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City Council Minutes

October 4, 1999
 

October 4, 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 Vickers, Watkins, Saunders, Swafford and Rice. Mr. Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer.

Mr. Collison advised there was an open Executive Session earlier this evening with Gary Newcomb, Director of M.U.C., to give the Council an update on City's water and sewer capacity for the Hyatt project.

Before the actually agenda got started, Mayor Wooten called upon Chief Jeff Hurley of Rescue Fire Company to discuss some issues that needed to be dealt with. Chief Hurley made everyone aware that effective October 1, 1999, the County 911 Center has taken the position that they are only going to alert one type of siren oscillation for the entire County, including the City of Cambridge.

He has served on the Board of Directors for the County Firemen's Association and attended all their meetings when reviewing the emergency communication manual for both the fire and E.M.S. The Board of Directors' opinion was never to change anybody's siren or alert procedures, only that the voice announcement would be the same and consistent throughout the County so that dispatchers wouldn't have to learn different protocols. At an emergency meeting held last Tuesday by the Chairman of the Board of Directors at the 911 Center (one company was not present and the County Commissioner liaison Mr. Newcomb was not there), the Board voted unanimously to leave Cambridge's sirens the way they currently were which are 2 oscillations of the siren for a small fire, 3 oscillations for a rescue box and 16 oscillations for a major fire. Since some volunteers are unable to carry pagers at their place of work, employers allow members to leave only for rescue box or general alarm fire box calls. This allows the employers to release the manpower when it is direly needed.

Chief Hurley advised that Rescue Fire Company runs approximately 350 to 400 alarms a year and C.E.M.S. runs approximately 1,700 calls a year ...this is more calls that all the rest of the County's companies combined (actual emergencies, not training times). He asked for citizens' cooperation and the Mayor and Commissioners' cooperation "in calling the County Commissioners, make your voices heard. This is a very dire public safety issue."

He has already been recorded on tape talking to the 911 Director telling him, "I would like a letter from the County stating, on their letter head, in disregard for the Chief's wishes and in disregard for the County Association Board of Directors wishes, that they put this into effect because if somebody has an accident responding to a general alarm fire that normally wouldn't and we tear up additional equipment etc., then I would assume that the County... is going to be held accountable for anything that happens because of it. So far, I have not received that."

The Mayor stated that "there is no rhyme, reason or rationality whatsoever to this decision and I hope the City can do something to get this back where it belongs."

Commissioner Vickers said what he was hearing was the fact that the County installed a "two million dollar plus" system in and they don't have the capability of controlling the sirens for different pulses. Chief Hurley said they do have the capability, "but they choose not to do that."

Commissioner Saunders stated that when she found out about all this happening last Thursday, she asked the County for a two week extension because "we weren't knowledgeable of this..." and she was told it wouldn't do any good. Commissioner Flowers offered to take Commissioner Saunders to the 911 Center and show her that "Cambridge just wants to be treated different." She found out that if Cambridge needs to keep calling their volunteers from their jobs with everything being a General Alarm, "we're going to lose almost half of our fire department." Since the County responded "no" to the City's request of changing this back to the way it was before, Commissioner Saunders stated, "the public has got to get on the backs of every County Commissioner over there from North Dorchester to South Dorchester, especially the one in South Dorchester."

Commissioner Rice asked Chief Hurley how Ocean City gets their 911 notification from the County... "I guarantee you they don't ring a General Alarm in Ocean City during the summer." The Chief said Ocean City is separated out from Worcester County because they were better prepared to dispatch their own emergencies. He talked with their Chief "and even before they separated from the County, the County did not dictate to them how they were going to alert their fire apparatus." Commissioner Rice stated, "they were intelligent enough to know that, yes, you're going to be treated differently because you are different. If you're running 600 calls, and the rest of them total don't run 600 calls, I think that dictates the idea that you're different."

Commissioner Rice then asked the City attorney, since a General Alarm is a notification of severity of a call, and a General Alarm is rung for a "trash can fire", would that in any way constitute issuing a false alarm. Mr. Collison said he would research it. The businesses have been more than generous in allowing General Alarms to be covered because that's what needs to be covered. If General Alarms are sounded for every call, employers can't afford to allow their employees to respond to every call. As an example, Commissioner Rice stated, "now my house burns down because a General Alarm is sounded, and nobody shows up ...I'm suing somebody... and anybody else out there paying taxes are going to do the same thing."

Commissioner Saunders asked Chief Hurley if there was any mention of some money being withheld to Rescue from the County during all these deliberations? Chief Hurley responded affirmatively and said the County needs to realize that Cambridge is a little bit different from the rest of the County. Hurlock is growing to the point that they are a little bit different along with several other towns that are growing. He was notified at one of the Board meetings that if their box alarms were not completed, turned in and approved, the Dorchester County funds would be withheld. Up until this year, every company in Dorchester County got $22,000. They were supposed to get $30,000. this year. RFC complied with completing the forms and sent them in. He was informed by the 911 Director that he misplaced the forms so another copy was turned in... "then the forms didn't suit them correctly." The 911 Director said a letter was sent out (which RFC never received) stating there were 3 or 4 questions. Chief Hurley picked up a copy of the letter last Friday and "it appears to be our original copy which was never sent." The letter stated that if RFC is not Y2K compliant, the County is only going to release the minimal amount of money to them, "the first payment."

Commissioner Saunders said that someone needs to inform the County Commissioners, "we're the one, number one. They need to be carboning you guys and sending a letter to the Mayor and Council." She added, "we need to make a decision that we are going to stand up and be counted..."

Commissioner Swafford asked if all the equipment leaves the firehouse on a General Alarm and Chief Hurley advised that all the apparatus goes out. He then asked if anyone told the Chief "why they don't want to push this one button?" The Chief responded that "it was too complicated for the dispatchers to comprehend."

Commissioner Saunders said she was told by Commissioner Flowers that it was a uniform decision, it was the way it was going to be done, and RFC was not going to be treated differently.

Commissioner Saunders asked Chief Hurley to research how much and how long it would take to set the City's own system up at the Police Headquarters. The Chief said it would take 3 weeks to a month to compile this information.

Mr. George Phillips from the Fifth Ward came to the podium and stated it has been 6 years since he has been a fireman with RFC so tonight he is speaking as a concerned citizen. What he is seeing is that the 911 Center is not serving the firemen in Dorchester County. "They're expecting the fireman to serve the 911 Center and that's totally wrong as far as I'm concerned." These volunteers need all the help they can get and they need to work with one another in different companies "and not worry about the County." He hoped that the Mayor and Council could do everything that can to correct this situation.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion that we try as Mayor and Council to send a letter to the County Commissioners, explaining the safety risks involved and the possibility of losing volunteers with RFC, to accept the recommendation of their Board to keep Rescue's system as it was; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Commissioner Swafford asked that the letter be hand delivered to the County to be read at their meeting tomorrow night. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Watkins then moved to accept the minutes of the September 27th City Council meeting; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried unanimously.

BID OPENING FOR HEAT PUMP FOR COUNCIL CHAMBERS (Contract No 00-04)

Mr. Kinnamon proceeded to open and read the following bids which were received:

1) Bestex Company

Baltimore, MD     $22,000.00

2) Guy Edgar's Heating & Air-conditioning

Hurlock, MD     $13,850.00     alternate price   $16,350.00

3) Guy Edgar's Heating & Air-conditioning

Hurlock, MD     different forms $13,850.00

4) Dorchester Service Associates

Cambridge, MD     $14,852.00

5) Conectiv Services

Easton, MD     $13,200.00    alternate price   $16,100.00

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to refer the bids to the Department of Public Works for review; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING - HISTORIC DISTRICT GUIDELINES

Mr. Collison advised the public hearing was scheduled to receive public input and comment on the formal adoption of the design guidelines for the Cambridge Historic District. There was a notice of tonight's hearing published on August 16th and August 23rd. Previously, there have been a total of three public work sessions on this matter. It was originally presented to Council on October 19, 1998 by Mr. Armond Hayward.

That public work session was continued to October 28th. At that time a public hearing was tentatively scheduled for December 16th but was cancelled at a later date. There was another public work session on February 17, 1999 regarding some matters and revisions. Following that, the procedures and by-laws for the association were adopted on June 21st. The design guidelines were approved at a May meeting. After some research, it was determined that there were three public work sessions but no formal public hearing.

Tonight's hearing pertains to Chapter V "Design Guidelines". Everything else has been previously approved. Mr. Collison added that he would strongly encourage the Council to consider rendering a vote tonight to approve or disapprove following the presentation.

Mr. Hayward came to the podium and introduced .the other members of the Commission ...Adrian Harrison, Larry Bohlen, Gary Young and Grason Winterbottom. He went on to say that as far as the Design Guidelines, the Commission deals with exteriors of buildings, "we don't want porches ripped off...windows made smaller than they should be..." There are about 13 or 14 different styles of architecture that are within the Historic District and "every building in the District has been studied." When the Commission made their original presentation, Commissioner Watkins stated that they hadn't recognized another part of the City. Mr. Hayward said they tried to accommodate them in the best way they can. He said, "we haven't been just sitting around talking..." The Commission would like to get this District up and working so they can do a lot more including the use of another type of District that could be used in the area of Pine, High and Washington Streets. They want to recognize the heritage of that particular area.

Commission Swafford asked if there were any boundaries used regarding the cost of redoing the outside of a historic building, i.e., "if something is going to cost somebody $40,000 to get the outside of a building back, is that going to be mandated." Mr. Hayward said the committee would first have preliminary meetings and the economic advantages of doing that is that it is cheaper to do an older building than to do a newer building. That issue as well as tax advantages will be discussed at a later meeting.

Mr. Lee Weldon, Vice President of the West End Citizens Association came forward to speak. He stated that as an organization, they have been working very hard for this process to be finalized. As a contractor, he was interested in knowing if there would be any seminars and education to help them. Mr. Hayward said that they are planning to have a work session explaining the design guidelines for the people who would actually do the work.

Commissioner Watkins moved to close the public hearing; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Vickers made a motion to adopt the guidelines as they presently stand and "then prior to this meeting to take care of this little legal technicality that we suffered with"; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

Mayor Wooten said that with all the feedback that was given at the work sessions and hearings, "I don't believe we had more than one or two negative comments. This is what everybody said they wanted so now it's been given to them and we hope it will work the right way."

IN-KIND SERVICES FOR Y.M.C.A.

Mr. Rich Loeffler stated that in March of 1996, Council granted the "Y" in-kind services. It was brought to his attention by Mr. Pritchett last week that the time period had expired in June. He explained that they are now at the end of the project and "we're looking for some of those things to happen yet."

Mr. Loeffler advised that some of the items mentioned in Tom Moore's memo of March 7, 1996 have already been done. Their main concern right now is to get the sidewalks done so people won't trip and fall.

Commissioner Saunders brought out some facts as highlighted in Mr. Kinnamon's September 30th memo with regards to the original request. Mr. Loeffler said they are not asking for anything in addition to what was originally approved. They are just asking if the agreement could be extended for a maximum of six months. It was their expectation to have this completed by December, 1998.

Commissioner Saunders explained that the City wants to work with them on this but Mr. Pritchett cannot spare his employees at this time due to the heavy schedule they already have in working on ADA compliance issues and other City projects.

It was agreed that Ken Usab and Rich Loeffler will work with David Pritchett and George Hyde at D.P.W. to come up with a list of what has already been completed and what needs to be done, along with costs involved, and submit it to Council.

(Commissioner Watkins left the meeting at approximately 8:00 P.M.)

Y2K

Ms. Zoe Sharp, a registered nurse for 44 years, came before Council to make them aware of a video tape she had viewed called "Getting Ready for Survival".

Commissioner Rice suggested that since Mr. Wheeler authored the City's Y2K plan, he should be looking at it. Ms. Sharp left the tape with Mr. Kinnamon and was told she could pick it up next week.

REVEREND JOHN CORNISH - REGARDING CHURCH ON RACE STREET

Reverend Cornish was not present but he had spoken to Commissioner Saunders and informed her that he wanted the people on Race Street to rest assured that he would try to keep his doors closed so they are not offended by his church music.

Commissioner Rice said it is important that it is known that no one from the City ever approached Reverend Cornish's church in response to a formal complaint. Commissioner Saunders added that the complaint Reverend Cornish received was not from "a person that was sent by the City, it was not a person employed by the City, it was not a person in elected office by the City."

DISCUSS IMPROVEMENTS TO ALLEY ADJACENT TO CITY HALL

Commissioner Saunders advised that last Friday, Mr. and Mrs. Lednum met with her and Mr. Pritchett to discuss the paving project. The Leanums said they would accept whatever decision the City made pertaining to their request.

Mr. Pritchett advised that a portion of the area in question is on private property and Mr. Collison informed Council, "I would not advise going on private property..."

The estimated cost of paving the City's deeded right-of-way section would be approximately $2,000 with the businesses paying half, leaving a cost to the City of only $1,000 .

Commissioner Swafford felt a motion was needed for this but it was determined that last week's motion was to do what needs to be done so long as the City's cost did not exceed $2,000. Mr. Pritchett was asked to determine the actual boundaries and costs and that was the reason for readdressing this issue this evening.

DISCUSS MORATORIUM ON DAY CARE CENTERS

Commissioner Saunders said at the last meeting, the City attorney was unavailable and the moratorium was extended for two weeks. Council was waiting on some information on the number of children it could be increased to without always having a public hearing for a special use permit. She said this information is needed "before we try to make any intelligent decision."

ORDINANCE ON ETHICS COMMISSION

Commissioner Saunders understands that the City attorney went to another ethics class and has asked that this be kept on hold for another two weeks until he can again review what he has submitted to Council.

APPROVE CITY'S FINANCIAL STATEMENT

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve the City's Financial Statement for August, 1999; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST FROM WAL-MART TO HAVE STORAGE TRAILERS

Commissioner Rice moved to grant permission on a 30-day basis that will commence November 1st, and that the trailers are in the back of the building and not on the lot (an out-of-sight concept); seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Commissioner Rice stated that Wal-mart needs to understand that another request would need to be made in December because permission is granted only for 30 days. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST FROM HOUSING AUTHORITY

A request was received concerning traffic problems at Calvin Mowbray Park. Commissioner Rice moved to refer this to the Traffic and Safety Committee; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

PROCLAMATION FOR "EPILEPSY AWARENESS MONTH

Commissioner Rice moved to authorize the Mayor to sign the proclamation; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST FROM DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH TO HANG BANNER

A request was received to hang a banner on Race Street from October 22nd through November 1st indicating "Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery" urging everyone to change smoke alarm batteries when changing clocks back to standard time each fall. Commissioner Saunders made a motion to allow the request so long as no other banner is hanging at the time requested; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

AIRPAX REQUEST FOR PICNIC AT GREAT MARSH

Due to Hurricane Floyd, their picnic, that had originally been approved for September 17th, was cancelled. They are now requesting to hold it on October 15th at Great Marsh Park from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Commissioner Vickers made a motion to approve their request as before; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Commissioner Saunders mentioned that from now on when these requests are granted, individuals need to be notified that arrangements for restroom facilities must be made, "and it needs to be the handicapped accessible one and it is their responsibility." Motion carried unanimously. In response to Commissioner Vickers question, Mr. Pritchett advised that the people are notified of this fact when they make the reservation for Great Marsh Park.

REQUEST FOR NOISE VARIANCE FROM C.P.D.

A request was received from Chief Wroten for a noise variance on October 16th for a block party at the Cosby Avenue Community Center for "Crime Prevention Month" from noon to 4:00 p.m. Commissioner Saunders moved to grant the request; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGET AMENDMENT

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve the Budget Amendment for the Department of Public Works; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGET EXPENDITURES OVER $250

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve the budgeted expenditures over $250; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM CITY ATTORNEY

Mr. Collison advised that he was absent last week as he was attending the Municipal Attorneys Conference. He will have some proposed recommendations to the Council at the next meeting on some procedures as well as the Ethics revisions. Commissioner Saunders added that Mr. Collison attended this conference at his own expense.

COMMENTS FROM THIRD WARD

Commissioner Saunders advised that "the Empowerment Center bids all came in above what we could afford..." Mr. Pritchett gave Council suggestions for some adjustments to be made to bring the price in line.  She made a motion to allow Mr. Pritchett to move ahead with trying to get the cost down; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM FIFTH WARD

Commissioner Rice said Mayor Wooten's letter to Shore Health Systems needs to also be sent from "this body as a whole, officially as representatives of the taxpayers of the City of Cambridge" opposing the potential intent of D.G.H. With the coming of the Hyatt project and the additional housing, the need for the continuation of a hospital in this community "to me would be about as simple as seeing the nose on your face and to do otherwise would be ...shooting yourself in the foot."

He then moved "that this body officially send a letter to Mr. Ross and Shore Health Systems in opposition to that proposed move in the future"; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Commissioner Rice said "we need to speak for the 12,000 people that live here", which is 47% of the County's population. Motion carried unanimously.

Mayor Wooten said he got a very gracious letter in response to his from Mr. Ross in which he gave his pledge to be open and up front in everything that's to be done. He added that he was appreciative to the response that his letter generated.

Commissioner Rice suggested that if the citizens do the same thing, it would be fairly obvious that this community does not wish to be without that facility.

Commissioner Swafford asked if this issue could be put on the ballot as a referendum in July. Commissioner Rice stated that since this is a private business, anything they do could not be put to a referendum.

COMMENTS FROM CLERK-TREASURER

Mr. Kinnamon was asked to read a letter addressed to the Mayor and Commissioners from Dorchester Chamber of Commerce with regards to comments made by their representative, Gage Thomas, about the planned opening of a laundromat at 500 Race Street.

After an emergency meeting of their Board Members, it was their opinion "when a property owner has fully complied with applicable oversight controls (zoning, licensing and permitting), the property owner should be free to make his or her best business decision for the use of the property."

It was the position of the Board that the Chamber of Commerce should not take a position, either in favor of or in opposition to the proposed use of the property at 500 Race Street.

Commissioner Swafford told Mr. Kinnamon that he appreciated his reading the letter for the public and wanted to make a few comments. He said that he is a new member of the Chamber of Commerce and "I like the way the Chamber is moving." He was taken back by some statements that were made last week and was grateful for the Chamber's response.

COMMENTS FROM COUNCIL PRESIDENT

Commissioner Saunders advised an emergency Police Board meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 5th at Police Headquarters to discuss some concerns of downtown business owners and the public is welcome to come.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Ms. Judy Moody said she had come to Council several years ago requesting a yellow line for no parking to go on both sides of the driveway at 602 Glasgow Street. Mr. Pritchett said this request was turned over to the Maintenance Department in the form a work order and he will investigate as to why it has not been done and advise Ms. Moody of his findings.

MORE COMMENTS...

Ms. Sheri Thomas approached the podium to submit a thank you letter from the Dorchester Democrat Central Committee for participation from the City in the supper at Old Salty's on Hoopers Island.

A fund raiser on the "Cambridge Lady" is being planned on October 10th and she gave Council members some tickets to purchase or sell and thanked them for their time. The tickets are $15. for adults and $7.50 for children.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Mr. Stanley came to the podium and advised that he has recently been re-appointed to the Housing Authority Board. As Chairman, he wanted Council to know that they are invited "to the Authority to any meeting that we have." He intends to elevate the Housing Authority to the standard that will enhance the dignity of Cambridge.

Commissioner Saunders suggested that Mr. Stanley give his mailing address to Mr. Kinnamon so that he can be contacted if the Director is inaccessible.

She then asked Mr. Stanley to look into a situation that bothers her. The Housing Authority is taxpayer supported but a rule has been made whereby the community building is only available to people who live out there. If she chose to pay to use it and to pay to have it cleaned up, "as one of the taxpayers supporting it, I cannot use it." She feels this is highly discriminatory. Mr. Stanley agreed to look into it and give her a written answer.

Mayor Wooten stated as the individual who appoints the members of the Housing Authority, "I haven't felt welcome out there in the past and if the mood ever struck me, I was going to come out regardless..." He feels that the City has a group Housing Authority Board and there has been an increased effort to be cooperative. The people who are going to benefit are the citizens of the City and we want to facilitate that in any way we can.

With no further business, meeting adjourned at 8:42 p.m.

I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting of Monday, October 4, 1999 insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk-Treasurer