Town Council Meeting: WAC Students to Clean Up Rail Trail

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Gilchrest Rail Trail in Chesterown

Washington College students will conduct their annual cleanup of the Gilchrest Rail Trail this coming Sunday, Oct. 22,

Arianna Hall, the secretary of service and community relations for the college’s Student Government Association, told the Chestertown Mayor and Council at their Oct. 16 meeting that students will gather at the Dixon Valve parking lot at 1 p.m. Sunday  She said the students invited community members as well as college faculty and staff members to join in the effort. Hall said it is important for the campus to be more involved with the community, “We want the event to serve as an opportunity for all of us to come together,” she said.

Mayor Chris Cerino said the town welcomes the effort. He said he would be on hand with his pickup truck to help haul away bags of trash collected by the students. He said previous cleanups had gotten “incredible turnout,” He said his truck could carry as many as 25 bags of trash.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town has in the past supplied trash bags and gloves to students working to clean the trails. He said town crews may need to do some pre-cleaning, removing fallen limbs and cutting back weeds so cleanup crews can see the trash along the trail.

Hall said the SGA would like to know other ways student volunteers could help out around town — “big or small things,” such as raking leaves or shoveling snow.

Police Chief Adrian Baker promoted Reynolds Peele (front) to Patrolman First Class

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper invited students to volunteer for the Chestertown Tea Party Festival committee, which has been short of members. She said she knew most students would be away from campus on Memorial Day weekend, when the festival takes place, but there is plenty of work to be done before the weekend. She said the committee would especially welcome students who could help with marketing or social media.

Also at the meeting, the council appointed Robety Ortiz to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors of  Elections. Ingersoll said the vacancy arose after Don Cantor asked to be removed from the board to deal with hurricane damage to his Florida vacation home. The council unanimously approved the appointment.

Police Chief Adrian Baker promoted Reynolds Peele to Patrolman First Class. Peele has completed two years of service with the department and met proficiency requirements. He recently returned to duty after completing a year’s deployment with the U.S. Army Reserve in Guantanamo, Cuba.

 

Talkin’ Baseball at the Historical Society

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the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame

The Historical Society is pleased to announce a special lecture, Hot Air and Hubris: Baseball and the Rural Culture of the Eastern Shore”, that will coordinate with our window exhibit  “When Hometown Baseball Was King.” Marty Payne and Donnie Davidson, both representing the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame, will be with us to discuss baseball and just what it means to this area. The talk will focus on how technology brought baseball to the Eastern Shore, the social and economic impact that this had on the region, and the quality of players and teams.

Payne is a member of the Society of American Baseball Research and has presented his findings to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Davidson is one of the premier collectors of Eastern Shore baseball historical items and is the historian for the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame.

The talk is at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, in the Bordley Building. We hope to see you there! Ifor more information, call 410-778-3499 or email atadmin@kentcountyhistory.org.

 

Join the Kent Island Running Group and the QA’s Family YMCA for the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot

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The Queen Anne’s County Family YMCA and the Kent Island Running Group are excited to announce their partnership on the Thanksgiving Day Charity Turkey Trot 5K. The Kent Island Running Group has successfully run the Great Turkey Chase at Hunters Oak Golf Course with over 400 runners for the past 6 years with proceeds benefitting Queen Anne’s County not-for-profit organizations.

This year, the Kent Island Running Group and the Y have joined forces to participate in the state-wide Y Charity Turkey Trot 5 K, with 14 Thanksgiving Day Run sites and over 15,000 runners across the state. “When you run on Thanksgiving morning, you are supporting not only the Y, who doesn’t turn anyone away due to inability to pay, but other not-for-profit work throughout the community,” said Robbie Gill, CEO for the YMCA of the Chesapeake. The 5-K Turkey Trot starts at 8:30am, Thanksgiving Day, at Hunters Oak Golf Course.

“We’re excited to work alongside the Y to engage their 2,500 members in Queen Anne’s County and the hundreds of community members we’ve traditionally served on Thanksgiving morning. What better way to kick off Thanksgiving, than giving back and having fun in the process,” said Susan Lamont, Kent Island Running President. Proceeds raised from the Charity Turkey Trot 5K will go to local not-for-profits in Queen Anne’s County and support youth programs at the Queen Anne’s County Family YMCA.

Improvements to this year’s race include a timed 5K course, awards for the top 3 male and female per age group, and the ability to run with your dog! The race is open to all ages and abilities, everyone (including your pooch) can walk, run or leisurely stroll the 3.1-mile course and soak in the feel-good vibes! Your participation deeply benefits children and families in your local community, so whether you’re trotting solo, on a team or with your family, register now and be surrounded by a community of goodwill Thanksgiving morning. Gobble, gobble!

You can register today at www.kirg.org/thegreatturkeychase

 

Clare “Pat” Ingersoll

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Clare “Pat” Stevens Ingersoll
1925-2017

Clare Stevens “Pat” Ingersoll (92), a devoted Christian, wife, mother, business owner, scholar and community supporter, died on Saturday, Sept.23, 2017, from complications of pneumonia. She was surrounded by her family, a team of care givers and Hospice at the time.

Born in New York City on March 17, 1925, Clare was the first child of Byam Kirby and Clare Reynders Stevens. Because of her Saint Patrick’s Day birth, Clare was soon and forevermore dubbed as “Pat.” In her earliest years, Pat was raised in Cedarhurst, Long Island and attended the Lawrence School then Greenvale Schools. She chose St. Timothy’s in Catonsville for prep school and enrolled in Bryn Mawr College as a freshman in 1942. However, Pat would only attend Bryn Mawr for a year before falling in love with Daniel Winthrop Ingersoll and marrying him on June 19, 1943. Finishing college would have to wait for Pat as four sons were born.

In the decades of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Pat raised her four sons while co-operating both a farm and a marine business on the farm. The marine business was known as Silver Hill Shop and stayed open from 1953-1982. Pat did all the financial, billing and inventory work that that the business required. During that same time period, Pat ensured that her children were receiving good educations by supporting the local public schools and helping create the first public library in Kent County. She was a Kent County Public Library trustee from 1961-1977 and a Kent County PTA president and supporter from 1950-1967. Additionally, Pat had the distinction of performing as a Kent County judge of elections from 1946-2006. She never missed an election during those 60 years.

During all the years her boys were growing, the idea of returning to college never left Pat’s mind. In 1965, she began taking University of Maryland courses at the Army Nike Base in Tolchester. By 1967, enough of the children were out of the house and Pat continued her education at Washington College, earning a B.A. in 1971. She did not stop there, receiving her Master’s in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and was A.B.D (all but dissertation) in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1980.

Pat’s hobbies and interests included knitting, needle point (won a First at the Timonium Fair), Jeopardy (was a contestant), traveling, often with grandchildren (Ireland, France, the Soviet Union), languages (French, Latin, German, Greek). Before Google, Pat was the source for information and a fount of knowledge, aka “Mrs. Webster” and “CompuMom.”

In the past few decades Pat devoted her attention to serving her college, church and community. She served on the Board of Visitors & Governors for Washington College from 1987-2001 and on the Women’s League of Washington College. At St. Paul’s Church she was a lay reader, eucharistic minister and member of the choir, in which she continued to sing for as long as she could. In the local community, she supported the Mid-Shore Symphony and the National Music Foundation, sang in the Kent County Chorale and donated to almost any charity that asked for her help. She will be missed by her family and friends, including a group of her friends who met on Tuesdays for lunch over several decades.

Pat was predeceased by her husband, Daniel Winthrop, and sister, Evelena Stevens Kenworthy Oakes. She is survived by her brother, Byam Kirby Stevens Jr.; her four sons, Daniel W. Jr., (Kathleen), Robert H. (Gayle), William S. (Susan) and Jared W. (Elizabeth); her grandchildren, Kristen Stevens Ingersoll, Brian Carswell Ingersoll, Daniel Winthrop Ingersoll IV, Erica Lynn Ingersoll Arnold Semler, Abigail Leigh Ingersoll-Gilbertson, Nathanael Evan Ingersoll, Joseph Henry Mills, Katherine Mills, Clare Kelly Ingersoll and Lila Kipling Ingersoll; and her great-grandchildren, Grady West Ingersoll, Audrey Sophia Gilbertson, Kirk Dean Arnold, Lyndsay Arnold, Eleanor Carroll Ingersoll and Alice Clarke Ingersoll.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Washington College or St. Paul’s Kent.
There will be a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28 at St. Paul’s Kent, immediately followed by a reception at the Parish House.

Arrangements by Fellows, Helfenbein & Newnam Funeral Home, Chestertown.
www.fhnfuneralhome.com

“Dickens of a Christmas” Weekend to Fill Downtown Chestertown with Victorian Fun

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© 2017 Granger – Historical Picture Archive. The Granger Collection. All rights reserved.

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 Historic Chestertown organization, in partnership with the Downtown Chestertown Association, the weekend promises themed entertainment, food and music, along with craft workshops, spirits tastings and talks by Dickens experts.

A ticketed preview party Thursday evening, Nov. 30, will be hosted by Washington College President Kurt Landgraf and his wife, Rita, and will benefit the Main Street program. Other proceeds collected over the weekend will benefit the Kent County Food Pantry.

The Thursday night benefit at the Hynson-Ringgold House will mimic the world’s best-known office Christmas party—the festive bash thrown by young Scrooge’s employers Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig and revisited by the Ghost of Christmas Past. In addition to fiddle music and a cocktail buffet, the event will include a special performance by The Levins, whose “Raise a Glass to Charles Dickens” is a lively musical tribute to the author. Tickets to the party are $75 and will be available online by mid-October at MainStreetChestertown.org or by calling 410-778-2991.

The weekend officially kicks off with an extra-festive First Friday, Dec. 1 from 5 to 8 p.m. Firepits and strolling carolers will provide the backdrop for gallery openings and extended shopping hours throughout downtown.  The fun continues Saturday morning with a Victorian version of the award-winning farmer’s market in Fountain Park and extends through the day with live music, performances, food vendors, a house tour, Victorian Tea, a Sweet Shop and gingerbread house display, and wine and ale tastings.

Plans also include a Sunday morning “Run Like the Dickens” 5K race and a “Dickens Dash” fun run.

“This event builds on the Winterfest weekend the Town and Downtown Chestertown Association sponsored the past two years,” says Chestertown economic development coordinator Kay MacIntosh, who is co-chairing the event with graphic designer and marketer Kathleen King. “We have a great planning team but we welcome more volunteers, both for advance preparations and in staffing activities during the weekend.” To learn more about Chestertown’s “Dickens of a Christmas,” inquire about sponsorships or volunteer, call Kay MacIntosh at 410-778-2991 or email manager@mainstreetchestertown.org.

Parents Group Challenges Commissioners on School Funding

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Francoise Sullivan (L) and Jodi Bortz of the Support Our Schools group

The Support Our Schools (SOS) parents’ group came to the Kent County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, Sept. 19, and they had a clear message for the county officials.

Jodi Bortz, Robbi Behr and Francoise Sullivan, three of the founders of the SOS group, told commissioners Ron Fithian and William Pickrum that education should be a priority for county government, and that they will hold elected officials accountable for any shortcoming in the county’s support for the sehools. Commissioner Billy Short was absent from the meeting.

The SOS group read a statement responding to a letter the commissioners published in the Kent County News, in which they said the county is faced with flat revenues both from taxes and from state funding. The commissioners’ letter also noted that they are responsible for running the entire county, not just the school system, which is partially funded by the State of Maryland.

In a reply published in the Chestertown Spy Sept. 14, SOS challenged the commissioners’ assertion and presented data supporting their position. At the meeting Tuesday, the parents reiterated their challenge, noting that the percentage of Kent County’s contribution to the schools is 37 percent of the budget, lower than the statewide average of 42 percent. SOS also questioned why the county required the school system use its fund balance to make up a promised $1.6 million contribution from the commissioners. Sullivan said the schools’ fund balance should be the same percentage as the county’s, which is 7.5 percent of the budget.

Kent County Commissioners Ron Fithian (L) and William Pickrum

In response, Pickrum said schools in “a lot of other” Maryland counties don’t have a fund balance. He said “it doesn’t take forever” for the commissioners to supply additional funding when the school board faces an emergency. He also noted that the county has taxing and borrowing authority, while the board of education does not.

The commissioners called on Pat Merritt, the county’s chief finance officer, to present data supporting their position. Merrit presented slides showing that the county’s contribution to the schools has remained essentially level over the last five years. She also said that the discrepancy between Kent’s contribution to the school budget and the higher percentage in other counties is explainable by the fact that Kent has only 10 percent of its population in the public schools, compared to an average of 15 percent statewide.

Bortz said the health of the school system is a key ingredient of the economic health of the cuunty. She said the commissioners would be well advised to increase the funding for the county’s Economic Development Commission so it can publicize Route 301 economic zone, the county-wide gigabit internet service, and attend regional economic events to publicize the county. An increase in economic activity will produce an increase in tax revenues, providing more money for sehools and everything else, she said. “We stand ready to assist,” she said.

Behr said as the SOS group concluded, “Let’s make Kent County a place to live, rather than a place to die.”

The meeting began with a presentation by Superintendent Karen Couch, who summarized the school district’s decision to terminate its contract with Reliable Transportation of Baltimore, the contractor brought on to provide bus service to the county schools. After receiving numerous complaints of late buses, missed pickups, poor communication and other problems, the school district decided to adopt a hybrid system, under which it would use local contractors for some routes and purchase about 13 buses to serve the rest of the routes in the county. She detailed the financial arrangements, and requested the transfer of $175,000 from the school district’s fund balance to cover the cost of the adjustment. The commissioners approved the request.

Couch also asked if the school district could park some of its buses as the county’s public works department on Morgnec Road and others at the Kent County High School lot in Worton. Current zoning does not allow a bus depot in the county. She said the school district would apply for a zoning text amendment to allow a depot for school buses, and requested a waiver of the application fee. The commissioners approved the request to use the Morgnec road facility for bus parking. As for the fee waiver, County Administrator Shelley Heller said it should be requested when the application is submitted. “That should be a no-brainer,” said Fithian.

The commissioners also approved a request by the school district to fuel the buses from county supplies, which are purchased in bulk at a considerable savings over market price. The audience at the meeting gave Couch a round of applause at the end of her presentation.

 

Kent County Schools Will Cancel Bus Contract

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Reliable Transportation of Baltimore school buses parked at the former bowling alley on Route 213 in Queen Anne’s County 

A resolution to the school bus crisis is on the way.

At the Kent County Board of Education meeting on Sept. 18, Superintendent Karen Couch announced that the school system and Reliable Transportation of Baltimore have reached an agreement in principle to cancel their current contract. While details are still being worked out by lawyers for both sides, the school system has already begun transitioning to the new school bus system. At Superintendent Couch’s request, the board passed a motion to authorize the on-going final negotiations with Reliable.

By Monday morning, Sept 18, Couch said, there were already six buses on the road hired directly by Kent County Public Schools through contractors or individual owner/drivers.   All the buses meet both state and county safety standards with all required equipment installed. With more direct hires in the works, Couch stated that there is still a need for at least 14 more buses which Kent County Public Schools (KCPS) will purchase.

Until the new buses arrive, Reliable will continue to pick up children on the routes not covered by the drivers hired directly by the school district. The school board did not have a time line for the new buses to be in service as of the Monday meeting. They are still considering possible short-term options including borrowing buses – especially special needs buses – from other school systems.

Many of the bus drivers from Reliable will be offered driver positions as the new buses come in. This model of school transportation, in which a school system owns some buses and hires drivers directly, while other buses are supplied by independent contractors who own one or more buses, is known as a hybrid. Caroline, Talbot, and Queen Anne’s counties all have hybrid systems, while Wicomico owns all its own buses.

Reliable knows of the school board’s plans and has agreed to have its buses and drivers used until the school district can transition to their new buses. Couch said that cancellation of the contract with Reliable was despite the company’s best’ efforts and due to circumstances beyond their control. Reliable is committed to a smooth transition, she said.

The county will still need to hire more drivers, some of whom will probably be unfamiliar with the routes, so some of the problems such as late pick-ups and drop-offs may continue during the transition. Three buses will be available for field trips and athletics — an improvement over last year, when only two buses were available, which often made for scheduling difficulties.

Superintendent of Schools Karen Couch

The school plans to buy the additional 14 buses, two of which are special needs buses, for a total of no more than $1.5 million. KCPS will piggy-back the contract with one from another local school district. City National Capital will provide the loan at 2.15 percent interest for 10 years. The deal is a lease-purchase, so the county will own the buses at the end of the 10 years. The lease/purchase agreement is expected to cost $168,000 per year, which is within the school’s current transportation budget. There is no penalty for early repayment. Interest over the 10 years will amount to an estimated $183,000. As the average life of a school bus is 15 years, this may give the district five more years with only maintenance costs. The school district is hoping to join the county’s bulk fuel purchase program to minimize fuel costs.

 

Bus Company Working to Fix Problems

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Reliable Transportation’ school buses parked at the former bowling alley on Route 213 in Queen Anne’s County

The Kent County Public Schools’ ongoing problems with bus service brought out a large crowd to the Board of Education meeting in Rock Hall, Sept. 11, and both the school board and the new bus company, Reliable Transportation of Baltimore, said they were making every effort to solve the problems.

Buses have been up to an hour late, failed to arrive at all, or dropped students off at the wrong place – sometimes as much as a mile away from the designated bus stop.  Buses have broken down enroute and run out of gas. Poor communication between the bus company, its drivers, the schools, the parents, and the school administrative offices has exacerbated the situation.

Jay Walbert, the bus fleet manager for Reliable Transportation, said in an interview at the bus depot on Sept. 12, that the company has 30 buses, including spares, available for the school district. There are 24 routes in the county, he said, including four buses for special needs students. The buses, all of which are owned by Reliable, are parked in an enclosed lot at the former Kent Bowling Center on Route 213; the company is parking the buses there because Kent County zoning does not currently permit a bus depot in the county.

Walbert said Reliable attempted to hire local drivers with knowledge of the area, but with limited success. At the time he talked to the Spy, he said there were only six local drivers working for Reliable. Others had to be hired in Baltimore, and elsewhere, requiring them to commute to Kent County. Walbert said some local drivers had agreed to work for Reliable, but then failed to appear on the day they were supposed to start work. He said he was still trying to find qualified local drivers who were willing to work for Reliable. Drivers are paid for six to eight hours a day, $19.50/hour, plus benefits, he said. In addition to the regular to- and from-school routes, drivers take students to sports events, field trips, and other special trips.

Training for new drivers, Walbert said, began about two weeks before school opened.  However, as a number of expected new-hires did not show up, Reliable had to scramble to find replacements before school opened.

While new drivers were given training in their routes, Walbert said, many of them have trouble distinguishing landmarks in rural areas. Some side roads are poorly marked or not marked at all, and in some areas, tall corn stalks hide signs. “All corn fields look the same” to a city driver, he said. He said the company put guides with local knowledge on the buses to help the drivers learn the routes.

He also said there were technical problems with some of the equipment obtained from the Kent County Board of Education. All but one bus had radio equipment as of Sept. 12, and a receiver had been ordered for that one, he said. However, the radio base station was an older model that needed to be rebuilt, he said.  So communication with all buses while they are on the road should be available as soon as the base station is fixed.  He did not have a timeline for that. As for possible workarounds of using GPS or cell phones, he noted that there are areas of the county where neither GPS systems nor cell phones reliable.

Walbert said he had received angry and threatening phone calls at his home number since taking the job with Reliable this summer. “I just hang up if they start to curse me,” he said. On the other hand, he said some parents have brought donuts for the drivers, and a group of parents in Galena apologized for the way some drivers had been treated.

Walbert, who lives in Queen Anne’s County, said that he completely understands and agrees with the importance of bus safety and accurate, on-time performance.  He understands that the buses are carrying “precious cargo”. He said that the company is hiring and training new drivers and believes that the problems will be ironed out soon.

This is the first year of a 4-year contract for Reliable Transportation of Baltimore.  Previously the Kent County Public Schools had contracted since 1997 with Kent County Bus Contractors LLC to provide bus service.   Kent County Bus Contractors LLC – known colloquially as the LLC – is a consortium of local bus owners who had organized, among other reasons, to make negotiating contracts easier. This way the school system did not have multiple contracts.  However, due to budget problems, the school system decided to put the contract out to bid for the 2017-18 school year.  Reliable won the bid.

The Kent County Board of Education meets tonight, Sept. 18, at the school board offices in Rock Hall; the open portion of the meeting is at 6:30; the transportation problems are on the agenda. The Support Our Schools group, parents who are concerned over a wide range of educational issues in the county, plans to make a presentation to the Kent County Commissioners Tuesday night, Sept. 19; the meeting is at 6 p.m. in the county office building, 400 High St.

Women & Girls Fund Grant Applications Due by November 1

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The Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-­‐Shore, a field-­‐of-­‐interest endowment with the Mid-­‐Shore Community Foundation, is now accepting grant proposals from IRS-­‐designated non-­‐profit organizations for programs addressing the needs of women and girls throughout the five-­‐county region. Completed applications are due in the Fund’s office by November 1, 2017. Grant recipients will be announced at the Fund’s annual spring luncheon in April 2018.

This year, the Fund plans to focus on the opioid epidemic plaguing the Mid-­‐ Shore. Qualified organizations whose programs relate to substance abuse issues at every level as they affect women and girls are encouraged to apply for a grant.

Since its founding in 2002, the Women & Girls Fund has awarded more than $507,000 to 82 non-­‐profit organizations in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne, and Talbot counties. The grant application and detailed guidelines are available at www.womenandgirlsfund.org. For information, call the office at 410-­‐770-­‐8347.