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City Council Minutes

November 29, 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.

Commissioner Watkins moved to approve the minutes of the November 22nd City Council meeting; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST FROM BAY COUNTRY ANTIQUES

Mr. Terry Tubman came to the podium requesting to put up a directional sign for his business located on the west side of Dorchester Avenue. The buildings are so close together that people unfamiliar with the area think it is all one business.

He stated that he has already been to Planning and Zoning at Public Works and talked to them about temporary signs. They gave him a letter indicating "on a temporary sign there's actually no regulations at this point as far as having a permit for it..." He came tonight to request use of a small sign like a realtor would use for a piece of property. His plan is to put the sign out four days a week during the day and remove it at night "to direct people to my place as an exit from the other property. "

Mr. Tubman then indicated that the bank gave him permission to put the sign on their property but he then found out that this particular portion is on the City's right-of-way.

Mr. Pritchett advised that other than the BOCA code and the condition of the sign, there is nothing that regulates a temporary sign, "...it's strictly ownership of the land." Commissioner Vickers stated "but even with a temporary sign, it couldn't be on our right-of-way, could it?" Commissioner Rice indicated that the key is "ownership of the land... the bank still owns the land... we maintain a right-of-way for access."

Commissioner Rice stated that he personally doesn't have a problem with what Mr. Tubman is trying to do. The only thing is that it should be made contingent upon whatever regulations would come when the sign ordinance is done... "when it is enacted, I think all signs, including this one, would have to be revisited at that time to see if they're in compliance."

Commissioner Rice then made a motion that this be allowed "providing (a) when the sign ordinance is in place that this particular item be revisited and that (b) permission from the bank (who actually owns the property) be shown to us in writing that permission has been granted." Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Commissioner Watkins feels there should be a time limit on it to "eliminate everybody from coming down here and wanting it all the time." With no further discussion, motion carried 3 to 1 with Commissioner Vickers opposing and Commissioner Saunders abstaining.

ARMOND HAYWARD REGARDING ISSUES OF THE HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION

Mr. Armond Hayward, Chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, came to the podium to establish a fee to be charged by the Commission for "permitting" regarding construction, repairs, etc. that's going to be taking place in the Historic District. He apologized for not getting his letter to Council in time for their books, but he didn't meet with Dale Price until late Wednesday afternoon.

In consulting with the City attorney, Mr. Price developed a "waiver" to be used in lieu of the 30-day review process and the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness. The suggested cost would be $5.00. This would be used to expedite the approval process in cases such as roofing, siding and fencing, when an advertisement or a hearing is not required, and an on-site visit by the HPC determines that the proposed project does not impact on the character of the Cambridge Historic District.

For the formal 30-day review process, which involves advertising and the issuance of the Certificate of Appropriateness, the Historic Preservation Commission suggests a fee of $10 to cover any expenses from the Department of Public Works such as xeroxing, etc., plus the cost of the advertisement (which is currently about $20) for a total of approximately $30.

Commissioner Rice asked if these items were above and beyond the cost of any building permit received from the City and Mr. Hayward answered affirmatively.

A motion was then made by Commissioner Rice that both of these items be adopted "contingent upon review of the attorney for appropriateness and legality." commissioner Vickers seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.

AWARD BID FOR HEAT PUMP AT COUNCIL CHAMBERS (CONTRACT NO. 00-03A)

Mr. Pritchett advised this was an extensive process to try to get the heat pump installed. When this went out for re-bid, one bid was received which was identical to the penny of their original bid. This was done at the request of another contractor (who chose not to re-bid) for a typographical error.

It was Mr. Pritchett's recommendation to award the bid to Dorchester Service Associates in the amount of $13,968. Commissioner Swafford made a motion to award the contract as Mr. Pritchett stated; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

APPROVE CITY'S FINANCIAL STATEMENT FOR OCTOBER, 1999 (ASOP #10)

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

MAYOR TO SIGN STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE REGARDING "PROCEDURES FOR REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION"

Commissioner Saunders proceeded to read aloud the draft procedure as submitted by the City attorney.

Item one stated "Any and all requests for information shall be made in writing and submitted to the Clerk/Treasurer for all information other than information and reports of the Cambridge Police Department." She feels this should say something about the executive session minutes as well and went on to continue reading, "The Clerk/Treasurer is hereby designated as the official custodian of the city public records, other than records of the Cambridge Police Department."

Item two, "Any and all requests for information and reports which relate to the Cambridge Police Department shall be made in writing and submitted to the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police is hereby designated as the official custodian of the records of the Cambridge Police Department."

Item three, "Requests for public records to the City of Cambridge shall comply with the requirements and provisions of Section 10-611, et seq., entitled 'Access to Public Records' of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland."

Item four, "The custodian of the public records, as designated above, shall comply with the requirements and provisions of Section 10-611, et seq., entitled 'Access to Public Records' of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland."

Item five, "The custodian shall only release records and information which are required by Section 10-611, et seq., of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland."

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to adopt the procedures; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Commissioner Swafford commented that there was no mention of cost for copying requested information (currently fifty cents per page) and he feels this should be included. He then indicated that he would like to revisit this next week so he has time to speak with Mr. Collison more about the procedures.

Commissioner Saunders also indicated that when information is requested it needs to be specific. She then withdrew her motion which was made for discussion. Another motion was made by Commissioner Saunders "that pending the attorney revisiting and adding any information that the Council had just discussed, that we table this for next week." Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford and it carried 4 to 1 with Commissioner Rice opposing.

Commissioner Saunders also wanted Mr. Collison to put something in about "when our department heads, which an attorney is also a department head, comes in here to meetings does that also mean that when people want information that they don't be just approaching them... that they give it to that department in writing too."

Mayor Wooten, in referring to Item 5, "this may necessitate my refusal to sign this because of this one statement that says 'the custodian shall only release records and information which are required..' I have a problem with saying we're going to do the bare minimum, and that's just my humble opinion." Commissioner Saunders indicated if he doesn't sign it, it would get signed anyway if it gets passed. The Mayor said he just wanted to go on record "expressing my feeling."

APPROVE BUDGETED EXPENDITURES OVER $250

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

COMMENTS FROM PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR

Mr. Pritchett advised Council that 700-712 Race Street is in the process of being demolished. The workers will be on site working but the next "push" on the building won't occur until Monday so it doesn't interfere with the Christmas parade coming through on Saturday.

The City Hall rest rooms will be out of commission starting Monday morning in order to meet ADA compliance.

The roof on Council Chambers has now been completed. The contractors found a lot more rotten wood than was anticipated "and they did an excellent job and I'm just glad it's done for thirty years."

COMMENTS FROM CLERK-TREASURER

Mr. Kinnamon made reference to a notice that was put in Council's books about the Hazard Evaluation Survey and asked if it was alright to sign off acknowledging receipt of it. Commissioner Saunders moved to grant his request; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM MAYOR

Mayor Wooten advised that he received notice today that the State has awarded the City approximately $45,000. for the Hot Spots Program. This has been a program that has served the community well and the State has provided invaluable help with this.

On another note, he advised that he had received a note from an individual living out of the area who had difficulty in finding the new VA clinic. He wrote to request signage from the State Highway Administration and they responded by stating they had recently placed signs on Route 16 in accordance with their policy to install signs on the nearest state road. They reviewed the situation for a second time and have spoken with representatives from the Veterans Administration Clinic. While installing signs on Route 50 is not their standard practice, they have agreed to place signage on Route 50 for a transitional period of one year while out of town patients become familiar with the VA Clinic location. Panels will be installed in approximately 60 days on both the eastbound and westbound roadway of Route 50 advising unfamiliar motorists where to turn off the highway to arrive at their destination, the VA Clinic.

Mayor Wooten then went on to say- "that after four years, I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders when I got the telephone call this past week from the Governor sharing the good news that the Hyatt had been approved." He thought of all the many hours of meetings, running back and forth to Annapolis, working cooperatively and constructively with the County and the State and the Hyatt themselves. This was a tremendous day in the history of our community "and I think it's a testament -o the City Council and what they have done to bring this to pass. "

COMMENTS FROM THIRD WARD

For the record, Commissioner Saunders advised Mr. Kinnamon that by Friday, he will be receiving information regarding the Actuarial Valuation Study from the Police Department.

Commissioner Saunders referenced a written request received from Mr. Bryon Johnston in which he asked "that city information related to items on the agendas for your regular and work session meetings be available for public inspection and review at the time each agenda is posted. While state law does not require the you to do so..." She then made a motion to deny his request. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers who said he can't see how information could be given at the time the agenda is posted because "tonight we were handed three pieces of paper with today's date on it. How would the public every know about that before tonight when we found out tonight?" Also, who would be responsible to decide what should go to the newspaper and what should not? He also asked to have the City attorney check to see if this practice is in place in other municipalities throughout the State. With no further discussion, motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM FIRST WARD

Commissioner Vickers said he would like to keep the public updated on the City's legal expenses relative to the sewer suit and asked Mr. Kinnamon to advise him of the current figures so he will have them available next week.

COMMENTS FROM CITY ATTORNEY

Mr. Bill Jones, substituting for Rob Collison, advised that the Findings of Fact denying Ted Bramble's s special use permit for on-premises sale of beer and wine at 315 Sunburst Highway needs to be signed. Commissioner Rice made a motion to allow the Mayor to sign the Findings of Fact; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried 4 to 1 with Commissioner Swafford opposing.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Bryon Johnston, reporter with the Star Democrat, came to the podium to clarify if Commissioner Saunders' motion to deny was to deny his request in full for information. She said her motion was not to deny him any public information, "my motion was based on that one line request there."

Mr. Johnston said the point of his request was to be able to have information on agenda items "so I understand and do a better job of following along during the meetings..." He then went on to say, "sometimes you can sit in this Chamber and try to follow along with these meetings and have absolutely no idea what you folks are talking about." As an open body, the public has the right to be able to go and inspect things that Council is considering, "and part of my job as a reporter is to let people know City Council is looking into this item-this is what they're basing their decision on ...you might want to be aware of this... I don't think that's an unreasonable request."

Commissioner Saunders stated to Mr. Johnston that he knows more about what is going on than probably other reporters from any other news media here in this town "and to put in your paper that people can't .go to City Hall and find out what's going on is grossly negligent and unfair."

She further stated that in Easton, Mr. Johnston would not be able to stand at the podium the way he is now. Mayor Wooten opens the floor up, "even sometimes when we're voting, and will give people the opportunity to have a say before we vote on things."

Mr. Johnston feels that he, as well as the public, should be able to go to City Hall and say "this item is on the agenda... can I see the information that's been submitted." Commissioner Saunders then indicated to Mr. Johnston that if he could show Council where other municipalities do this, "maybe we can reconsider."

Commissioner Rice indicated to Mr. Johnston that after the meetings, all the information is available to him. He added, "at that point you are reporting the news, not making it." Commissioner Rice also stated that he would be extremely upset if Mr. Johnston saw what was in the Council books before he did.

Mr. Johnston wanted to know, "is there something that is so secret on a regular basis that I can't see...?" Commissioner Rice responded that the problem lies in his first comment... "it is your job to report the news... it is not your job to make it ...and if you have the information prior to the discussions, you have the opportunity to make the news..."

Commissioner Saunders then made a motion to ask Mr. Kinnamon to find someone to check with other communities on the Shore and see if they release details in the books that each Council member gets; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

MORE COMMENTS...

Ms. Portia Johnson came forward stating that she had requested a copy of the minutes a few weeks ago and was informed at City Hall that they could not be released until approved by Council. As soon as they were approved, she was able to obtain a copy.

MORE COMMENTS...

Mr. Gage Thomas came forward to commend the Council on the Hyatt deal. ARC and the Chamber are looking forward to the times ahead.

He was here tonight on behalf of ARC with regards to the 3rd annual "Light Up Cambridge" program. Part of the program is to offer free performances at the County courthouse from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and he requested a noise variance. Because some of the acts run over, he asked if the request could be granted from 7:00 p.m, to 9:30 p.m. on December 10th and December 17th.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to allow Mr. Thomas' request as stated; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Commissioner Rice commended them fox the good job they did last year. Motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Lee Weldon then came forward and stated his wife Laura helps to coordinate the programs at the courthouse "and she is ever thankful that we've reduced it to two weekends this year." He further stated that the parade is later this year and Christmas is earlier as far as Fridays go.

Mr. Weldon went on to say that one of the performers that they have had for the past two years was the Peninsulaires. Being that all their fees go to a charitable cause, "they've gone and raised the rates on us." The fee for the performance is $300 and the committee is working on getting a company or business to sponsor this, all or part of it. He asked if the City would consider contributing a modest $100 towards obtaining this group. Mr. Weldon said he is looking for help from the business community as well and said he would come back next week to report if he was able to obtain the funding.

Mr. Thomas came back to the podium and stated in the past ARC has done amplified Christmas music on Race Street. Prior to them doing it, the Salvation Army used to do it. He asked Council's consideration to have the music start with the Christmas parade on December 4th and he played until 9:00 p.m. and go up to Christmas eve, December 24th. Commissioner Saunders moved to grant his request; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Commissioner Rice asked if this was for 6 or 7 days a week and Mr. Thomas responded "7 days a week, starting as early as 10:00 a.m." Since Commissioner Rice brought up the fact that there are several churches on Race Street holding Sunday services, Mr. Thomas proposed to not start until after 1:00 p.m. on Sundays. Commissioner Saunders amended her motion to reflect that; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

MORE COMMENTS...

Dave Ryan, reporter for the Daily Banner, came forward to give a brief point of clarification regarding the agenda that is printed in the Daily Banner. He stated that they used to edit it "but we don't anymore." Mr. Kinnamon had pointed out that some things may be left out that people would be interested in, "so from then on, we just type the whole thing as-is.,,

Commissioner Saunders then asked Dwight Cromwell from WCEM if the agenda is ever announced on the radio. Mr. Cromwell stated that part of it has been broadcast. He added that the station is going through some changes right now so it is difficult to say at this point if it will be continued.

With no further business, Commissioner Saunders made a motion at 8:02 p.m. to adjourn the meeting; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk-Treasurer