At the Chestertown Council meeting Nov. 18, Town Manager Bill Ingersoll certified the results of the Nov. 5 council election in which Tom Herz and Meghan Efland were elected. Herz won over incumbent Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, 167 to 63. Efland, who ran unopposed to succeed retiring Councilman Marty Stetson, received 41 votes.
Ingersoll said the town did not receive the level of support from the Kent County Board of Elections that it has seen in the past.
“A lot of small communities have been cut loose,” without the use of voting machines and personnel from the county level, he said. On the other hand, he said the town had “a very nice experience” with the private contractor it employed to run the election. “They did a fantastic job,” he said. The contractor cost the town about $5,000 for the two-race election, he said. He said it was about 33% more expensive than in previous years.
Ingersoll also praised Town Clerk Jen Mulligan, who he said “as usual, did a fabulous job” working with the contractor to make sure everything ran smoothly. He said he thought the previous system, with the county Board of Elections, was better in a lot of ways. “It takes a little local knowledge,” which he said Mulligan was able to help the out-of-state contractor with. But on the whole, there were no incidents.
“It’s still my dream” that the town’s elections would be held in the same years as presidential and gubernatorial races, Ingersoll said. “All towns in the state should be on that ballot,” he said, citing the higher turnout and lower expenses for coordinating local, state and national elections. He said it would probably take 7 to 9 years to bring about the change because it would require action from the General Assembly, “but it would really be worth it.”
Herz and Efland were in attendance at the meeting. They take office at the first meeting in January.
Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver, in his ward report, thanked Ingersoll for his help with a resident’s complaint about vultures roosting near a couple of homes in the Washington Park subdivision. “I had no clue that you could not kill a vulture,” Tolliver said, referring to the birds’ protected status under federal law. He said the thought they were roosting in a wooded area near the new Louisa Carpenter Park.
Ingersoll and some long-time council watchers recalled an infestation of vultures in Eliason’s hollow, near the junction of Washington Avenue and Spring Street, in 2007. After complaints by neighbors and nearby business owners, Ingersoll studied the problem and learned that vultures can be made to leave an area by hanging the corpse of a dead vulture in a tree near their roost. A town employee found a road-kill vulture and the town crew hung it on a tree – and the birds departed! The story even made it to WBAL TV in Baltimore.
At the Nov. 18 meeting, Ingersoll put out a call for a road-kill vulture the town can use to evict the Washington Park flock from the neighborhood. There was considerable back-and-forth among council members, with Mayor Chris Cerino recalling that a song he wrote about the Eliason’s hollow birds was the lead title on his first CD. Kuiper recalled that the national Vulture Federation “got upset about it.” A number of audience members, hearing the story for the first time, were clearly nonplussed by the matter-of-fact account.
Tolliver also mentioned the dedication of the Good Seeds Garden at Garnet Elementary School, and the foundation of an Uptown Business Association to benefit merchants and restaurants in the area beyond downtown.
Also at the meeting, Stetson introduced a proposed amendment to the town code to respond to a problem with aggressive dogs in the dog park at Margo Bailey Park. He said that some of these animals have attacked other, smaller dogs and that their owners have brought them back to the park despite being asked to remove them. “They know that there’s not much you can do about it,” he said. He said he knew of one woman who no longer brought her dogs to the park because she was afraid they might be attacked. “We have one guy that shows up, and everybody in the dog park just leaves.”
Stetson suggested that the council make it a civil citation to bring dangerous animals to the park after being asked to stay away. He suggested a $100 ticket for infractions. He said he would post the ordinance at the park, once it was passed, suggesting it might take only one person being fined to teach the others the lesson.
Ingersoll said that the town doesn’t have an animal control agency, but depends on Kent County to enforce its ordinances, which are adopted from the county code. He said the question was whether the town police would be asked to enforce the ordinance or whether it would fall under the county’s jurisdiction. He said he would get in touch with the county to see if the Animal Shelter, the county’s enforcement agent, would enforce such an ordinance if the town adopted it. If not, he said, the council could decide whether to turn enforcement over to the police. He said there was also a problem with owners of large dogs allowing them into the small dog enclosure.
Cerino asked Ingersoll to massage the language of the proposed ordinance for the council to take up at a future meeting.