• City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland

Print this page

City Council Minutes

January 31, 2000

January 31, 2000

Cambridge, Md.

The City Council met in regular session at 7:00 p.m. with Mayor David J. Wooten presiding.

Those Commissioners in attendance were: Commissioners Vickers, Watkins, Saunders, Swafford and Rice. Reverend Leon Hall led in the Lord's Prayer.

Mr. Collison advised that Council met in closed Executive Session at 6:30 p.m. this evening to consider personnel matters regarding specific employees.


Mr. Randy Collins came to the podium and stated he is in the process of starting a new business. There are many things to be considered, but one of them is to be able to have a location to pick up and discharge passengers.

As stated in his letter, there is no need for dockage, but Long Wharf would be one of four places on the river that he would offer historical tours.

Commissioner Saunders asked where the people would park and Mr. Collins stated, "Long Wharf, there's plenty of parking there." Commissioner Saunders then indicated that in the past two summers there has been a problem with parking when boats pick up passengers at that location, "regardless of what kind of boat you have."

Commissioner Vickers asked how many passengers his boat would accommodate and Mr. Collins indicated less than ten.

Mr. Collins also asked if he could put up some type of notification, as the "Nathan of Dorchester" does, to supply times for the tours and also that the tours are not "by appointment only."

Mayor Wooten felt that what Mr. Collins is trying to do is a good idea, "if we can work out the logistics of it."

Commissioner Saunders said she has nothing against it, but she would like to see a detailed, written plan provided to the Council on the occasions of being there, number of passengers, operating hours and the beginning and ending months that they would operate "before I could vote." Mr. Collins said he could provide this information in one day.

Commissioner Rice mentioned some concerns about insurance liability and Mr. Collison advised that, in the past, the persons involved needed to furnish the City with proof of insurance as well as executing a Hold Harmless and Indemnification Agreement. Commissioner Saunders amended her motion to include the comments of the attorney and the Fifth Ward Commissioner. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Rice.

Commissioner Swafford asked Mr. Collins what size his boat was and he advised it was 38 foot. His next question was what the time frame was and Mr. Collins indicated that he is planning on scheduling tours one day a week at each location, on weekends, between 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for hourly tours. Commissioner Swafford confirmed with Mr. Collins that he would be planning to dock five times, one day a week.

Motion then carried unanimously.

Regarding his request to put up signs, Commissioner Saunders suggested that he speak with David Pritchett at the Department of Public Works and he could get the information back to Council.


Commissioner Vickers indicated that since last week when this request was tabled, he has been contacted by Commissioner Tall and also Alan Nelson of the Power Boat Regatta. They have in turn talked to Mr. Nabb "and Mr. Nabb will be changing his date so this particular request does not apply at this time."

The Regatta is going to run a total of four days this year and Commissioner Vickers understands that Mr. Nelson and some representatives of the American Power Boat Association are trying to get on the agenda to see Council. The earliest they could get in was March. (note: this is because he requested to be scheduled on the next work session agenda.)

They are planning a very large major event this year which is going to require some busing of people, a parking area somewhere other than Great Marsh and they are anxious to address some of these issues and get to work on it.

Commissioner Vickers then stated that, with Council's permission, "I got no problem, since that's my Ward, having a preliminary meeting with them, and perhaps Mr. Pritchett and maybe the Chief of Police, and discuss some of these things and then bring it back to the Council at a later date."

Commissioner Saunders made a suggestion to include the Traffic and Safety Committee as well. The Mayor then asked Commissioner Vickers if this was a motion and he answered affirmatively. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Saunders and it carried unanimously.


Commissioner Saunders stated that the City really doesn't have a choice even though they are trying to move forward to some other type of use for the building in the future so she made a motion to authorize the Mayor to sign the Resolution so the grant can be delivered tomorrow. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins.

The Commissioners all shared their concerns about the location of the elevator so that it doesn't interfere with the operation of the Fire Department and that future plans for the building can be worked around it. Motion then carried unanimously.


Commissioner Saunders indicated that there were two more meetings held, one on Saturday and one this morning, and the letter was drafted and she proceeded to read it aloud.

She then made a motion that the letter be signed by the Mayor and that Mr. Odie Wheeler hand deliver it to 100 Community Place, Crownsville, Maryland tomorrow morning. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and it carried unanimously.

Commissioner Saunders said there was a lot of work with the community by the Mayor and Council to turn this around and she thanked "those that are here tonight that were here Saturday... those that are not here... those that signed up accepting to be on the 15 member Steering Committee. We realize that there is a lot of work ahead. All information will be made at your disposal. The Council has afforded myself and Commissioner Swafford as liaisons and I plan to attend every meeting... "and I want to assure everybody, my back is not against the wall."


Mayor Wooten said when he saw this item on the agenda, he proceeded to try to find out what the difficulties were. It was explained to him by Gary Newcomb, Manager of M.U.C. "and I have a packet here for them but they're not here." He then asked Mr. Newcomb to explain the situation for the record.

Mr. Newcomb came to the podium and explained that Mr. Herbert stated in his letter that, during the time that he was away (approximately 6 months) from his residence at 101 Willis Street, "he didn't feel as though he should be charged a sewer charge or a disposal fee charge but he wanted the water left on." Mr. Newcomb told Mr. Herbert that he did not have the authority to delete those charges. Even though Mr. Herbert is having difficulty with the M.U.C. sewer procedures, Mr. Newcomb stated, "I think it's a City policy."

Commissioner Rice then stated that he thinks the M.U.C. procedures are relatively simple. He then said he understands Mr. Herbert's concept but by the same token, "those people who sit in here and may not have children in the school system would have the same argument about paying State taxes that support the schools."

He added that in the upcoming budget sessions, either this one or the next one, "we could actually get around to the point where sewer charges will be based upon the operating cost of the actual plant itself and has nothing to do with your water or your billing in which case you have the total cost of operating the system, cost overrides, debt reduction, etc. divided by the total number of users that are attached to the plant and you get what it costs you per year to do it, whether you're in the City or out of the City and ultimately we could get to that point, but it won't happen today."

Commissioner Swafford asked if Mr. Herbert has a choice to disconnect for six months, and get a bill for six months? Mr. Newcomb said if he disconnects there is no charge, but there is a $25. charge to reconnect and because he has a hot water system, Mr. Herbert doesn't choose to disconnect. Commissioner Swafford said "if he needs the service, he needs to pay for it."

Commissioner Rice moved "to uphold our standard policy as it is in place now and reject his request." Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford and it carried unanimously.


Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve the Budget Amendment for the Department of Public Works; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Commissioner Saunders interjected that he did not mention the one for Financial Administration. Commissioner Swafford amended his motion to include both; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.


Commissioner Swafford moved to approve all budgeted expenditures over $250; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.


Commissioner Vickers complimented D.P.W. for keeping the streets open during the snow storm, "even though they're still rough."


Commissioner Watkins additionally showed appreciation to D.P.W. for all they did last week. It was a lot of work and there is still a lot of work but D.P.W. needs to be complimented..."some of the streets were passible and some were in excellent shape."


Commissioner Saunders said there was a letter in Council's packet from Severn Trent Environmental Services. They understand that the contract between the City of Cambridge and M. E. S. regarding the wastewater treatment facility is soon to expire. They have requested to speak with City representatives and send brochures to see how they can put in a contract for bid. She has no thoughts either way but, she feels that someone should at least give them an answer.

Commissioner Vickers confirmed with Mr. Pritchett that it is an annual contract and feels "we probably need to consider doing the same thing this time that we did the last time because we're still in the same situation. We're in the process of a lot of upgrades... that this company has been involved in the design of and we're also in the process of an ongoing ulcer."

Commissioner Saunders then asked "if you gentlemen at least let Mr. Collison draw up some type of response to these people instead of just not answering them." Commissioner Rice said he doesn't have a problem allowing them to submit a bid "providing they know up front what the bid needs to cover and what you mentioned is part of what it needs to cover, obviously."

A motion was then made by Commissioner Saunders to give these persons, as well as M. E. S., an opportunity to bid and provide them with specific information on the bidding; seconded by Commissioner Rice.

Commissioner Swafford indicated "with everything that's going on, I don't even know if we can even tell them what we need to bid on." Commissioner Saunders stated, "you've got to work on M.E.S.'s budget based on what you need."

Mayor Wooten felt that the people we have now have done an excellent job, "but everybody needs to be able to explain themselves and this might serve to promote that." Motion carried 4 to 1 with Commissioner Vickers opposing.

A letter from Comcast Cablevision, dated January 24, 2000, was then read aloud for the public by Commissioner Saunders. It indicated that in a decision dated July 31, 1997, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth circuit overturned a Federal Communications Commission ruling regarding the calculation of gross revenues used to determine the payment of franchise fees to local jurisdictions. Under the Fifth circuit ruling, franchise fees are now included in a cable operator's gross revenues. As a result of the ruling, a typical cable bill of $40.00 increases by approximately 4 or 11 cents, depending upon the fee percentage.

Commissioner Saunders stated, "in light of this affecting the citizenry, affecting the budget of the City and being something that has to be decided with the budget sessions coming up, I would like to make this public knowledge and, Mr. Finance Chairman, ask as a motion, if you would work with the City attorney to bring us a report back and get all the facts before this Council makes any vote on any increase, if any, on the franchise fees." Motion was seconded by Commissioner Rice.

Commissioner Swafford said, "we have a franchise fee now, right?" Commissioner Saunders indicated that they are talking about an increase of that fee. Mr. Collison stated that previously, the cable company paid a percentage of their gross revenues to the City as a franchise fee. This ruling states that in addition to the revenues they collect from their customers, they have to add the franchise fee in before they apply the percentage to give to the City. He said the City has the option to allow Comcast to continue as they are doing by not applying the franchise fee as far as their equations for giving the City their revenues or "you can tell them yes, use it, and then your revenues will increase a little bit but that means everyone's bills would increase a little bit."

Commissioner Rice personally thinks that since Comcast is not sure whether the ruling had been implemented by the previous holder, "that we have some audit verification as to whether or whether not it has not been... it could be that this is a double-dipping concept if it's already been implemented."

Commissioner Saunders then stated that once all the information is found, she feels it would be important for the Mayor and Council "in one of our work sessions" to bring this back up and have it advertised in the paper and let the public have some input "before we make a decision." Motion then carried unanimously.

She made a second motion that by the first meeting in March, "we should have our answers back to go in our books"; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

The next issue addressed by Commissioner Saunders was a memo from Dave Pritchett regarding the reimbursement of $442.50 for a plumbing bill paid for a sewer blockage at the Cambridge Professional Building. Since this happened in the City's sewer part and businesses have been reimbursed before, she made a motion that Doctors Burdette, Calabro and MacLaughlin be reimbursed for the $442.50 bill issued by Steve Marshall as a result of work performed on the sewer problem "that was not their fault, but was the City's." Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and it carried unanimously.

Commissioner Saunders referenced a memo from Mr. Kinnamon regarding a portion of the railway bed/Cambridge Tractor advising that the Supervisor of Assessments and Taxation informed the City that something is being parked on property that taxes weren't being paid on. She asked Mr. Collison if he was familiar with this and he replied that he remembered seeing the letter. A motion was then made by Commissioner Saunders to table this "until the City attorney, within maybe two weeks, can get us some written legal actions on this. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and it carried unanimously.

She then addressed a request for architectural proposals for the Public Safety Building. Mr. Pritchett has put correspondence in Council's books from last week asking Council to meet with him to give more basic ideas on what the whole Council wants. Commissioner Saunders stated that "we have worked with committees, we have given you reports; we have the study that was paid for by the other Council several years ago which is basically what we were going on, but at this point, Mr. Pritchett is in a position now that he can't move forward preliminary or any other way, architecturally, until he meets with the whole Mayor and Council." She then requested help from Mr. Collison as far as making a motion on this.

Mr. Collison said this could be handled through the City's Property Committee to meet with Mr. Pritchett and report back to the full Council or it could be done as a work session. Commissioner Rice feels it should be a committee item to begin with and once it gets out of committee then he feels it should be a work session. "I think you need both."

Commissioner Saunders then made a motion that the Property Committee ("and I hope I can stay involved since I've been working with the committee") meet with Mr. Pritchett and try to iron out some of the details along with the Fire Chief; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

They will get together with Mr. Pritchett as far as a date and a time.

Commissioner Saunders mentioned that earlier this evening, Council met in Executive Session to discuss four personnel issues "one being the request that was given to you (Mr. Collison) by a citizen on... the Ethics Code, and we have made a decision." Ms. Adams has the written minutes from the personnel committee. The only person that was not in the back room was Commissioner Swafford... "all four of us plus the Mayor was there and we had a four vote unanimous vote on the decision that we made and I'd like to say that based on the fact we did not inform Mr. Swafford of the decision, and legally you said we should not be making It on the floor until he is informed, I'd like to ask if Miss Held! can give you the decision and you are the one that's to respond to this citizen in writing and then you will tell us (I'm sure this person will make it known to the public) but you will tell us legally how we should make it known to the public." Mr. Collison said, "...I will do that as you described."

On another note, Commissioner Saunders said she wanted to bring up something tonight that's been going on about the sewer separation for more than 5 years. When this started, there was more than one public meeting with George, Miles and Buhr and the M. D.E..."this is what you need to do, so we proceeded to spend $600,00O...we did what they said... they said it was a good plan." Some people then decided to take the City to court.

She said the citizens need to know what is going on "and the more I find out about this, the angrier I get." One of the things that she wanted to share was... "everything that we come up with and we bow to, is one more demand that comes up. Well, this last demand has really frosted me a whole lot and it involves Long Wharf. If the City goes along with this latest demand, every time it rains there will be water laying in Long Wharf." She added that this lawsuit could have been settled "not because the City didn't want to settle and now that we're standing pat on we want no changes that will affect Long Wharf, we will not accept any changes that affect Long Wharf, until hell freezes over we will not affect Long Wharf in any adverse manner... we get a letter from their representatives calling our trees straggly, and this should not be an impediment to settling this lawsuit."

Commissioner Vickers said all this started for a very good reason... "the separation of sewer and stormwater...we know that we can't mix those elements because they end up in the river." The project started going out of sight because of reasons of street elevations. There was a small amount of elevation that would take place in the immediate area around the duck walk part of it due to the construction. He added that if they go to the level they want to now, the area from around where the old pumping station is down to High Street will have a French drain. Commissioner Vickers stated that "a French drain in Dorchester County is the biggest joke in the world... we don't have dry soil." He went on to say, "this area does not have to be raised... this has absolutely nothing to do with the separation of the sewer and the stormwater."

Commissioner Saunders indicated, "we spent 13 hours one day in a Federal Court which cost over six to twelve thousand dollars trying to solve one issue that was similar to this..." Speaking for herself, she stated that she was here to inform the citizens not to let Long Wharf to be half torn up because of a special few... "and it is not the whole West End, it is a special few... and all of this is not because they're so much in love with what happens in Cambridge and they got the best interests of Cambridge at heart." Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to redesign this three times, "not because we're not cooperating, but when we give into one thing another demand came... if this had been the City Council doing that, it would have been a state of pandemonium in here... but you let a few citizens control your destiny, you let a few citizens spend your tax dollars and you don't come in here and say 'wait a minute, what's going on, ...so I'm bringing it out tonight and do what you have to do to me but it's time that the citizens of Cambridge, Maryland and Dorchester County speak up, speak out and let people come in here and have a public work session on both sides... on our side and on the plaintiffs' side and give you citizens some answers."

Commissioner Vickers spoke with a gentleman from the State today and told him, "I would get chains and locks... and chain every one of those trees down there and I think I could find enough people to lay down beside the trees where they want to put the ditch and make our point that we do not want that park disturbed."

Relative to this issue, Commissioner Rice stated, "those people that have read the rhetoric that has been in the paper would get the opinion that this board has done everything it could to not push this separation forward. If you'll go back and look at the voting record of this Council, this Council, the ones sitting before you right now, from the day that they took office, would try to expedite this process from day one. It started out with a huge water main and leaving the sewer system alone. I don't think storm water is going to damage whatever you got, but to leave a one hundred year old sewer system unchanged would be rather ridiculous. The alteration came with, 'let's put a new sewer line in', use the existing line for the storm water which made a whole lot more sense. It cost less money actually, and then you have a brand new sewer line to deal with (life expectancy of that 30 to 50 years). Heaven knows what the life expectancy of the existing one is... I don't think I know." Commissioner Rice then added, "had all parties had the best interest of the taxpayers and the citizens at heart, we would not only be at bid, we would be under construction."

Commissioner Watkins said, "it's surprising to me how a few people can defy the City Council in it's best judgment, defy the engineers that we have hired and compel us, or try to compel us, to do something that is not in the best interests of the citizens of Cambridge and we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to defend ourselves... I heard years ago, it's surprising how the many people are driven by a few, and that's what we've got to watch... don't let a few people put us in all this debt (they've already put us in a whole lot of debt) because they want us to do something we know is not right."

Commissioner Vickers made one more comment..."sometime in the last year or two, one of the newspapers printed the names of all the people in the suit that are the plaintiffs. Maybe they should consider printing those again so that if the people want to look up their phone numbers and call them and ask them what they're trying to do or what they want to accomplish, maybe they would respond. "

Mayor Wooten indicated that there is more that could be said and maybe will be said. Commissioner Saunders said there was no reluctance on the Council's part to speak on this but they were told they couldn't say anything because of the law suit..."well, I just said something."


Mayor Wooten stated that the Chamber Dinner was an outstanding success... "our comptroller gave an excellent speech and received a standing ovation before and after." The Chamber highlighted what we're doing as a community to help our businesses be a success. Many of them are thriving and we're moving in the right direction.

He also thanked D.P.W. for the tremendous effort they put out in the snow storm. Many of these people worked around the clock for 24 hours... "we were home in bed enjoying a good night's rest and they were out there working." He then said, "something that I've never been able to come to an understanding, as to how we can deal with this... when the streets are plowed, people's driveways are blocked off, sidewalks are blocked off, but if we don't plow the streets, nobody can go anywhere." This is a constant dilemma "and I wish somebody would tell me how this can be handled and dealt with because I want to do it."

The Mayor then added that Commissioner Vickers and his wife made dinner for the guys that night. Commissioner Vickers stated that his wife and son did the cooking, "I did the dishes. "


Commissioner Swafford said there is a solution to the snow removal problem he discussed... "just order some weather about 70 degrees and let that take care of it."


Commissioner Rice stated that correspondence has been received again from Mr. Askins on Pine Street relative to a handicap parking spot for him. Mr. Askins needs to be contacted to let him know that the City does not have the authority to do that..."because only the Motor Vehicle Administration can do what he is asking. There is a process by which this can be done, but it's not going to happen overnight. It's going to take some time."

He asked that Chief Wroten's department be directed to respond to this gentleman so he can understand what process has to be done in order to get what he needs.

Commissioner Rice then handed Dave Pritchett Mr. Askins letter of request to be passed along to Chief Wroten.


Dave Pritchett thanked Commissioner Vickers for feeding the crew from D.P.W. and all the men asked Mr. Pritchett to extend their thanks as well.


Ms. Gwendolyn Evone Camper, 737 Pine Street, came to the podium to complain about the plows pushing snow back on sidewalks and driveways after they have been shoveled. She asked Mayor Wooten, "what can be done about the sidewalks ...not the streets." She said she bought 90 pounds of salt to clear her sidewalk to keep people from slipping down.

She then complained about the flags for Black History Month not being able to be put up because the sidewalks are full of ice.

Another complaint was that there are no shade trees on Washington Street because trees were cut down because they were eyesores. She indicated that there are trees on Race Street that are eyesores and they're not cut down.

Ms. Camper also stated that she would like to see the Harriet Tubman Coalition on Pine Street not Race Street.


Gage Thomas, 1502 Race Street, commended the Council for speaking out on the sewer/water issue and he applauded Commissioner Saunders for stepping forward on this. He said it is beyond his comprehension as to why the Council was told not to discuss this... "it's a lawsuit of a different nature... it's of a technical nature ...but you need to inform the public if you expect the public to move forward." He appreciated Council bringing it to everybody's attention.

On another note, Mr. Thomas stated that since he was unable to attend the meeting regarding the Main Street Program last Saturday, and he understood that there would be an opportunity tonight to speak.

Commissioner Saunders stated that the meeting was for the 15 people on the Steering Committee "and you insisted on Mr. DelSordo being put on, even though he wasn't there..." and the Committee is formed.


Ms. Camper came back to the podium and explained that she feels she and her family are not being treated fairly by the Cambridge Police Department and voiced several of her own opinions.

With no further comments, meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting of Monday, January 31, 2000 insofar as I personally am aware.

Heidi R. Adams

Administrative Assistant