Council Opens Farmer’s Market to Local Coffee Roaster for 2012 Season

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Tim O’Brien

After nearly forty five minutes of deliberation at last night’s meeting, The Chestertown Town Council agreed to pass a motion allowing local coffee roaster and importer Tim O’Brien to sell his whole roast bean product, labeled “Cafetin” at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market for the remainder of the 2012 season.

The motion stipulated that O’Brien only sell his beans, upholding a prior decision to disallow the sale of brewed coffee, and that he do so only within the booth of Evergrain Bread Company, a willing partner which sells his brewed coffee and beans within their High Street storefront.

The motion to allow O’Brien to provisionally sell his locally crafted (not grown) product forced many other farmer market issues to the surface, from adequate and transparent communication between the council and the farmer’s market manager, Owen McCoy, to the logic of the current farmer’s market bylaws, which many believe to be inconsistent and unclear.

O’Brien formally requested that the town grant him a waiver to allow him to sell his beans at the market for the remainder of the 2012 summer season, given the that the bylaws were unclear and needed to be revised for the following year.

Town manager Bill Ingersoll said it was not up to the council to make the decision to grant a waiver, it was the farmer’s market manager’s job to do this. Furthermore, Ingersoll claimed that there is a “waiting list” which O’Brien would have to join. This also, according to Ingersoll, lies within McCoy’s purview.

Even though there were several requests to see this list it was not distributed at the meeting.

“The problem is, you propose to jump the queue, and knock somebody else out?” asked Mayor Bailey.

“No,” said O’Brien, “Actually, according to Owen, he thought it would be a very interesting idea and deferred to Bill, and in my understanding, Owen basically says he serves at the leisure of Bill–”

“No,’ said Mayor Bailey, “No–”

“–that’s not how it works–” added Ingersoll.

“Bill,” said O’Brien, “Owen essentially let me know that the [proposal] was ok with you–’

“Owen called me a week ago,” responded Ingersoll. “And he said that you had told him that I had approved you, was it ok with him?”

“No, I did not say that-” said O’Brien

“Well, I hope not,” said Ingersoll, repeatedly.

“I said,” said O’Brien, “that you did not approve it, and that ultimately it was his decision–”

“It is his decision–”

“–And I told him that,” O’Brien continued, “and he said that was fine, but he ultimately said when it went back to you again, that it was not…”

Ingersoll repeatedly referred back to McCoy as the town appointed farmer’s market administrator.

Responding to Ingersoll’s later question about why coffee roasted on the Eastern Shore “is different from someone else’s out there”, i.e. Play it Again Sam’s, which was denied a farmer’s market stall to sell their brewed coffee and whole (not locally roasted) beans three years ago, O’Brien said, “It’s a craft, artisanal product, just like the bread,” gesturing towards Doug Rae of Evergrain Bread Company, who was present throughout the meeting.

“Their grain doesn’t come from a local county. Last year, I bought maple syrup from western Maryland at the farmer’s market. So, I was unclear of the process to appeal a decision to possibly have a consideration, which is why Owen suggested I present my case to the town council.”

O’Brien’s ward representative, council member Linda Kuiper (Ward 2) spoke up, came to O’Brien’s defense.

“The Farmer’s Market is in Ward 2, and even if it’s supposed to be the number one in the state, it still has a lot of problems,” Kuiper said.

“Originally, it was the farmer’s market, and then the door was opened for artisans, and then for non-profits. I suggest that we have a door open for local business owners, I don’t care where his coffee beans come from, or where he’s roasting them, he is trying to move his business to Chestertown. Chestertown right now does not have the luxury of turning their backs to new businesses. I think we should bend over backwards for anybody who wants to come here and open a business.”

“What I think is lacking in this whole process” said Kuiper, “ is that we do not have a regular meeting, at least monthly, with Owen McCoy, with the Council…here’s the thing, there’s no communication.”

“Things changed this year,” said Mayor Bailey, “So the success of the market has bred a lot of problems, everyone wants to get involved now.”

“You need to reform your rules,” said Ingersoll.

“You know, it’s amazing,” said Mabel Mumford-Pautz, “You finally have something that’s successful, and now you want to change it! It’s ridiculous!”

“Let us, for the rest of the season, accommodate Mr. O’Brien in Evergrain’s booth until we have an opportunity this year, to look at the Farmer’s Market rules and receive for next year.” said Mayor Bailey. “Is that a motion?”

“Is that okay with you, Tim?” asked Kuiper.

“Yes,” said O’Brien, “Thank you very much.”

Four out of five votes were cast in favor of the motion, excluding that of Mabel Mumford-Pautz, who represents Ward 3.

“There’s one opposed,” said councilman Gatto, slightly sighing.

“I’m naying because you’re overriding Owen McCoy,” said Mumford-Pautz.

“No,” said Mayor Bailey, “he didn’t, he said-”

“You are too!” said Mumford Pautz. “Yes you are!”

“Well, it’s our prerogative,” said Gatto.

“It is so,” added Ward 4 council member Marty Stetson conclusively, “It’s part of our job.”

With that, the council motioned for a much needed adjournment. It was close to ten o’clock, but everyone seemed energized to start their own little conversations, filing out into the muggy night on Cross Street. O’Brien stood silently by a lamp post, having never lost his temper or raised his voice throughout the meeting, his eyes were nonetheless twinkling with delight after this small triumph.

“Well,” said Kuiper, approaching O’Brien with a smile, “Will I see you on Saturday?”

“Yes,” he replied, “You most certainly will.”

LED Sign Owners Ask Easton for Exemption

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EASTON, Md.- Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, and LED signs are popping up more and more in Easton.

Terry John, the owner of Mid-Atlantic Tires in Easton, also owns an electronic LED sign.

“Having a sign out there is important and we could have just put an ordinary sign out there but the advantage of an LED is being able to convey a message frequently to a broad amount of customers and get a message out frequently has been a very effective way of getting our message across,” John said.

Since installing his $10,000 sign, the town of Easton has proposed an ordinance that limits how the sign can be used. Terry said his sign should be exempt from any new regulations.

“I think all of us who purchased the LED signs under a different set of ordinances would just like to have the opportunity to do that, the big change in the ordinance was the hold time and we think it significantly diminishes the use of the sign,” John said.

The hold time of a message increased from eight seconds to 10 minutes. But now other changes have been proposed.

“Maximum light intensity to provide a dimming feature,” said Easton Councilmen Pete Lesher. Lesher understands why some business owners don’t like the new rules but says the town’s job is to find a common middle ground for all.

“It may not make everybody happy but hopefully we will come up with a compromise that everyone can live with,” said Lesher.

A vote on the LED sign ordinance could come as early as next week’s council meeting in Easton.

Analysis: What is “Local” Enough To Be a Vendor at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market?

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As the popular Chestertown Farmer’s Market builds momentum this summer, the appeal to participate has only increased for vendors from other regions of the Eastern Shore.

While the Easton Farmer’s Market has had no compunction about making slots available for Kent County merchants, such as Chestertown’s Evergrain Bread Company, the current bylaws governing who can participate in Chestertown’s local market, with their “criteria of location,” have restricted space primarily to those products made or grown in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties.

And why such a stringent criteria of location? The bylaws claim “a limited number of spaces,” thus privileging the hyper local growers, producers, and artisans over the generally local, i.e., those who may or may not have their operations in Easton or elsewhere within the Upper Shore.

Enter local(ish) coffee roaster and importer Tim O’Brien. Tim lives in Chestertown, where he is licensed to conduct his business– named Cafetin after the name of the farm community his beans come from in Costa Rica–but O’Brien isnot allowed to sell his product at the local farmer’s market.  To refer back to the farmer’s market bylaws, this would be for two obvious reasons;

1.) O’Brien’s coffee is not local, it came from Costa Rica. (Turns out there’s a reason for this, coffee generally doesn’t grow in North America.)

2.) O’Brien’s coffee is roasted in Talbot County, which despite being about 45 minutes from Chestertown, is not local enough.

O’Brien, however, doesn’t see inclusion in the Chestertown Farmer’s Market as a simple matter of local/not local. Echoing what some vendors stated this Saturday at the most recent farmer’s market, inconsistencies abound between what the bylaws say on paper and how they are applied in practice.

“Farmers markets should be incubators for local businesses,” said O’Brien, “And it’s very well known that they often slip in things in the produce market that are not from Kent County or the immediate region.”

“If I have experienced anything from my travels in international development,” continued O’Brien, who served for two years in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, “It’s that everybody suffers when the rules aren’t clear and fair.”

But to Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, the rules of the Farmer’s Market are clear enough, and have been enforced repeatedly throughout the years to limit vendors from selling anything that wasn’t grown or produced locally.

Commenting directly on O’Brien’s case, Ingersoll stated, “basically its not that the guy roasted his beans in Denton, or Easton, or Salisbury or California. It’s that we don’t grow coffee locally, here in Kent County.”

But this word “local” makes itself an easy target for scrutiny and debate. Admittedly the rubric must be adjusted to fit every product, be it vegetable produce or artisanal. But take bread for instance, which was being sold at the farmer’s market last weekend by at least three venders, the Lapp Family Bakery, Highfield Bread Oven, and Evergrain Bread Company.

Bread is a unique product. It is made from the combination of water, flour, salt, and yeast (generally). But most of the grains used by all three of the Kent County based bakeries mentioned above did not come from Kent County. They came from the midwest, most likely, where they specialize in grain production, just like this region does corn and soy. Does that make their product any less local? The answer is no, because we wouldn’t have their products without their local craftsmanship.

In other words, Tim O’Brien isn’t just interested in selling coffee beans, he is interested in introducing people to a craft of coffee bean preparation that is no less an art than baking, farming, beadery, print making or embroidery. In all of the above crafts, it would be all too easy to locate an element or material that is not local. But they remain a consistent, and welcome presence at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market all the same.

So where, if not when, can O’Brien’s product fit in at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market? Given his product is not locally grown, he can’t hope to find a place on the produce side. Meanwhile, he can’t hope to be welcomed by the artisanal side of the market either, because he does his roasting (which is a pretty meticulous, involved process) in Easton. If he moved his roastery to Chestertown (pending the construction of a natural gas line which his roaster would require to run), would things be any different? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Mayor Margo Bailey is suggesting that a study group be formed, as part of her overall Chestertown Renewal Initiative, to help the Town Council make productive changes in how the market works.

“I think we all know we have a gem of a farmers market in Chestertown.  In order to make it even better, I think we (the Town Council) need to know what some of the best practices are with some of the  country’s most successful farmers markets, and adjust our by-laws accordingly for what makes sense for our town.  I think with the right program changes, our own market can set a gold standard in the mid-atlantic region.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archives: Farmer’s Market Bylines

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TOWN OF CHESTERTOWN

ARTISAN’S MARKET

2009 RULES AND REGULATIONS

 

The Chestertown Farmer’s Market has been authorized by the Mayor and Council to be held each Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. generally from April 1 to Thanksgiving.  Wednesday is now designated market day from noon till dusk.  The market may be authorized on other Saturdays of the year with the advance concurrence of the Town and the Town Manager.   It is the purpose of the Farmer’s Market to give local, non-commercial growers of produce and food the opportunity to provide their goods to the general public in an organized fashion.

 

The following rules apply:

1.  All vendors must have original hand crafted merchandise.

2.  Vendors are required to have on site, their Trader’s License, State and Federal Tax ID.  Sales tax due to the State of Maryland is the responsibility of each vendor and not the Town of Chestertown.

3.  Producers will pay a $5 fee per week for their space to the Market Manager, who will in turn submit this fee to the Town of Chestertown.

4.  Only one space will be allowed for each producer.  When spaces are filled there will be no new producers allowed at the Market.  Spaces will be assigned to regular Saturday vendors.  All others will set up in a designated area.

5.  There will be no commercial retailers or itinerant traders allowed.

6.  The Artisans Market participants must obey all ordinances of the Town, the rules of this document and the Farm Market Manager.  Producers shall leave their space in a clean condition upon leaving it.  Tobacco products may not be used in Artisans area.

7.  It is a privilege and not a right to participate in the Farmer’s Market, and during special events of the Town all or some of the Artisan vendors may be asked to move or vacate their operation.

All Artisan’s Market participants will be given this set of Rules and Regulations before participating in the Market and will sign a new form each year.  Failure to comply will result in immediate removal from the Market.

 

TOWN OF CHESTERTOWN

FARMER’S MARKET

2008 RULES AND REGULATIONS

The Chestertown Farmer’s Market has been authorized by the Mayor and Council to be held each Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. generally from April 1 to Thanksgiving.  The market may be authorized on other Saturdays of the year with the advance concurrence of the Town and the Town Manager.   It is the purpose of the Farmer’s Market to give local, non-commercial growers of produce and food the opportunity to provide their goods to the general public in an organized fashion.

The Town has appointed a Farmer’s Market manager who makes all week-to-week determinations concerning the eligibility of the producers, their non-commercial status and their residency.  The Manager reports directly to the Town Manager about problems and issues in the Market.

The following rules apply:

1.  The Chestertown Farmer’s Market is a producers only market and all participants must produce what they sell.  No producer will sell any meats, eggs, or seafood unless the farm source of the product is specifically approved by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Food Protection And Consumer Health Services, Permits and Licenses for a On-Farm Home Processing License resulting in a Food Processing Plant License and all the responsibilities to food safety that go with that license.  No producer will sell commercially processed food.  There will be no arts and crafts sold at the Farmer’s Market.

2.  Producers will pay a $5 fee per week for their space to the Market Manager, who will in turn submit this fee to the Town of Chestertown.

3.  Only one space will be allowed for each producer.  When spaces are filled there will be no new producers allowed at the Market.

4.  There will be no commercial retailers or itinerant traders allowed.

5.  The Farm Market participants must obey all ordinances of the Town, the rules of this document and the Farm Market Manager.  Producers shall leave their space in a clean condition upon leaving it.

6.  Due to a limited number of spaces, the opportunity to sell at the market may be denied using the criteria of location of the farm in relation to Chestertown, the type of product sold, the length of time and the regularity of appearing at the market, the size of the operation and the degree to which it might be considered commercial.  It is a privilege and not a right to participate in the Farmer’s Market, and during special events of the Town all or some of the market vendor may be asked to move or vacate their operation.

PRODUCE

All Farmer’s Market participants will be given this set of Rules and Regulations before participating in the Market and will sign a new form each year.  Failure to comply will result in immediate removal from the Market.

 

By Authority of W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager

Vendor signature Date

Spy Video: QAC Commissioner David Dunmeyer

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Queen Anne’s County Commissioner David Dunmeyer agreed to sit down with the Spy for a talk in the basement of the Liberty Building last week.

As a self described conservative-conservationist, Dunmeyer’s other job is as a contractor, which gives him a unique insight into the philosophy and pragmatics of sustainable development which he espoused during the interview.

In the first video,  Dunmeyer explains his views on the efficacies of the current Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, the threat of Big Box development, the work of the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association (QACA), and his opinion of the controversial “English-Only” mandate passed in Queen Anne’s County which made English the official language.
In the second video, Dunmeyer discusses his role on the county’s Watershed Implementation team, which works with E.P.A. mandates on nitrogen reduction and wastewater management strategies for the local Corsica and Chester River watersheds.

“It’s not just about finding credits and getting by by meeting our requirements for nutrient reduction–its not just that, its part of it,” said Dunmeyer. “I feel that the bigger picture is clean water. Without clean water, you have nothing. We lose industries, we lose our fishery industry, recreational boating. You should be able to go out in that water without fear of getting a disease or bacteria, and sadly, that is not the case now.”

Dunmeyer remains sensitive however of the importance of farming to the Queen Anne’s County economy, despite the fact that the industry on average is responsible for about 75% of all the nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay.

” I don’t want to lose another acre of farmland in this county….farming is a way of life in Queen Anne’s County, it’s the biggest industry we have, and we need to protect the farms,” he said. “But we all know that farms have the biggest impact on our water quality. Queen Anne’s County farms do a lot in reduction, they do tremendous amounts, and over a lot of the other counties, especially in other states. We are doing a good job. Can we do better? Yes we can. I think if we work together as a team, we can make some better things happen….[the farmers] know the benefits.”

Will the Lights be Bright on Chestertown’s High Street?

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The Garfield Center Foundation has recently come up with a bright idea that has the potential to make new waves in downtown Chestertown’s local business community.

Now in the latter stages of the historic Prince Theatre’s renovation, one of the last concerns for the Garfield is to have the old marquee returned to its rightful position over the theatre’s threshold.

The plan, according to GCF president Phil Dutton, has been to have the marquee sent away to Ohio, where it is receiving  full refurbishment to its original, tiffany glass paneled elegance.  This phase of the project has already been approved by the Town of Chestertown.

But it is the Garfield’s second phase of their plan that has brought a very contemporary issue to the front door of a very historic town. They want to have a digital sign as well.

New Lyceum Theatre (Prince Theatre) Original Facade

While cost factors and poor quality would have immediately deterred many small towns from using digital billboards in the past for their historic districts, newer, less expensive, and more advanced technology has given even the smallest towns the luxury of debating the use and future role of digital signage on main street.

The relatively small city of Riverhead, NY, for example, faced a similar debate last year when the Suffolk Theatre was being renovated in their historic district.  The Landmarks Preservation Commission, similar to Chestertown’s own Historic District Commission, wrestled with the appropriateness of the newly proposed digital signage for several months.

As the Riverhead News-Review documented in their coverage, the commission was having a hard time trying to accept the idea of having digital component to their historic 1930s marquee.  It was only when they started reviewing old photos of the original building that they came to the conclusion, according to their report to the city, that “The effect of the sign is similar to what the designers of the original sign were attempting to create, and might have installed had the technology been available in 1933.”

Closer to home, Princess Anne County has just had to issue a 120 day moratorium on signs after the Princess Anne Volunteer Fire Company proposed to install an electronic sign in the town’s historic district since the town’s 1996 ordinance does not take into account the new electronic digital signs.

Chestertown, meanwhile, is on the brink of such a debate.

For Prince Theatre staff like Sam Howell, the proposed screen’s digital, easily programmable nature will allow for a convenient way to update the community about upcoming programs and events pertinent to the Prince and other businesses. Described by its proponents as “not about selling advertising”, the sign would contain content that complemented other downtown businesses, like where you might go for a dinner deal prior to the show.

But for foundation members like President Dutton, and Chesapeake Architects’ Peter Newlin–the architectural liaison for the project– the proposed installation of this modern sign signifies much, much more.

For them, the LED sign has the potential to usher in a new era of economic vitality and growth for the Prince theatre and its downtown partners and peers in a way that the old back-lit letter board never could.

How would it do this? Well, the argument runs like this; By providing a steady stream of information pertaining to events, fund-raisers and shows to the theatre going pedestrian, the new sign would make the gap between seeing a show and finding out what to do next in Chestertown significantly briefer. In other words, what is good for the theatre is also good for the rest of downtown.

“A theatre really survives on signage,” said Dutton, “It’s really important that people are kept abreast of what the theatre has to offer, and what is going on in the rest of the community. If you go to a shoe store, you know they always sell shoes there, but a theatre is different; it changes week to week. We are a 501c-3, we came from money acquired from the public, so we want to be able to help drive attendance and economic activity downtown.”

Of course, The Prince Theatre isn’t just any theatre, it is a historic theatre (in a historic district) that has been recognized as such by the Maryland Heritage Trust. While Chestertown’s Historic District Commission has already approved the restoration of the old marquee, they have yet to approve the addition of the LED sign.

Ostensibly, this would be for two reasons. One, there is currently an ordinance in place that restricts the number of signs any given building or establishment is allowed to bear. That number is one. Currently, the Prince’s three-sided marquee contains three signs bearing the word “Garfield”, this new digital display would up that number to four.

Secondly, there is the fact that having an unmistakably modern LED sign hanging within the marquee of an historic theatre does slightly clash with the zoning stipulations for a historic district. It’s just plain anachronistic.  But naturally, this is something Dutton and Newlin are aware of.

“Because of the new technology, people are rightfully concerned, but once we can help folks understand what the sign will do, to help generate activity in the theatre and downtown, I think people will start to change their mind,” said Dutton.

There is also Peter Newlin, who sees the GCF’s yearning for more modern signage as essential to the preservation and survival of Chestertown’s historic downtown. As a former member of the HDC, this is an irony not lost on him.

“Theatres across the board are moving to this newer technology because you are able to create a string of messages directly,” said Newlin. “What you really have here is a series of paradigm shifts, from the hollywood poster board system, to the moveable letter board, and now to the digitally programmable sign. The theatre is not just a theatre anymore, it plays many roles downtown, we need signage to reflect that.”

But for Kees de Mooy, Assistant Zoning Administrator and a co-author of the Historic District Design Guidelines for Chestertown, economic arguments for the sign’s installation have no bearing on existing ordinances to prevent such signage from going up in a historic district.

“The Historic District Commission has no business reviewing economic data,” said de Mooy. “We can’t start down that road, because the rational would then be that if there is a positive economic impact, then it should be allowed. Massage parlors, dog fighting studios…I’m using ridiculous examples, but just because it brings in money–albeit this assumption has been deduced through a very narrowly focused study–doesn’t mean we can approve it.”

Proposed new digital sign with message rotation (Chesapeake Architects)

In his view, the intrinsic historicity of Chestertown’s downtown is its single most economically valuable asset; adding an internally lit sign to an historic building doesn’t necessarily augment that value. It bears mentioning that in order for the GCF to install the new LED sign, it must first be reviewed and approved formally by not only the Historic District Commission, but the Chestertown Town Council. As of yet, this has not happened.

“The way their application has been filed, they have three signs on the marquee, and then they’re applying for a fourth sign, which would not conform to several provisions of our sign ordinance,” said de Mooy. “And then it has several features that are specifically precluded by the sign ordinance, which includes flashing and other capabilities that are outside of what we’ve traditionally allowed.”

While de Mooy acknowledges that there are a few other examples of internally lit signs in the historic district that were grandfathered in after the sign ordinance was created–such as Paul’s Shoe Store–that doesn’t mean he has to like it. Regarding Chestertown’s downtown as perhaps “the most intact historic district in the state of Maryland”, de Mooy hopes for it to stay this way, remaining optimistic all the while in the downtown’s current economic viability, sans LED marquee.

Meanwhile, it will be left to the Town Council to decide whether or not to alter the sign ordinance, deliberations which no doubt will take place in the coming meetings this July.


Fire In One of Centreville’s Historic Captain’s Houses

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Last night the Goodwill Fire Department responded to a call for a fire in one of the historic Captain’s Houses, located near Centreville’s wharf. While the actual causes of the fire are still under investigation by the fire marshall, authorities have determined that the fire started on the third floor.

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“The people living there tried to put the fire out with their garden hose,” said Lieutenant Miel of the Centreville Police Department. “Of course, that didn’t work.  So the fire marshall was called and the fire department had to put it out.”

photos by Kellen McCluskey. For more photos of the fire, visit Kellen’s blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Attention Span Theatre VIII To Start This Friday

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This Friday will mark the debut performance of the 8th annual Short Attention Span Theatre production at the Garfield Center for the Arts.

Mark Wiening and Ben Cambier in “Waiting”

Featuring eight plays by eight playwrights, the plays cover a broad range of subjects, ranging from the human condition to belts and shoes, cats and bears, to the afterlife and Darth Vader. Three of the plays are by locals, “A Bear Walks Into A Bar” by Mark Sullivan,  “The Mermaid’s Tatoo” by Dwayne Yancey, and “The Empire Gets Audited”  by Howard Mesick. The Live Playwright’s Society, for which Sullivan acts as the director, was instrumental in bringing these plays to the Prince audience.

The individual players meanwhile offer performances that are both spastic and contemplative, goofy and restrained; thus, you might venture to say this little festival runs the gamut of the tragicomedy genre. What it is not lacking in, however, is comedy.

While it would be hard and unfair to pick a “stand-out” show from these ten-minute plays, audience members will surely have something to talk about after watching the Ethan Coen penned “Waiting”, about a dead man condemned to sit in a purgatorial waiting room for all eternity.

With no one but a mute typist and some outdated magazines to distract him, the man, played by Mark Wiening (his debut Prince performance), gradually becomes unhinged as his stay in the waiting room is lengthened, again and again, by the indifference and (calculated ?) incompetence of the purgatorial bureaucrats in charge of his files. Sound familiar?

Not the first time the SAS fest has lampooned the bureaucratic (does anyone remember last year’s “DMV Tyrant”?),  there is also the sexual silliness of “Kitty The Waitress”, the Oedipal absurdity of “Your Mother’s Butt”, and the slapstick “A Bear Walks Into A Bar”, about a group of barflies too occupied with jokes about bears and bars to realize the fragility of their situation. SAS veteran Sarah Walker also gives a great performance which seamlessly blends straight forward storytelling with dialogue as she recounts/relives her experience as a waitress-turned mermaid in a seedy seaside restaurant.

So, if you are into tragicomical hijinks, neurotic ramblings, and metaphysical musings, then this year’s Short Attention Span Theatre fest will surely provide you with all the laughs and chin scratching that can be reasonably crammed into a weekend evening or afternoon. Highly recommended, highly entertaining.

SAST VIII will be running two weekends, June 22,23,29 & 30 @ 8pm, and June 24 and July 1 @ 3pm.

Tickets are $15

Students $5 with valid ID 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ridgely Company Creating New Fuel Economy Standard

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Located in an unassuming warehouse outside of downtown Ridgely, Combined Technology Solutions (CTS) is a little company with the potential to make a big impact on the way we think about engine efficiency standards in America.

Formed in 2008 by Joe Anderson in order to compete in an international contest funded by the XPrize Foundation called the “100 MPG Challenge”, CTS made its mark early with a 2003 Cadillac CTS that they modified to achieve 72 miles per gallon.

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This put CTS in the top 20 finishers for the contest – an impressive feat, considering how prior to Anderson and his team’s tinkering, this factory stock Cadillac CTS (C-class Touring Sedan, yes this redundancy is a coincidence) got about 14 miles to the gallon.

So what made the CTS team’s 2003 Cadillac CTS outperform eco-friendly paragons like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight?  

It all comes down to one little piece of technology, the company’s centerpiece item, the Dynamic Spark Ignition System (DSI). What is it? The short answer is that it is a different type of energy sent to the spark plug, but unlike a conventional ignition system, the CTS ignition does not send out a simple electrical spark, but rather an arc of plasma which has a much longer duration, combusting the compressed gas within the cylinder with greater efficiency.

Using lean and ultra lean fuel mixtures, air-fuel ratios are changed from the normal 14.7:1 to over 40:1.  The additional air boosted through the supercharger increases engine efficiency, reduces combustion and exhaust temperatures and lowers coolant temperatures while providing smooth power.

The result of this process is a much cleaner, leaner burning engine that can also burn just about any type of fuel, including gasoline, methanol, ethanol, natural gas, nitro methane, propane and diesel.

With this achievement under their belt, the question becomes, why hasn’t CTS been able to get their DSI ignition technology to a wider market? After all, by choosing a Cadillac as the DSI’s prototype vehicle–a brand typically equated with the golden age of American motors, when we were not the least concerned with fuel economy–have Anderson and team not found the ideal blend between nostalgia and forward thinking, eco-friendly technology?

Well, sure, but it comes with a catch. And it’s called good patenting, and not the kind that involves putting a little “c” on a napkin that you affix to your invention with a piece of chewing gum.

“One of the reasons we chose to go with a Cadillac for this idea,” said Anderson, “is that it is a car that every American would want to buy. Also, with the rolling resistance and weight specifications, we were presented not only with a challenge to make a cleaner, leaner burning engine, but also significant hurdles to overcome regarding friction and vehicle mass. And the outcome, even with these challenges, was a 72 mpg car.”

“However,” added Anderson, “the growth of this has been stymied by even myself, and partially because we have to make a living trying to do this to start with.”

“To divulge the specifics of the technology, you need to have great patents in place, I have provisional patents in place, but not fully developed patents–those cost money. We have to make sure our patents are solid enough that our competitors can’t go around the patents and steal from us.”

Thus, one of the most unnerving aspects of working in the tech industry-especially if you work for yourself as Anderson does– is that while you may have a unique idea, there is always someone around the corner who has an idea that might be just similar enough to yours that a proprietary squabble could ensue. What’s worse? When you are the little guy, there is always the threat of being outmanned, outspent, out-litigated.

Good patents, however, can serve as a firewall against this type of hazard. But again, they can cost a pretty penny, generally between $15,000 and $50,000 for the kind Anderson would need.

There is also the cost of the supercharger and drive system that is required to add more air to the engine essential for lean burn operation.The engine control requires different type of computer programming also to coordinate the DSI system.

These costs, says Anderson, can be offset with the elimination of the 3 way catalytic converter and the use of a smaller engine. However, with these manufacturing complications in mind, a DSI modded vehicle still isn’t quite ready for the average consumer market, even though breaking into this market is a goal.

But if CTS had been dependent on the average auto consumer all this time, they wouldn’t be where they are today. The CTS staff are automobile racers and engine developers.  Modeling their attitude on the “skunkworks” methodology first coined by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Developments Program, CTS  looks for opportunities to provide solutions for problems that their wide skill set and knowledge base apply, hence Combined Technology Solutions.

CTS has business relationships with unmanned aerial vehicle companies to test engines and certify them for their customers, usually the military.

“We have applied our DSI to reduce exhaust emissions on very large natural gas engines pumping natural gas all over the USA and Canada to EPA 2014 standards,” said Anderson “We prepare vehicles for a myriad of applications including, racing.”

CTS is also working on commercializing technologies invented at UMd-CP, funded by TEDCO. The USDA has awarded a cooperative research agreement with CTS to test bio fuels.

Hopefully, with the revenues gleaned from these enterprises, Anderson and his team will be able to scrape together the funds to apply the DSI for the average American motorist and commercial delivery fleets.

“Our best thing is to go to market with whatever we have, as fast as we can,” said Anderson.  “The first rule of business is sell something. And we do that very well.”

 

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