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City Council Minutes

February 1, 1999
 

February 1, 1999

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

Those Commissioners in attendance were: Commissioners Watkins, Rice, Saunders, Swafford and Vickers.

Mr. Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer.

Commissioner Watkins moved to approve the minutes of the January 25th Council meeting; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried 4 to 0 with Commissioner Swafford abstaining.

REPORT ON BOOTH AT M.M.L. CONVENTION

Commissioner Saunders advised that the City has secured space at the Maryland Municipal League's convention this year to have a promotional booth to promote businesses in Cambridge. Letters are being sent to local businesses to make them aware of this.

She stated that the booth cost $300. less than Council allowed her to spend but she would like to use this money for promotional activities and give-aways.

Commissioner Swafford asked that an inventory be taken of the promotional items that the City currently has. Commissioner Saunders plans on using up the supply for the convention and suggested that the items be restocked for other activities through the end of the year.

PUBLIC HEARING: NEW EARTH SERVICES - CRAB CHUM PLANT

Mr. Collison, City Attorney, advised that this public hearing is a request for a special use permit by New Earth Services (Mr. Pat Condon). This is a request to operate a "polymer processing facility" which uses crab shells from the area crab picking houses. The City has determined this to be a similar use to a recycling processing facility which requires a special use permit.

The Council had granted a conditional special use in July, 1998 (which was to expire on December 31, 1998) with the opportunity to come back and renew the permit in 1999. At that time, there was hopes that there would be a "track record" of some sort to determine if the facility processing operation creates any unreasonable noises, fumes or other problems. Unfortunately, the company was unable to get up and operating prior to December 31, 1998 and therefore they have come back to apply for a special use permit for this upcoming year.

Mr. Pat Condon, applicant and President of New Earth Services, came forward to explain what they have done so far and what they intend to do with processing the crab shells. His company has been recycling crab chum for approximately six years, first at the Golden Hill facility and now next to the Beulah Landfill. Waste chum is taken from the area's crab processing plants and composted into an odorless/humus product that is on the market now as "Chesapeake Blue" ... "it's a great garden amendment."

He further stated that it is expensive to handle crab chum to prevent odors and it is not a very high value product. This has prompted them to charge a fee to the processing industry to process it in this fashion.

There is a polymer contained within the crab shell which is the second most abundant natural polymer on earth (right behind cellulose).

One of the conditions for last year's special use permit was that the building they were going to lease be brought back into compliance with the City Code. At the time, they were not aware of the extensive repairs needed to insure that. Since then, the major portion of the work has been done and they would like to begin their operation this year. The landlord has assured them that they will continue until everything is in compliance.

Mr. Condon advised that they intend to open the facility up to the county's crab packing industry, much of which is located here in Cambridge. The material comes inside the facility and is off-loaded on an apron (concrete floor) where it is immediately loaded into a bath of dilute caustic solution with a very high PH so the potential of odor is minimal. It is important to remember that everything he is talking about is "fresh chum" which should not smell any worse than crabs.

Mr. Condon then went on to explain the full process with the final product being a polymer with the consistency of plastic flake. He feels this facility will serve a need in the community due to the historic crab packing industry in Dorchester County. The industry simply doesn't have a reliable and cost effective method of disposal. Due to new nutrient management laws coming into effect, there will be more strain on the industry to find solutions on how to dispose of the chum. He feels they are solving a problem for the industry in creating an economic benefit as well as job creation and "hopefully this can be something the City can be proud of."

He is hoping to be able to be "up and running" by April lst and added that they are fully funded with private capital. "if it smells, we shut it down."

Mr. Collison asked how many trucks would be coming into the facility on a daily basis whereby Mr. Condon advised... "no arrangement has been made yet for any sort of collective action" although one load per packing house is reasonable to expect.

Commissioner Saunders stated "you would be willing to shut down if the odor became a problem." Has there been any written stipulations as to if he would shut down immediately? Mr. Condon advised that they would like to open April, May and June which would give them a "shakedown period". They will only have a heavy season of about three months.

She then asked what the hours of operation would be and the number of days per week. Mr. Condon said it would probably be from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. six days a week.

The next questions she asked was how many employees he anticipated. He said they currently have four full time employees and they anticipate to increase by possibly four, but some may be seasonal.

She then asked if he had any agreements with packers in the area whereby he stated, "the County held a public meeting on this last year some time when almost all of the industry was represented and, I believe at that time, most of them expressed a desire to participate and explore ways as to how they could do that." He further stated that there are no written contracts with anyone. "The facility is going to open. If they would like to bring their chum in there for free, they're welcome to do it." As they prove their process and their market, he supposes they would want to enter into a contractual arrangement.

Commissioner Swafford asked if they would be bringing any chum from out of the county. Mr. Condon stated they presently just serve one crab packer from St. Michaels and at this point he would be inclined not to exclude him.

The next question Commissioner Swafford had was "what's going to happen if this works? Are you going to get bigger?" His response was, "I suppose that if things went well, we would look to add."

Commissioner Vickers asked if this process was being carried out anywhere else right now. Mr. Condon stated that this process is not new and this material, and process, has been known for forty years. The usage and applications of the polymer have been known, but the economics have never worked. In the last ten or fifteen years, there have been some plants, mainly in China. To his knowledge, he is not certain if there are any in this country. There are rumors, "but this is a very secretive industry right now."

Commissioner Saunders asked Mr. Pritchett, Public Works Director, if all of the repairs have been met sufficiently and satisfactorily. His response was, "not all of them have been done." She felt this was crucial to the vote.

Commissioner Watkins wanted to know if the trucks go into the building without having to wait outside. Mr. Condon said the trucks would come into the building, dump their load and the go to the wash-down station. He doesn't anticipate trucks waiting outside, but when they were operating in Golden Hill, they had approximately 30 trucks a day come in. It was rare to see even two there at the same time.

Commissioner Saunders asked if they still had the operation in Golden Hill whereby Mr. Condon advised that they moved their operations since the site was not conducive to composting and "we were experiencing more environmental problems then we were solving down there." In response to another question about experiencing similar problems in "the heart of the City", he told Commissioner Saunders that he does not expect the same problems.

As far as time involved, it should only take five minutes for a truck to unload and be "hosed down."

Commissioner Saunders asked if this would run into the City's sewer system. Mr. Pritchett advised that he has been contacted by Maryland Environmental Services and they do have a concern in that area and requested that a pre-treatment application be filled out by New Earth Services to be submitted for evaluation. (He brought an application with him tonight for Mr. Condon to fill out.)

Mr. Collison advised that the conditional approval that was granted last summer had the stipulation that all Federal, State and local regulations, licenses and permits must be in hand before Mr. Condon could begin operation.

Mr. Roy Todd, 2 Sunset Lane, owner of Ocean Odyssey in Cambridge, came forward speaking on behalf of himself and Jack Brooks from J. M. Clayton Company. He stated that when he was a kid, crab chum paid for every Christmas present he received. "Somebody had a use for it." It reached a point when it would be taken for free. In later years, they had to start paying the same company to take it. This year alone, it has cost him over $4,500. to get his crab chum delivered to Beulah landfill.

The local packers do not have written contracts with Mr. Condon but, just like the "Field of Dreams", you build it, "they will come." If he can come through with a process and come up with a product that is helpful to the environment, we will give him crab chum that is in abundance in this County.

With regards to the amount of trucks, Mr. Todd stated that there are between sixteen and twenty-eight licensed packers in the County. Some are totally independent and will not be coming in. There will probably be a maximum (at the onset) of four to ten trucks a day.

One other thing to be taken into consideration, that has not been brought out, is the fact that the economic impact of getting rid of crab chum has been so detrimental in the past four or five years, that certain operations have closed down. Mr. Todd feels that if he could take the money he spends to remove the crab chum and put it back into his business or back into the people's pockets who are working for him producing the crab chum, "you're looking at a lot more money in town to be spent." He then stated that he is in favor of the operation and feels Mr. Condon deserves every consideration to see if it will work.

Next to speak was Dr. Joseph Bristo (Doctor of Chemical Engineering) from the University of Maryland who has worked with Mr. Condon on the research behind this process. He is now an employee of Mr. Condon and has actually done this process in the scale up facility. Being very close to the vats that do all the steps, he can say that the odor is hardly noticeable at all, especially in the final two steps. He stated that he can't wait to get this operation up and running because "I'm almost positive, nearly 100%, that this will work."

Speaking in opposition, Mr. Andy Morris came forward representing Cambridge International (who is one of the largest employers in town). They have approximately 350 employees with a ten million dollar payroll.

A very large number of their employees are upset about this proposed facility. He understands that in the last two parts of the process it gets nearly odorless ... "it's certainly not nearly odorless in the first part of the process." Also, the back side of the building to be used "is almost open air" and he invited everyone to look for themselves.

Mr. Collison asked for a "show of hands" by people present who are being represented by Mr. Morris and are in opposition to tonight's request. The attorney counted 18 people raising their hands.

Next to speak in opposition was Ms. Joyce Prahl, 302 Nathan Avenue. Her concern was the additional odor coming through the sewer treatment plant. Mr. Pritchett advised that the pre-treatment done at the proposed facility (if MDE determines it is necessary) will address this before it goes into the City's sewer system.

Ms. Portia Johnson, 700 Cornish Drive was next to speak in opposition as see feels that this will not help the City economically.

Ms. Kimberly Jenkins who currently runs Teddy Bear Day Care Center on Goodwill Avenue came forward in opposition. They have a lot of outside activities in the Spring and Summer and she has a concern about the odor.

Mr. William Jackson, 1301 Goodwill Avenue addressed the podium stating, "I'm not quite sure whether I'm speaking in opposition or not." He just wanted to make a few comments. The crab industry is very important to Cambridge and Dorchester County and the crab chum is a problem. Although he would certainly like to see the operation work, he has a problem with the location. He further mentioned that if this process works, it is not going to be limited to the facilities in Cambridge and Dorchester County.... "people will be bringing crab chum from near and far.... free disposal ... let's be realistic."

Commissioner Saunders stated that stipulations could be placed on Mr. Condon for his processing facility, "but where do you put the stipulations for people hauling it in their trucks." Mr. Todd (Ocean Odyssey) responded, "it is very simple ... the State laws prohibit littering."

With no further comments, Commissioner Watkins moved to close the public hearing; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Rice suggested that Council's decision be held until the February 22nd meeting as there will not be a full Board next week. (There will be no meeting on February 15th due to Presidents Day holiday.)

Commissioner Saunders added that she is still going to vote "no" and in order for this to pass there would need to be four votes in favor so a full Board is needed, although as Commissioner Rice noted, "that doesn't mean you'll get four votes the following week either."

PUBLIC HEARING: PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO ZONING CODE

Mr. Collison advised that this public hearing is related to several revisions to the Zoning Code that the Council is contemplating. One is to eliminate as a permitted use within R-1 districts, Section 20-6(b)(9) and (10) which refers to physician's office. The next is to eliminate from Section 20-8(b)(3)c a conditional use in two-family residence district (R-3), attorney's office and then to consolidate those together with a general generic professional offices definition to be a permitted special use within the R-3 and R-4 districts. In essence, the total amendments would in effect remove a type of office use (meaning doctors within R-1, R-2 and R-3 and lawyers within the R-3) and only permit them as a special use in R-3 and R-4 together with other professional offices.

Being in favor of the proposed amendments, Ms. Sylvia Brohawn came forward stating she is interested in purchasing property on Byrn Street for the purpose of converting it to her established accounting practice. As the code is now, she is unable to do that and feels the text amendment needs to be changed. She also feels that when a property is owner-occupied, it will be taken care of and kept in good repair.

Mr. Collison then submitted to Council a copy of the County's criteria for professional offices.

Mr. Gage Thomas, 1502 Race Street came forward stating that it should also be addressed that although a person does not necessarily reside in the premises, they should own it. This would prevent someone from going into a residential area, not owning it, and open up a practice. While home occupation is covered, he feels ownership of the property should also be a consideration. He feels it is good that the City is expanding the definition of "professional" but also feels a time frame needs to be reached to determine how long certain zoning is "grandfathered in".

Commissioner Vickers stated that if a special use permit is granted, time is determined, "and I don't think we want to be too abundant with the time."

With no further comments, Commissioner Rice motioned to close the public hearing; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST FOR EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS CENTERS

Reverend George W. Wheatley, Jr., Pastor of Jubilee Christian Fellowship, came forward requesting a resolution of support from the City for Emergency Preparedness Centers and an Emergency Generator Project. He then introduced Tom Armistead, Project Director, who outlined the projects being presented.

Their plan is to set up emergency centers to store food, water, medical and other supplies in the event of an emergency so that when the American Red Cross or whoever in this area sets up a shelter, there will be food on hand. They plan on buying long term storage food with a shelf life of approximately seven years. The center would have food and water for two hundred people for one year or twenty-four hundred people for one month. If they don't experience an emergency in the first year, they will donate 1/7th of the food.

They are looking for an endorsement from local people that they could send to prospective foundations that would grant them the money.

Commissioner Vickers asked what type of grants they were looking for and Mr. Armistead stated, "private Mostly." They have engaged a professional grant writer and she will be making a recommendation to them as to whom they should actually apply.

The second project is their Emergency Generator Project to make their building at 415 Academy Street available as a shelter. They have coordinated this with the American Red Cross. The only problem is that if there is an electrical failure during an emergency, they have no generator.

The cost right now for this entire project is $58,580. of which they already have $16,080. They need grant funds in the amount of $42,420. and will also be looking primarily into private foundations for these funds.

Commissioner Vickers, from being involved with emergency planning over the years, stated that to make something like this work, they would need to work with many agencies, not just the American Red Cross.

As far as the generator project, Commissioner Vickers noted that our local radio station has been trying to get a generator for thirty years through grants and has not yet been successful.

Mr. Armistead said they are not trying to undercut anything that is already going on... they just want to be there as an asset. They have been working on this project for eight months and are anxious to apply for the grants since most of the private foundations close their grant window in June. If they don't apply by then, "we will be out of the pocket until the next hurricane season."

Commissioner Rice feels Council needs additional information on this so they can move forward. In response to a question from Commissioner Saunders regarding a time frame, Mr. Armistead said "we would love to have something from you within thirty days if possible." Commissioner Rice told him that it should not be a problem.

DISCUSS ARRANGEMENTS FOR GARBAGE PICK-UP AROUND HOLIDAYS

Commissioner Saunders stated that she had previously brought this matter up. Her suggestion was that when a holiday falls on a weekday, not Saturday or Sunday, that the sanitation workers could pick up the trash and utilize that day as a floating holiday.

Commissioner Rice moved to get some recommendations from DPW to set up a schedule; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST TO GO TO BID FOR GRASS CUTTER

Mr. Pritchett advised that this was a budgeted item for this year to replace the lawn mower for Great Marsh.

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to allow DPW to go to bid for a lawn mower; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST TO GO TO BID FOR NEW BACK HOE

Mr. Pritchett advised this is also a budgeted item.

Commissioner Rice moved to allow DPW to go to bid for a new back hoe; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST TO GO TO BID TO REPLACE SHEATHING AT LONG WHARF

Mr. Pritchett advised that this is for the replacement of about two hundred more feet and there are funds remaining from the initial project.

Commissioner Rice moved to allow DPW to proceed; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

DISCUSS HAZARDOUS WASTE REMOVAL FROM TREATMENT PLANT

Mr. Pritchett advised that he had previously come to Council with estimates of $13,000. and $15,000. from Stearns and Wheler. He has now received a firm price from one firm for $14,084.

This is not a budgeted item but he will try to see if MES will absorb this under their contract with the City. Mr. Pritchett will also review his budget to see if he can find available money

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to go forward with this "because we have to"; seconded by Commissioner Watkins.

Commissioner Vickers suggested that Mr. Pritchett send a memo to Department Heads that any chemicals that are offered free to an organization, the City in this case, should not be accepted until Mr. Pritchett or the City Engineer has time to review it. Commissioner Swafford also suggested that the City's Grants Administrator check into seeing if there is any money available for this.

Motion then carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGET AMENDMENT FOR FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve the budget amendment for Financial Administration; seconded by Commissioner Watkins.

Commissioner Swafford mentioned that this is $6,103. legal defense fees and "it's really working on the Sewer Enterprise Fund." Motion then carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGETED EXPENDITURES OVER $250.

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve all expenditures in Council's books over $250. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR

Mr. Pritchett addressed his January llth memo regarding his request for a trailer for park maintenance which had previously been tabled. It would be a multi-problem solution and also facilitate retrieving broken equipment for repair at the DPW shop. This is not a budgeted item.

Commissioner Rice stated that part of this would be contingent upon what comes in for the grass cutter as acceptable since size would make a difference. Commissioner Swafford feels there should be available funds to be transferred for this. In lieu of that fact, he made a motion to purchase the trailer. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and carried unanimously.

Mr. Pritchett then addressed his memo with regards to surfacing projects for this spring. In particular, he discussed the re-engineering of the City Hall parking lot as well as the parking lot at the Yacht Club. Presently, they are both very dysfunctional and they could be done much better without any change financially.

Commissioner Rice feels that one of the layouts "is close to where we need to be" but maybe factoring in permit parking only on parts of it, whereby store fronts could be guaranteed parking at least for their people, providing they're willing to buy the permit. Another portion would be for City employees and strictly enforcing the rest of it would be necessary so people don't come in and stay all day. There is a huge parking lot behind the courthouse and it should certainly be utilized.

Mr. Pritchett advised that his first exterior paving project is Cedar and Academy Streets. Commissioner Swafford stated that the County said they would probably help with this project.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to ask Commissioner Vickers to work with Mr. Pritchett on these projects as far as getting "a little more of nail-down prices and nail-down ideas." Commissioner Swafford seconded the motion and it carried unanimously. (Commissioner Vickers agreed to help.)

Mr. Pritchett also noted that the four trees at the City Hall parking lot are "asphalt choked" and are going to die.

COMMENTS FROM CLERK-TREASURER

Mr. Kinnamon received a request from the USCG for the need to use one of our boat slips and preferably some ground to either place a trailer or to construct a small building. They are considering moving totally from Taylors Island and coming to Cambridge.

Commissioner Rice said there is a need to research with DNR as far as what their regulations are for usage of boat slips in the marinas.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to ask Mr. Pritchett to have his staff research this and get details for the Council. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Rice and carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM FIFTH WARD

Commissioner Rice referred to a memo from the City's Grants Administrator regarding the Enterprise Zone and the Core Response Group. It appears to him that the group needs to be revisited as one of the gentlemen that is on there will be moving away from the area, another is no longer a Councilman, and another is no longer a County Commissioner.

Commissioner Rice made a motion to come back next week with some recommendations; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

As a point of interest, the City's downtown loan program, which at one time was very active, has gotten to be very inactive. Those people who have been delinquent are being processed through the courts. Mr. Collison advised the others are either current or on a payment plan.

COMMENTS FROM FOURTH WARD

Commissioner Swafford referred to a memo from the Director of C.E.M.S. regarding a proposal to go to the County asking for a certain dollar figure. He believes this is appropriate if the Council directs this and he feels that the figures are very much in line.  Commissioner Swafford then made a motion to go ahead and ask for this particular figure and let Ms. Windsor take care of presenting it. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers.

Commissioner Saunders feels that to represent the Mayor and Council, Commissioner Swafford, as Finance Chairman, should review whatever is to be presented and "you should be involved every step of the way." Commissioner Swafford then stated that he would certainly like to review it and review it with Council before it is presented. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Swafford then addressed a memo from Chief Jeff Hurley. The City is making renovations to the upstairs in the firehouse to better accommodate the C.E.M.S. staff.

Chief Hurley is going to need a meeting room for nineteen Wednesdays so Commissioner Swafford made a motion to allow him to use Council Chambers beginning February 3rd and ending June 9th. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Saunders and carried unanimously.

Commissioner Swafford then made a motion to go into Executive Session after tonight's meeting to discuss a property matter; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM THIRD WARD

Commissioner Saunders stated that she had received a information from Delegate Eckardt with regards to a letter she had received from MMG Ventures, L.P. about trying to schedule "Town Hall Meetings" to address business groups, economic development officials and neighborhood activist groups to assist with their businesses. There is 17 million dollars available to minority businesses and she asked if Kathy Foster should schedule a meeting with the Mayor and Council to see how it could be helpful to Cambridge. Commissioner Watkins feels it is in order to set it up and Commissioner Swafford "would love to see her go after it and explore it."

She then addressed a packet from MML whereby they announced an exciting new project to publish a book on Maryland Municipal Government featuring all 157 municipalities as a legacy for our citizens, especially our students, in celebration of the Year 2000. The intent of the book is to educate citizens about Maryland Municipal Government in addition to providing information about the level of government. Once it is completed, it will go to schools and libraries throughout Maryland. It was agreed by Council to have Kathy Foster gather information and get back to Council.

Commissioner Saunders mentioned that after 30 years of service with the City, Mr. Russell Chase has retired. She made a motion to move forward to afford Mr. Chase the honor of a presentation by the Mayor as was done for the last retiree; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

Since this is Black History Month, she requested of Dave Ryan that the Daily Banner continue the tradition of printing something at least once a week for these three or four weeks. She also asked if the Star Democrat will do the same "because there is a lot of great history right in Cambridge, Maryland."

Commissioner Saunders then mentioned that Mr. Carlton Stanley would like to display the Cambridge seal at the Elks and she asked Council's permission to have someone on the City's staff to work with him. It was agreed by Council to assign Kathy Foster.

She then thanked the Mayor and Council for honoring local black families who are examples of "good citizenship in the City of Cambridge and family life and hard working." This will be done this Sunday, with the Mayor attending, and these are things that the City Council does to try to keep relations built up within the community and "that is something that is very important."

COMMENTS FROM SECOND WARD

Commissioner Watkins stated that Black History Month has been celebrated for years but it has been expanded to the extent that people all over the City are involved with it.

COMMENTS FROM CITY ATTORNEY

Mr. Collison requested that a motion be made for a closed Executive Session on Thursday for a new business located within the City.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to do that meeting on Thursday, February 4th beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Executive Session for a new business; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Ms. Portia Johnson came forward in hopes that the City does not fall into the policy that the County does with regards to hiring practices. She hopes that in the future, when any new positions are created or available, that the public be made aware so they can apply and not find out about it until after someone is hired.

With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:35 p.m.

I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting of Monday, February 1st, 1999 insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk-Treasurer