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City Council Minutes

December 6, 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, Swafford and Rice.

Mr. Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer.

Commissioner Watkins moved to approve the minutes of the November 29th Council meeting; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried unanimously.

STREET LIGHTING COMMITTEE REPORT

Commissioner Rice advised that the Lighting Committee met last week and reports the following:

  • Leonard's Grove Apartments - With regards to a complaint about street lighting, inasmuch as this is on a state road the Committee feels that the problem needs to be addressed to the State Highway Administration. As far as lighting on their property, since this is private property, the City should not be involved. Commissioner Watkins moved to accept the recommendation of the Street Lighting Committee; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.
  • James A. Duswalt, President / Cambridge Property Management - Regarding a request for additional street lights on Skinners Court, Commissioner Rice advised that in an inspection of that particular area the Committee recommends that the lighting be upgraded (no additional lights) to higher wattage and he moved to accept their recommendation. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and it carried unanimously.
  • Mr. Duswalt also had a similar request for Carlton Court and Commissioner Rice advised that the Committee found the cul-de-sac lighting was adequate although the lighting at the entrance to Carlton Court would benefit with upgrading. The Committee recommended that the upgrading be done and Commissioner Rice moved to accept their recommendation. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and it carried unanimously.
  • Dr. Paul Brant / Parking lot in rear of 401 Race Street - Upon inspection of the lighting behind Dr. Brant's office by the Committee, they found the lighting to be more than adequate, however, what they did investigate was the lighting on the old parking lots that are down behind Steven Smith's "in that area." One or two of the lights were not operable but they currently are now and the Committee feels that at this point in time that no additional lighting is necessary in that area.

TRAFFIC AND SAFETY COMMITTEE REPORT

Commissioner Rice stated that this Committee would like to make a recommendation "once we find out exactly where the alley is" to have access for that alley going beside Steven Smith's to only be an "in" off of Race Street, no "out". The problem with the lot currently is there are parking spaces in the alleyway and what is left over is the old building lot that was Fran Waldron's building. Once a determination is made, Commissioner Rice stated "we need to have egress in to that lot and nothing coming out on Race because if you do, you're just going to have major problems." He went on to say that "I'd like to make a recommendation we do that regardless of what we find about the alley because in either way it's going to be a traffic hazard if people are trying to dump out on Race Street cause you can't see ...if it's only going in, you won't have that problem." He then moved that this be adopted; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried unanimously.

PRESENTATION OF CITY'S AUDIT BY REZNICK, FEDDER & SILVERMAN

Mr. Richard Chamberlain came to the podium as his partner, Mike Cumming, passed out some information. He went on to say that they have completed the audit for the year ending June 30, 1999 and they have issued an unqualified opinion on the Financial Statements of the City of Cambridge.

Mr. Cumming went over the City's General Purpose Financial Statements by starting with the Independent Auditors' Report. He mentioned that they did not audit, or express an opinion on, the City's position as it relates to Y2K although there is information within the Financial Statement that identifies where the City is at.

He then referred to the graphs that were handed out which "present some of the more relevant information within the Financial Statements itself." The first graph is the General Fund-Fund Balance (unreserved/undesignated) indicated a balance of $2,530,000 for the year ended June 30, 1999 showing an increase over last year of $600,000.

The second graft is on the General Fund-Fund Balance in total both reserved and unreserved. The ending balance is $3,324,000 (page 7 of the Financial Statements with details on page 31 indicating what makes up the $643,00 as being designated as of June 30, 1999, a majority of it being the subsequent year budget carryover).

The third graft, General Fund Revenue, is $6,757,000 which is about a $100,000 increase from the prior year. This is prepared on the budgetary basis (page 9 of the Financial Statements).

General Fund Expenditures for year ending June 30, 1999 is $5,690,000. about $400,000 decrease from the prior year (page 9 for explanation).

General Fund Revenue ...Property taxes, compared to last year, had an increase of about $300,000 or 12% and income taxes went up about $80,000 or about 20%.

General Fund Expenditures-for the most part, Public Safety and Public Works maintained comparable to the prior year. General Government went up about $300,000 which is mostly attributed to a large capital outlay for this year.

The last two grafts are pie charts on both revenue and expenditures. Real estate and personal property taxes are the largest at 45%. On the expenditures, 51% is made up of Public Safety relating costs.

Mr. Cumming went on to say page 18 of the report shows the reconciliation of "how we go from the gap basis to the budgetary basis for expenditures."

Mr. Chamberlain went over the items that are required to be communicated to Council:

  • The Auditor's Responsibility Under Generally Accepted Auditing Standards - This is explained in the first paragraph of their opinion as well as it is agreed to in the engagement letter which they enter into with the City each year.
  • Significant Accounting Policies and Unusual Transactions - During the year ending June 30, 1999 there were no changes in significant accounting policies or any unusual transactions.
  • Management Judgments and Accounting Estimates - Certain estimates and judgment items must enter into any set of financial statements and the two most significant of those are reserved for bad debts and reservation of fund balances in the financial statements.
  • Significant Audit Adjustments - The most significant audit adjustment made in the current year was really made with respect to the City's deferred compensation plan. In 1996, House Bill 34-448 was passed which is called the Small Business Protection Act which required State and Local Governments to transfer their deferred compensation and similar plans to a custodial account and therefore take them off of the Financial Statement of the City. Over time, those deferred compensation plans were included on the City's Financial Statements and "should the City go down, your employees, whose funds those really are, would be considered general creditors just as, anybody else."

Mr. Chamberlain stated "there is no other information other than the Financial Statements in this document that we are presenting this evening. We've had no significant disagreement with management and we do not know of any instance where management has consulted with any other accounting firm and we discussed no major items prior to being engaged because we are not permitted to do so and we did not discover any irregularities or illegal acts during the performance of our audit."

In response to a question asked by Gage Thomas, Mr. Chamberlain stated "...in the case of Cambridge that's 168 days of expenditures available which is way more than the average ...the average is somewhere between 30 and 90 days of available undesignated fund and you have 168 days."

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to accept the recommendations and the report from the auditors; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST FROM COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT TO RELOCATE TREE

A request was received from Mr. Roger Harrell, Health Officer, of the Dorchester County Department of Health to relocate an Austree from the grounds of the Health Department to Long Wharf Park since the Hyatt will be occupying the grounds where this tree is planted. The tree was purchased by the HOPE Cancer Support Group and planted as a living tribute to all cancer survivors in the area as well as those individuals who have fought the disease and passed on.

Commissioner Rice said he would like to suggest that Mr. Harrell and Mr. Pritchett get together and make the best recommendation for placement of that tree, whether it be at Long Wharf or at Great Marsh Park which ever would be the most appropriate relative to Mr. Pritchett's people and also Mr. Harrell. He then made a motion "to leave that designation up to the pair of them and report back to us after it's done." Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Commissioner Watkins indicated that he was happy that they considered placing the tree in one of the City's parks.

Mayor Wooten asked Mrs. Carpenter if she would like to say something. She said she came this evening because she has a personal interest in this tree and appreciated Council's help in getting the tree moved... "it's very important to the people that it represents." With no further discussion, motion carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGET AMENDMENT FOR HOUSING DEPARTMENT

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve the Budget Amendment for the Housing Department; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGETED EXPENDITURES OVER $250

Commissioner Swafford moved to approve the Budgeted Expenditures over $250; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM FIRST WARD

Commissioner Vickers moved to go into Executive Session immediately following this meeting regarding a legal matter; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM MAYOR

Mayor Wooten stated "there was an excellent Christmas Parade held Saturday." He didn't get to see much of it because he was a passenger in the truck with Delegate Cane but there was a lot of enthusiasm "and probably as large a crowd as I've seen in downtown for a Christmas Parade in many years." He thanked those who worked in bringing it together.

He attended the library rededication on Sunday... "that was a big day for the City and for the County." Someone had commented to him that with the renovation and the changes, "it looks bigger inside than it does outside."

An announcement was then made by Mayor Wooten about a meeting scheduled on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. at The Place on Race with the downtown people to follow-up on the initial meeting that was held several weeks ago. He asked the newspapers to help promote this. They will be discussing issues that are relevant to what is going on in the downtown area.

He then stated that the auditors made mention of one fact that he would like to follow-up on... "the City has certification and documentation on file that every department is Y2K ready, Y2K compliant."

COMMENTS FROM SECOND WARD

Commissioner Watkins stated "I enjoyed that Christmas Parade I guess more than I've enjoyed for the past 20 years."

COMMENTS FROM FOURTH WARD

Commissioner Swafford thanked the Mayor, fellow Commissioners and especially the Department Heads "for having the figures work the way they worked" for this year's audit. It took everybody working together to get it done.

COMMENTS FROM FIFTH WARD

Commissioner Rice indicated he had an item that needed to get done tonight and "promised not to be any longer than necessary."

He read aloud a letter to the constituents that he represents indicating, "from 1965 until 1983, I merely lived here, however I considered myself to be in debt to this wonderful place for the may blessings which were bestowed upon me and my family. At that point I felt a need to try to repay the community for that self imposed debt." His letter went on to list accomplishments "with which I have been intimately involved" as a member of a group effort as Commissioner elected in 1984, 1988 and now 1996.

Commissioner Rice then announced his intention to seek the County Commission seat for his district now held by Dr. Thomas Flowers and that he will not be seeking re-election to his Fifth Ward seat with the City. He took this opportunity to thank "each and every person in the Fifth ward that has supported me in the past with their most precious thing other than their family... their vote" and hoped that these same people and others of this County district would continue to support him in the future.

Commissioner Watkins noted that he can testify to the accomplishments Commissioner Rice mentioned. He stated that the City has moved forward and he has enjoyed working with Commissioner Rice through the years, "we didn't agree on everything but we knew how to disagree ...like gentlemen."

Mayor Wooten said he had the privilege of having Commissioner Rice as his high school math teacher and has had the opportunity to know Commissioner Rice for 33 years. He also stated that "Commissioner Rice and I haven't always agreed, but we've always had our disagreements in a gentlemanly fashion ...when someone can look you in the eye and tell you why they don't agree with you and can enumerate their positions and defend their positions with integrity and still respect someone with a difference of opinion, I think that's a credit to their tenure." He thanked Commissioner Rice for his sacrifices on behalf of the City.

Commissioner Vickers added that he was glad that he was with the City for at least one of Commissioner Rice's terms..."and I'm convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when you leave here the Council will lose a lot ...but when you get into the County, the County's going to gain a lot."

Commissioner Swafford thanked Commissioner Rice for helping him with his first year as Finance Chairman... "it gave me a good base ...I've enjoyed working with you and I'm going to enjoy working with you in the future too."

COMMENTS FROM CLERK-TREASURER

Mr. Kinnamon presented a building permit application for Cambridge Wesleyan Church, 801 Race Street, permit fee of $2,495. for a New Family Life Center Building at a cost of improvements of $250,000.00. Commissioner Watkins moved to approve the application; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

He was also informed today that there will be an Ethics Investigation Hearing held on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the County Commissioners' Meeting Room 110 with Attorney Victor Laws presiding. Commissioner Swafford asked if it was open to the public and Mr. Kinnamon answered affirmatively, as he understands it. Commissioner Swafford then asked if the City attorney stated it was open to the public and Mr. Kinnamon responded, "our City attorney has not told me, I was just told it was open." A question was then asked by Commissioner Swafford as to who gave him this information and Mr. Kinnamon stated that it was Mr. Rippons. Mr. Kinnamon was asked by Commissioner Swafford to check out whether or not the hearing is open to the public.

COMMENTS FROM DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS

Mr. Pritchett advised Council that his surgery has been moved up to this Thursday and he will be out for about one month. George Hyde will be the contact person in his absence.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Mr. Gage Thomas came forward to report on a very successful meeting that was held in Crownsville last Friday. He, Kathy Foster and Steve DelSordo went on behalf of the Maryland Main Street Program as a prerequisite for any City that wants to apply for that program. Of the twelve cities that were there, he feels Cambridge has a good shot at being selected. They plan to only take two or three cities this year. In talking with Cindy Stone, Director of the Maryland Main Street Program, she was confident that if Cambridge, ARC and all the other community agencies push forward with the application (which is not due until March), "we have a good chance of getting it."

Regarding ARC, last week Lee Weldon had asked for Council's consideration of possibly supporting having the Peninsulaires at the free performances at the Court House. Mr. Thomas asked if the City could contribute $100 towards their fee. Commissioner Rice stated "unbudgeted expenses for anything is very difficult to come up with." If Council knew in advance something could have been set aside. He then said he, personally, would give $20. of the $100. if that would help, "but I would vote against the City giving you a nickel." Mayor Wooten said he would also give $20.

Lastly, Mr. Thomas spoke as President-elect of the United Fund looking for a response to his letter seeking a contribution from the City and/or inserting brochures with employees paychecks explaining about the United Fund and the 14 agencies they represent. Commissioner Rice moved to allow the inserts to be distributed to City employees; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

MORE COMMENTS...

Mr. C. L. Rippons came to the podium and stated, "since there is some reluctance on the part of Commissioner Swafford and some other people, I as the complainant, I personally will invite anybody in the public to attend that meeting on Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. If for whatever reason Council will need to look it up, I do not need to look it up, I have my records and as one of the parties sitting on the table, I ask the newspapers and anybody out there ...anybody in the public that has an interest, I do not need not to invite them. I invite them on my own accord and Council people can do as you wish."

Commissioner Swafford stated, "there was no reluctance. I just want to do what is right, just like I've done in the past. I want to do what is legal and that's the only reason why I asked the question sir."

Gage Thomas asked if this is a report of findings by Mr. Laws and Mr. Rippons advised it is an Ethics Hearing. He, as the complainant, will present his side of the case then Mr. Swafford and his legal counsel will have the opportunity to rebut and also to put forward their side. At that time Mr. Laws will take everything into consideration and he will then make a determination as to "if my complaint or any instruments, any statements that are in my complaint, are valid or if they are invalid." Mr. Thomas asked if Mr. Laws has made his own independent review of the case and Mr. Rippons stated, "I am not aware as to how far he has gone." Mr. Thomas said to him it would be hard to make a decision without knowing all the facts.

Mr. Rippons said this is a fact-finding evening... "we have been asked to forward copy of witnesses and any written statements or any written evidence that we are going to have that evening and that's also been asked from Mr. Swafford and his side and that is the entire purpose of the evening... for Mr. Laws to review the evidence and review the complaint as I have registered it and then to answer, after hearing both sides, as to the validity or invalidity of statements that I've made."

Mr. Thomas then asked if any subpoenas have been issues and Mr. Rippons stated, "I have no idea."

With no further business, Commissioner Rice made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 7:50 p.m.; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting of Monday, December 6, 1999 insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk-Treasurer