Chestertown’s Fiber Optics Guys: Andre and Andrew DeMattia

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It has been pretty clear over the last decade that Chestertown still lacks a high power fiber optic internet connection solution. While Atlantic Broadband and Verizon have been using cable and DSL options for many years in town, the fact is that a fiber optic network is typically hundreds of times faster.

This gap is service has not only been noticed by residential customers, eager to provide family members with the capacity to stream movies, upload photos, and play games at the same time, it is the business community, highly dependent on high-speed internet access, that has seen this as a significant obstacle in relocating to Chestertown.

The future for upgrading the community to a fiber optic network looked bleak. Neither Atlantic Broadband of Verizon have committed to the expensive infrastructure costs required to get Chestertown up to speed.

But that is about the change as local twin brothers Andre and Andrew DeMattia roll out plans to fill the gap. Forming Talkie Communications in 2012 as a voice over internet service, the brothers, along with their staff of eight former Verizon employees, have recently decided to go all in providing their community with the fiber-optic network that seemed unimaginable only a year ago.

Starting with the Coventry Farms subdivision within the next sixty days, their plans call for making the fiber optic network to most residents within the town boundaries over the next two years. The Spy sat down with Andre and Andrew at Spy HQ in Chestertown last week to discuss their business model.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Talkie Communications please go here.

Spy Art Minute: Kent County Public Schools and Hegland Glass Partner Up

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In our Spy Art Minute this week, Aimee Boumiea, Kent County Public Schools, Visual Arts Teacher discusses the Arts enrichment program she created for her students. The program was developed in partnership with Tom McHugh and Arts in Motion, along with Patti and Dave Hegland of Hegland Glass.

This is the third year of the program in which selected 5th Grade Students from Garnet Elementary School learn some of the physics and chemistry of glass to help them understand the techniques used to create kiln art glass. Students also learn how to cut glass and assemble their own pieces of artwork for kiln firing.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information please go to the Hegland Glass website. 

County to Push for Partial Re-Annexation of Nearby Queen Anne’s Communities

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In what many will consider an outrageously daft move, Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian, partnering with community activist Bob Ortiz, made public their plans to officially petition the State of Maryland to permit their county to re-annexation portions of Queen Anne’s County.

Jointly motivated to provide more tax revenue for Kent County (and by extension, the Kent County Public Schools) as well as the Town of Chestertown, the Kent County Re-Annexation Act of 2019, would cede back to Kent County a portion of the land involuntarily redrawn from the colonial county by the then provincial government named the Province of Maryland in 1706.

The new measure calls for the towns of Church Hill, Crumpton, Kingstown, and the Queen Anne’s portion of Millington, to be incorporated back into Kent County. Those towns were part of the 1706 hostile take over when Kent and Talbot County were forced to relinquish vast acreage to create the new Queen Anne’s County that year.

It what many consider to be one of the worst real estate blunders since the acquisition of Manhattan in 1626 for $1,038 (2019 dollars), Kent and Talbot were forced to forfeit substantial tracks of taxable land after 75 years of jurisdiction control without a single vote being cast to approve the land grab. The then Providence of Maryland, by declaration, created Queen Anne’s County with no known public debate.

Arguing that the lack of due process by a government eventually de-legitimized by the American Revolution, Fithian and Ortiz, who spearheads the grassroots organization, Push the Boundary for Kent County, now wants some of that land back. More importantly, they want those tax-paying residents back with their mother County Kent by 2024.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence that Fithian and Push the Boundary leaders are serious is the retention of the prestigious Boston law firm, Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, to establish a legal precedent for re-annexation at both the federal and state level.  This is matched by Commissioner Fithian’s announced bipartisan alliance with the Eastern Shore Delegation in Annapolis; all of whom are close friends of Governor Larry Hogan who must eventually approve any county re-annexation plan.

The stakes could be very high.

With the addition of only four relatively small incorporated towns, Kent County could increase their tax revenue base by over $8 million a year. A good portion of which, some $3 million, based on an estimated increase of 250 students in Kent County Public Schools, would help support the rural education school district.

The other winner with re-annexation will be the Town of Chestertown. Historically separated from the southern community of Kingstown in the 1706 act, re-annexation would also extend Chestertown’s boundaries south of the Chester River into the well-populated community of Chester Harbor. In total, over 1,800 residents would call Kent County home if the initiative passes.

The Spy sat down with Commissioner Fithian and Push our Boundary for Kent County’s Bob Ortiz at the Spy HQ last week to learn more about this unorthodox but timely initiative to address its cash flow now and in the future.

This video is approximately three minutes in length.

Editor Note: Dear gentle reader, if you have been able to suspend your disbelief to the very end of this article, we must make it clear that this is entirely fake news to celebrate April Fools Day.

 

 

 

 

 

Chestertown Culinary Renaissance: Enter 98 Cannon Street with Joe Elliott

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While opening dates remain far from confirmed, it is quite likely that over the next 18 months Chestertown will have four new restaurants in its historic district to call its own. After a few years of suffering the loss of several popular dining venues, including the beloved Brooks Tavern, Blue Heron, and the Lemon Leaf, a culinary renaissance is starting to take place.

The very first of this new wave will begin with the opening this spring of 98 Cannon Street, former home of the Fish Whistle and the Old Wharf restaurant, located at the town’s new marina.

As one might imagine, the Spy was beyond curious to this extraordinary explosion in culinary options. So much so that we tracked down the new owner 98 Cannon Street to understand what he and his team have planned for this iconic site on the banks of the Chester.

A financial advisor by profession, with a successful firm based in the Philadelphia area, Joe Elliott and his wife made the very deliberate decision to find a more rural environment for the couple and their three young daughters to gather on weekends. That’s what led him to Kent County a few years ago, but there was no desire to have any commercial interest in the town at all.

That started to change as Joe began to fall in love with his family’s new hometown. Going against a lifetime bias against owning businesses like restaurants, including his consistent advice to his clients to stay far away from these “opportunities,” Joe started to see a waterfront dining establishment as a personal challenge rather than a return on investment.

We caught up with Joe a few weeks ago at the Spy HQ to learn more.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. The new 98 Cannon Street design work is being done by M3 Architecture of Rock Hall

The Future of Independent Films in Chestertown: A Conversation with Alicia Kozma

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Not so long ago, Chestertown faced a challenge of epic proportions. There had been no catastrophic fire, the Chester River Bridge had not collapsed, nor was this the aftermath of a one hundred year storm. No, the crisis at hand, which impacted almost every soul in Kent County, was that the community had not only lost its only movie theatre but there no indicators that it would be replaced anytime soon.

Fast forward a year or so, and all of that has changed now. To Kent County’s collective relief, the new Chesapeake Movies now offers five state of the art screens. The seats are filled, young parents are relieved that they don’t need to drive 4o minutes for kid matinees, and once again this college town can say they have this critical quality of life amenity.

But given that Chestertown is the home of Washington College, with a student, faculty and retirement community with a passion for independent film, how does the town fill this gap? The answer is starting to emerge in a terrific way.

With the establishment of the RiverArts Film Society, a core group of passionate film aficionados has begun making their mark with  monthly screenings of critically alamcined art house flicks. More importantly, the Film Society has forged a partnership with Washington College, and recently added Alicia Kozma, the College’s professor of Media Studies, to its volunteer oversight committee, and that is when things became really exciting for Chestertown.

It turns out that Alicia has done this before. While attending the University of Illinois for her Ph.D., she volunteered to help form the Champaign-Urbana Film Society in Urbana, now a beloved part of the town-gown film world there. And not missing a beat, she has already arranged with Chesapeake Movies to use one of their theaters for Film Society screenings.

The Spy was delighted Alicia agreed to a Spy interview on the subject of film in Chestertown and caught up with her at the Spy HQ on Queen Street last week.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the RiverArts Film Society please go here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spy Minute: RiverArts March Show

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“I think of drawing as a dance and a dance is a drawing in space.”
Romanian artist, Geta Bratescu

The term drawing is applied to works that vary greatly in technique. It has been understood in different ways at different times and is difficult to define. During the Renaissance the term ‘disegno’ implied drawing both as a technique to be distinguished from coloring and also as the creative idea made visible in the preliminary sketch.

To accompany this exhibit, RiverArts will host a Creative Lives talk on Thursday, March 7, by A. T. Moffett, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Washington College. This event will include a brief dance performance by her students. A limited number of RiverArts member artists will be allowed to sketch at student rehearsals in the months prior to the event.

Open Reception/First Friday: March 1, 2019
Creative Lives Talk & Dance Presentation: Thursday, March 7, @ 6:00
Curator’s/Artists’ Talk: Thursday, March 14, @ 5:30

Video produced by David Hegland

Spy Poll Results: Almost 90% Approve LGBTQ Celebration in Chestertown

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Typically, the Chestertown Spy allows at least a few days for our readers to respond to one of our audience surveys. It usually takes that long to secure a critical mass of replies, generally over 200, to make these polls meaningful to our readers.

But in the case of our most recent questions regarding the Chestertown Town Council’s split vote on permitting a LGBTQ celebration on public property in May, The Spy experienced such an unprecedented response, with over 930 readers completing the poll within the first twenty-four hours of being posted, we had more than enough to release these preliminary findings.

The results should be more than reaffirming to Chestertown’s growing gay population that they are welcomed here. Not only did nearly 90% of responses show approval for the Town’s decision, 70% indicated that Councilmembers Stetson and Tolliver votes against the motion demonstrated signs of bigotry. It is also noteworthy that close to 60% identified themselves as residents of Chestertown.

 

 

Spy Survey: Do You Support Chestertown’s Decision to Permit a Gay Pride Celebration?

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Chestertown residents were caught off guard last week when the Chestertown Town Council barely approved a measure that would permit a gay pride celebration to take place in Fountain Park in May. The typically progressive college town community was surprised to learn that two out of five council members (Ellsworth Tolliver and Marty Stetson) had voted against issuing the special event permit after expressing concerns over the impact the event might have on children or the “showcasing” of their lifestyle.

The Spy was as surprised as much of the community to hear of this kind of divide and thought it would be beneficial to get a sample of what Chestertown and the region feel about these events.

Please participate with our three question Spy poll on the subject.

Create your own user feedback survey

Spy Minute: RiverArts February Show Makes It Real

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In our most recent Spy Minute: Anne Highfield-Clark, the curator of the RiverArts Gallery show in February entitled “Variations on a Theme (Still Life and Portraiture)” shares a few thoughts with us on highlights the show.

Her goal is to show that the magic of still life can show one a new way of looking at the ordinary objects around us. Once they are placed into a specific arrangement and then captured in paint, ink, pastel, or any other medium – these objects take on a whole new meaning. In portraiture, the intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.

Video produced by David Hegland

RiverArts 315 High Street, Chestertown
January 30 – February 24

Opening Reception
Friday, February 1, 5:00 – 8 pm

Curator & Artists’ Talk
Thursday, February 7, 5:30 – 7 pm

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