City Council Minutes
August 14, 2007
August 14, 2007
The City Council met in regular session on Tuesday, August 14, 2007 in Council Chambers. A quorum being present, Mayor Cleveland L. Rippons called the meeting to order at 7:08 p.m. Those Commissioners in attendance were Commissioners Knox, Sydnor, Cephas, Brooks, and Travers.
Ed Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer. Commissioner Travers led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the minutes of the July 23, 2007 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Federal Lead Hazard Reduction Program-Commissioner Brooks made a motion to change the percentage of the administrative costs ($1,000 per closed and fully-dispersed grant) for the lead hazard control program from 50/50 to 80/20. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Octavene Saunders asked how they could advertise if they have not been able to draw down any funds. Deborah Johnson, Corporation for Healthy Homes, said her organization has an operational budget and they have been stretching it to sustain the program. If they have to hire someone, they will pay for the newspaper publication the same as they did when they advertised for contractors to bid on the work. Portia Johnson-Ennels said there was supposed to be an office set up in Cambridge. She asked if it was dissolved altogether now. Mayor Rippons said the Corporation for Health Homes will receive an additional 30% of the administrative costs for monitoring. Portia Johnson-Ennels said the grant calls for someone to be in Cambridge who will hold educational meetings and pass out literature. Rob Collison said the 80/20 should be conditional on the administrator from the Corporation for Health Homes doing the monitoring. The motion passed unanimously. Commissioner Brooks asked Deborah Johnson if she intended to set up an office in Cambridge. Deborah Johnson said she would if the need is there. She is working on an agreement to have an office in the Empowerment Center. It is a great location to continue their educational programs.
Helen Gianiny to Discuss a Citizen's Concern-Mr. Gianiny asked to speak on behalf of his Mom. She would like an executive session to discuss her topic. Mayor Rippons asked Mr. Gianiny to provide a written document outlining his topic for discussion so Council can determine if it is a legal reason for an executive session. The letter should be sent to Ed Kinnamon.
Frank Gianiny to Discuss a Citizen's Concern-Mr. Gianiny said he wants to discuss projects around the Creek. He said he remembers that one of the reasons that Commissioner Cephas voted again Duane Zentgraf's project was because of possible cancers in his family and possible contaminants in the soil in the area that Mr. Zentgraf wanted to develop. He was concerned about the people who may move into those homes. Commissioner Cephas said that was one of about six reasons. Mr. Gianiny said his concern for being before Council is about the possibility of PCBs and toxic chemicals in the Creek. Rob Collison suggested that Mr. Gianiny pose his questions and that Council will need time to get that information. Mr. Gianiny said his questions are: (1) What is buried under the mound at the DPL site on Cambridge Creek? (2) How long has Council known about the contamination at the DPL site on Cambridge Creek? (3) What does Council know about the dangers of coal tar and PCBs from buried transformers? (4) How was all of the massive development on Cambridge Creek approved given the contaminated ground beneath most of it? (5) Who is responsible for stopping development on contaminated soil? (6) Why are so many of the new homes and condos on Cambridge Creek still vacant? He also asked why it takes so long to get answers to these questions. He said the safety of people and the future of this community are at stake. He offered his phone number for assistance. He and Ed Stivers came before Council 10 months ago asked very similar questions. They have never received answers.
Rob Collison said when the questions were raised the first time, it was the first time it had come to his attention. Following that he wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers. He believes Mr. Stivers had indicated that there was a public hearing discussing proposed clean-up. The Corps of Engineers indicated they had not received any information with regard to that. They had no knowledge of anything to which they would receive permitting. He did not receive a response from MDE. He had requested that they have a work session with City Council to do a public presentation and briefing because of the concerns of citizens. He will follow that up with MDE. Mr. Gianiny said he has been provided with pictures of transformers that were pushed into the Creek from the DPL site. The toxicology reports do not add up. He is concerned for the safety of this beautiful town. The Creek is the most valuable land that Cambridge has. Even with the economy and the housing market slowing, it seems strange that those homes do not seem to be selling the way other homes are. He asked what new homeowners are being asked to sign. He asked if they are being forewarned that this ground may potentially be contaminated. Wise Oil, the railroad, and the fertilizer company were all near the Creek. There are all types of toxic chemicals there. He cannot come up with any proof that this dirt has been removed like it is supposed to be removed. That is his concern. Rob Collison said they need to determine who the responsible party is under the MDE and EPA rules. Sometimes finding the determining the responsible party may be difficult. That generally is the person responsible for the clean-up if that entity is still in existence.
Mr. Gianiny congratulated Council on hiring a new Director of Pubic Works. He is curious about how it came to be that somebody could build a condominium project that would abut a toxic waste site (former DPL site). Commissioner Sydnor asked if there is any testing done at any of these sites. Rob Collison said our plan approval process does not require site devaluation on either the site in question or an adjoining site. That would be up to the property owners to do a due-diligence prior to purchasing the contract. Normally they would enter into a contract with a contingency that there is an environmental survey or analysis done prior to them purchasing it. He does not know if it was done. That type of information is not presented to Planning and Zoning or to the Department of Public Works during the approval process.
Mr. Gianiny gave Commissioner Sydnor transcripts from the court hearing from Mr. Collison's former partner, Judge Wilson. He raised some questions. With the Trenton Street project, particularly Beazer Homes, he raised some concerns about a row of townhouses that for some reason was left out without having the vapor shield. When you read through it, it is mind-blowing that it would happen.
Octavene Saunders said if someone goes back into the archives, she thinks that when she was a Commissioner, Council refused to let any permits go because MDE did indicate that along the Creek it would take too much money for anyone to clean-up. People would not buy that property because MDE had put out a public statement. It was not a clear environmental property on the Creek to build on. Every time they were building there, she was wondering why, as the B. J. Lithicum Building, where they changed oil and painted cars, that lot on Cedar and Race Streets they had to close it in and MDE said they had to bring people in and it cost $50,000 at that time, to remove any toxins there. She wondered if they cleaned along the Creek. When she was on Council, they would not give them any permits because they could not get clear information if there were toxins there. The buyers said it would take too much money to clean it up. Rob Collison said Mrs. Saunders is talking about the Point property. It was up for tax sale and the City and County would never purchase it because of their concerns. Mrs. Saunders asked how someone could come in here and not do an environmental study given the fact on how that property was used when the City had to pay money when they purchased the B. J. Lithicum property. The City attorney at that time told them to do a study before they do anything else with this property.
Commissioner Brooks said that was prior to 2004. She asked Mayor Rippons is he recalls any environmental studies being done. Rob Collison said the City had the study performed on the Race and Cedar Streets property because the City was the contract purchaser. It is generally not required. It is generally good due-diligence if you are the contract purchaser. You do not want to buy it if you do not know what is there. He believes if MDE gets a complaint or a call, they probably are required to investigate to determine if an analysis or inspection is required.
Mr. Gianiny asked when the City sold the railroad rights for the Trenton Street project and when Wise Oil came in, and if you read into the MDE reports and the rest of the reports on this project, it states that they are to clean 100 feet of the railroad rights and he has pictures where they only cleaned 9 feet. The State of Maryland bought the railroad rights. Rob Collison said it was then conveyed to the City and County. The City then conveyed them to an LLC who was the predecessor to Beazer. Mr. Gianiny asked who was responsible for cleaning those railroad rights. Rob Collison said he cannot answer that right now.
Sandy McAllister, as former City Attorney, said he would be happy to provide the files in his possession. The former Arundel site was identified as a contaminated site when Octavene Saunders was in office. Part of the problem in those days was that the tenancy was to simple board off sites along the Creek and this was one of them. They found it to be counter-productive regarding development along the Creek. They insisted that the Arundel Corporation undertake a complete clean-up of that site. They did so. It complied with all EPA and MDE requirements and they received a no-action letter which was how Arundel was finally in a position to convey that property out and put it into the development scheme. The same thing happened on Cambridge Point. It was only after a buyer was willing to undertake remediation efforts and take out contaminated soil from the site that was formerly owned by Triangle Oil. That site also obtained a no-action letter which means that EPA, MDE, and other regulatory agencies said they did a satisfactory clean-up. The DP&L site has coal-tar residue. Coal-tar residue is a category of carcinogen, which, if stabilized as has always been the case, does not need to be removed. It also cannot be built on. DP&L is a successor in interest to the Cambridge Gas Company which actually had a coal-firing plant there years ago generating the coal-car residue. MDE is the current investigator regarding some leaching of coal-tar residue on that site. He will put Council in contact with the MDE folks. This is a 10- or 15-year process. The City has been diligent in insuring that these sites are inspected. There is a record and he is happy to assist in any way.
Ed Stivers said he has spoken to MDE in reference to that site. His concern is the leaching into the Creek because according to MDE, the bulkhead there is gone so this is seeping into the Creek. He has asked if they could put some signs up telling people not to anchor in the Creek. His reason is that if you drop an anchor into that sludge and you bring it up, if there is any of the coal-tar or the other toxic stuff, you will wipe it off with your hands and it could make you very ill. He would not want to see anyone swimming in the Creek. There has been a permit issued to dredge the Creek. When it is dredged this fall, it has to be done under very strict regulations. It is very, very toxic. If it is not handled property, it can be very detrimental to people. Rob Collison asked if MDE indicated what the plan is. He asked if they would be dredging the Creek bed itself and repairing the bulkheading or if they would be removing soils from the site itself. Mr. Stivers said he just knows that there was an advertisement in the Banner some time back about it. When he was at MDE with his attorney to talk to them about it, they were talking about putting it up on a barge and carting it out. He said they could not do that because of the seepage. It has to be containerized and handled properly. Rob Collison said he suggested that Mayor Rippons call the MDE Secretary directly to get something lined up for a work session.
Mr. Gianiny said Mr. Stivers has an employee who has leukemia; it could be coincidental. It could have been a result of working in that building. We will never know. The builders will come to Cambridge because we have a beautiful town but they will only do whatever the Code requires. It is the bare minimum. The Commissioners need to put a stop to this.
Commissioner Brooks said Rob Collison stated that Cambridge had testing done on the corner of Race and Cedar Streets. She asked the outcome. Rob Collison said the underground fuel tanks were removed. They determined there was no leakage or seepage or leaching into the soils. Usually the expensive part is when there is long-term leakage of tanks into the soils. You have to have that soil removed and have it properly disposed of. It is a clean site. Gwendolyn Camper said she worked in the B. J. Lithicum building for Streeter's Taxi Service and asked if she was toxic from working in that building. Rob Collison said the environmental study the City had done on that site is available for the public to review. He said based on the age of the building, it most likely had lead paint in it. Lead paint in itself may not be a problem for adults.
Laura LeBlanc, Main Street, to Request Permission to Use City-Owned Lot at Race and Cedar Streets on Saturday, September 8th and a Noise Variance from 4:00 pm Until 9:00 pm and a Temporary Street Closure for a Marching Band From 5:00 pm Until 6:30 pm from the Lot to the Intersection of Race, Gay and Poplar Streets-Laura LeBlanc suggested the Police Department stop traffic for the marching band and then open it again. Chief Malik said that was their plan so they would not have to close the street for the whole time. They will provide officers at every intersection. Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Dave Harp, Main Street, to Discuss Electronic Kiosk and Signage-Dave Harp said the written information he provided is self-explanatory. They are going to apply for a Community Legacy grant for signage. They have met with Steve Johnson to discuss the location of the kiosk. Steve Johnson said he found out this afternoon that it will cost about $1,800 to connect the electricity for the sign. Dave Harp said they do not have the funds for connecting the electricity. They will be spending about $3,000 a year to maintain the kiosk. They are asking for the City's help in installing it. Mayor Rippons said he believes they are in favor of this project moving forward; however, they will have to table a vote on allocating funds for installation until they get Mr. Johnson's report and review it.
Gwendolyn Camper asked if the City and County have the money for this. They did not give Pine Street a trash can or a bench. The City is giving everything to Race Street. Octavene Saunders asked where the kiosk and sign will be installed. Dave Harp said it will be installed where Race, Poplar, and Gay Streets intersect. It will be by the curb near Craig's Drug Store. It will be linked with Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, the Visitor's Center, and the Hyatt. Octavene Saunders said every time Main Street comes before Council it is for Race Street-not Pine Street. She said Dave Harp told her in good conscience that he wanted to work with them and see the block of Pine Street build up. She asked Council when they were going to start standing up for Pine Street and making sure Main Street does what is right for the Main Street block of Pine Street. She had to pay somebody out of her pocket to clean up in front of the substation and the Empowerment Center for their event after Council said it would be done by the City. She is not upset with Main Street doing something on Race and Poplar Streets. They are going to go across the Bay Bridge and find out why Pine Street is part of Main Street and the Main Street Committee is not doing anything for them. Commissioner Sydnor said Steve Johnson sent people immediately to Pine Street when he received the call that DPW was supposed to clean that part of the street for the event.
Monroe Smith asked why the grant money never comes to Pine Street. It is being spent all over Cambridge. Nothing has been spent on Pine Street since the 1960s. They know what the plan is. Enough is enough.
Enez Stafford said it would be interesting for them to be able to see the original application that they had written to get their first grants. She is referring to the first money for Main Street. Dave Harp said they work with the City and the State and with the National Main Street program. Enez Stafford said there was a diverse group from the City who discussed the first grant from Main Street. Mayor Rippons said Main Street is not a grant. Enez Stafford said when it was time to receive the money, some entrepreneurs from Race Street threw a monkey wrench in it. Consequently, Pine Street has never received any funds. Mayor Rippons said Main Street has come up with proposals that required them to go through the City. Enez Stafford said when the first monies were received, something had to be put in writing. As a citizen of this community, she would like to see it and others would like to see it since they worked so hard. Octavene Saunders said the first year it came up, they were all trying to work together. It broke down after a year. The second year, several African-American women went across the bridge and told the State the group was not working with them. The representatives from Main Street talked to them. The third year they said they wanted to include Pine Street. Every time she hears about Main Street, it is nothing about Pine Street. They put things in writing to get grants and said Pine Street will be considered. It took them 2 years under the former DPW administration to get a trash can on Pine Street in front of the Elks. She is not against what they are asking for but she is depending on the Commissioners to look out for more than one segment of this community. It is not happening. They pay taxes too. A businessman got all kinds of tax money and State money to build a private business. Main Street came back and applied for about $70,000+ to fix up an office in that building. Nobody is speaking against it. She listens to the inequities-not just for African-Americans but for low-income people in this town. Council needs to work with them. Pine Street is a mess.
Commissioner Brooks said when Mrs. LeBlanc asked for the noise variance, she noticed that the letter said Main Street will get the appropriate liquor license. This particular function is called "Back to School Blues". She asked if it is for children. Mrs. LeBlanc said the activities for the children will be separate from where the food and beer will be sold. It is very similar to the Groove City Jazz and Blues Festival that she produced. There were children at that event as well. Commissioner Brooks said this event will target a lot more children because they will be giving away back-to-school supplies and will have a marching band. Mrs. LeBlanc said one organization will be talking about alcohol consumption and safety. She hopes that the parents there who choose to have an alcoholic beverage will drink responsibility. The Police Department will be present at all times. Commissioner Brooks asked what blocks will be included. Mrs. LeBlanc said the event will be on Race and Cedar Streets and on the lot. Vendors who are coming from the Literacy League, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, and Delmarva Power will be on the lot giving out school supplies as well. There will not be a lot of beer and wine. It will be in the later part of the evening when they have live entertainment. More adults will be there than children.
Request from Dorethea Johnson for Additional Street Light on Camper Street-Mayor Rippons said Council also received a letter requesting disability parking spaces near Bethel AME Church. Commissioner Travers made a motion to refer these matters to the appropriate committees. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.
Request from Sailwinds Park Management Board for Police Protection at Their Events-Commissioner Brooks asked if the City normally provides police protection at events. Chief Malik said if 'in-kind services' means removing an officer from a working squad or changing shifts, it is not feasible. Obviously you would jeopardize the safety and security of the rest of the citizens of Cambridge and also the safety of the police officers involved. As far as he is concerned, that is not an option. They are busy enough without taking officers out of their regular patrol routine to place them at a private event no matter what it is. They also prioritize calls. If they did send someone to Sailwinds, he would never be there because he would have to leave to answer other calls in the City. They could provide the services but the City would have to pay time and one half. If they do that, they will open up Pandora's box. The coverage for the Triathlon is about $3,000 or $4,000. It is paid for by the event. They do it for school events and are paid from the Board of Education. They work at McDonald's and Denny's also. All these groups would ask for the same services. They bring business into Cambridge and provide jobs. If this request is approved, he will have to come back before Council and ask for a supplement to his overtime budget to provide funds for this task. Their overtime budget is not prepared to handle this. Commissioner Brooks said Denny's and other places actually pay the police officer who is off duty. They may wear uniforms or plain clothing, but they are being paid from the other business. Chief Malik said the businesses pay the officer directly. Officers who work these events want to be there. Ordering officers to be places when they would rather be with their families would cause a morale problem. People who volunteer for these events want to be there to make the money. Grady Wilson said they were told in one of the meetings to ask for in-kind services and this was one thing they asked for. No action was taken.
Request from Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay to Allow Skeet Shooting on Golf Course Hole No. 17 on Thursday, August 16th-Mayor Rippons said Council has allowed this in the past. Rob Collison suggested that they coordinate this with the Police Department. Commissioner Knox made a motion to grant this request. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. Commissioner Cephas asked that the motion be amended to prohibit lead shots to be shot. The motion passed unanimously.
Request from First Baptist Church to Put a 4-ft x 8-ft Plywood Sign at Long Wharf Announcing Their Concerts-Rob Collison said the City Code has a temporary sign ordinance. Commissioner Travers made a motion to allow the sign if it complies with all the requirements of the Code. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Request from Housing Board of Review for Replacement Members-Commissioner Knox made a motion to appoint Jane Devlin to the Housing Board of Review. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Commissioner Brooks said all the terms expire on August 22, 2007. If Council is going to make appointments, they need to contact the members and make the appointments all at one time. The motion passed unanimously. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to appoint Gloria Cornish to the Housing Board of Review. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. Commissioner Sydnor asked that Council table the motion until he has a chance to talk to Mr. Foxwell who has also expressed an interest in serving on the committee. Rob Collison suggested deferring the vote and vote on all the positions at the next meeting.
Request from Bill Watkins, CEMS, to go to Bid for EMS Turnout Gear and Medical Equipment-Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the request.
Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Introduction and First Reading of Ordinance for Comprehensive Revisions to Chapter 4 of the City Code Entitled "Buildings and Housing"-Rob Collison said Council adopted the International Building Code and the International Property Maintenance Code 2006 at a previous meeting. This ordinance would be a comprehensive review by which Council modifies certain provisions of those to comply with the City's particular needs. Only about 5% of the building code is slightly modified. There is a new section to monitor the temporary storage containers that are beginning to appear in the community. It would put a 15-day maximum period for those containers sitting in someone's front yard. It would permit them for a longer period of time if the property is specifically zoned for them.
Reconsideration of the Planned Unit Development for Mill and School Streets-Rob Collison said some members of Council have indicated that they had gotten some press that they were against the project. They said they were not against the project-they were against it as it was presented. Tonight is not a public hearing. Council has the ability to reconsider their vote with conditions or modifications to the plan as it was presented. The PUD ordinance provides Council does not have to accept the plan as presented. They can approve it with certain conditions. Commissioner Knox said upon consideration of the testimony, exhibits, and recommendations made and submitted at the public hearing held on May 29, 2007 by Cambridge Schoolhouse Associates, LLC, for a planned unit development entitled "Cambridge Schoolhouse Project, Mill and School Streets, Cambridge, Maryland", he would like to make a motion that the application be approved subject to the following conditions: The detached single-family residential unit delineated in the exhibits as Unit 5 shall be removed and the 60± feet of lot frontage which was allocated for Unit 5 in the planned submittal shall be distributed evenly among the remaining 5 family units now designated as Units 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 so as to increase the applicable setback between the remaining units and the developer shall fully comply with all the architectural designs and standards as was submitted to and reviewed and approved by the Historical Preservation Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Cambridge. The plan with the said conditions makes the PUD designation and planning consistent with the PUD criteria set forth in Section 184 of the City zoning ordinance. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Commissioner Cephas asked what the setbacks were now. Rob Collison said they were 10 feet before so they are now adding about another 10 feet. The motion passed unanimously.
Approve Financial Statement for June 2007-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Rob Collison announced that Council met in closed executive session beginning at 6:00 pm to discuss personnel matters on several issues.
Commissioner Knox said at the last meeting, Council voted unanimously for an audit. Mr. Kinnamon was not at the Council meeting that evening so he didn't have the guidance at the time that he thought he needed. Since then, he has discussed the audit with him. He understands his colleagues have discussed this with him as well. The City is required by law to have an audit every year by an independent auditor. Currently we have an agreement with a firm that has extensive practices in auditing municipalities. He believes they audit Ocean City, Berlin, and Frederick. To have an audit on an audit is a little ridiculous. This year we had trouble balancing the budget. To have another audit might cost the City an additional $60,000. As far as auditing other areas that need to be audited, he is all for auditing the public safety building which has run over budget. To spend thousands of dollars to be re-audited by a different firm, really does not make sense to him and it doesn't express to him that he is spending the taxpayers' money wisely. He said that Commissioner Brooks said that MML suggests that you do this every two years and you have an independent audit. Every year the City of Cambridge has an independent audit. We have an agreement with these folks for 5 years. Ed Kinnamon said the audit for FY2007 which is now under way is the 5th year for this firm. Commissioner Knox said he can't see going out and hiring another accounting firm to audit the one that is doing the job for us. If the City is not satisfied or would like to change, then he would suggest that we change the accounting firm when we go out to bid. He read their proposal and their qualifications. They are very well qualified for doing what the taxpayers are paying them to do. Commissioner Knox made a motion to rescind the additional audit that Council unanimously voted on at the last meeting. Commissioner Brooks said you cannot rescind a motion without giving prior knowledge the meeting before that you are going to rescind the motion. Then you have to have a comparable motion to replace that particular motion. For the last 3½ years, she has attended every single MML conference regardless of what kind of hardship it has put on her family. She has learned through MML and the National League of Cities what she should be doing as a City Commissioner. If Commissioner Knox had attended even one of these MML sessions, he may be able to follow with the force of action that is recommended. He said the City has a 5‑year deal. The City of Cambridge does not want a deal with anybody that is auditing taxpayers' money. That is not what we do. Every 2 years you should change the auditors because you do not want to develop a relationship with them and Cambridge needs to know exactly where their money is going, where it has been, and how it is being spent. We need not be in the deal-making business. It is not "Let's Make A Deal"; it is real life. There are people coming here tonight and saying there are things we are not doing for Pine Street. We have a concern that there are things we are not doing for the children of Cambridge and the youth. For the last past 3½ years we have fought to get a little skating rink and the City cannot afford a skating rink but yet as stated earlier, we have housing all over the City and impact fees that are being collected every single day. We should not have money problems in Cambridge. This is the last year that this Commission will be in office. For anybody else that is planning to run and they get elected, they deserve to have a fresh clean slate from a fresh new auditor. This is not "Let's Make A Deal". Commissioner Knox said that he said agreement. He appreciates Commissioner Brooks attending all the MML meeting at the taxpayers' expense. What he doesn't appreciate is that she does not give them a report when she returns from the meetings. Hopefully when she goes to New Orleans she will be able to come back and give the City a report. As far as rescinding a motion, he recalls there was a motion rescinded on the Race and Cedar Streets property. Rob Collison said you cannot make a motion to rescind without providing prior notice. You can make a totally new motion not to retain a second auditor. Commissioner Knox made a motion not to hire a second auditor to audit the auditor. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Commissioner Cephas said he is totally floored. In their first year in office, Commissioner Knox was saying that Council needs to audit this City. He said it repeatedly. Commissioner Knox agreed. Commissioner Cephas said he questioned him and then he supported him but they never got that far. As of last month, he said the same identical thing that they need to audit the City. As a result Council had a 5:0 vote to have an independent audit. He respects all the members of Council. Commissioner Knox could have called him to discuss it. He spoke to Mr. Kinnamon about the audit. He finds it extremely disturbing. When Mr. Foxwell spoke a few weeks ago, one of the things he alluded to was an audit. The citizens spoke. Commissioner Knox was in total compliance with that at that time.
Commissioner Knox said he is not against an independent audit. It happens every year. He asked why they should go out and spend additional money to hire an accounting firm to audit the accounting firm. To him that does not make sense.
Jamal Pinder said Commissioner Cephas started out by saying that in their first term he wanted an audit. He asked if Commissioner Cephas knew at that time that the City did not audit every year. Mayor Rippons said the City does audit every year. Commissioner Knox said every year our Clerk Treasurer is responsible for balancing our books. It is mandated by law that we have an independent firm come in and check his books. He audits the City. At the last Council meeting, Commissioner Brooks made a motion to have us audited. He is all for an audit. He voted along with everyone else to do this. After conferring with our Clerk Treasurer, Ed Kinnamon informed him that he had voted to audit the auditor. Council voted to have another firm come in and check the auditor. He asked why they should go out and spend additional money to hire another independent accounting firm to come in and audit the independent accounting firm that is doing it now. To him that is not spending good money. If his colleagues do not want to do that, that is fine. Jamal Pinder said if they signed a contract for 5 years with this accounting firm, he agrees they should not have that type of relationship when you are dealing with his money. Ed Kinnamon said the prior Council approved a 5-year agreement. When Mrs. Saunders was in office, it was for 3 years. Rob Collison said there is a provision in the proposals that the next auditor cannot be the present auditor. It has to change. Ed Kinnamon said when he wrote the RFP in 2002 or 2003, he stipulated that the current firm that wins this bid cannot succeed themselves. This particular firm that we are using will not be able to win the bid next spring. Jamal Pinder said Commissioner Knox stated that they had trouble with the budget this year. Commissioner Knox said they had to balance their budget. Jamal Pinder said that is another good reason why they should audit. They should not go over. They should know exactly how much money they have and should not go over.
Octavene Saunders said she has been reading about the audit. She doesn't think Commissioner Brooks is asking to audit the auditor. Commissioner Brooks may not be saying it, but she picked up on something that may not be quite kosher. Her way to check it out is not to audit the auditor. She thinks Commissioner Brooks has something that she has learned that the public is not aware of that is in the back of her mind that she does not want to reveal and she thinks Commissioner Brooks may have shared it with these two gentlemen and she doesn't know for sure, and she thinks that is the reason that she is calling for an independent additional internal audit. She is not asking for someone to come in and spend $60,000 to look through the auditors' books. She is asking for someone to come in to look through certain expenditures that she has probably had some problem with. She is probably saying there are some things going on that she cannot get answers to. Octavene Saunders said she doesn't want to spend $60,000 extra. She thinks that if Commissioner Brooks has specific departments or specific contracts or specific expenditures that she is uncomfortable with, maybe they can meet in the back room if it is legal. Maybe they do not need a complete City audit. Somebody has picked up on something. She sees a lot of resistance and when she sees a lot of resistance, she starts getting suspicious.
Monroe Smith said he agrees with Commissioner Brooks 100%. There are things going on in the City. There is money that has been mis-appropriated. Mayor Rippons asked Mr. Smith to bring him any evidence so they can examine it. Mr. Smith said he will at the right time.
Mayor Rippons said he read the article several times that Commissioner Brooks referenced from MML. He has also asked accountants to read it. He asked Commissioner Brooks to show him in the article where it stipulates that is what should be done. Maybe he did not pick it up and maybe the resources that he contacted did not pick it up. Commissioner Brooks said the article that the Mayor is referencing is entitled "I Rotate My Tires, Should I Do the Same With Our City Auditors" stating that we should change auditors every 2 years. Mayor Rippons said that is not what it says.
Portia Johnson-Ennels said until the City started on the Public Safety Building, this Council had Triple A rating. All of a sudden we are fighting to find money. She asked if they are afraid to find out where the problems really are. Common sense should have said no contract for 5 years with one auditing company. She said 2 to 3 years is enough with one company. That was their first mistake. They are having a chance now to fix that mistake because next year they will have to get a new accounting firm. This time they should have the decency to put either 2 or 3 years as the maximum time that they will be working for the City. Rob Collison said when the RFP is written in the spring, they can make the time limit for 2 or 3 years. Commissioner Brooks said when the motion was made, the auditors had not started auditing for this year. They did not bring the auditors on board until after the motion was made and approved. This is not a witch-hunt. The motion was made by 5 Commissioners. The motion was made to give the City what it deserves-an independent audit from a firm that has not been with the City and buddy-buddy with the City for the past 4½ years. It is also to bring the new Commission an audit that is independent and that is done by someone else and to give a fresh start. The citizens of Cambridge deserve to know how their money is being spent, what they can afford, and what they have been doing with the impact fees. It may be that they need to change some things. It may be that we do not need so many impact fees on homes. Maybe we need another type of fee where we can utilize the money even more. That is the purpose. We need to know why we have money sitting in pots that we cannot spend and the City believes that we are broke or what these monies are being saved for. With an independent audit by someone who has not been here just to please the City for the past 4½ years. It should be someone who is not comfortable with the City and someone who has no ties. It should be someone who is used to going in and doing City audits. They have two recommendations from MML. However, an RFP will have to be put out and if those two recommendations from MML wish to apply for the RFP, they will have an opportunity to do so. It does not go by how much they charge; it does not go by where they are located or what experience they have; but are they going to give us what we are looking for in that particular audit. That is what the article talks about. The City has not wasted their money on her over the last 3½ years. She chose to go to every single meeting and do the training in every spare time taking time off from work-even taking a 2-year leave from her regular job because if she was going to represent the City of Cambridge, she wanted to represent the City of Cambridge with knowledge. That is the reason the Council goes to these sessions and these are the things that they bring back. This is just one of the many things that she has brought back to the City of Cambridge and shared with Council.
Charles McFadden agrees with Commissioner Brooks that we should have an audit done every 2 or 3 years instead of 5 years. He is an old treasury man and is familiar with that kind of stuff. Commissioner Knox is right tonight. If you start a second audit, you will not get it in time for your new audit team to come on in the spring. With the time it takes to do the audit, you will end up with 2 audits at the same time. The second audit will not do them any good. They can take that money and spend it on Pine Street and buy some trash cans.
Mayor Rippons called for a vote on the motion to not hire a second auditor. Commissioner Knox voted for the motion. Commissioner Brooks voted against the motion. The motion died due to lack of a majority.
Commissioner Sydnor said Council had discussed increasing the impact fee. Rob Collison said he will have the information for the next meeting.
Commissioner Sydnor said the Council has increased the permit fees as of July 1st and he wants to make sure the new fee structure is being utilized. Steve Johnson said there are utilizing the new fees.
Commissioner Cephas said last year Council discussed Christmas lights on Pine Street. The electric company had to so some work. He is mentioning it again so they have enough time to do the work. Ed Kinnamon said he will take to Steve Johnson about it.
Commissioner Brooks said earlier in the year, Council made a motion to have work sessions every third Monday. To date, she is being told that nobody is calling in and nobody is putting anything on the agenda. She suggested that twice a year each department could come in to give information about their department. For example, the Department of Public Works could talk about when to apply for a permit and when not to apply. She gets a lot of calls from people who say they got a stop work order and didn't know they had to have a permit. Now they are being charged $100 per day. She asked the department heads to think about what they could offer to the public and advertise it in the newspaper. It could be done once or twice a year on various topics. The department heads can come up with a schedule and a list of topics at a personnel review committee meeting.
Commissioner Brooks asked Rob Collison if Council needed a motion to have an RFP released for the audit. Rob Collison said Council voted on it at the last meeting. Rob Collison said some of the comments Commissioner Brooks made this evening about getting recommendations on revenue collection would be beyond the scope of the auditor. That is more like financial planning. If that is something they are looking to get as far as financial advice on looking at our fee and/or tax structure and getting recommendations from this consultant or accountant, that is probably something that needs to be added to the RFP. Commissioner Brooks said it is just an issue they can look at such as excise fees and impact fees-which one would actually benefit the City of Cambridge more. The County chose to go with the excise tax and the City chose to go with the impact fees. The County is soaring. The have money. Commissioner Sydnor asked when it would be ready. Ed Kinnamon said if they are looking for something other than a normal audit, he needs the language to put in the RFP. If they would rather pinpoint something, then Council needs to let him know as opposed to an audit. Commissioner Brooks said they would like to include Sailwinds and MUC and any program that falls under the auspices of the City.
Ed Kinnamon said he is not sure he understands what he is hearing about taking some allegations toward him and/or his office. He assured them that his office staff and he have the highest regard and ethics that can be found. He lives by a code of ethics because of the organizations he belongs to. He assured them that nothing is below standard here. He is not real clear about the purpose behind this other than what he has heard this evening. The motion was initially made on June 18th immediately behind adopting the budget for this coming year. At that point, he had already had some discussion for the upcoming audit. We have already engaged our auditors for the coming year. He had minor discussions as to the plan and what is expected and what they want. That already has taken place. As time goes on, they will require more. He has already sent them several reports and they will be down here in a few weeks. As far as the term buddy-buddy, the City has had this firm for the last 4 years. He cannot honestly say in his interpretation of a buddy-buddy he has with this company. The only one he is familiar with is the senior auditor who he deals with. He has been the senior auditor for the City of Cambridge for the past 4 years and he is the one he is talking to today. As far as the audit team that comes to Cambridge, they are not the same people. Different people come here. Maybe in 2 years, he had one of the team members come back twice. For the most part, they are different individuals so there is no buddy-buddy or acquaintances renewed. He learns who they are when they get here. As of June 18th, if he were to discuss firing him and looking for a reputable firm who has to have certain qualifications to do an audit, a reputable firm perhaps would be difficult to find to do the City's audit and you want a reputable firm. The article that Commissioner Brooks referenced discusses having a reputable firm. It also discusses that you may want to keep your auditor for multiple years because of the relationship that you have with a senior auditor who knows what is going on in your City-not necessarily that you need to change every 2 years. It really doesn't say that-it talks about you may want to do either/or. He feels like he had to clarify this because he feels like City Hall and he are getting a bum wrap here. He hopes they can get through this. He is in the quarter section of this audit and he is now to advertise for another auditor to come in and do it. If that is approved and Council agrees with this individual, that auditor can't possible start the audit until this one is through which will probably be at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Behind that, he will need Council's approval to send out RFPs for the next auditing firm. Council will have to approve the time frame. The reason he chose 5 years is because other towns were doing 5 years. Salisbury had the same firm for over 12 years. The reason they chose 5 years was because that seemed to be the norm at that time. The prior Council agreed with him. This year is the 5th audit for this current firm.
Steve Johnson said there used to be 3 park benches on Pine Street; however, now there are only 2 benches. The reason they only have 2 now is because 39 bolts were stolen out of the 3 benches. The replacement cost for the bolts is about $50. They removed 1 bench, took the bolts that remained and placed them into the remaining 2 benches to keep them as safe as possible. He would like to remove those 2 benches and procure 3 welded benches and put them in place so they cannot be altered. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to allow Mr. Johnson to replace the benches on Pine Street. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Anne Roane said in March Council discussed improvements to Cornish Park. They are approaching the end of the request of grants for the Neighborhood Parks and Playground Program which is operated through the Department of Natural Resources. In the past the City has received funding for the playground at Cornish Park. They replaced the play equipment this year. To continue and finish the renovations, they would like to apply through the Dorchester County Department of Recreation and Parks for a grant to finish the renovations which would include resurfacing the basketball court, the fencing, and lighting. If they receive the grant, it is 90% reimbursable. The City would provide the money up front, spend it, and they would be reimbursed 90% of that. She thinks the total is $48,000. They do not spend the money if they don't receive the grant. If they receive the grant, they provide the funding, make the improvements, and receive 90% of the money back. The total cost to the City would be $4,800. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to move forward with the grant. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. Commissioner Brooks said the Traffic and Safety Committee met yesterday and they are trying to revitalize the Cornish Park Task Force and they are trying to get new members. They have some recommendations that they would like to see at Cornish Park. Scott Eberspacher, said it has been his goal over the last 5 to 6 years to do a lot of work at the parks in Dorchester County. They would like to work at some other City parks. The City will have other opportunities in future years to add to the park. The motion passed unanimously.
Sister Beverly said the Council gave her church permission to set up their tent revival on the corner of Race and Cedar Streets. They have ministered to many people. Their last day is supposed to be August 16th but the people are asking them to stay a little longer. She asked if they could stay in Cambridge a little longer to give these people a little more hope. She suggested another 2 weeks. Octavene Saunders asked if the City gave them permission to camp in tents and trailers. They also had laundry hanging up. Mayor Rippons said he does not believe there were any provisions for camping or overnight stays. Sister Beverly said they travel and have sleeping quarters there. She made that known. Everything is kept very clean and everyone conducts themselves very professionally. She said they may hang their jackets up after they press them so they don't get wrinkled before the service. Janice Banks said she has been by there many days and it doesn't look any different than when people camp at the high school for the Triathlon or at Long Wharf for the boat regatta. It looks very neat. They are doing a great job and are bringing something to this community that is bringing the people together. We should embrace them with open arms and bring them back to this community again. Octavene Saunders said if Council did not grant them permission for the trailers and tents, they need to grant it or not grant it. It does not look good when you go by it. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to grant them permission to stay for 2 more weeks with overnight accommodations with the condition that they can change the motion if they have any complaints. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously. Chief Malik confirmed that the last day is August 30th.
Portia Johnson-Ennels said recently the City hired two young ladies for economic development. She asked that they come to Council and be introduced and discuss their jobs. Mayor Rippons said they work with Mr. Kinnamon's office. Their department has economic development/tourism/grants. Mary Calloway and Penny Tilghman will be at the next meeting.
Carol Embrey asked for Council's unanimous support for a work session for Monday, August 20th, regarding an animal welfare ordinance. She is not asking for money. She is asking the City of Cambridge to amend their existing animal welfare ordinances to include or adopt the County ordinances that have already been passed. Her goal is for every town in Dorchester County to be all on the same page regarding animal welfare ordinances. After the County passed their ordinance last October, Hurlock, and Church Creek are now on the same page. Mayor Rippons said the Commissioners have already reviewed the information that Carol Embrey has provided for them. Rob Collison said he can provide an ordinance for the first reading and public comments on August 27th.
With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 9:30 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Tuesday, August 14, 2007, insofar as I personally am aware.
Edwin C. Kinnamon
Clerk & Treasurer