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  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
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City Council Minutes

February 11, 2008

Cambridge Maryland SealMINUTES

Council Meeting

February 11, 2008

 

The City Council met in regular session on Monday, February 11, 2008 in Council Chambers. A quorum being present, Mayor Cleveland L. Rippons called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Those Commissioners in attendance were Commissioners Knox, Sydnor, Cephas, Brooks, and Travers.

Ed Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer. Commissioner Travers led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the minutes of the January 28, 2008 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING

Dr. Marvin Tossey and Santo Grande to Present Housing Study (Community Development Block Grant Funds)-The public hearing was advertised in the Daily Banner on January 28, 2008 and February 1, 2008.  Santo Grande said the desire for a study began at a meeting between Delmarva Community Services and the City's Planning Office. A Community Development Block Grant was awarded to the City with Delmarva Community Services as a subrecipient. The project was put out to bid. Salisbury University's Center for Family and Community Life won the bid to prepare the housing study. The Commissioners received a copy of the study this past Friday.

Dr. Tossey said they started their first study 18 years ago. The methodology that they developed to do substandard housing studies was when HUD was looking at rural housing. They were approached by Worchester County in terms of a comprehensive way to look at all the housing in the jurisdiction. They have studied Worchester County twice (15 years apart), Somerset County, Wicomico County, Carroll County, Queen Anne County, Howard County, and Washington County. They just looked at Hagerstown. Most of the time they studied rural areas. When they studied Caroline County, they included jurisdictions. The key thing is doing the same thing, the same way, so they can compare products at the end. First they did a windshield survey. They looked at every property that they could see from a public road. They never go on private property. Then they do a rating looking at 3 things. The first screening is looking at the things you can see. They look at the roof, siding, and grounds. They have a scale that they developed with 3 points. The worst score a house can get is a 9. An example would be a house with a very poor roof (holes; missing shingles; structure is collapsed) would get a 3. Windows, doors, and siding could get a 2. They look at the grounds-not for landscaping but for refuse, trash, etc. If a house is rated a 7, they get out of the car and get as close to the house as they can while staying on public property. They locate the property on a GPS system. The location of the property will give you a disk with the coordinates. In the City it is possible to get addresses. They also plotted 6s. A house rated a 6 is called a gray area. This is a house that if something isn't done to it, it will become a 7. It is going down. They frequently tell jurisdictions that if they have limited money for rehabilitation, they might suggest that they work on the 6s because they might get the most for their money in terms of an investment. With 7s or more, they make a minimum of 3 attempts-sometimes as many as 5 attempts-to interview a resident of the property. They had difficult times getting the interviews in Cambridge. They have a letter from the City Government saying who they are and why the residents should talk to them. There were 107 units in Cambridge that were identified. Of the 107 units, 79 were either vacant or abandoned. The way they make a distinction between vacant and abandoned, is that a vacant property is one in which someone might want to go back into. The big indicators are that the windows are still in tact and the doors are shut. If the windows are broken out, which they did not find in the City limits, they classify them as abandoned. Of the 107 units, 28 were occupied. After 4 to 5 visits, only 8 of the households agreed to participate in the interview. Of the 28 homes, nobody answered the door at 11 of them and 9 declined to participate. They identified 20 units as a gray area (6). The largest concentration was in the area of Pine Street and Washington Street.

They work with the geography department at the University to create maps. He showed a map of the plottings. Of the houses they were able to get information on, basically 1/3 were owner-occupied and 2/3 were renter-occupied. Of the identified homes, 75% were occupied by 4 or fewer residents and 25% were occupied by 1 or 2 people. The householder was male in 2/3 of the cases; and female basically 1/3 of the homes. In 14% of the units, the householder was over 70 years old. The racial breakdown of the householder was basically 1/3 - 2/3. In 2/3 of the households, there was a person identified as being disabled.

In Cambridge 1 out of every 49 houses met their criteria to be plotted. For comparison, in Caroline County it was 1 out of 35.4 houses. The lower the number, the higher the percentage of substandard housing is. In Caroline County, they were looking at the towns as well as the rural areas. In Talbot County, they looked strictly at the rural area. Cambridge fell between Caroline and Talbot Counties in terms of the ratios. On Friday, they drove around to see what had transpired in the months since the original survey was done. They found that a number of houses had been worked on in the last 8 or 9 months, or they were working on them as they drove by. The situation has improved. One house had all new windows. A couple other houses were wrapped and they were putting exterior siding on them. Somebody is addressing the issue.

Overall the condition of the substandard housing was not as bad as the other counties they studied. The worst houses in Cambridge are not as bad as the rural housing. The City would get more for their money if they looked at some of the marginal units.

Commissioner Knox said Cambridge was compared to 2 counties. He asked what the comparison would be if they were to compare Cambridge to Denton and Easton. Dr. Tossey said they have never studied Easton as a town. He can only speak of places they have actually studied. The contract in Talbot County was with the County Commissioners. They did not look at Easton, Oxford, Trappe, or St. Michaels. If they just looked at Denton and Federalsburg, the comparison would be about the same. There was probably more poor housing in Federalsburg. Denton is similar to Cambridge. Commissioner Knox asked if they ever approached Dorchester County. Dr. Tossey said Dorchester County is the only county on the Shore that they have not done. They have done most of the counties twice because they wanted to see what had transpired. They do not solicit towns. They react if some solicits. Commissioner Knox said maybe the County Commissioners will contact Dr. Tossey to survey the rest of the county. He thinks it would be interesting and helpful.

Dr. Tossey said he thinks the good part about what they do is the fact that they use a consistent measure and therefore they can talk about change from 10 years ago. They can compare counties because they are using the same 7-point scale. They had some experience in Worchester County where they went back in detail and studied the interiors. You could add 15% to 20% if they did a walk around. In a rural area, for every 100 units they identified, there were probably 115 there. They try to be very conservative so the number can be added to. They do not inflate. If possible, they try to see different angles if a place looks suspicious.

Commissioner Cephas asked how long the survey took and asked if they made any recommendations once they did the interviews with the people living in the homes. Dr. Tossey said they promised confidentiality to the person in the home. In Talbot County, several people asked the surveyors where they could go to get help. They would give them the name and phone number of the housing office. They would send the people to someone who could help them. They are trying to keep as objective a posture as possible. He has had newspapers call him and ask him to point them to places. He will not do it. Commissioner Cephas asked how long the study took. Dr. Tossey said between the time they plotted to doing the interviews, and then data entry, it was done over a period of 6 weeks from beginning to end. There are 3 people involved besides the geography department.

Commissioner Sydnor asked what measures were utilized to estimate the value of the substandard housing. Dr. Tossey said it is both the price the person who lives in the house would put it on the market for and the judgment of the person doing the interview to what appears to be the market for that particular area. Commissioner Sydnor asked if they looked at the assessments. Dr. Tossey said they looked at comparable houses for sale.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said from the time she first got a copy of the report, it left a lot of unanswered questions. Her understanding was that the survey was supposed to be done for the entire City of Cambridge which included all 5 wards. When you look at the mapping, it is between the areas of the Second and Third Wards. She asked what the study is supposed to tell us. We know in generality that there is substandard housing. She asked what the study is supposed to help the City and/or Delmarva Community Services do. Dr. Tossey said the entire City was looked at. There were no houses outside the rectangle on the map that met the criteria for inclusion. Portia Johnson-Ennels said she knows they have substandard housing in other areas of the City other than the illustrated rectangle area that Dr. Tossey spoke of. To her, it does not justify what they said they were going to be doing for Cambridge. She does not see how we can use this information at all to help them. Dr. Tossey said DHCD or Delmarva Community Services sent out the RFP. They submitted a proposal stating the same methodology they used everywhere else. Their job is to respond to RFPs and say what they can do. They did what they said they were going to do. He cannot address what the jurisdiction does with the information afterwards. Their job is to do the letter of what they say they are going to do. The RFP was accepted as their contract.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said that Dr. Tossey said it took about 6 weeks to do the work yet the report was 6 months late. She knows how much the block grant was for. She knows the amount of money the City put in. There was no breakdown of how the money was spent and what they are going to do with the report for the betterment of the City.

Santo Grande said it gives you a statistical background that you can use in the future when you want to apply for funds to do other work in the community. It could be for housing rehabilitation or other programs. It was not an end all/be all to the City's housing issues. They are pleased with having these updated statistics to help us move forward with asking DHCD for additional funds for rehabilitation. There are programs in the State that can help these people. The second thing is that Dr. Tossey and his organization responded to the RFP for a specific price. They were paid their funds to do what was addressed in the RFP. He does not know how Dr. Tossey spent the money that was paid to him. He did what was supposed to be done. Portia Johnson-Ennels said what Dr. Tossey put in his report and the amount that was received are two different amounts. Dr. Tossey said he received what the RFP said.

Charlotte Hughes, a housing counselor, said she was the former chairman of the Dorchester County Housing Task Force. They were in the process of doing a survey for Dorchester County. They set up their application that they were going to submit for their survey. In the survey, she applied but she had a death in her family and she had to walk away. When she talked to a young man at Santo Grande's organization, he told her she would have to go to every house in the City of Cambridge and do an application and rate it 1, 2 or 3. He told her this would include the whole City. She had a two-page application. She asked Dr. Tossey how many applications he had from the houses he visited to submit to Santo Grande. Dr. Tossey said it was the 28 houses he identified and it was 5 times each. Charlotte Hughes said she went to DPW and was treated so nice. They gave her the whole map of Cambridge. She doesn't think half the people present tonight understand Dr. Tossey's presentation because she doesn't even understand it. The way her study would have been presented so that everybody could have understood it, would have been to include the map with every street and every house included in her application. She and 4 staff people did a run through Cambridge 3 times. She talked to people at DHCD and told them what she was doing. They told her that her method was the way it was supposed to be done. The City has just been had. She conducted a survey in Hurlock for DHCD. She asked why there was so much that she had to do and Dr. Tossey did not have to do it. The map that Dr. Tossey needed was the map of Cambridge. Commissioner Sydnor said he believes that question should be directed to the person who wrote the RFP.

Gage Thomas said he knows the interviews were confidential. He asked if there are standard questions that were asked. Dr. Tossey said the questions are listed in the report. Mayor Rippons gave his book to Mr. Thomas so he could pass it around for the public to review.

Commissioner Travers made a motion to close the public hearing. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Zoning Reclassification Property at 202 Maryland Avenue - A Request to Add the Land Use of CR (Commercial Retail and Offices) to the Existing Use R (Residential) to One Parcel in the PWCD District [Map 301, Parcel 5177]-Rob Collison said this is a public hearing regarding the zoning map. The purpose of the public hearing is to receive public input and comments. The notice of tonight's public hearing was published in the Daily Banner on January 25 and February 1, 2008. The Planning and Zoning Commission considered this matter on January 8, 2008 and their recommendation was unanimous to approve the request to add the classification of CR (Commercial Retail and Office) to the property at 202 Maryland Avenue. The applicant, Ms. Donett Murphy, was not present. Rob Collison said she wishes to retain the residential zoning and add the commercial retail zoning. She purchased the property several years back and was hoping to relocate her consulting business to the first floor of this location and have residential space on the second floor. This property is adjacent to Dr. Bohaker's property which is on the corner of Maryland Avenue and Hayward Street. It is directly across from St. Paul's United Methodist Church. With regard to the standards, it will improve the overall economic situation and result in more creative and efficient use of the property and be in harmony with the objectives of the PWCD and will not adversely affect the rights of other property owners in the areas. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended that it be approved.

Commissioner Brooks asked if the neighbors in that area were given a letter to attend tonight's meeting since everybody does not buy the newspaper. Steve Johnson said he does not know the answer. Commissioner Knox said there were a few people from Maryland Avenue at the Planning and Zoning public hearing. He does not recall any negative comments. They stated that there was already a doctor's office next door and a business across the street so there really was not any opposition. That is one of the reasons why Planning and Zoning unanimously approved it. Rob Collison said on a rezoning or reclassification, the burden is on the applicant so he recommended that the City make contact with the applicant to see if they are still interested and if they would like to appear at the next Council meeting.

Commissioner Travers made a motion to close this portion of the public hearing and leave the record open so Council can continue the public hearing at a later date. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

APPOINTMENTS

Octavene Saunders as a Representative of the Pine Street Committee to Give Annual Activity Update-Octavene Saunders gave Council a copy of their report prior to tonight's meeting. Commissioner Cephas said he reviewed it last week. Commissioner Knox said he is satisfied with the report. He thinks they have been busy. Octavene Saunders thanked the organizations that have worked with them. They will continue to do what they can with what little they have. They are still fighting to be recognized by Main Street.

Octavene Saunders as a Representative of the Pine Street Committee to Request Permission to Close Pine Street from Cross Street to Cedar Street for the 2nd Multi-Cultural Festival Saturday, April 26th From 9:00 am to 6:30 pm-The Multi-Cultural Committee is made up of interested citizens. Between 350 and 375 people attended their first event last year. This year the event will be held on April 26th from 9:00 am until 6:30 pm. They would like Pine Street blocked from Cross Street to Cedar Street. They are also requesting a noise variance. Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. Octavene Saunders requested that the street be swept before 9:00 am that morning and that trash cans be placed in several locations. The motion passed unanimously.

Octavene Saunders invited all the residents of Cambridge and Dorchester County to attend and participate in an informational self-empowerment forum. The topics of discussion will be homestead tax credits, renters' and homeowners' tax credits, mortgages and foreclosures. The presenters and facilitators will be Commissioner

Sydnor, Diane Willey of the Dorchester County Assessment Office, and Bishop Charles Cephas of Maryland Rural Development Corporation. The forum is free. It will be held at the Pine Street Empowerment Center on Tuesday, March 18th from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.

Carol Lacy, Dorchester County Historical Society, to Invite Council to Grand Opening on February 29th of Key Ingredients American by Food Exhibit-Carol Lacy invited Council to the Smithsonian exhibit that is coming to the Dorchester County Historical Society. The grand opening will be on February 29th between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. She requested that posters be placed in the City buildings.

Representative from The James B. Richardson Foundation Inc. to Request a Letter of Support for a Grant Application-Paul Myers said the grant will help them expedite Phase 1 on their Maryland Avenue property. Over the next 9 to 12 months the citizens should finally see some activity on the property. He invited the Mayor and Council to their fundraiser on March 7th at 6:00 pm at their building located at 401 High Street. Commissioner Brooks made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Commissioner Sydnor asked how much the grant will be for. Paul Myers said they are asking for $100,000 as their initial amount. He believes it is a matching grant and they are in the process of coming up with an exact figure. The motion passed unanimously.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Approve Contract for Sale of MUC Building-Rob Collison advised Council that he and Gage Thomas met with Mayor Rippons to discuss a couple of outstanding issues. They have all been resolved. The purchase price was $286,000. The purchaser will pay 100 percent of the transfer taxes and stamps. The City will permit access through the back of the lot as it has been for as long as the City owns the parking lot.

Funding for Improvements to 410 Academy Street (City-Owned Property)-Mayor Rippons said at the last meeting, the request for the phone system was approved under the premise that MUC will front the money. They will be reimbursed with the proceeds from the sale of the High Street building. The other necessary improvements include a security system, computer wiring, mailbox, handrail, counter, and construction of 2 walls. Under the same provisions, even though MUC's portion is just under $13,000, they said they will put up the entire amount. They will be reimbursed after the sale of the High Street property. Steve Johnson said the amount previously approved for the phone system is included in the amount presented to Council tonight.

Commissioner Sydnor said he sees in the drawing that the section for City Hall includes the Economic Development office. He asked if it would be a great expense to separate those two. Steve Johnson said the request would cover Economic Development, MUC, and City Hall employees moving into the old CPD building. Commissioner Sydnor said there are 3 separate departments in there instead of 2 departments with one group being under the other group. Steve Johnson said there would not be any change in cost. Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the funding for the improvements. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve Loan for Ambulance-Ed Kinnamon said he put out requests for interest (RFI) from the local banks. The lowest interest the City could get is 3.6% from Talbot Bank. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to allow Mr. Kinnamon to secure a 3-year loan at a fixed interest rate of 3.6% not to exceed $157,000. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Ed Kinnamon said the cost of the ambulance is $168,000. Due to some credits that we were afforded, it is now down to $157,000. Commissioner Knox asked if this is a replacement ambulance. Ed Kinnamon said it is a replacement. It was approved in October 2006 budget to be included in the FY08 budget. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve MOU With County Regarding Maintenance of Sewer Line From Tech Park-Rob Collison said Council made a motion in executive session to defer this item until after they meet with the County tomorrow.

NEW BUSINESS

Request from Derema Group to Perform an Orion Safety Signals Demonstration on February 26th from 9:30 pm Until 10:00 pm at the Hyatt-Mayor Rippons reminded Council about the trouble they had with the fireworks and called to their attention the requested time of 9:30 pm until 10:00 pm. Chief Malik said he did not have any trouble with the request. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request during the stated time period only. Ed Kinnamon said the Fire Chief was notified and had no problem with the request. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. He said his only concern is that these are marine flairs. They are going to be shot into the air. He thinks we should be extremely cautious with what type of weather conditions we may have at the time because of how dry it is. Assuming these are airborne flairs, the wind could catch them as they are shot over the river. He suggested that Chief Malik and Chief Hurley stay on top of this weather situation. Chief Malik will have someone present during the designated time period. Mayor Rippons said the last time the Hyatt requested fireworks, Council instructed them to inform the public of the display so people were not calling the police department. Commissioner Sydnor amended his motion to include newspaper notification. Commissioner Knox seconded the amended motion. Commissioner Sydnor said the organization has already received permission from the Coast Guard. The motion passed unanimously.

Request from St. Paul's United Methodist Church for Return of Application Fees for Planning and Zoning and Board of Zoning Appeals Relating to Their Sign-Rob Collison asked about the ASOP. Ed Kinnamon said the ASOP refers to building permits. Rob Collison said he will make a recommendation during the next meeting. The City has out-of-pocket expenses relating to hearings. Steve Johnson said the difference between what we have here and a building permit is that when the City raised their fees, they included the advertising costs in the fee. If the Council chooses to waive the fee, the City is paying for the advertising cost.

Approval of $29,142 from the General Budget to Jumpstart the Creation of a Cambridge Revolving Loan Fund-Mayor Rippons said there was a revolving loan fund established in the mid-1980s. The amount remaining in the fund is $29,142. He said Penny Tilghman is asking to make the funds available because the State is willing to match it on a 2:1 basis. Commissioner Cephas said his understanding of the amount the City will have to come up with is $30,000. Penny Tilghman said that is incorrect. She spoke with Greg Cole, the Director for Rural Regions at the DBED. He has indicated that there is no particular amount needed. She will contact Main Street and the Chamber for Commerce for their contributions because the more money we have, the higher the match. The $29,142 we have will result in $87,425 to be used to jumpstart our revolving loan fund. Commissioner Brooks asked what the loans will be used for. Penny Tilghman said it will be used to immediately assist the displaced businesses downtown at 446-448 Race Street as well as to assist present businesses with any expansion efforts and sustainability issues as well as assist start-ups in Cambridge. Commissioner Brooks asked if this would be for businesses located anywhere in the City of Cambridge. Penny Tilghman said it would be in respect to all businesses within the City limits. The revolving loan fund can and will be targeted as well as for at-risk areas inclusive of Pine Street. We are trying to have equitable economic development strategy.

Commissioner Brooks ask Ed Kinnamon what some of the problems were with the past revolving loan fund. Ed Kinnamon said on this particular loan, there were not problems except that people did not pay it back. Commissioner Cephas said it was a 6-figure amount to start with. Commissioner Brooks asked how better equipped are we today to regenerate this money if we are out almost one-half million dollars from the 1980s and we still haven't recouped this money. She asked what is presently in place to say that we have a better plan in place and that we are going to be able to recoup our monies that we did not recoup in the 1980s. Mayor Rippons said if this is approved, Ms. Tilghman is going to bring Council a copy of Caroline County's very successful plan and options that Council could consider. He asked Penny Tilghman how time sensitive this project is. Penny Tilghman said it is very time sensitive. Obviously the downtown merchants are in need of immediate attention and assistance in the form of financial resources and support. She has spoken with Fred Smith, the Executive Director of the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC). Greg Cole, the Director for Rural Regions at DBED, highly recommended ESEC be the administrator/manager of this particular loan fund. Fred Smith can meet with the City Council to answer any of their questions regarding the management of the fund. ESEC has an interest rate of 5% in comparison to Dorchester First! which has an interest rate of roughly 8% to 10%. In addition, the Maryland Capital Enterprise organization that is based in Salisbury has an interest rate of 10% to 12%. ESEC has an extremely sophisticated approach to administering the loans in addition to supporting the businesses. It provides technical resources and support to assist the businesses and make sure they have a concrete business plan. The business advisors will be part of the entire program throughout the duration of the loan for any given merchant. Financial assistance is available at a 5% rate. The disbursement time is 3 to 4 weeks. With respect to expediting the resources to be able to assist our firms immediately, that is a given. With respect to the administration management fees, the Board of ESEC has waived the upfront cost in order to defer into the next fiscal period for the City of Cambridge. A concern was brought to her attention last week with respect to having ESEC manage our particular loan fund. It will be an individual account. There are two committees at ESEC-a corporate board and a loan review committee. As part of the Economic Development part of the City, she has already been approved to serve on the board-both the corporate and the revolving loan committee in addition to having the designation to appoint a merchant in Cambridge to serve on the board and the loan review committee as well. She is asking Council to grant her authority to appoint the president of the Merchants' Association in Cambridge to serve on the loan review committee in addition to the corporate board.

Commissioner Brooks said she hears Ms. Tilghman's vision and she hears the mission. However, she should put in writing the plan, the procedure, how people will qualify for the loan, etc. Everything sounds good but she sees nothing on her agenda tonight that tells her how the City will disperse these funds, the plans, and the procedures. We have to have policies and procedures in writing. We have to know how businesses qualify for these funds and how they are going to be repaid. There is a lot more to this than the City just putting up the money. Penny Tilghman said she will provide it to Commissioner Brooks tomorrow morning. Commissioner Knox said he thinks the whole Council would like to have it. Commissioner Brooks said they would like to review it before they vote to approve the loan fund. Commissioner Sydnor asked how time sensitive it is. Penny Tilghman said it is the businesses' needs. It is very time sensitive. The businesses need assistance now and she implored Council to act immediately. She will give them the information tomorrow morning. Commissioner Sydnor asked if it would be too late to wait until they could have a work session on February 19th. Penny Tilghman said she could give it to them then but she strongly encouraged Council to accept the information that she can furnish to them tomorrow morning.

Octavene Saunders asked who the civic leader Penny Tilghman is asking Council to approve to serve on the committee. Penny Tilghman said it is Ms. Terri Easter. Octavene Saunders said she thought she heard Penny Tilghman say this money would go to immediately help the 2 displaced businesses on Race Street. Mayor Rippons said that was 1 of the considerations. Octavene Saunders said she thought she heard it was to immediately help the 2 displaced businesses on Race Street. She did not hear Ms. Tilghman say that it was 1 of the considerations. Afterwards she started giving a good report. She has some problems. She is sorry the businesses were lost. We are kicking out tax dollars after tax dollars to private business people that make a profit. She doesn't have a problem with that to a limit. If we are going to continue to help all businesses, not just come in here with a project, that someone has gotten together and found a way to triple the money and it could be some more tax money that can help the 2 businesses. If the City does anything like this, she is pleading with them to let other businesses be considered. These 2 businesses are going to get more tax money. They will bring their businesses back. There are other businesses that are struggling. There are other people who can enhance their business with part of this revolving loan. Council should not vote that the first money of this loan goes to those 2 businesses downtown. Penny Tilghman said that is the opposite of what she just stated. Commissioner Sydnor asked if there was a maximum for the loans. Penny Tilghman said DBED is more than able to match upwards of $250,000. Mayor Rippons said they can structure any design feature that they want in the plan. He requested that Ms. Tilghman show the Council what other municipalities have done. The City of Cambridge should have more representation on the committee. It should include members from Pine Street and Main Street. We should have control of our own program. There is nothing that ESEC can do that we cannot replicate here at a much lower expense and do the same thing they are doing. Caroline County has a very effective program. We should not engage any group that is going to charge us. The members of the committee should all be from the City of Cambridge if the City is putting up the money. In his opinion it is more justifiable that we take the models that they have done and replicate it here with no expenses.

Penny Tilghman said ESEC is located in Cambridge on Bucktown Road. Fred Smith is very familiar with the intricacies of Dorchester County and Cambridge. Brad Broadwell, the Dorchester County Economic Development Director, actually serves on the committee. Mayor Rippons asked if Dorchester County was going to put up money. Penny Tilghman said the County has to approve the 2:1 match from DBED. DBED still looks at a regional model. Brad Broadwell received a call from DBED last week and they asked him for approval of the request for a 2:1 match for the City of Cambridge to jumpstart a new revolving loan fund. Scott Warner, Executive Director of the Midshore Regional Council serves on the corporate board and the loan review board. He is very sympathetic to Cambridge and has a good relationship with the Dorchester County Economic Development Department.

Octavene Saunders said she agrees with everything that Mayor Rippons said tonight. If we do this, it should be Cambridge people handling Cambridge people's business and if Council selects a committee, it should be the way they always do. She has an uneasy feeling about why and how it has come about and who wants it to come about. She agrees with Mayor Rippons that it should be kept local.

Mayor Rippons said Ms. Tilghman's request tonight is to ask Council to allocate that amount of funding for the loan. The mechanism for the loans will be brought before Council at a later time. Penny Tilghman said Fred Smith from ESEC was not able to come before Council tonight but he is more than willing to speak with Council at a later date. Commissioner Brooks said she would like to see the mechanisms in writing first.

Commissioner Cephas said over the last 4 years, the City has given approval for a lot of grants. The City has put up money to match some of those grants. He has never in his 3½ years seen Council require certain things that they did not require from other people. He wants to be fair with everybody. Tonight they approved a grant for the James B. Richardson Foundation. Jane Devlin, on behalf of James B. Richardson Foundation, clarified that they did not request any money. It was strictly a letter of support. Commissioner Cephas said they have dual standards. The Council has put up money for matching grants in the past. He did not see any opposition to it. There is nothing wrong with what she is requesting. Penny Tilghman said she agrees wholly. With respect with the funds being solely for the displaced businesses, that is quite the contrary. In Governor O'Malley's classified report, which she had access to, it indicated, it stressed, from DBED, that Secretary Edgerley had commented and reasserted that those monies, the 2:1 match, would in fact be for all businesses in Cambridge. Commissioner Brooks said she agrees with Commissioner Cephas that nobody should be treated differently but in the 3½ years she has been on Council, she has never seen them approve a grant that was not in writing. Everybody that has come before Council to ask for any type of money whatsoever, has been required to show Council how they plan to use the money. She hears the vision and the mission but they should not put the cart before the horse. When they hear the plan and the procedure, they can approve it. She is not saying it is not a good idea, she is saying it should be put in writing so Council can read and review it. Nobody has had a grant approved from a verbal request.

Terri Easter, representing the Merchants' Organization, said she thinks they have urged Penny and her office as well as the various offices they have met with in Annapolis and Baltimore to act quickly in trying to provide financial support. This support is not just for those 2 businesses that were completely displaced, but also for the 4 or 5 businesses that surround that area that have had their street traffic closed off because of the street closing. Those folks are not getting the regular customer traffic that they have gotten. She has a business on Race Street. People on Race Street are not making a lot of money. She would imagine that people who are working in those businesses are not able to pay their mortgages and take care of their basic needs. The idea was to take these funds, which she believes are only earmarked for this type of use, and take advantage of the opportunity to get the State government to move quickly in its matching portion of that grant. She thinks there will be some time for the administrative portion of how it is done and where it is done. That is why they asked Penny to be here tonight to ask for the first part of the process which is approval from Council that we can establish such a fund and get it moving. While that is happening, they can get all the administrative details worked out. Secondly, the idea of using ESEC is that they are already set up and in place. It is a part of a model that has worked successfully. It seemed to be something that made sense to put forward as opposed to taking the time to start from zero and get whatever agency or operation or procedure approved and she understands the State will have some say on who it is that is a part of this funding apparatus. She hopes they will take the occasion of the emergency to act outside of that box and allow them to move this along on dual tracks. Commissioner Brooks said this emergency deserves the midnight oil. They should put the plan and procedure in writing because they are not asking to start a fund, they are asking to take $29,142 from the general budget to jumpstart the creation of the Cambridge Revolving Loan Fund. She is not saying it is a bad idea. They have to follow the same procedures that we have for everyone else that has come before the City. Commissioner Sydnor suggested that they approve the funds to jumpstart the program but stipulate that no funds can be dispersed until the Council has received a written plan. Commissioner Knox said these are taxpayers' dollars and he agrees with Commissioner Books. He will not vote in favor of turning taxpayers' dollar loose in the community. Any City money that is going to be spent in the City should be directed from Council-not from an outside source. Council needs to see a business plan. Penny Tilghman said DBED needed a commitment from City Council to get the plan in motion. That is why they first contacted Brad Broadwell because they needed the County's consent to say it is a viable idea. Mayor Rippons asked if Penny Tilghman was going to go before the County to ask them to put up $29,000 to jumpstart the program. Penny Tilghman said with respect to the process that DBED has laid out to her, they contact Brad Broadwell on the City's behalf. She said she sent a letter to the County requesting assistance. Mayor Rippons said he understands that the County said that even though they believe in everything the City is doing, they do not have any available money for anything. Commissioner Knox said a County Commissioner was on the news this morning saying they will do anything they can to help Cambridge.

Octavene Saunders said she does not disagree with the plan. She understands that the only question tonight is to set the money aside in the budget and earmark it to start-up this revolving loan plan. She said the Pine Street Committee came before Council asking for $6,000 and had to go back and write a proposal. They do not even get money from the City to run the building. They had to do a business plan and it took them 6 months to do it before they could get in the building. If the Governor and everyone else is committed to the City, they will wait. She is not against the proposal. She would be very upset if most of the money goes to the 2 displaced businesses.

Commissioner Cephas said the agenda item talks about the revolving loan funds. He thinks it was taken a little further than it should have been taken. When they started specifying where the money is going, who it is going to, and then wanted approval from Council. The committee was already established. The money was almost spent and allocated before Council approved the loan to get the grant.

Penny Tilghman said the $29,142 as she has been informed, was in fact leftover money from a USDA grant in the 1980s that was part of $500,000+ grant for the original Cambridge Revolving Loan Fund. She asked how it was taxpayers' money with respect to the grant. Commissioner Knox said there was over $500,000 that was not paid back to the City. There is a big difference between $29,000 and $500,000. He will not vote to do this. He does not have a problem with a revolving loan program but Penny Tilghman has already set up who was going to be on the committee, how the money was going to be handled, and who was going to divvy it out. He thinks she is overstepping her bounds. Commissioner Cephas thinks what they heard was who would be on the committee once it was approved. The original intent was to approve the revolving loan fund. That is what he wants to approve. Penny Tilghman said that she said it was to get approval and get the authority from the Council. She was deferring to the Council as the ultimate body politic.

Commissioner Brooks made a motion for the creation of the Cambridge Revolving Loan minus the $29,142. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Commissioner Brooks said the motion would be to create the revolving loan minus funds from the City of Cambridge budget until further information is received and approved. Once Council approves the procedure, they will vote on the appropriation of City funds. Ed Kinnamon said this is a proprietary fund. It is totally separate from the general fund. The motion passed unanimously.

Approval to Re-create and Manage the Cambridge Human Relations Commission Under the Auspices of the Department of Economic Development-Penny Tilghman said she wanted to give Council more background on why she has asked to re-enact the Human Relations Committee. On Wednesday, January 30th, she was a victim of a hate crime. Rob Collison said this should probably be discussed in executive session. It is more of a personnel and legal matter. Penny Tilghman said it is not personnel. She was in her office preparing to welcome Governor O'Malley on February 2nd when she was repeatedly called a [racial term used] by a member of this community. She said she is going to educate the public right now. There is a direct correlation between social cohesion and economic progress. Disassociated neighborhoods, disassociated communities, disassociated businesses, and disassociated individuals have an adverse effect on economies. In 1967, as she has learned and has been informed time and time again, there was a race riot in Cambridge. Unfortunately, members of the community and certain individuals have failed to address the issues that 1967 have had on present day economy. As an economic developer for the City, she is requesting permission from the Council, acknowledgement from Mayor Rippons, the importance and the significance to re-enact the Human Relations Committee. Over 1.7 million motorists travel through Cambridge each year. The majority of the motorists fail to come off of Route 50 into downtown Cambridge. Some people may say it is because of signage; however, it is a known economic statistic fact that a lot of those motorists fail to come to downtown Cambridge and throughout Cambridge proper because of the stigma of 1967. In 5 years, the State of Maryland will be a minority state. This translates into economics. With respect to racism, sexism, classism, and any other form of bigotry, including homophobia, this community stands to loose millions of dollars from those individuals of minority descent. This is not a social issue or a social dilemma, it is an economic issue. She strongly feels that this committee should be associated with the department of economic development. They are trying to progress this City to make it attractive for outside businesses, outside investments, individuals living on the western shore to come to Cambridge, invest in Cambridge, and live in Cambridge. She asked what kind of a message we are sending when it so seems that people, maybe just a cluster of folks, think it is o.k. and appropriate to call an African-American a [racial slur], especially one who has worked tirelessly for the benefit of Cambridge. She has represented these economies, these businesses, and these merchants in Cambridge for 7 months now. She sees the impact. She sees the direct connection between social dis-investment, hatred, ignorance, not willing to recognize the significance and importance of connecting the City of Cambridge to the greater Eastern Shore, to greater Maryland, and to the greater United States of America. It has a direct economic assault to this economy to the business owners, to the overall tax base. She said she is imploring that City Council recognize the significance of re-enacting this committee and having it be a part of the Department of Economic Development. The Department does not want absolute authority, absolute privilege, and does not want to step over boundaries of the City Council members. There is a direct correlation between social cohesion and economic progress.

Commissioner Cephas made a motion to move forward and re-enact the Human Relations Commissioner because we had one in the past. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion.

Octavene Saunders said she agrees with Ms. Tilghman. The Human Relations Commission was formed because of the riots. It was formed as part of a package deal to appease certain wards in this City. It never had any power. At the time that she was appointed to Council, the Human Relations Commission was doing nothing. Portia Johnson and William Jackson were trying to keep it together. The Council let her be the liaison. They met for a whole year on Saturdays with people from the community to draft some rules and regulations. They put out boxes where people were made aware that if they had complaints such as Ms. Tilghman just had, they could inform the Commission. They worked with the State Human Relations Commission. Their problem was coordinated with Ms. Linda Watkins Henry from the State. Then the Human Relations Committee expanded to having local activities. They had 3 neighborhood cook-outs at Great Marsh. The businesses contributed food. The Sophisticated Brothers cooked the food. They held workshops to help with sensitivities to problems. During that time there were about 5 young African-American ladies that were killed in mysterious ways. The Human Relation Commission was able to work with Chief Wroten to calm the families down. They found out that the policemen were not trying to hide anything from them. She agrees with Ms. Tilghman. We need to re-enact this Human Relations Committee. She is asking that when they re-enact it, make sure they let if have some kind of authority. It should not be authority over the Council, but they should be allowed to bring in different programs, different sensitivity trainings, and different communities. They even had a neighborhood clean-up project where the City gave cups, caps, and teddy bears that represented the City of Cambridge to the people who cleaned their block up the best. It not only helped with sensitive things like Ms. Tilghman is going through, but it helped with neighborhood clean-up, neighborhood pride, and bringing different communities together. She asked that they draft a good ASOP.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said she is one of the original members of the Cambridge Human Relations Commission. At that time, they had the backing of the Mayor and City Council. They did what the Human Relations Commission of Maryland could not do. That was to bring in all forms of law enforcement that had to deal with those suspicious deaths including the Maryland State Police, the DNR, the Sheriff's Department and the locals. They worked with the community. They thought the Human Relations Commission was going to keep on growing as the years go on. You can't use volunteers until you kill them. That is what happened with Human Relations. She is all for the City bringing back Human Relations. We do have a lot of problems that Council cannot solve. They should find other entities that can help them.

Rob Collison said they will need a motion to re-enact the Commission and then come back to Council with a plan on how the members will be appointed and how long their terms will be. Octavene Saunders said it should also include the parameters the committee will operate under.

Commissioner Knox apologized to Penny Tilghman for the verbal assault that she received by a very ignorant person in our community. Not all of us are that ignorant. He asked if she felt she could juggle this commission as well as the economic task that she is doing. Penny Tilghman said she can. She will learn to work with respect to the bylaws. Commissioner Knox said if she gets the revolving loan fund, the Human Relations, and economic development, she will be one very busy person. We are loosing more jobs on Woods Road. He asked her to maintain her main mission.

Terri Easter said she is one of the newest members of this community. Most of the people who come into her store do not live here. They are here for the weekend. There is a very alive memory of the history of Cambridge. It will really hurt all of the progress we have made if there is any inkling that this continues to be a place where people of different races, creeds, and sexual orientations can't come here and enjoy what the Eastern Shore and Cambridge have to offer. She thinks it is a really important part of our economic growth and continued development for that impression to be an impression of the past and not an impression of today or our future.

The motion to allow the Cambridge Human Relations Commission to be under the auspices of the Department of Economic Development passed unanimously.

Request to Purchase 3 New Traffic Controllers-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Request to Go to Bid for Striping Contract-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Request to Approve the Following Purchase Orders:

- PO 1094 - Mid-Atlantic Salt - $4,315.49 - Road Salt

- PO 1095 - Kelly's Excavating - $4,000.00 - Demolition of 1014 Pine St.

- PO 1096 - John Tieder Inc. - $22,500 - Traffic Controllers

Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the purchase orders. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. Commissioner Knox asked where the controllers will be located. Steve Johnson said the City has 11 controllers. They are trying to get them to all be the same brand and type so they can tie them together. They have 6 now. They would like to buy 3 now and buy 2 next year.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said she hopes the work for the demolition will be done better than the work that was done on High Street. Part of it is still there. Steve Johnson said this is a different company. He has been told that the issue on High Street has to do with mud and trying not to mess up the lot any more than necessary. It will be completed when it is dry enough for a person to get back in there to finish the work.

The motion to approve the purchase orders passed unanimously.

Approve Budget Amendment for Financial Administration-Commissioner Sydnor asked what salary they are moving. Ed Kinnamon said it was the custodian they had at City Hall who was under his control. He has gone over to the public safety building. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the budget amendment. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

Rob Collison announced that Council met in closed executive session at 6:00 pm to discuss a personnel matter.

Commissioner Knox reminded every to vote tomorrow.

Commissioner Sydnor said the department heads have been informed that their budgets are due on February 15th. We are planning to have a work session on February 19th where Council can get the input from the department heads. There is a conflict with the Police Department. They will hear that department at the beginning of the next Council meeting.

Commissioner Cephas said the Street Lighting Committee reviewed the lighting situation at 310 West End Avenue. He made a motion to approve a light for that area. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Commissioner Brooks asked that the information on the buzzards be forwarded to her so she can give it to Ms. Sylvia Jones at the Cambridge Housing Authority for the problem on North Drive. Steve Johnson said it is not written information. He called DNR and they said buzzards react like people. If you harass them, they will find another place to be. You have to be persistent. They do not like noise or dead birds being around.  Something resembling a dead buzzard would deter them. Those were the suggestions of DNR. Commissioner Brooks said they are protected so she does not know how much harassing they can do. Steve Johnson said they can make noise and disturb them. Commissioner Cephas suggested helium balloons. Commissioner Brooks asked that some pull the list of suggestions together so she can forward it to the Cambridge Housing Authority.

Commissioner Brooks said for the second year in a row, the National League of Cities has appointed her to the Human Development Policy Committee. She was unable to attend their Congressional City Conference last year and she will be asking the City to allow her to go to conference this year just to attend the portion pertaining to the Human Development Policy Committee. It will be for 2 days during the convention which runs from March 8 to 12.

Steve Johnson said Race Street was opened at 4:00 pm this evening. Currently it is one-way traffic southbound. The sidewalks are open. Chief Malik said they will experiment with the one-way traffic and then bring it before the Traffic and Safety Committee. The Committee will then bring their suggestions to Council.

Mayor Rippons said some of the safety forces in the new public safety building are having trouble with communications with both pagers and radios. An estimate from Motorola indicates that it will cost $42,000 to get that done. He had a discussion with Steve Williams. After talking today with Chief Malik, Chief Hurley, and Chief Watkins, they would like to move forward with getting the pager system rectified. Mr. Williams had Motorola supply a cost breakdown for the pagers. It will cost $9,439. That will be a tremendous first step in helping them take care of the stigma and the problem that they have. He asked Council's permission to allow Motorola to install antennas with a distribution system to rectify the pager system. Steve Johnson said he believes this would be the beginning of a solution to the communications problem inside the building. It is Motorola's proposal on how to make the communications system work. It is their product so they would be a sole-source provider. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to move forward with the proposal from Motorola in the amount of $9,439 to rectify the pager system. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Wendell Foxwell asked about the status of cleaning up Norris Taylor's Washington Street property. Steve Johnson said Norris Taylor had a 6-month permit to demolish the property. He did not complete it during that time period and was granted a 6-month extension. Until he fails to complete the work during that time period, there is not much the City can do. After the time has expired, he will work with Council to issue fines. The City is constrained by their own Code at the moment which tells us the lengths of time to give people for permits and things of that nature. Right now all permits have a 6-month duration. Personally, he does not think that is a good idea. Commissioner Sydnor asked how much time if left on the extension. Steve Johnson said he has about 5 months left. Mayor Rippons said he is also approaching it from another way to try to expedite the procedure.

Wendell Foxwell said there is a building at 309 Cedar Street that has been boarded up. He thinks it has been up for demolition before and may have had condemned signs on it. He asked if the City asks the next buyer what they are going to do with it and how long it will take to fix it up. Steve Johnson said condemnation is different from demolition. Condemnation means that it cannot be rented to anybody. Nobody can live in it. A house can be condemned for a very long time as long as it is kept safe. Demolition means it must be torn down. There is a time frame for demolition. This is according to our current City Code. Rob Collison said demolitions would follow a transfer. If someone buys it, it is subject to the demolition order. It does not go away by the sale of a property.

Wendell Foxwell said he came before Council 8 or 10 years ago about the old Rob Roy building. It is in the same shape. The roof is starting to cave in now. He said he doesn't think the City wanted to tear it down because it would cost too much money. He thinks they sold it to someone else who was going to fix it up. Steve Johnson said they are looking at that building and several others. They have a very dedicated group of property maintenance inspectors who are doing a great job going through the City. The City is a little large for 4 people. They will get to that particular building. One of the other issues is whether the City has enough money for demolition. We only had $20,000 in the FY2008 budget for demolition. So far we spent about $12,000 and there is a possibility of the rest of it disappearing before the end of year. It is not a good situation. He is working on a proposal with Rob Collision which would create a demolition fund using some of the fines that they collect for infractions of the property maintenance code.

Octavene Saunders said at one time there was a demolition fund in the County. They allocated money to each municipality to assist with the demolition of things going to the landfill to cut down on the costs. There was also a State agency under Urban Renewal that gave demolition grants. Steve Johnson said the City has applied for a grant for demolition. They will not hear about it until April.

Gage Thomas asked about the legal practice regarding demolition. He asked if the City creates a lien when they advance money for demolition. Steve Johnson said if we use City funds for demolition, we then send a bill to the property owner. If the property owner does not pay the bill, it becomes a tax lien, collected the same as taxes. If that is not paid in 2 years, the City can sell that property at tax sale. Rob Collison said in the past if someone kept their taxes current but did not pay the demolition bill, it did not go to tax sale. That has changed. The lien is on that particular property. There was a change in the law around 2001 that allowed us to follow that lien in Circuit Court so it is a lien on any property the individual owns. If a demolition fee is not paid within 2 years but taxes are, it will still go to tax sale.

Commissioner Cephas said he realizes a 6-month extension was given to Norris Taylor. If that property creates a hazard, he thinks something should be done about the 6 months. He asked if someone could research this. There are a lot of rodents running around that property. There are neighborhoods across from it. It is an eyesore too. He thinks the City should re-think this.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said she knows the staff we now have for Code Enforcement, but if you have been a resident of the City of Cambridge for a long time, you see these houses and commercial property that have sit in disrepair and nobody is doing any work to them and the City is saying that by Code they cannot do anything. It seems like if the governing body wants to clean up the City of Cambridge, they should be able to do something. It is an eyesore to see these houses and businesses that are half-way boarded up for more than 15 years. It is also a health problem. Homeless people live in them in the winter. She is always afraid of fires. Steve Johnson said a condemned property is a property that can be repaired. We have it boarded up to prevent people from getting inside and doing things they should not be doing. In the recognition of property rights, the owner has the opportunity to conduct the repairs. There is also a repair order which tells a property owner that within a specified time frame, the repairs have to be performed. If a property is in a very sad condition, then they do order demolition. Part of the issue is capacity. We have 4 inspectors and a prescribed process. We have re-activated the Housing Board of Review which is very active. There were some years when things were not done the way they should have been done. We are trying to catch up now. Portia Johnson-Ennels said she knows about the properties that have been posted. We also have properties that have never been posted and they are sitting there. Steve Johnson said they want to do the entire City. There have to be priorities. The things they are looking at first are the things that represent the worst condition buildings. In time they will get to every building. There has been progress in the last 7 to 8 months. There will be more progress.

Commissioner Brooks said that since Mr. Johnson has been here, she has seen more demolition orders and condemnation orders in a long time. In the short time that he has been here, he really has that department re-activated and working and Council realizes it is a very big City. There is a lot more ground to cover but she feels he has covered a lot of ground in a short time span.

Commissioner Knox commended Mr. Johnson's department on the removal of the signs at the establishment at the corner of Maryland and Dorchester Avenues. A coat of paint will set it off well. If they can get Crusader Mart on board, it will look great also. They are doing a really good job getting the potholes filled also.

With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned the meeting at 9:28 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, February 11, 2008, insofar as I personally am aware.