Government Shutdown Starting to Hit Kent

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The Kent County Department of Social Services at 350 High St., Chestertown

The shutdown of the federal government is into its fourth week as of this writing, with some 800,000 either furloughed or working without pay. Departments and agencies wholly or partially closed include Agriculture, State, Treasury, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice and Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Agency.

Maryland ranks third in the nation – behind Washington D.C. and Arizona – in the percentage of federal employees in its population. While many of those are in the suburbs around Washington, according to the 2015 federal Census there are more than 16,000 in the First Congressional District, which includes the whole Eastern Shore. That is more than in some whole states. There is no easy way to find out how many of those live or work in Kent County, though the number is probably fairly small compared to, for example, Harford or Baltimore counties.

But the federal employees are just the tip of the shutdown iceberg. The shutdown affects state and local governments that depend on federal funding, contractors or vendors who deal with the federal government, and businesses that serve government employees or contractors – such as restaurants, grocery stores, and anyone else whose bottom line is suddenly affected by the fact that 800,000+ people suddenly are short of – or out of — spending cash. And, of course, the families of all the above.

So, how has the shutdown affected Chestertown and Kent County? To get a sense of the answer, the Chestertown Spy asked several local officials what effects they are feeling.

Shelly Neal-Edwards, Director of the Kent County Department of Social Services, is one of those on the firing line of providing assistance to those who are out of work or otherwise in tightened financial circumstances. In particular, her office administers the federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) for the Maryland Department of Human Services. The program, known in Maryland as the Food Supplement Program, supplies more than 650,000 Maryland residents with a total of more than $75 million each month to purchase groceries. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of the federal agencies closed by the shutdown.

A press release from the Department of Human Services, dated Jan. 11, announced that SNAP benefits will continue to be funded through the month of February.

The press release states, “The [USDA] has directed Maryland and other states to issue February benefits earlier than usual. As a result, FSP recipients will get both their January and February benefits on or before January 20. […]

“As funding for has not been appropriated by the federal government beyond February, it is critical to understand the potential hardship that a prolonged federal shutdown could impose upon those in need. As state leaders continue to call for an end to the federal shutdown, the Maryland Department of Human Services stands ready to assist FSP recipients at this uncertain time.[…]”

Also, a letter was sent to all SNAP recipients in the state, informing them of the February payment and asking them to contact their local DSS office if they need additional help in locating resources available in their communities. The letter provides contact information for the local offices, along with the Department of Human Services’ website, Facebook page, and Twitter address.

Edwards said in an email Jan. 17, “ for the month of December 2018, I can tell you that Kent County DSS served 2,582 SNAP/FSP customers. Between July and December of 2018, our Department received an average of 85 FSP applications per month. We have not seen an increase in the number of FSP recipients that we serve here in Kent County, as the number of SNAP recipients in our county has decreased over the past year.”

Shelley Heller, the County Administrator of Kent County, said the main effect on county government, to date, is the inability to get federal officials’ signatures on invoices to pay local vendors when the funds involved come from a federal grant or loan. While the effect so far has been minor, she said it could become significant if the shutdown goes on a great deal longer. Many of the federal grants go through the state of Maryland, so the federal shutdown won’t have an impact until the state needs to get additional funds from the state, Heller said.

As examples, Heller mentioned funding from the Department of Housing and Community development, which applies to community legacy grants in the towns. Also, rural water and sewer systems depend on rural development funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of the federal agencies closed by the shutdown. Also, she said, Delmarva Community Transit, the major public transportation supplier on the Eastern Shore, relies on federal funding for its operation. As of this writing, Delmarva Community Transit had not replied to a query about the impact of the shutdown on its operation.

Bill Ingersoll, Chestertown Town Manager, said the town is not heavily reliant on federal funding for most of its projects. The renovations on the town-owned marina, funded in part by USDA grants, are mostly completed, he said. “We have very little direct contact with the federal government except to send in checks,” he said. However, he said, there could be an impact if the shutdown goes on longer. Still, “It won’t affect Chestertown until it hits the state,” he said. At that point, some projects funded by federal grants may be put on hold until the officials responsible for authorizing payments are able to return to work.

In some cases, local residents receive payments directly from the federal government. This includes farmers, many of whom were expecting to receive money under the US Department of Agriculture’s “market facilitation program.” The program was created to compensate farmers in part for sales lost on account of newly enacted tariffs – notably the Chinese soybean tariff that has effectively closed what was one of the most lucrative markets for Eastern Shore farmers. Other programs included in the farm bill recently passed by Congress aren’t being implemented since the shutdown began on Dec. 21, leaving farmers without access to federal loans and other funds needed to get ready for the next planting season.

Summing up, the shutdown’s effect on the local community is small but real though definitely less at this point than it is likely to be if the shutdown continues much past the end of the month, let alone if it goes past February, when SNAP funding may disappear. There may soon be some difficulties in paying local vendors and problems relating to agriculture loans and programs.  The shutdown is beginning to be felt in Kent County.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast at Rock Hall Fire Hall

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The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast will be held Monday, January 21, 2019, at the Rock Hall Fire Hall. Chester Valley Ministers Association (CVMA) with support from Kent County Arts Council sponsors this yearly celebration of the life and work of Dr. King. This gathering includes the presentation of the Humanitarian Awards, the Vincent Hynson youth awards, poetry by Robert Earl Price, and music by Kent County High School Jazz Ensemble, The Gospel Shepherds, and Chester River Chorale Chamber Singers. This year’s keynote speaker is William W. Davis, Jr. Cecil County Circuit Court Judge, who holds the distinction of being Cecil County’s first elected African American Judge.

In honor of the memory of Vincent Hynson, who passed away in 2004, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Committee and Kent County Arts Council recognize three Kent County Middle School students who exemplify the values and actions practiced by Vincent Hynson who was a beloved school teacher, pastor, community activist, and friend to many.

Teachers and administrators have selected three such students:

6th Grader Krishita Dusia lives in the Galena area and is a fine student whose favorite subject is math. She is active in Band, and loves archery.

Ariel Purnell is a 7th grader whose favorite subjects are math and social studies. Her after-school activities include being basketball manager.

The 8th Grade awardee is Ryland Bartley. A resident of Worton, Ryland loves sports, reading and math.

Award winners for Kent County Middle School students, Ryland Bartley, Krishita Dusia and Ariel Purnell.

 

Award winners for Kent County Middle School students, Ryland Bartley, Krishita Dusia and Ariel Purnell. Also pictured are members of the MLK Breakfast Committee: Leslie Prince Raimond, Rev. Shiela Lomax, Carolyn Brooks, Emerson Cotton, Rev. Mary Walker.

High School Student, Taiyana Goldsborough in front of the Trojan mural at Kent County High.

Also being presented at the January 21st Breakfast are the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Awards which are given for significant contributions to the quality of life in Kent County. The youth award will be presented to Taiyana Goldsborough, a senior at Kent County High School. She is active in sports and science with plans to attend college with a commitment to play lacrosse, and major in meteorology. She is involved in many community projects and is an officer in student government and the Minority Scholars Program.

The Humanitarian Award goes to Naomi Blackshire who is well known throughout Kent County for her concern and care of her friends, neighbors, and the residents throughout the Community.

Tickets, $15, can be purchased from CVMA members, or at the door. Breakfast starts at 7:00 am, with the program beginning at 8:00 am.

 

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The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” A Zany Spoof! Spy Review by Peter Heck

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Max Hagan, Kathy Jones, and Troy Strootman in The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center, Jan. 11 – 20, 2019        – Photo by Jane Jewell

What happens when a small amateur theater group tries to put on a version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It with only seven actors? That’s the premise of Don Nigro’s The Curate Shakespeare, opening Friday, Jan. 11 at the Garfield Center. If you’re one of those who read the play in high school and wondered why it was considered a comedy, this version may be what you’ve been waiting for.

Directed by Earl Lewin, and produced by the Shore Shakespeare Company, The Curate Shakespeare is in many ways a logical follow-up to the company’s production of As You Like It – featuring many of the same cast and crew– this past summer. As Lewin remarks in his director’s notes in the playbill, the producers see the play as “a lampoon of their own production.”

The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

The play came about when a professional acting company commissioned Nigro to write a version of As You Like It that could be performed by seven actors. Nigro, who has written over 400 plays, several inspired in some way by Shakespeare’s works, took the challenge as an opportunity to riff on the original, combining the Bard’s work with his own satiric take. It’s sort of a “Murphy’s Law” version of Shakespeare’s play – whatever can go wrong, does, usually in the funniest possible way. Originally produced in Terre Haute, Indiana by Indiana State University Summerstock in 1976, it has gone on to become a cult classic. Lewin, whose original dramas (most recently Hitched)  have a nice blend of comedy and realism, is an ideal director for this high-spirited spoof of actors and community theater.

The play’s subtitle, “the record of one company’s attempt to perform the play by William Shakespeare,” is a good overview of what happens in the play. We see the actors, led by a rather dotty minister, bumble through a performance, complaining and fighting, blowing lines, mispronouncing characters’ names, and every now and then managing to deliver something like what the Bard intended. There’s considerable fun to be had with the props, the costumes and a lot of the stage business – and with snide comments on the actual play they’re trying to put on. 

The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

In an introductory scene, we learn that the company is about to go onstage before an apparently empty house – one cast member questions whether it’s even worth trying to do the play, while the minister who leads the troupe says there may be someone out there in the dark theater. In addition to not knowing whether there’s anyone watching, they are way short of the number of actors the script calls for – one cast member has died, another hasn’t bothered to show up, another has lost the ability to remember her lines. The minister says they can make do by doubling up on the parts and switching a few roles. Reluctantly, the cast agrees that the show must go on – there may be somebody watching, after all.

The play more or less follows the actual plot of As You Like It, which plot is right there –behind and between all the shenanigans. The original story of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” involves a group of aristocrats caught up in political intrigue and lovers’ triangles, They flee to the forest of Arden, where they mingle with country folk, adopt various disguises, and end up with quarrels mended and lovers re-united. With its aristocrats, young lovers, country bumpkins, a jester, and a cross-dressing heroine, it is in many ways a prototypical Shakespearean comedy. There’s a succinct summary of the play at the back of the playbill, for those who want to follow the action. It’s enjoyable and helpful reading for audience members before the play or during intermission. 

L-R seated: Christine Kinlock, Avra Sullivan, standing: Chris Rogers, Max Hagan, seated: Troy Strootman seated) in The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

Chris Rogers, one of the founders of Shore Shakespeare and a regular in Lewin’s original productions, plays the Curate — and “all the old men” in the play. The character’s unshakeable optimism is severely tested by all the major and minor disasters on- and off-stage, and Rogers makes the most of the comic potential of the part. 

Kathy Jones takes the role of Rosalind, who acts as a chorus – setting the scenes, playing and singing the play’s songs, and commenting on the play. It’s a great part, and Jones delivers a winning performance. Rosalind was originally supposed to play the lead character, also named Rosalind, but Rosalind just can’t remember her lines so another actress is brought in at the last minute to take the part.  Most recently seen as Audrey (the carnivorous plant) in Tred Avon’s Little Shop of Horrors, Jones is showing herself to be one of the most versatile performers in the region. She says in her playbill bio that she’s recently retired, giving her even more time for the theater — good news for local theater lovers!

Chris Rogers and Avra Sullivan, co-founders of Shore Shakespeare in 2012. Rogers plays the minister and “all the old men”.  Sullivan plays four characters–Cecilia, Aliena, Phoebe, and Snake. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Avra Sullivan is the co-founder of Shore Shakespeare and was the stage manager of their production of As You Like It. Here she plays Celia, one of the better actors in the amateur troupe, and something of a prima donna. The character’s role is complicated by a rocky backstage romance with one of her fellow actors — which keeps breaking out in their performance.  Fortunately, their on-stage friends and lovers’ spats more or less fit into Shakespeare’s plot.  Sullivan also plays three other characters.  

Christina Kinlock, who took the role of Rosalind in Shore Shakespeare’s As You Like It, plays Audrey – who gets cast as Rosalind in this play! (The confusion of names is part of the fun of this production.) At first, the character panics at having her role changed. Then, realizing she’s gotten one of the star parts, she starts to put on airs. Kinlock does a nice job conveying the range of emotions, both in her nominal role and in the Shakespearean part she plays. 

Troy Strootman, as Amiens, also reprises the character he played in the Shore Shakespeare play, Oliver — a sinister young aristocrat. He also takes on the role of Silvius, a country bumpkin in the comic subplot, with a perfect (and totally un-Shakespearean) hillbilly accent. Like most of the other actors, he’s obviously having fun — and it’s contagious. One of the central points of the play comes in his unsuccessful attempts (in the character of Jacques)  to deliver the play’s most famous speech, “All the world’s a stage.” And, of course, massacres it.

Brian McGunigal is another Shore Shakespeare regular. He played Jacques in Shore Shakespeare’s production of  As You Like It last summer.  This time, he is cast as a clown, a depressed clown. He plays the role in a resigned deadpan, as if his character knows that he has to get through his scenes but has no intention of being funny or energetic or cheerful.  What’s the point? Life is hard.  No friends. Nobody loves him, not even himself.  A subtle and very effective performance, 

Avra Sullivan, Christine Kinlock, Brian McGunigle, and a sliver of Chris Rogers in The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

Max Hagan, making his debut with Shore Shakespeare, takes the role of William, who plays the romantic lead in the play. A graduate of Sewanee with a Theater Arts major, he most recently appeared as Leslie in The Hostage at Church Hill Theatre. He does a nice job portraying an earnest young actor who hasn’t quite figured out the nuances of performance.  He keeps on trooping along even though the play is falling apart around him.  Hagan has a good voice and joins troubadour Rosalind in several songs.

Barbi Bedell did her usual stellar work on the costumes for this production — an amusing juxtaposition of realism and deliberately amateurish period costumes for the play within the play. The set, designed by Lewin, is quite clever, with a view of “backstage” and various props and bits of furniture, some obviously–and purposefully-humorous and amateurish. And a special tip of the hat goes to Greg Minahan, who arranged the choreography and wrote original music for the various songs in Shakespeare’s play.  The simple melodies and lovely harmonies of the songs felt right for the Shakespearian era.

Troy Strootman, Kathy Jones, Max Hagan.   The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

All told, this is a fun production of an affectionate — but wickedly pointed — spoof of community theater and its inhabitants, particularly for anyone with a passing familiarity with Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The Elizabethan language of the play within the play and some of the nuances of the relationships between characters may make the play a bit challenging for younger audiences. It may be a bit sophisticated for the elementary-school set, who may find it boring. But there is also enough slapstick and funny parts to keep most children satisfied.  It will depend on the specific child whether this play is a good introduction to Shakespeare or just another boring evening watching “adult” stuff when they could be playing video games. Older theater-goers should have a grand time — especially if they take a moment to read the synopsis of Shakespeare’s play before the curtain goes up. 

The Curate Shakespeare opens Friday, Jan. 11 and runs through Jan. 20. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. General admission is $15; call the box office at 410-810-2060 or email boxoffice@garfieldcenter.org for reservations.

Photo Gallery by Jane Jewell with the help of the cast, crew, and costumers of “The Curate Shakespeare”

Max Hagan and Brian McGunigle in The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

Kathy Jones as Rosalind, Troubadour, and Greek Chorus – The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

Christine Kinlock and Chris Rogers in The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

Kathy Jones and Brian McGunigle in The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

The Curate Shakespeare “As You Like It” at the Garfield Center – Photo by Jane Jewell

 

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Shining Star by Nancy Mugele

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I need a vacation from my winter break. The twelve days of Christmas were a joyful and exhausting whirlwind, and I think we celebrated Christmas three times. Jenna and I spent the weekend before Christmas in NYC doing our traditional store window visits, seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center and attending a Pentatonix concert, which she gave me as a birthday gift. We spent December 24 and 25 in Nashville with Kelsy, Steven, and Otis. Jenna came with us and we met Steven’s family for the first time. Our Baltimore family Christmas Eve was on December 28 due to the work and life schedules of out-of-town adult cousins, Matt and Brittany in Minnesota, and Amanda in Massachusetts. James came from Montana and Kelsy from Tennessee for the festivities, so Jim and I had all three of our children, together under the red roof in Chestertown for several days.

In Christian theology, The 12 Days of Christmas begins with the birth of Christ on December 25 and ends with the coming of the Magi, the three wise men who followed the Nativity Star, on The Epiphany on January 6. As a young child, I always wondered why the three wise men visited with no women. What the heck? Surely, the women in their lives bought and wrapped the gifts they traveled to deliver. And, surely, there were some wise women who could have made the trek to help care for Mary, but that is another story.

Yes, The Epiphany is the culmination of The 12 Days of Christmas, but I have recently had an epiphany of my own –  a moment of sudden revelation or insight (dictionary.com) – or as I like to think of it, a shining star moment.

It happened on January 3, the same day Kent School students returned to class after winter break, when 127 women took the oath of the 116th Congress – 102 in the House of Representatives and 25 in the Senate. Up from 110 in the previous Congress, this represents a subtle shift and I hope a new trend with 15 percent more women in this Congress than in the last session. I am excited for the “firsts.” Congress now has its first Native American women, Muslim women and youngest female member ever. With more female voices at the table, I believe the country can truly become a “kinder, gentler nation.” (GHW Bush)

My shining star moment is this – the Federal Government needs to operate more like an independent school, and its leaders need to lead with competence, trustworthiness and accountability. Like Divisions in a school (Lower, Middle, Upper) the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches must be more closely connected by communication and collaboration – even as their purposes are distinctly different. The silos of our current system are ineffective.

Congressional representatives should help educate their constituents on the issues facing our nation. While our Founders intended that the House members would advocate for their local community, and the Senate would be responsible for national issues, members of the House and Senate must be on the same page at least for some important issues. They should act for the greater good, like teachers, and not seek individual fame. Congressional leaders should select overall priorities, and create bipartisan and inclusive ad-hoc committees to study tough issues. While this is supposedly happening, it is not transparent enough and is obviously not working. Participants from all three branches should be on these ad-hoc committees to examine issues from multiple points of view and expertise.

At Kent School, each student is assigned to be a member of the Red or White team – just like Democrats and Republicans. There are many Red and White contests throughout the academic year and the competition is fierce. Team members are very loyal to their team, even well after graduation! Yet, at the end of each competition, our students go home as friends. Our country’s leaders could learn a lot from this, and just imagine how much we could accomplish.

With all due respect for the longtime service of many members of Congress, I, for one, hope more and more educated young women, and men, decide to serve our country for a short time in Congress bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. Most importantly though, I hope that people of character and integrity will continue to persevere and that other less deserving candidates will not be elected.

Oh, and one more final thought, if the Executive and Legislative branches are going to order a federal government shutdown, they, too, should not be paid.

For those of you who know I never discuss religion or politics, oops.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

“The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It” Opens Friday at the Garfield

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The Curate Shakespeare

As You Like It

a comedy by Don Nigro as directed by Earl Lewin

“Being the Record of One Company’s Attempt to Perform the Play by William Shakespeare.”

This sparkling comedy presents the tribulations of an itinerant band of amateur thespians, led by a dotty cleric, in their attempt to present Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Seven actors valiantly create thirty-odd different parts, as they frantically switch roles and costumes. By turns pushed, pulled, exhorted, inspired, and browbeaten by their curate, they often want to quit, endure countless humiliations, and make a near hash of the precious and holy words of the god Shakespeare. But now and then, to their own considerable surprise, they stumble across moments of beauty and integrity. It’s a hilarious send-up of all things theatrical (with jabs at our own 2018 production!) from one of the modern   stage’s funniest playwrights, Don Nigro.

The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It is directed by noted Chestertown playwright and director Earl Lewin.  The cast features company co-founders Avra Sullivan and Chris Rogers, along with members Max Hagan, Kathy Jones, Christine Kinlock, Brian McGunigle, and Troy Strootman.  Original music and choreography are by Greg Minahan, and costumes by Barbi Bedell.  Stage management is provided by John Feldman.

January 11th – 20th, 2019 

Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm.      Sundays at 3:00 pm
The Garfield Center for the Arts       Chestertown, Maryland
General Admission $15

The company is delighted to be partnering with The Garfield Center for the Arts to present The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It.  Be sure to call the box office at 410-810-2060 to make reservations for this delightful spoof of one of Shakespeare’s greatest hits!  Or send an email to boxoffice@garfieldcenter.org.

Get complete info HERE.
The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC

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Town and County Move to Oppose Morgnec Solar Field

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Mayor Chris Cerino gestures as council members Marty Stetson, and Ellsworth Tolliver, clerk Jen Mulligan, and Town Manager Bill Ingersoll listen during discussion of a proposed solar array on Morgnec Road at the Jan. 7 Chestertown Council meeting

The Chestertown Council, at its Jan. 7 meeting, heard from residents opposed to a proposed commercial solar energy array on the outskirts of town. After discussion, the council voted to sign on as an intervening party in the Maryland Public Service Commission’s hearing on the application by Morgnec Road Solar LLC to erect the solar field on the Clark Farm on Morgnec Road.

Elizabeth Watson and Janet Christensen-Lewis of the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance, and Frank Rhodes, who owns a furniture business across Morgnec Road from the site under consideration, spoke to the council.

Watson said she was offering herself as a resource to the council for background on the issue of the solar field. She said she first became aware of the site some 10 years ago when the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy was involved in a project to develop the Clark Farm as a mixed-use residential area. That project, which included some solar energy for the homes and businesses, was widely praised for its attention to environmental issues, but it was abandoned when the Great Recession of 2008 made it unrealistic to continue. The site is in a designated growth area for Chestertown, according to the town’s comprehensive plan.

The immediate situation, Watson said, depended on the Kent County Commissioners’ decision on a request by Morgnec Road Solar for a zoning text amendment for the property, which is under county jurisdiction. With two newly-elected commissioners, that decision may not be made before a pre-hearing on the case by the Public Service Commission, scheduled for Jan. 23. If the town enlists as an intervening party in the case, it can request a postponement of the preliminary hearing, allowing the county time to decide on the developer’s request for a text amendment to allow solar fields in residential and commercial districts throughout the county. It would also allow the town, through its attorney, to negotiate conditions with the state. “It’ll give you a say, in the worst case,” Watson said.

“I believe in renewable energy, big-time,” Watson said. “I just believe it’s the wrong place.” The county’s zoning has set aside several areas where commercial solar power generation is permitted, many of them near the Route 301 corridor between Galena and Millington. Watson said the county was one of the first in the nation to look at zoning for solar installations, and it remains “ahead of the game” in providing for it and welcoming it. But there need to be places for people to live and work, and the Clark farm is far better suited for that use, she said, especially considering its location on one of the main entrances to town.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver asked why the developer was insistent on using this site, when the county zoning has set aside others for the purpose.

Watson said the proximity of an electrical substation and a major loop of power lines was a major factor, allowing the developer to sell their power directly to the grid. She said it’s typical for developers to find a piece of land they think will work, then try to get the zoning changed to accommodate their projects. She noted that the substation would need to be enlarged to handle the new load.

Elizabeth Watson (left) and Janet Christensen-Lewis of the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance

The developer has an option for a 35-year lease on the property, said Christensen-Lewis. The lease depends on county approval for the project.

Councilman Marty Stetson said that when the proposal first came before the council, a couple of years ago, he asked how many employees the project would have once it was completed. He said the developer tried to shift the answer to the number who would be employed during construction, but when pressed admitted there might not be even one full-time employee once the array was up. “I just think there’s a better use for the property than what they’re proposing,” he said. “Why don’t they go down to the landfill?”

Mayor Chris Cerino said the council appeared to be in agreement that the project was “not a great idea.” He asked whether the council was willing to incur more legal expense to oppose it if it wasn’t necessary at this stage. He asked if the council could simply refer to its previous letter of opposition.

Watson said the developer has opened a new case, so the town needs to submit a new letter to be listed as an intervening party. It could incorporate the previous letter with an updated cover letter and wait for further developments before taking any more action, she said.

Frank Rhodes

Rhodes said he supports solar energy if it is managed correctly. He handed around a set of images that he had presented to the county’s planning commission, including a map of the proposed installation and simulated before-and-after views of the field as it would appear from the roadside – although he said he wasn’t aware until Watson mentioned it that the panels would be 20 feet high, so his depiction was actually less intrusive-appearing than the actual proposal. He noted other businesses and government installations along the route – including Bramble Construction, Atlantic Tractor, the State Highway Administration and the Kent County Public works building. The KRM business campus adjoins the property at its northwest corner, and there are several homes in the vicinity.

Rhodes said he had asked the planning commission that the proposed solar field be kept a minimum of three miles from any town in the county. He also asked that the developers provide enough money up front to decommission the facility, adjusted if necessary for inflation. In addition, he asked that the principals agree not to sell the facility to any overseas company. Summing up, he said it would be “nice to have something better” on the property. “I don’t like the idea of having this as a gateway to Chestertown. It’s just too close,” he said.

After Rhodes’ presentation, Town Manager Bill Ingersoll summarized the issues, noting that the last time the project was turned down, the developers approached the town to ask about annexation. He read the letter previously sent, which asked the Public Service Commission to postpone action pending the appeal of a Washington County court case challenging the doctrine under which the Public Service Commission can overrule local zoning to preemptively issue a certificate of public necessity for power plants. Kent and Queen Anne’s counties are parties to that case. He said that it would be appropriate for the town to contact its representatives in Congress to address the federal law allowing preemption of local zoning, which he said is being applied wrongly today. He recommended that the council adopt a motion to add itself as an intervening party.

Tolliver said that he was initially reluctant to take a position on the case, but he had studied the issue since the last council meeting and felt that the town should intervene. He so moved, and the motion carried unanimously.

Tuesday night, in her departmental report at the County Commissioners’ meeting, Amy Moredock, county director of planning and zoning listed the Morgnec Road project among several text amendment requests to be heard by the commissioners. She reported that the county planning commission, in its December 2018 meeting, unanimously recommended that the request be denied. The planning commission’s letter to the commissioners cited the following reasons for the unfavorable recommendation:

• The County identified and designated locations suitable for larger utility-scale renewable resource facilities through the Renewable Energy Task Force (RETF) recommendations made in 2011. The RETF reconvened in 2015 to review the existing Ordinance provisions in this regard. At that time, the Planning Commission and County Commissioners found that the standing renewable energy provisions served the needs of the public and remained consistent with the Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan.

• Therefore, the Commission does not find that a public need now exists for the proposed text amendment.

• Further, the County has designed zoning districts in which the proposed use is already permitted.

• Many parcels zoned RR [Rural – Residencial] and CR [Commercial – Residencial]are located within mapped designated growth areas, as well as within Tier 1, 2, and 3 Areas. Therefore, this proposal is inconsistent with municipal growth areas.

• The purposes of the RR and CR Districts are to provide for residential development, as well as commercial uses which support the communities and provide economic development opportunities.

• The amendment has been put forward solely for the interest of the applicant, as it is compatible with the developer’s business model with no economic development potential for the County.

• The proposed amendment deviates from the Comprehensive Plan, as the scale of the proposal is neither consistent with the Comprehensive Plan nor the Intent of the Zoning Districts to which this proposal applies.

The full letter from the County Planning Commission to the Kent County Commissioners and Morgnec Road Solar’s application for the text amendment are available as attachments to the commissioners’ Jan. 8 agenda.

The county commissioners will schedule and advertise a public hearing at which both the applicants and opponents can present their cases before deciding whether to grant the text amendment. In response to a question by the commissioners, Moredock said that the planning commission’s attorney has filed to intervene in the Morgnec Solar case. The Town of Chestertown and the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance were also requesting intervening party status in the case before the Public Service Commission.

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Holidays Bring Hope and Help to the New Year

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Rev. Jim Van de Wal of Chester Valley Ministers Association watches as a Salvation Army brass band plays in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church during the Community Sing-Along, Dec. 16.  –  Photo by Jane Jewell

The holidays–from Thanksgiving through New Year– bring joy, fun, parties, giving and getting, family reunions, lots of music — and help for the needy.

One such holiday tradition in Chestertown is the Feast of Love, held Christmas day at First United Methodist Church on High Street.  A full Christmas dinner, featuring turkey and a wealth of tasty side dishes and desserts, the Feast originated in 1984. Discontinued after about 10 years, it was revived in 2007 by then-pastor Rick Vance and has carried on ever since under the guidance of Yvonne Arrowood. Christmas music, including the singing of “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, is a part of the tradition. The meal is open to all, without reservations or payment — donations are accepted to help defray the costs, though many of the dishes are donated. Volunteers do the cooking, serving, and clean-up.

Volunteers on the serving line at the Feast of Love Christmas Dinner at First United Methodist Church on Dec. 25, 2018 – a twenty-plus year tradition.    –   Photo by Bill Arrowood.

Entertainment at the Feast of Love Christmas dinner.  (Sam Scalzo, center on alto sax with Yvonne Arrowood on his right)  –   Photo by Bill Arrowood.

This year’s feast drew a full house — around 200 attendees. They included college students, seniors, singles and family groups — in short, anyone who has no local family to join for the holiday meal, or who would like to spend part of the holiday with a larger “family.” It’s not unusual for families to bring out-of-town relatives to the feast.  The church also sponsors a free community dinner every Monday at 5:30 pm except holidays.

Stephanie King was the pianist for the Community Sing-A-Long. –  Photo by Jane Jewell

This was the second year that the Chester River Valley Ministers’ Association (CMVA) organized a community caroling event. The CVMA is a group of local ministers and lay people organized to support a variety of programs for the needy in Kent and Northern Queen Anne’s Counties. Last year well over 100 people came together in Fountain Park.  This year, on account of rainy weather, the event was moved indoors to First United Methodist Church.  But despite the drizzle, about 50 people came out to raise their voices in joy for the season.  Stephanie King accompanied on piano, and a brass quintet from the Salvation Army played several carols. In addition to the Christmas carols and songs, the program included three Hanukkah songs, led by Cantor Gary Schiff, and two texts for Kwanzaa read by Reverand Bobby Brown.

In addition to bringing people together to sing, the event also helped to raise money for the CVMA’s Good Neighbor Fund. The Good Neighbor Fund makes one-time grants to residents in need of emergency funding to cover an unexpected expense such as emergency housing, medical bills, utility bills, or working with landlords to avoid evictions. The fund is partially funded by a grant from United Way of Kent County.

Audience at the First United Methodist Church for the Community Sing-A-Long. –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Sponsors of the Community Sing-Along were the Chestertown Spy, the Peoples Bank, the Kent County Arts Council, Tidewater Trader, Kent County News, WCTR Radio, Kent Printing, the Town of Chestertown and JBK Hardware.

The Good Neighbor Fund is also a community partner of the Samaritan Group, which operates a winter homeless shelter, open January to March in three local churches. The shelter opened Jan. 2 at the Church of the Nazarene in Kingstown, with 15 beds available. It will move to First United Methodist Church at the beginning of February, and on to the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown for March. The shelter is open every day from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., at which time guests must vacate the shelter unless the weather makes that inadvisable. James Diggs, the pastor of the Nazarene Church, is the shelter coordinator.

Cantor Gary Schiff spoke about Hanukkah and sang several traditional songs. –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Shelter guests are referred by local churches, the Salvation Army, the Good Neighbor Fund, or the Kent County Department of Social Services, which screens all the guests. Guests must remain alcohol- and drug-free during their stay. Community volunteers remain at the shelter overnight to make sure everyone’s needs are met. They also prepare meals – a hot dinner, a breakfast, and a bag lunch – for guests. The Samaritan Group also tries to help guests who need to attend school or get to work while staying at the shelter. This year, the shelter has all new cots, mattresses, pillowcases and sheets, thanks to generous support from donors.  Donations are still needed to get through the winter season.

During the remainder of the year, the Samaritan Group finds accommodations in local motels for those in need of emergency shelter. For information on the shelter, or to volunteer or donate, call 443-480-3564 or email samaritangroupkent@gmail.com.  Checks may be sent to Samaritan Group or Good Neighbor fund care of Chester Valley Ministers ‘Assocaiton at PO Box 227, Chestertown, MD 21620.   More information and the volunteer form can be found at the Samaritan’s website.

Feast of Love Christmas dinner. at First United Methodist Church, Dec 25, 2018  –   Photo by Bill Arrowood.

 

Rev. Bobby Brown read the main tenets of Kwanzaa.

Salvation Army solo-ist, Jason Collier.  –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Op-Ed: The State of Shore Regional Health in 2018 by Ken Kozel

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Looking back at 2018, I want t to share the great progress made by UM Shore Regional Health in realizing our Mission, Creating Healthier Communities Together, and our Vision, To Be the Region’s Leader in Patient Centered Health Care.

November and December were dominated by preparations for our successfully completed week-long accreditation visit from the Joint Commission, followed by the transition to EPIC, our new electronic medical records system, linking patient care information within and outside of Shore Regional Health and the entire University of Maryland Medical System. Both of these achievements required an enormous amount of preparation and work for team members at all levels and all locations of our organization. I am particularly proud that throughout these near-simultaneous events, patient care remained our priority in every aspect of our inpatient and outpatient programs.

2018 was marked by several other important milestones:

Our Cardiac Catheterization Center exceeded our expectations in the number of life-saving emergency percutaneous coronary intervention (STEMI / PCI) procedures – when a heart attack results from a critically blocked artery and time is heart muscle. We are approaching 60 since the designation as a Cardiac Intervention Center (CIC) by MIEMSS in February, 2018. The Center’s Electrophysiology Service is effectively migrating patients from various medications taken prior to ablation and improving their quality of life.

UM SRH programs earned recognition from several prestigious accrediting and certification organizations during 2018. Cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs in our three hospitals were recognized by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). At UM Shore Medical Center at Easton, the Primary Stroke Center earned re-designation from MIEMSS, and the American Heart Association’s Gold Plus and Target Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus designations. Our Requard Center for Acute Rehabilitation earned re-accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
Expanding access to care, a challenge for rural health care organizations such as ours, has been an ongoing focus for UM Shore Regional Health. 2018 saw considerable progress in this arena, as UM Community Medical Group added 18 new providers in primary care and several specialties. In palliative care and behavioral health, barriers to care formerly posed by geographic distance and travel times have been greatly diminished by telemedicine programs launched during the past year.

The Regional Opioid Task Force, formed in 2017 by UM SRH and including representatives from law enforcement, health departments, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation, accomplished its mission of creating a standard intervention for patients involved in an opioid overdose. Our four emergency departments now offer consistent interventions that include medical evaluation and stabilization, a voluntary behavioral health assessment, a standardized educational message, connection with treatment providers, and expedited referral to A.F. Whitsitt Center for continued treatment and rehabilitation.

Plans for improvements and additions to our physical facilities also moved forward during 2018. We filed a Certificate of Need (CON) application with the Maryland Health Care Commission in September for a new, six-story, 135-bed hospital to replace Shore Medical Center at Easton. Three other regulatory applications, known as Certificates of Exemption (COE), were filed in July, 2018. These detailed the proposed conversion of Shore Medical Center at Dorchester to a freestanding medical facility that will include a state of the art emergency department, observation beds, diagnostic services, primary and specialty care, outpatient services and ambulatory surgery. These applications include proposals to relocate the inpatient beds and the behavioral health inpatient unit from UM Shore Medical Center at Dorchester to the existing Easton hospital, with very minor renovations, possibly as early as spring 2021, when the freestanding medical facility campus is complete. Coming much sooner is our new Shore Medical Pavilion at Denton, slated to open in early February 2019, which will provide “close to home” care for residents of Caroline County. The new pavilion will house primary and specialty care providers, laboratory and imaging services, outpatient behavioral health and rehabilitation care, and a home health office. We look forward to a formal opening event in the spring.

The three volunteer Auxiliaries and Foundations associated with UM Shore Regional Health continue to play a key role in advancing the quality of care provided in our hospitals and our outpatient services. Auxiliary volunteers contributed more than 57,000 hours and thousands of dollars to their respective hospitals in 2018. Support from individual donors, local businesses and foundations enabled us to purchase upgraded medical equipment and life-saving technologies. We are so grateful for the support of the Auxiliaries and Foundations, and that of our UM Shore Regional Health Board members, who devote their time to our mission.

Our focus upon a service excellence culture has transformed the ways in which we provide care, how we interact with patients, family members and loved ones, and how we support each other throughout the organization. It is heartwarming to feel the positive energy, caring and compassion in our team, our physicians and advanced practice providers, and the many volunteers who support these efforts. I am grateful for the support of our communities and the dedication of UM Shore Regional Health team members – our board, our Foundations and Auxiliaries, our physicians and providers — in all locations throughout the five county region we serve. Shore Regional Health is Where the Health of the Eastern Shore Comes First and we are so proud to serve your needs.

Ken Kozel is the president and CEO of UM Shore Regional Health

A New Year by Nancy Mugele

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Although tonight my family and I are in Baltimore celebrating Christmas Eve (that is another story), the annual ritual of welcoming in a new year is fast approaching. I don’t really understand what all the hype is about. The sun always sets on December 31 and rises on January 1, whether or not we stay up past midnight to usher in the new year, champagne flute raised, searching for someone to kiss, while stating our resolution. For me, and for all educators, the new year really begins in September.

So why doesn’t the academic year begin in January? Historically, farming and feeding the family (and community) took precedence over everything. The school schedule followed the seasons of fall harvest, winter hibernation and spring planting so that during the summer growing season, all hands would be “on deck,” or in field.

The winter is an excellent time for school, because no outdoor farming can be accomplished – although amazing cooking and feeding certainly happens. When Kent School students return to class next week we will enter a long stretch of deep learning uninterrupted by holiday breaks. I am always amazed at the growth that happens in students during the winter months. What seems to us to be a dark and dormant time of year is actually a time of great awakening in students. Connections are made and maturity is gained. The blooms appear in the spring – but I am getting ahead of myself.

With a nod to my roots and my Boston family, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to pass a compulsory education law in 1647, when it was still a British colony. A similar law was again passed in 1852, which required every city and town to offer primary school, focusing on grammar and basic arithmetic. The first secondary school opened in Boston in 1861. With a nod to my Maryland family and friends, Washington College was “the first college chartered in the sovereign United States of America” (washcoll.edu) by the Maryland legislature in 1782.

These milestones are significant because they clearly illustrate that education at all levels has been highly valued in our country since its inception. Thankfully, for each of us. Whether the academic year begins after Labor Day or after New Year’s Day is irrelevant. We have a school year, and for that we should be eternally grateful. It would, however, be a lot easier if it did not straddle two fiscal years!

That said, imagine our country with no formal education. It is impossible. Although I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, I do have one this year, and it remains unchanged from the prior two years – to continue to enhance the Kent School educational program in our unparalleled environment for learning. Grateful to begin 2019 in the Chestertown and the Kent School communities.

Happy New Year!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.