Council Asked to Fund Playgrounds

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Children using playground equipment at Louisa Carpenter Park in Washington Park

At the Sept. 17 Chestertown Council meeting, Nathan Shroyer offered suggestions for improving the town’s parks and playgrounds.

Shroyer introduced himself as a resident of Kent County, a parent interested in the progress of the town, and a small business owner. He is a city and urban planner by vocation, specializing in disaster management and mitigation.

“I live here because of the rural character and the people, and the quality of life is very important to me and my family,” Shroyer said, characterizing himself as a proponent of green space and public spaces who enjoys walking in Wilmer Park.  He said that in a recent conversation with several delegates in Annapolis, he was told that it would be easy to get up to $200,000 to build “a first-rate quality playground” in Chestertown. He said there is a new playground in Rock Hall that has families present every time he visits it, and it inspired him to do some research on the parks in Chestertown.

A view of the Chester River from Wilmer Park 

“First of all, I found out that you’ve been building parks,” Shroyer said. “This was big news to me.” He said the only Chestertown parks that show up on a Google search are Fountain Park, Kirwan Meditation Park on the Washington College campus, and Wilmer Park – “I know there are others,” he said, noting that he had made an effort to visit as many as he could and take photographs as part of his research. He said the pocket park near the rail trail – the former Ajax property – seems to have “a bunch of surplus equipment.” He said that a query on social media about the pocket park returned a lot of negative comments, such as people sleeping in the park, used condoms on the ground, and other problems.

Based on his experience as a planner, Shroyer said that a park functions better as the number of people and the variety of different groups using it increases. He said he had come to the council to explore ways to achieve that with the parks. Wilmer Park gets “consistent use,” while Margo Bailey park is heavily used by dog walkers, he said. But he has never found people using any of the other parks. Also, the playground at Bailey Park is “binocular distance” from the parking lot, making it difficult for small children to use.

And there are no signs to direct visitors to the existing parks. The only signs are those telling visitors the hours the parks cannot be used. Shroyer said the playground at Garnet Elementary School is only open from 4:30 to sunset, limiting the time it is available for small children to use, especially in winter. He  found in his research that people once considered the Garnet playground “a great town park in the middle of town for people to use.”

Mayor Chris Cerino said the current playground at the school replaced one built by community members a number of years ago. “That’s where I used to take my kids.” He said the Board of Education had removed the old equipment because of insurance issues arising from its dilapidated condition. Since it is on school property, the town has no control over it. Shroyer said the town needs a park with facilities for teens, especially with a climate-controlled indoor space for games. Shroyer said such facilities as restrooms, a barbecue area, and tennis courts would also be a plus. “It’s really about participation,” he said.

Nathan Shroyer speaking to the Chestertown Council about parks and playgrounds

Cerino said the county has such a park at the Clarence Hawkins Community Center in Worton. An audience member added that the Kent County Public Library runs a game night at the Chestertown branch, where all ages can play board games.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town worked with the county and the school district two years ago to upgrade the tennis and basketball courts at the Kent County Middle School. He said the facilities are “empty” most of the time.

Shroyer said the facilities should be easier to find on Google maps and other online sites. “Accessibility and outreach are key,” he added.

Cerino said the town website has a section that lists the parks. Shroyer said he eventually found that website, but that the most useful information he found was in minutes of the town Recreation Commission.

Shroyer said that he came to the meeting to request that the council apply for the grant money delegates told him was available from the state. He said the town should be going for “low-hanging fruit,” such as erecting signage to let people know about the park or to put bike lanes along the road between the middle school and Bailey Park. “You could have a trail going through town with markers to designate these really great spaces,” he said. “Why should families have to drive half an hour every time they want to go recreate?”

Cerino said that the town’s budget is primarily directed toward such services as police protection and public works like road repairs. With a few exceptions, the existing parks – including Gateway Park at the end of High Street, and the Middle School playground — have been built and upgraded with Community Parks and Recreation grants from the state. Such grants are very competitive, and the state expects a municipality to spend grants it has on hand before applying for more. He said the town currently has such a grant for refurbishing Louisa Carpenter Park in the Washington Park suburb, and can’t expect anything more for parks until that is spent. He said the Kent County government might be able to get additional funding on its own, but it generally invests its recreation dollars at the community center in Worton.

Cerino agreed that a top-quality playground would be an important addition to the town’s facilities. He said he had gone to the Rock Hall park –“It’s kind of cool,” Cerino said, adding that it was designed and installed by a playground designer located in Rock Hall, with the Rock Hall Recreation Commission playing a key role. He said that at present, Chestertown’s funding for new projects is largely tied up in the completion of upgrading at the Chestertown Marina, financed with state and federal grants plus some private donations.

Shroyer said he appreciates the town’s commitment to upgrade the marina. He said it is “a question of equity” in how limited resources are used. “You need to distribute resources so people can use them,” he said. “You need to take children as seriously as dogs,” he added, referring to the dog park facilities at Bailey Park.

Councilman Marty Stetson, who has been a strong advocate for the dog park, said the park has been built up largely with private donations, and that it attracts people from all over the Shore.

Town to Seek Vendors’ Input on Market Rules

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James Lockwood of Lockbriar Farms speaks at the Chestertown council meeting Sept. 17

The Chestertown Mayor and Council discussed new rules for the Chestertown farmers and artisans markets with an audience including a number of vendors at the markets at the Sept. 17 council meeting.

Mayor Chris Cerino began the discussion by outlining several “bullet points” he derived from the discussion of the market at the Sept. 4 council meeting as well as from emails received from the public:

Expand the space available for vendors

Expand the geographic area from which vendors will be accepted

Relax a rule requiring vendors to be non-commercial

Change or eliminate a requirement that non-profits have 501(c)(3) status

Allow prepared ready-to-eat foods to be sold

Allow vendors of seasonal items to have space for part of the year

Settle questions about insurance coverage for the market and vendors

Chestertown Town Manager Bill Ingersoll and Councilwoman Linda Kuiper

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, whose ward includes the Fountain Park area where the market is held, gave a summary of her research on the market rules, which she had prepared a revision of. She said there are some 25 types of 501 non-profit organizations, and she suggested expanding the market’s requirements to include all of them. She said the market already allows prepared foods, subject to inspection by the Kent County Health Department, and that vendors of seasonal items are already being accommodated. She said the suggested provisions in the 6-page draft she had prepared were already in a shorter version of the rules prepared in 2012. Kuiper also noted that vendors in the artisans market pay a $20 application fee, but no such fee has been imposed on farmers market vendors.

Councilman Marty Stetson said the pavement on the High Street side of Fountain Park was widened several years ago to make room for more vendors, but nobody currently uses it. He said the artisans want to be close to the farmers because that is where the most foot traffic is. He suggested moving some of the farmers, especially those who have sites on the inside of the park, to High Street, where they will be able to park their vehicles by their space and have more room than they now do. He said putting farmers on both sides of the market would benefit artisans because more customers would walk from one side of the park to the other, going past all the vendors in the middle. It might be necessary to close one lane of High Street to traffic on Saturday mornings when the market is on, he said.

Councilman David Foster asked if vendors would be required to move or be given a choice.

“Nobody will move voluntarily,” said Kuiper. However, she agreed that some vendors who don’t currently have curb space might make the move in order to park a truck next to their assigned site. The plan might also allow the market to add more vendors.

Cerino said the market could begin expansion by placing new vendors on High Street. He said the town should work with a new market manager, replacing the late Owen McCoy, to encourage other vendors to move. He said the town would also have to “step up” to ensure that the High Street side of the park is clear for vendors to use. He opened the floor to comments from the vendors in the audience.

James Lockwood of Lockbriar Farms noted that there were “a lot of experts in this room,” referring to the many vendors who sell both at Chestertown and other farmers markets. He said the market manager and vendors should work together with the town to decide on the rules.

Cerino agreed that the vendors should be more involved in the market rules. He said he would welcome an annual meeting with vendors to work out issues. He said the town has a stake in the market because of liability issues, since it is conducted on town property.

Other audience members had more specific questions. Bill Flook of the Kent County Democratic club, which sets up a tent in the non-profit area of the park, asked about the 501(c)(3) requirement.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town has never required non-profits to show such credentials. “Local and non-profit is all I ask about,” he said. He said the only problem would be with a “church-state issue,” with a religious group proselytizing on town property.

Ingersoll said the town should submit any proposed rules to the vendors using the market for comment and suggested revisions. “Let us know what works for you,” he said to the vendors.

Farmers market vendor Bill Bankhead makes a point to the Chestertown council at the Sept. 17 meeting

Vendor Bill Bankhead raised an issue with a rule against the idling of gasoline engines for more than five minutes, noting that he uses a generator to keep his produce at a safe temperature. Kuiper said the proposed rule was based on Maryland state law and intended to avoid exposing the public to fumes, but could possibly make an exception for small generators.

Cerino then went down the list of bullet points, asking the council for their take on each. Council members agreed that expanding the area of the market to High Street was worth exploring and that the geographic range should be expanded to include vendors for Cecil and southern Queen Anne’s counties. The 501(c)(3) requirement would be dropped, making any local non-profits eligible to operate in the park during farmers market. Vendors of prepared foods and short-term seasonal vendors will be permitted.

At the end of the discussion, the council unanimously approved a resolution instructing Ingersoll and Kuiper to work up a draft set of rules based on comments at the meeting and focusing on the bullet points Cerino identified. The complete draft will be forwarded to market vendors for their input.

Also at the meeting, Nathan Shroyer made several recommendations concerning parks and playgrounds in the community. Look for a full account in an upcoming Spy story.

 

Animal Crackers – A Laugh Riot at the Garfield

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Horatius Jamison, secretary, and Captain Spaulding, the African explorer, with Hives the butler and Mrs. Rittenhouse, the hostess. Landskroener is picture-perfect as Groucho Marx, voice, mustache and all.  (Ian Ellison, Jim Landskoener, Brad Chaires, Diane Landskroener)     Photo by Jane Jewell

Fans of the Marx Brothers–and of vintage comedy in general–have a treat waiting for them at the Garfield Center. The musical version of Animal Crackers – directed by Jennifer Kafka Smith – is one of the funniest shows to appear on the local stage in recent memory.

Animal Crackers began as a 1928 Broadway musical with a book by George S. Kaufmann and Morrie Ryskind, starring the Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont, Groucho’s long-time comic foil. It was the brothers’ second Broadway hit, running for 191 performances. It was also the brothers’ last stage show since the advent of talking pictures made it possible to transfer their fast-talking brand of comedy to film. The play has been revived several times, starting in 1982, with various changes – notably the substitution of some better-known songs for those in the original musical and the removal of material that today’s audiences are likely to find objectionable. The Garfield’s production is based on a 2009 version produced at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

The musical became the Marx Brothers’ second film in 1930, with most of the principals from the stage show reprising their roles. Lilian Roth took the role of Arabella, the romantic lead. The movie, which is probably the best-known version of the show, was shot in Astoria, New York, where Paramount Pictures had an East Coast studio. And with the film censorship of the Hayes Code still four years in the future, the film was much racier than later Hollywood productions – giving the Marx Brothers a chance to show off their zany brand of humor, including a fair quota of double-entendres. And while several characters and some subplots from the stage version were cut, the movie retained many of the best tunes from the stage show, including “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” which later became Groucho Marx’s TV theme song.   And in case you were wondering, “schnorrer” is a Yiddish word meaning moocher or con artist.

The cast of Animal Crackers in a dance choreographed by Kimberly Stevens.    Photo by Jane Jewell

The plot involves a large party given by Mrs. Rittenhouse, a Long Island society matron. The party features the appearance of Captain Spalding, an African explorer and international celebrity, and the first American exhibition of a famous French painting. Mrs. Rittenhouse is anxious for her daughter, Arabella, to meet a suitable husband. She also wants to reestablish her place in society, which has been eroding since the death of her husband. Guests arrive, including a rich New York businessman, Roscoe W. Chandler, and Mrs. Whitehead, a social rival.

At last Captain Spalding (Groucho’s character) arrives, followed by an Italian musician, Ravelli (Chico’s character) and the Professor (Harpo). And much hilarity ensues, including chases, wisecracks, slapstick, double-talk, puns, songs and dances – and oh yes, a couple of love stories and a plot to steal the painting. None of it makes much sense – really, did you expect it to? – and this production makes no attempt to tie it all together. It’s just one heck of a lot of fun.  Enjoy the ride and forget about the destination.

Capt. Spaulding and Ravelli examine the forged painting as the two lovers look on, Photo by Jane Jewell

With so little story, the play depends heavily on the casting, and the local theater community has risen to the occasion. Jim Landskroener takes the role of Captain Spalding, complete with a painted-on Groucho mustache, and he gives a brilliant performance. Whether he’s reeling off a string of nonsense, mugging at the audience, dancing, or delivering a patter song, he’s a thoroughly believable Groucho, right down to the accent. This role is the key to the whole production, and it’s right on target.

Kirby Powell is hilarious as the Professor, the Harpo Marx character. It’s a role that calls for a wide repertory of physical schtick, and Powell does it with verve – all without saying a single word.   In grand Harpo style, the Professor toots his little hand-held, squeeze-bulb horn and chases women up and down stairs.  And it wouldn’t be Harpo if he didn’t play the harp at least once.  This performance really has to be seen to be believed.

The Marx Brothers live at the Garfield!     Photo by Jane Jewell

Ravelli, the con man/musician of the play, is played by Zac Ryan. His character, originally played by Chico Marx, is a variation on an age-old comic theme, the conniving servant who lives by his wits. Ryan does a great job with the character, including the Italian accent and the physical schtick for some of his bits with the Professor. Very nicely done.

Diane Landskroener, a fine comic actress in her own right, has a juicy role as Mrs. Rittenhouse. A stereotypical social climber, this character gives the actress plenty of opportunity to mock the upper classes and their pretensions. And as a foil to Groucho’s absurdities, Mrs. Rittenhouse has a full platter of double-takes, sputtering outrage, and shocked decorum to deploy – and Landskroener does it all in fine style.

Another key role is Hives, the butler – well played by Brad Chaires, who deploys a formidable deadpan while trying to preserve decorum and delivering straight lines. And when he steps out of the role, it’s even funnier. A good bit of casting!

There are two romantic subplots, featuring Dan Guidice and Gretchen Sachse, and Natalie Lane and Bee Betley. The young lovers get to deliver some of the better songs in the show, including “Three Little Words” (Lane and Betley) and “Watching the Clouds Go By” (Guidice and Sachse).  All four have good voices that are showcased nicely by their duets and ensemble numbers.

Betley plays Wally Winston, the intrepid reporter cum gossip columnist who wants to get the scoop on the various celebrities and big-wigs at the party, with an eye to getting a raise and a promotion.  He teams up with Arabella (Natalie Lane), Mrs. Rittenhouse’s flapper daughter who is looking both for a fiancé and a way to raise her family’s social profile.  Wally, handsome and charming, is the perfect candidate for both!  Unfortunately, one of the scandalous tidbits about the various famous guests that she whispers to Wally instead of earning him a bonus puts his job in jeopardy.  But it seems that this romance of opportunity might even survive poverty and obscurity.

On the other hand, true love is the name of the game for Wally’s photographer colleague, Mary Stewart, played by Gretchen Saches.  She is secretly engaged to the struggling artist John Parker played by Dan Guidice.  Together they plot to substitute his painting for the famous painting on display at the party.  Of course, their plot goes astray in the most hilarious way.

The cast of Animal Crackers at the Garfield.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Mike Heffron is convincing as millionaire Roscoe Chandler, and Julie Lawrence displays a nice French accent as Madame Doucet, an art impresario. Mallory Westlund does a good job as Mrs. Whitehead, Mrs. Rittenhouse’s social rival, conniving convincingly with Grace (Brianna Johnson) to bring down Mrs. Rittenhouse. And Ian Ellison, as Horatius Jamison, Spaulding’s secretary, is one of the few characters who manages to fluster Groucho – in a role originally played by Zeppo Marx.

M.G. Brosius, Brooke Ezzo, and Robin Wood contribute solidly, singing and dancing in the ensemble and doing the occasional bit of stage business without a hitch.

Barbi Bedell outdoes herself with the costumes for this production – all period-perfect and all visually stunning. Likewise, the set, designed by Kafka Smith and built by Jim Landskroener, is both striking and functional. The grand double staircase completes the image of a mansion and the provides a perfect setting both for chase scenes and ensemble song and dance numbers.  Michelle Sensenig provides flawless piano accompaniment–with some help from Chico Marx. A couple of the singers/actors were hard to hear, even from the front of the auditorium; and there were occasional pitch problems with a few of the musical numbers but these problems do not spoil the overall performance.

Choreographer Kimberly Stevens deserves special mention for the energetic dance scenes in which the entire ensemble stepped and twirled in the Charleston and other authentic dances of the era.

The social-climbing Mrs. Rittenhouse (Diane Landskroener) greets her rivals Mrs. Whitehead (Mallory Westlund ) and Grace Carpenter (Brianna Johnson). Photo by Jane Jewell

Kafka Smith said she has been a Marx Brothers fan for as long as she can remember, with Animal Crackers a particular favorite. It shows in this production — everyone involved is obviously having fun, and the fun is contagious. She studied old Marx brothers films in order to flawlessly reproduce the various signature bits of “business” that the Marx brothers were known for.  You will love the bit with the cardboard table.

The show would be a good introduction to the theater for young playgoers; the raunchier bits of the movie version have been edited out, while the antics are fully intact – if anything, they’re funnier seen live on stage. This really is one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see any time soon, a laugh riot from start to finish.  Both kids and adults will love the slapstick while older teens and adults will appreciate the outrageous puns and the not-so-subtle mockery of social pretensions.  This show is hilarious. Go see it!

Animal Crackers runs through Sept. 30, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for seniors and military personnel; and $10 for students. For reservations, call 410-810-2060 or visit www.garfieldcenter.org.

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Church Hill’s Sisters Rosensweig a Winner

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Two sisters, Pfeni and Sara, relive childhood games. (Colleen Minahan and Melissa McGlynn)      Photo by Steve Atkinson

Theater lovers – do not miss Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig, now playing at Church Hill Theatre.

The play was originally produced in Seattle in 1992, then moved to New York’s off-Broadway Mitzi Newhouse Theater at the end of the year, and after 149 performances, reopened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, where it ran for an additional 549 performances. It was nominated in practically every possible category of the major awards, winning in many.  It was a Tony Award nomination as best play of 1993, and won the Outer Critics Circle Award as best play that same year.

Directed by Daniel Sullivan, the New York production featured Jane Alexander, Madeline Kahn and Christine Estabrook in the three title roles. Kahn won the Outer Critics Circle and Tony awards as best actress, and the Drama Desk award as best featured actress, while Alexander took the Drama Desk award for best actress. And Sullivan was recognized as best director by the Outer Critics Circle. The play also brought Wasserman the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in American Theater.

Built around three Jewish-American sisters whose lives have gone in dramatically different directions, the play is set in the oldest sister Sara’s London home, where she is about to celebrate her 54th birthday. A banking executive, she is in many ways the most successful of the trio. Visiting to join in the celebration are her two sisters, one a travel journalist, Pfeni, whose home is wherever there’s a good story.  The third sister, Gorgeous, is a suburban Boston housewife who’s become a star giving advice on a local talk radio. They are joined by various friends and boyfriends, each of whom embodies a different aspect of their lives. As the celebration moves along, it becomes clear that Merv, a friend of one of Pfeni’s boyfriends, has fallen for Sara.

There are plenty of laughs to be had throughout the evening, but at bottom this is a play with a very serious focus. Wasserstein described her play’s subject as “being Jewish,” and there is a large element of that onstage – notably with Gorgeous, the most devout of the trio, who has come to London with her rabbi and a group of women from their synagogue. But the others are also keenly aware of their heritage – even the atheistic Pfeni describes herself at one point as “the wandering Jew.” And the plot, rather than a series of “dramatic” events, is basically a story of self-definition and discovery – as all the main characters go through some sort of epiphany during the course of the play. All three sisters have rebelled in different ways against their mother and their traditional upbringing.  Sara’s teenage daughter Tess is carrying on the tradition, resisting her mother’s plans for her and trying to chart her own path.

Director Shelagh Grasso has brought together a strong cast, with no weak performances. This is especially true of the three lead roles, the sisters for whom the play is named. The sisters clearly love one another despite their very different personalities and different choices in life; one of the play’s most affecting scenes is when the three sit together on Sara’s couch, drinking wine and enjoying a rare chance to just be together.

Colleen Minahan, who appeared last year with Shore Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, is outstanding in the role of Sara, who on the surface is the most successful and fulfilled of the sisters. She speaks with a British accent and considers America to be in serious decline. Minahan gives the character–who at first seems distant and even snobbish–an element of tenderness that comes out as we follow her relationship with her family and others in her life.

Pfeni, the free-spirit sister, dances with her boyfriend, Geoffrey. (Melissa McGlynn and John Schratweiser)         Photo by Steve Atkinson

Melissa McGlynn, well known to Garfield Center audiences, plays Pfeni, the peripatetic journalist just in from Bombay and on her way to who knows where? McGlynn does a good job of conveying her character’s high-energy, unconventional lifestyle. She arrives at Sara’s home with a half-dozen shopping bags that Pfeni uses instead of luggage. And when later, the character reveals a more conventional inner core, McGlynn conveys that change convincingly. An excellent performance by one of the stars of the local theater community.

Jen Friedman is perfectly cast as Dr. Gorgeous Teitelbaum – the role could have been written for her. Yet as funny as the character can be, Friedman doesn’t let us forget that Gorgeous is real, with problems and desires that go beyond the easy laughs to make her a sympathetic human being. A wonderful performance with absolutely fabulous fashions!  Gorgeous wears hot pink and longs to own a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Jen Friedman is Dr. Gorgeous who gives fashion and relationship advice on a radio talk show. She knows how to accessorize!      Photo by Steve Atkinson

John Haas gives an engaging performance as Merv, the New York furrier who falls for Sara. Successfully carrying on the business that his father and grandfather established, he can joke about the new era when some customers object to real animal fur — and how he has adapted to this with “artificial animal skin” coats. Hass effectively projects the character’s openness and honesty — and his vulnerability as a recent widower.  Haas portrays both Merv’s warmth and strength as a man who knows who he is and is comfortable in his own skin.

John Schratweiser of Kent County Arts Council is hilarious as Geoffrey, a bisexual London theater producer. Returning to the local stage after several years working on the western shore, Schratweiser brings a facility both with physical schtick and polished delivery of lines to the part. It’s good to see him back on the boards – let’s hope this is the first of many new roles for him.

Bob Chauncey takes the role of Nick, a supercilious Englishman who looks somewhat askance at the sisters’ American roots. According to the director, he came on board for the play with minimal rehearsal – it certainly doesn’t show. A very nice performance in a small part.

The whole family comes together for the birthday party. (Jen Friedman, Nick Carter, Shannon Whitaker, Colleen Minahan, and Melissa McGlynn) Photo by Steve Atkinson

Tess, Sara’s daughter, is played by Shannon Whitaker. Tess is getting ready for her first year of college, to be spent at a proper British university – but she has a strong streak of social activism, and wants to go to Lithuania to take part in that country’s break away from the collapsing Soviet Union. Whitaker is convincing as a rebellious teenager who comes to realize there’s more to her life than rebellion.

Nick Carter plays Tess’s working-class boyfriend Tom, who is dedicated to the cause of Lithuanian freedom. A good job in a part that’s full of one-liners, and an especially nice job with the character’s accent.

The set, representing Sara’s living room, was designed by Grasso and her husband Carmen. Carmen Grasso and Tom Rhodes built the set. As we’ve come to expect of CHT sets, it’s absolutely spectacular, with its elegant ten-foot tall white pillars conveying the essence of Sara’s posh lifestyle.

Costumes are very well done.  The characters wear basically what one would expect the characters to be wearing some 25 years ago in London – ranging from Geoffrey’s dance in his underwear to Nick’s correct formal evening wear and Tom’s scruffy t-shirt and jeans, topped off by a Mohawk hair-cut.  The three sisters’ personalities are shown in their fashion choices–with Sara appearing in expensive business dress, elegant silk robes and white tennis togs while free-spirit Pfeni wears casual, flowing, almost-hippie attire.  And Gorgeous is gorgeous in bright colors with scarves and jewelry to match.  Kudos to the costume crew.

Bob Chauncey is Nick, the millionaire businessman. Photo by Steve Atkinson

Grasso has brought out strong performances from the entire cast, and the play is a wonderful testimony to the strength of the local theater community. Adult situations and language may make this production inappropriate for the very youngest theatergoers, but everyone else should make it a point to see it.

The Sisters Rosensweig continues through Sept. 23, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 apiece for the general public, $15 for CHT members and $10 for students. Call 410-556-6003 or visit churchhilltheatre.org to make reservations.

Council Meets New Hospital Director

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Shore Regional Health CEO Ken Kozel introduces Kathy Elliott, new director of the Chestertown hospital, to the mayor and council

Ken Kozel of Shore Regional Health came before the Chestertown council Sept. 4 to introduce Kathy Elliott, the new executive director of the Chestertown hospital.

Kozel said Elliott was chosen after an “exhaustive” interview process involving board members, physicians, management and team members working in Chestertown. He said that she is a long-time resident of Kent County and Chestertown. “What appealed to us the most is her commitment and passion for this community,” Kozel said. Elliott is a nurse by profession, “with specialties and experience in just about every area of nursing,” he said, noting that nursing is one of the primary functions of the hospital. Equally important, though, was the need for a community member who is passionate and loyal to the community, Kozel said.

Elliott said she has worked in the hospital for a number of years. She said she would be “bringing the bedside to the boardroom and the boardroom to the bedside, so the people closest to our patients understand what we are doing.” She said she knows she has a lot to learn about the management of the hospital – “It’s been eye-opening and exciting, and it’s a challenge – I’m looking forward to it.” She said she had started as interim director at the end of March.

Councilman David Foster asked if she would take part in recruiting new doctors for the local hospital. She said she would; “I’ve recruited nurses in the past,” she said, adding that there would be “a learning curve” as she worked to bring in new physicians.

Councilman Marty Stetson said he had heard a report that the hospital was looking to set its number of inpatient beds at 15. He asked how that number was arrived at, noting that far more people are likely to be in the hospital during flu season. “If you have 27, 28, 29 people, what do you do with them?”

“We admit then,” Elliott said. “We have the bed space, but we staff to the 14ish level,” she said. In the event of a need for more personnel, the hospital can call in additional nurses and other personnel to handle the higher patient load. “It’s why we look at things every four hours and plan accordingly.” She said that presently, the hospital has 26 physical beds.

Kozel said the 15 number is “a guess,” projecting the hospital’s mission through 2022 and beyond. He said the healthcare community is focused on keeping people healthy and out of the hospital rather than admitting every prospective patient. He said today’s health care community looks at a prospective patient and asks, “Is there a better way to care for that patient that doesn’t require admission, which is very labor-intensive, very expensive, and often times not necessary.” Primary care and preventive care are important ingredients in this approach, he said.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver asked how Elliott was advocating to preserve the hospital for the community, at a time when many residents are worried it may close or downsize to something inadequate to their needs.

“The hospital is important to me on a couple of different levels,” Elliott said. “It’s my job, and it’s my community that we serve,” she said. She said she was working to bring in specialties and primary care physicians needed in the community.

Foster asked what residents should do if they hear of someone coming to the local hospital and being sent to Easton for services available locally. “You can call me,” said Elliott.

Erney Maher, a Heron Point resident, said there was much concern that Shore Regional Health is planning to move programs out of the hospital and to Easton. He cited a reduction of the number of beds and closing the intensive care unit. “We would like to hear from Mr. Kozel things that are new and positive about the hospital, not that we are cutting this or that.” He said the Heron Point community is very loyal to the hospital and finds it a source of anxiety when it hears of loss of services.

Kozel said Shore Regional Health has recently brought to the Chestertown area a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist, and several primary care providers, including Dr. Susan Ross as a hospital staff member. It has also hired several other doctors to assist her, and a nurse practitioner. “We’re looking for a general surgeon, as well.” He said the new medical pavilion at Philosophers Terrace is already at capacity, and the hospital is searching for ways to expand its capabilities. “We recognize that that’s our responsibility.”

Dr. Gerry O’Connor said he has seen disturbing evidence that Shore Regional Health is working to move patients and services out of the Chestertown hospital, such as telling patients that the hospital is “full” when only four or five beds are in use. “There’s no tangible feel that I get that Shore Regional wants to keep it going,” he said. “The low census concerns me; there’s something going on.”

Mayor Chris Cerino said to Kozel, “We hear from you all (…) ‘we’re doing everything we can to serve the community,’ and we hear doctors from within the facility basically say almost the exact opposite. It’s really confusing.” He said it was in the town’s interest to preserve as many services as possible, especially given that residents are used to a full-service hospital being available. He said a full discussion might take three hours, and suggested a special meeting to go over the issues might be in order in the near future.

Also at the meeting, Latoya Murray and Catherine Torrez of Saving Hope came before the council to explain her program’s work for local families and children. She said the group provides a nurture and parenting program that works with the Department of Social Services and the local courts to help families that are seeking to regain custody of their children. She said they had recently ended a project to do a housing assessment of Kent and Caroline counties. They also held a clothing and school supply giveaway – “this is our fourth year doing that” – in partnership with Dixon Valve, serving some 70 families. They have an annual food drive and a “Pictures with Santa” event at Kent Family Center, for which they partner with the Judy Center of the Kent County Schools to provide books for young children.

In addition, Murray said, they provided “blessing bags” for homeless families, with socks, hygiene products such as toothpaste, non-perishable foods, and other useful items they can carry with them. They announced future events including one to educate the community on the history of Juneteenth, the African-American holiday in celebration of emancipation. They are also planning a coat drive for this winter, and a women’s expo showcasing breast cancer awareness and other women’s health issues. She said the group hoped to be able to offer the event in Wilmer Park, but dates were still being decided on.

Councilman Linda Kuiper asked how the group’s activities are funded. Murray said they work with the Kent Family Center and the Department of Social Services, as well as charging a consulting fee for in-home parenting programs. For the giveaways, “everything is donated,” she said.

The council signed a letter of support for Neyah White, who was applying for a Class D liquor license in the former location of J.R.’s Past Time Pub at 341 High St. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll read from the letter, noting the history of the location as a tavern over the years since the 1950s, if not earlier.

White said the four-building complex – which includes the former Lemon Leaf restaurant, the bar, and several adjoining rooms — “is in some of the worst shape of any business I’ve ever walked into.” He said it would be impossible to open it as a restaurant any time soon, though that is the long-range plan. “We are going to get there,” he said. “We think this is a hole in the smile of High Street, and we want to fill it.” He said he would operate it as a tavern until the building was in a condition to offer food service. He said the short-range plan was to re-open the bar kitchen, which has been out of service for several years. “We want to do it the right way,” he said. For the short term, the business will be called “Limited Time Offering” in recognition that it will eventually change to a larger operation.

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Vendors Weigh in on Farmers Market Rules

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Bill Bankhead, a long-time vendor at the Chestertown farmers market, speaks at the town council meeting Sept. 4

Vendors from the Chestertown farmers and artisans markets filled the room Tuesday night as the Chestertown Council discussed proposed new rules for the markets.

Chestertown’s Farmers Market is open every Saturday morning from 8:00 am til noon in Fountain Park.  The market is open year-round though it is busiest with the highest number of vendors from late spring through the fall.  Originally only carrying locally grown produce, the market has expanded in recent years to include artisans with colorful displays of various arts and crafts and a section for non-profit organizations such as the Humane Society and 4-H.

Fountain Park has been the location for a local market almost continuously since Colonial days –with a few years or decades off every now and then.  The current farmers market was established in 1981 after the previous market had faded away sometime in the ’60s. The market has operated under a one-page set of regulations since that revival in the early 1980s.  With a larger number of vendors and a wider range of products now being sold, the town decided to update the rules in 2012. But while a new set of rules was drafted, it was not put into practice at that point. This year, with the death of long-time farmers market manager Owen McCoy, Councilwoman Linda Kuiper undertook a revision of the rules to provide guidance for the market. She said she took the rules for the artisans market, which were more recent, and produced a combined set for all three groups–farmers, artists, and non-profits–using the market. The draft rules were introduced at the August 26 council meeting.

Chestertown Councilwoman Linda Kuiper describes proposed updates to farmers market rules

Among the issues Kuiper identified were the need for liability insurance for vendors at the market, enforcement of parking regulations, regularization of the fee schedule for vendors using more than one space, and a clearer definition of eligibility to participate as a vendor or non-profit organization.

Kuiper said the need for liability insurance was one of the largest issues. She said she looked into the budget for the farmers market, to see if it generated enough income to allow the town to add a rider to its insurance to cover the market. She said she needed a more detailed breakdown of the expenses of maintaining the park before she could be sure the revenue could cover a rider to insure vendors.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town has $1 million in liability insurance for town-sponsored events in the park. He said the only issue he could think of was negligence, such as a vendor leaving something sticking into a walkway that a patron could trip over. He said vendors would need to be insured to cover their own negligence. “I think people should protect themselves,” he said, citing an incident 25 years ago that cost a vendor $20,000 for negligence.

Kuiper said she had been “inundated” by an email campaign on the market rules that arrived the day of the meeting. She said many of the writers said the market should be expanded to include a wider range of products. “I’m not against expanding the market, but it’s not my choice,” she said. “There are only so many spaces down there.”

Mayor Chris Cerino said the main issue arose from the farmers market’s popularity. “It’s a great problem to have,” he said. “We’re trying to fix something that really isn’t broken.” He said he went to the market last Saturday and was impressed by the number of people there, the “great produce,” and the foot traffic at other downtown businesses from people who came for the market.

Chestertown Farmers Market

Cerino said there were five “bullet points” he took from the email writers’ suggestions, all related to adding “more stuff” – which would require adding more area to the market space. He said the other side of Park Row was one possibility, though it would complicate access along that street. Several years ago, the town expanded the sidewalks on the High Street side of the park, adding about five more feet of brick to make room for more vendors, specifically for the artisans and non-profits. “and then they just migrated back” to the grass nearer to where the farm vendors are set up, so as to take advantage of the foot traffic there. “That sidewalk [on High Street] is empty,” during market hours, he said.

The bullet points included relaxing the requirement that vendors come from Kent and northern Queen Anne’s counties. Others suggested adding ready-to-eat foods or relaxing the requirement that vendors be non-commercial. Broadening the requirement that non-profits using the park be 501(c)(3) organizations was also suggested. Noting that all the requests essentially involved increasing the number of vendors allowed in the market, Cerino asked, “How much more can we do? The park gets the hell beaten out of it” by the foot traffic, he said, noting that sod laid down three years ago is now gone. “The park gets loved to death,” he said. “Are we willing to make it bigger?”

Kay MacIntosh, the town’s director of economic development, said she had been hearing a lot of requests from people wanting to get into the market for the last year. She said those who commented were trying to make sure that their viewpoints and opinions were taken into account before the town passed new rules for the market. She said there wasn’t “some conspiracy” to flood the council with emails. “It really is an honest effort to participate in this wonderful small-town thing.”

Councilman David Foster said he had been approached by people asking questions when he went to the market the last couple of weeks. He noted that while the rules are for the benefit of the farmers, artisans, and non-profits using the park, the market also benefits the whole community. He said the town has “a wonderful resource” in the market, and that it needs to work collectively to make it the best it can be.

Cerino then opened the floor to questions from the audience. Bill Bankhead, who has been a long-time vendor at the market, said this was one of 19 markets he has attended over the years. He said Chestertown was the only market that required “payment by the tent,” which he characterized as “counterproductive to someone trying offer an attractive display.” He said variety is one of the major appeals of the market.

Bankhead said nobody had informed him of the council meeting or the rules until the previous Saturday. He asked what vendors had been asked for input on the new rules. Also, at successful markets, the market manager is there to solve problems at all times, from before opening to after closing. “I don’t think it’s good to just get the money and go,” he said. He said he attends the market 52 weeks a year, except when farm work such as baling hay needs to be done, and sometimes in the winter there are “four people there.” He said charging the full price to vendors in those circumstances was not good policy. “We’re the ones that are making the market, and you’re trying to suck out another 20 bucks? Some people sit there and don’t sell a thing, myself included.”  The current fee is $10 per assigned space per week.  Two spaces costs $20 per week.

Bankhead said the vendors do a lot of maintenance work at the park, such as shoveling snow and applying ice-melt in winter weather. He said he would like “some courtesy” from the town to recognize their efforts. He cited being asked to leave the park on short notice a few years ago for the Harry Potter festival. “Why wasn’t I told?” Cerino said that was an oversight, for which the town had apologized.

Kuiper asked whether other markets require advance notice from vendors who

plan to set up two tents. He said he sets up two tents at every market, most of which are conducted on paved surfaces. He objected to a rule prohibiting vendors from changing spaces. He said he does so when there are vacant spaces, or a very small number of vendors, so as to make the market more compact.

Wayne Lockwood of Lockbriar Farms said that other markets he has attended have a meeting of all their vendors at the beginning of the year. He said that was the best opportunity to hash out how many spots are available, who’s going to attend, and other issues. “I don’t think you need to invent the wheel again; the farmers market’s a great place.” He said it was a good idea to use more of the sidewalk around the park.

Kuiper noted that Wanda Gorman, the artisans market manager, holds an annual meeting.

Jen Baker, head of the Downtown Chestertown Association of business owners, said many prospective vendors who can’t find a place in the markets come to the association seeking assistance. “We’d love to see that extend a bit because all [the vendors] bring a lot of business into Chestertown.” She said the market can act as an incubator for local businesses, citing Evergrain Bread Company’s transition into a storefront business after starting off as a market vendor. She said the rule requiring vendors to be “non-commercial” was unrealistic.  “I think every single business owner in the room right now has commercial interests.”

The criteria for defining “non-commercial” have not been explicit although it is usually interpreted to mean vendors who do not have a local storefront and whose products are generally home-grown or hand-made by the vendor and not merely purchased by the vendor for resale in the market.   Also, Baker said, the DCA would welcome vendors who fill gaps in the local business environment, such as a fishmonger or coffee roaster, two prospective vendors whose applications were turned down recently. She said the local business community doesn’t see the market as competition. Finally, she said she would like to see the sale of prepared foods allowed, adding to the variety available in town. “We’re hoping we can expand the footprint a little bit to offer more great things and hopefully more business for all of us here in the community.”

Artisans market manager Gorman said the group has a meeting every year to review the rules, invite new vendors, and see which vendors plan to return. She said there was a lot of negative response to the new rules, especially about the need for insurance. She said she checked with her homeowners’ insurance carrier and was told it would cost her $320 a year for liability coverage. “Personally, I don’t feel that’s an exorbitant amount if you’re there April through December,” she said. However, she said she would be interested if the town does put a special policy for vendors together.

Bill Kelly, who said he’d been doing the farmers market for Redman Farms for 15 years, said he never heard of the new regulations until Saturday before the meeting. His reaction was, “My God, six pages of regulations?” He said he was unable to find the regulations on the town website. The draft rules are posted on the Chestertown website. Kelly said vendors should have been given a chance for input. “Call a meeting of the vendors, we’re more than willing to work with you.” He also said the farmers market does not kill grass in the park. “We do everything we can to protect that park.” He complimented the council for supplying a porta-potty for the vendors. Kuiper said Roy Mears had paid for the toilet.

Richard Crane, who sold honey in the park for three or four weeks this summer, said provisions need to be made for products that are time-limited. He said it was gratifying that people enjoy local honey and that many spoke to him about the danger honeybees are in. He said the other vendors constitute “a community unto itself,” and said he regretted only being there for a short time to sell.

Deb Layton said the National Farmers Market Coalition has insurance available for $275 a year. She said she would send information to the town so it can see if it could apply to the local market.

Dolly Baker thanked McCoy’s daughters for their work to manage the market after his death, and Kuiper for her work on the rules. She said many of the vendors came to the meeting after seeing a newspaper article about proposed changes, concerned that new rules might be passed without any input from them.

Bankhead said someone needs to enforce the boundaries between the vendors’ territory and the non-profit section of the market. Kuiper said she and Gorman do so when they see someone in the wrong section.

Cerino thanked the vendors for coming to the meeting. “The farmers market is a great, great thing – I think we all recognize that. I appreciate your input.” He said he would synthesize the vendors’ comments and make decisions on necessary changes. He said he would try to have the rules ready as an agenda item for the next meeting, Sept. 17.

Here’s links for the websites for the Chestertown Farmers Market and the Artisans Market.

Progress on Movie Theater

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The Chesapeake Movies theater at Washington Square Mall has its new sign in place, aiming for a late September or early October opening.

Barring any unforeseen delays, the Chesapeake Movies theater at Washington Square Mall is planning to open in late September or early October.

Mike Klein, one of the principals of the Chesapeake Movies group, said in a phone interview Aug. 23 that while a lot of work still needs to be done–installing the seats, re-tiling the floors, constructing and outfitting the new concession stand area–things have begun to come together.  If all goes well, Klein said that the theater’s grand opening could be as early as Friday, Sept 28.

The theater’s opening had been delayed due to the need to install a new heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the building. Silicato Development, who owns and manages the mall, paid for the new system, which arrived the second week of August. The new HVAC needed to be in place before most of the other work could start. Klein said the system needs to be run for some time after it is installed to clean out the ducts, which had dust and mold from the old HVAC system, which had not been changed in more than 20 years.  The new system, Klein said, is now completely installed and is blowing air.

Rocker chairs – 44 inches from floor to top of head-rest – with padded arm-rests and head-rests.

Once the HVAC system is broken in,  the other major installations, such as carpets and seats, can proceed. Klein said the theater has ordered 120 recliner seats, to be installed in the back three rows of each of the five theaters. The recliners will be available by reservation, at a slight increase in the regular price for seats. Also on the list of upgrades are state-of-the-art projectors and sound system for each of the five theaters, and larger screens.  All major items have already been ordered.

Currently, Klein said that he is working on finding contractors to re-tile the bathrooms and other areas.  He said that they are trying to use local companies and have contacted several for quotes.  When that is finished, construction on the new concession area can start.  The theater is contracting with Coca-Cola to be their main supplier.  Even receiving the soda machines, he said with a laugh, can take a month from placing the order.

Klein said he had met with representatives of Washington College and the Kent County Public Schools to go over the theater’s plans, and to discuss possible student discounts and other programs to appeal to a younger audience. The owners are also working on a website for the theater, where film-goers will be able to check schedules and reserve tickets.

The delay in opening the theater has been a matter of concern for the theater operators as well as the local community, which has been without a movie theater since June 2017, when the Chester 5 theaters closed. Klein said that summer is the season when a movie theater makes most of its money, with many popular films being released over the season. Also, with school closed and parents on vacation, going to the movies is easier for families in the summer.

The Chestertown Mayor and Council also expressed concern about the projected opening of the movie theater at its Aug. 6 meeting. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said he had gone by the theater to check on progress and was “very disappointed” to find that while the old seats and carpets had been removed, they had not been replaced. He said the new owners originally planned on opening in late 2017, but that problems with the lease and financing were not resolved for several months.

Other delays then postponed the projected opening date to Memorial Day, and again to the end of July. Ingersoll said the town had promised to devote the proceeds of the entertainment tax generated by the theater to repaying a $75,000 loan that Chesapeake Movies received from the Kent County Commissioners.

Kay MacIntosh, the town’s economic development director, said on Aug. 14 that she had told Klein that any number of residents would be willing to pitch in to get the theater open again. MacIntosh also said the theater’s payment of the entertainment tax would include not just ticket prices, but the price of any refreshments sold. She said the refreshments could be expected to amount to more than the ticket prices, especially if the owners are able to get a license to sell beer and wine.

If things go as planned, it will soon be show time again in Chestertown!

Residents Request Lower Speed Limit on Quaker Neck Road

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Andy Scott, a Chester River Landing resident (L), and John Seidel of Washington College at the Chestertown Council meeting Aug. 20

Is the speed limit between Wilmer Park and the Radcliffe Creek bridge too high? Some of those who live and work in the area came to the Chestertown Mayor and Council meeting Aug. 20 to argue that it should be lowered.

Andy Scott of the Chester River Landing council of unit owners and John Seidel of Washington College told the council that the current speed limit of 40 mph on Cross Street extended/Quaker Neck Road presents a danger to walkers, joggers and cyclists who regularly use the road. There are nearly 30 families living at Chester River Landing, which sits past Radcliffe Creek on the river side of the road and is just within town limits.

Seidel told the council that the college’s construction projects, including the new boathouse and the Semans-Griswold Environmental Center, which will begin building this fall, will increase foot and bicycle traffic in the area between Wilmer Park and the armory. As many as 250 students a day are expected to use the college’s new waterfront campus, and the boathouse will be in regular use by the college’s sailors and rowers.

Scott cited a June 18 story from the Detroit Free Press stating that nationwide pedestrian deaths are 46 percent higher than in 2009, with a total of 6,000 in 2016. Causes include distracted or impaired drivers, jaywalking and the increased number of SUVs on the road. SUVs, Scott explained, have been the bestselling new vehicles in the U.S. since 2014. The danger they present is on account of their higher front end, which strikes a pedestrian at a higher point than a conventional passenger car, making them more likely to cause a fatal injury.

The speed at which pedestrian/vehicle accidents occur is also critical. At 20 mph, there is a 5 percent probability of fatal injuries; increase the speed to 30 mph, and the risk rises to 45 percent; and at 40 mph, the risk is 85 percent. The speed limit on the section of Cross Street between Wilmer Park and the bridge is 40 mph. In fact, Scott said, traffic headed out of town begins to pick up speed after the curve by the old train station, and is typically above 40 mph by the boathouse – and well above 40 mph at Radcliffe Creek. Inbound traffic is well above 40 mph as it passes town limits, and starts to slow only when it reaches the boathouse.

Scott and Seidel proposed reducing the speed limit between the train station and town limits to 25 mph, both inbound and outbound. They also suggested installing traffic calming measures such as pedestrian warning signs and flashers for crosswalks. They said they are seeking the council’s support, along with that of the police department, for a petition to the State Highway Administration (SHA) to conduct a study of traffic on the road and to consider appropriate speed reduction and traffic calming measures. Cross Street, which is part of state Route 289, is under the jurisdiction of the SHA.

Councilman Marty Stetson said the SHA “moves very slowly.” The SHA took over a year to reduce the speed limit in the vicinity of the High Street roundabout.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said that Greg Holsey, the SHA’s local district engineer, recently retired and his replacement hasn’t been named. He said the town expects at some point to extend the rail trail to cross the road in the vicinity of Radcliffe Creek; “It’s time to slow everybody down,” he said. He said a group meeting with the new engineer, when appointed, would be a good start, but the advocates of a lower limit would need to keep the pressure on SHA. He said the state usually respects municipalities’ speed limits on state roads within their boundaries.

The council voted unanimously to sign a letter of support. Mayor Chris Cerino said if Scott and Siedel would draft the letter, the council will sign it. He said all the entities supporting the lower speed limit should submit their letters together so as to “get their attention.” He also suggested getting the support of KRM Development, which owns the Stepne Manor development along the road.

Also at the meeting, the council heard plans for the annual Sultana Downrigging Festival, the HP Festival, and a plan to decorate the Fountain Park fountain as a Christmas tree for the Dickens Christmas festival, now in its second year.

The council also reappointed Steve Atkinson to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

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Council Will Update Farmers’ Market Rules

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Chestertown Councilwoman Linda Kuiper outlines proposed new rules for the farmers market, while Town Manager Bill Ingersoll listens.

The Chestertown Farmers Market is about to get an updated set of rules and regulations.

At the Aug. 20 meeting of the Mayor and Council, Councilwoman Linda Kuiper presented a draft of proposed rules for the market. Kuiper represents town Ward 2, which includes the Fountain Park area where the Saturday morning farmers market is held, and Kuiper has taken an active interest in promoting the market and working with the vendors and non-profit organizations that use it.

Kuiper said there was a one-sheet set of rules “a long time ago,” which Town Manager Bill Ingersoll had begun a revision of in 2012, but had not finished. Many items on the original rules were outdated, she said. She said she has been more involved in all aspects of the market since market manager Owen McCoy passed away early last month, and has found issues that need to be addressed.

“This got a little longer than I thought it was going to be,” Kuiper said. She said the six-page document includes farmers, artisans, and non-profit organizations. The purpose of the market is to give local – “and I stress local,” she said – farmers, artisans, and non-profits the opportunity to sell in an open market and, for non-profit organizations, to provide education and information about their organizations.

There are some issues to be resolved. Kuiper said that the original rules said that each space would cost $10 weekly, but that some vendors are renting a second space at only $5.   Also, Kuiper noted, it wasn’t clear whether the $20 application fee was being collected for the farmers market – “I know it was for the artisans.” She said she wasn’t sure whether some vendors were given a discount for paying the entire year in advance.

Ingersoll said that two spaces should be $20. He said he didn’t know why vendors were given a discount for a second space. The payments for spaces were brought to town hall as a lump sum without specifying who was paying for what, he said. In his opinion, there should be no discounts for a second space.

Kuiper said some of the vendors had been vocal in stating their demands, and that had given her fuel for the regulations. Also, she said, one of the vendors was running a diesel truck to keep meat he was selling properly refrigerated the entire time he was at the market. She said people complained about the fumes, and she had asked the vendor to turn it off. She said the Maryland Department of Agriculture requires frozen meat to be kept below a certain temperature, but that doesn’t mean that a vehicle can run four hours straight. State law limits the time a stationary vehicle can run its engine to five minutes. “There are other methods for maintaining that temperature,” she said, adding that other meat vendors at the market adhere to the requirement without running engines.

The late Owen McCoy at Chestertown Farmers Market  

Also, not all vendors have filed their liability insurance forms with the town. She said there was an incident some time ago where a patron was injured, and there was an issue with insurance. Other licenses are also required for sale of certain products. The town allowed vendors to offer tastings since April 2017, with the stipulation that all expenses for inspection by the Health Department or other entities are borne by the vendor.

Some vendors have asked where the money for space rental goes, Kuiper said. She said she spelled out in the regulations that it covers maintenance of the park and fountain. “I don’t know whether some of it goes to the garden club,” she said.

Ingersoll said the fee for space in the market was “more or less a business license.” He said maintenance of the park and the fountain is an ongoing expense. “I’ll write all those things out for you,” he said.

Mayor Chris Cerino asked how many vendors are currently using the park during the market. Kuiper said there are 28 regular farmers market vendors, with two temporary additions at the moment. She said she thought there were 25 at the artisans’ portion of the market, while the number of nonprofits varies from one week to the next. Also, some of the artisans are not there every week – “they don’t pay if they aren’t there,” she said.

Kuiper said some of the vendors had pushed her very hard about what they were allowed to do in the market. “There comes a point when you just get pushed so far…” “And then this happens,” Cerino broke in, brandishing his copy of the proposed rules.

One vendor has consistently parked a truck in a handicapped space despite being warned, Kuiper said. She said she would like to include a fine for the violation in the market rules. Ingersoll said the town already imposes a $100 fine for the violation. “Usually people don’t do it twice,” he said.

Kuiper said she invited feedback from the council on the draft regulations, for a vote at a subsequent meeting. She said she had also written an application form for farmers, using the artisans market application as a model. Also, she said, she thought that non-profits using the market should have 501(c)3 status. Ingersoll asked if the Democratic and Republican clubs, which regularly set up booths in the market, are 501(c)3 organizations. Kuiper said she didn’t know. However, she said, some patrons had complained that there was “too much politics” at the market. She said there was “never an overload” of non-profits any given week, but there was at least one non-profit that tended to set up in an area designated for farmers.

Cerino asked if Kuiper had discussed the problems with the interim farmers market managers, Owen McCoy’s daughters. She said she had texted back and forth with them on a regular basis. “We’re all having the same issues,” she said.

Cerino asked Kuiper to email the draft to the farmers and artisans market managers, and that the council would go over it and make its suggestions before the next meeting.

Ingersoll said he thought Kuiper had “done a great job” in spelling out what can and can’t be done at the markets.

Kay MacIntosh, the town’s economic development manager, asked if there was a way for the general public to comment. Kuiper said the rules included a requirement that anyone wishing to make suggestions should do so in writing to the Mayor and Council, rather than to individual council members.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked if the draft could be put on the town website. Cerino directed Town Clerk Jen Mulligan to do so.

One audience member asked if exceptions could be made for out-of-county vendors who sell products not currently available at the market. He said he has a friend in lower Queen Annes who would like to sell fish at the market.

Kuiper said the market is not available to commercial vendors, citing the example of Doug Rae, who sold bread in the market before opening the Evergrain Bakery, at which point the privilege was withdrawn.

MacIntosh said it might be a way for a vendor interested in coming to Kent County to assess the local business climate before making the plunge of opening a brick-and-mortar store in town. “I’m hoping there will be that flexibility,” she said. She said it would give the community a chance to encourage new businesses to come into the area.

Kuiper said the draft included a clause about the town reserving a right to reject applicants whose products conflict with other established businesses in the community.

Ingersoll said there ought to be an application process that’s clear, with set rules. He said there were only three rules at the beginning of the market, but the growth of the market had resulted in changes. “This is a great start to having a better framework for this,” he said.

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