouts of America.

Coppersmith holds four academic degrees: A doctorate in history and anthropology from Oklahoma State University; a master’s in history from St. Bonaventure University in New York State; a bachelor’s in political science and Latin American studies from Brigham Young University in Utah; and an associate in social science from Jamestown Community College in New York State.

In Congress, Only One Maryland Lawmaker gets NRA Money

Share

As congressional gun talks ramp up, advocates for stronger safety laws have called for their representatives to stop accepting campaign finance donations from the National Rifle Association.

The gun rights advocacy group has given $263,818 to candidates in the first two months of 2018 – 98 percent of that going to Republican candidates, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics (opensecrets.org), a non-partisan research group that tracks money in U.S. politics.

No Democratic lawmakers from Maryland have received any campaign contributions from gun rights or gun safety groups so far this year.

However, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, has received $1,975, bringing the total since his first campaign in 2008 to $25,447 in funding from the NRA. No other senator or House member from Maryland has received contributions from gun rights advocacy groups, records show.

Neither the NRA nor Harris’s office responded to media inquiries by phone or email about his campaign contributions.

On the other side of the gun debate, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, has received the most money among current senators from gun safety advocates between 1989 and 2016: $105,595, according to Open Secrets data. Almost all of that came during his 2016 Senate campaign.

“This issue shouldn’t be political – it should be about doing everything we can to prevent the loss of another child, another parent,” Van Hollen said in an email to Capital News Service. “With over 90 percent of Americans saying they want something done, the GOP leadership’s refusal to consider measures that are proven to save lives is gross negligence.”

Van Hollen last year urged the National Institutes of Health to renew funding that had lapsed for firearm violence research and introduced legislation with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, which would have set aside $10 million each year from 2018 through 2023 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct or support research on gun violence prevention and firearms safety.

Another Maryland representative, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Upper Marlboro, introduced bipartisan legislation Tuesday that would raise the minimum age required to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21.

“This common-sense bipartisan bill is a critical first step that closes a dangerous loophole in our gun laws,” Brown said in a statement.

Brown has not received any contributions from gun control groups during his career. Neither have Democratic Reps. John Delaney of Potomac, Jamie Raskin of Kensington, Dutch Ruppersberger of Timonium and John Sarbanes of Towson.

Over the course of his political career, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, has received $2,000 in total contributions from gun control advocates; Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, received $2,450, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, received $2,000, according to Open Secrets.

By Jarod Golub and Julia Karron

The 1st District: Introducing Candidate Allison Galbraith

Share

Allison Galbraith has a straightforward answer when asked why she is running for the United States Congress from the 1st Congressional — it’s personal.

Not too long ago, Allison made arrangements to meet with Representative Andy Harris to discuss her own experience with, and advocacy for, the Affordable Care Act. She found herself rebuffed by the Congressman not only on policy but was stung by his comment during their exchange that he would have no problem with women paying more for health insurance than men.

That’s all it took forGalbraith to plunge yourself into the 1st district Democratic primary. And she has launched a campaign that addresses not only her grievances against Dr. Harris and his desire to repeal Obamacare but offers her unique perspective as a single mother struggling with keeping afloat while also having served as a caregiver for her mother.

The University of Maryland graduate, with a degree in philosophy, has spent most of her career working on federal government contracts which she believes will give her a unique advantage on how to save money in Washington. She also feels it could be one of the more striking differentials between her and her Democratic opponents as the candidates face the primary day election in June.

The Spy met up with Allison at the Bullitt House last Saturday for a quick introductory chat.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Allison Galbraith’s campaign please go here