20 Sep


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The Kent County Public School system has ended their contract with Reliable Transportation....


The Kent County Public School system has ended their contract with Reliable Transportation. On Monday night, the Kent County School Board gave Superintendent Karen Couch the authority to cancel the transportation contract and to purchase school buses and hire local drivers to drive them as well as to negotiate contracts with independent contractors. The county will move ahead with a hybrid system of contractors and county owned buses and county employed drivers. The school system may have to lease buses, especially special education buses, from other school districts. The county signed Reliable Transportation out of Baltimore as the low bidder for the school’s transportation contract, but a barrage of late or non-arriving buses plus other issues, brought out a wave of angry parents at the Sept. 11 Board of Education meeting. Superintendent Couch said that it was no longer feasible to maintain the contract with Reliable and they are working on a smooth transition.

A Rock Hall resident has lodged two more open meetings complaints against the town of Rock Hall. Resident Grenville Whitman, who had filed a complaint earlier this year in which the Open Meetings Compliance Board found in his favor, claims that the town approved a legal contract with the MacLeod Law Group without a public discussion or vote. Town attorneys Charles “Chip” MacLeod and Patrick Thomas were previously with the law firm of Funk & Bolton but left that firm when it closed its Kent County office last winter. The town contends that there was no need for public discussion or vote since the town is simply retaining the same attorneys. The other complaint charges that the town has not reported the topics of discussion based on his previous complaints in January and February.

A Grasonville man has been charged with arson after a Sunday afternoon fire in Grasonville. The fire started around 3:45pm at a home at 102 Jewel Court and was reported by a neighbor driving by who alerted the resident, 76-year-old Patricia Dotson who was taking a nap with her granddaughter. The neighbor called 911 and was able to put out the fire before Grasonville firefighters arrived. A neighbor, 27-year-old Sean Nicolas Murphy, was arrested on Monday evening and charged with various arson charges. The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s office said the fire was started by lighting gasoline at multiple points outside the home. No one was injured and damages are estimated at $3,000.

A Sudlersville man has been charged with attempted murder after an early Sunday morning domestic assault. 46-year-old Craig Sudler Willis of 124 West Main Street was charged after Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s deputies were flagged down around 12:27am by a Wilmington, Delaware woman who told police she was assaulted by a man at that address. She said she had been physically assaulted repeatedly for about two hours until she was able to leave the house and call 911. The identity of the woman has not been released due to the nature of the incident and she had suffered physical injuries deemed serious but not life threatening. She was taken by ambulance to the Shore Regional Medical Center in Chestertown and was expected to be released on Sunday afternoon. According to police, Willis allegedly threatened the woman with a shotgun and fired it near her but she was not hit by the shot. Police said Willis tried to leave the home while police were investigating but he was arrested without incident. He has been charged with various attempted murder, assault, destruction of property and firearms charges. Willis is being held in the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center and a preliminary hearing is set for October 13.

The Democratic Club of Kent County will have a “Meet The Candidates” series this Thursday at Bad Alfred’s Distilling on High Street in Chestertown. The candidates featured will be Michael Pullen who is running for Andy Harris’s First District U.S. House of Representatives seat along with Chestertown Town Council candidates Owen Bailey who is running in the First Ward and the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver who is running in the Third Ward. Doors open at 5:30pm for a meal with a brief business meeting at 6:45pm and the candidates will address the audience at 7pm.

From a press release: the Town of Chestertown and The Peoples Bank are pleased to announce that The Peoples Bank will be providing interim financing for the Chestertown Marina Stormwater Improvement Project, which is part of Phase II of the revitalization of the town-owned facility. Primary funding for the infrastructure improvements is being provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program. While Phase I work is currently taking place in the Marina basin – dredging, new bulkhead and boat ramp, Phase II will start in November 2017 following the Sultana Downrigging Weekend. Phase II includes completion of the new bulkheading, raising the grade of the Marina property, stormwater improvements, and underground utilities. Other marina improvements taking place during Phase II include installation of new floating docks, which are funded by the DNR Waterway Improvement Fund and a Maryland Capital Project Grant, and construction of the Chestertown Marina Interpretive Center, which is funded by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Strategic Demolition Fund and Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. Peoples Bank’s President and CEO Ralph Dowling stated, “The Peoples Bank is proud to be a part of this partnership to restore this iconic waterfront gateway into Kent County.” Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino added that “Special thanks must go to all of the individuals and groups who have supported the Town’s five-year effort to revitalize this public facility, which is so important to the town’s – and Kent County’s – long-term economic health.”

The Chesapeake College Board of Trustees has put together a search committee to help the college select their next president. The committee has fourteen members and is led by L. Nash McMahan, President of Tri-Gas and the Vice Chair of the college’s Board of Trustees. Other Board of Trustees members on the committee include Christopher Garvey, the President and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors; Robert Grace, President and COO of Dixon Valve; Mike Mulligan, retired Marine Corps Colonel and Senior Account Manager for Battelle; and retired Kent County educator Brenda Shorter. Other committee members include representatives from the Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board, the college’s Foundation Board and Business Council, and faculty and staff at the college. Acting President Dr. Stuart Bounds is also assisting in the search. The college hopes to have a new president in place by July 1.

A Chestertown resident was arrested after allegedly interfering with Chestertown police conducting a police stop on Tuesday night. 18-year-old Ariez Smith was released on personal recognizance after being charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey the lawful order of a police officer, resisting arrest, and obstruction/hindering after attempting to record police conducting a traffic stop on his phone. The incident happened around 8:22pm in the Dollar General parking lot when Chestertown police pulled over a 21-year-old driver from Chestertown because a headlight was out. According to police, Smith came up from the rear and was trying to record the stop and was told to move away. After a crowd of around 10 people gathered, the officer called for backup and Smith ran when police attempted to detain him. After a foot chase, he was taken into custody at the Kent County Visitors Center about a block away. The driver of the vehicle was given a warning and gave a witness statement to police.

A Church Hill area man was flown to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore after a Saturday incident where gas vapors ignited while he was working on a vehicle. Matthew Welsh of Carville Road was working on the carburetor of a dump truck when the vapors ignited and caused burns to his hands, arm and face. The State Fire Marshal’s office said the injuries were not life threatening. Church Hill volunteer firefighters responded around 11:18am and the fire was already out when they arrived at the scene.

On Tuesday, Washington College received comptroller Peter Franchot’s 2017 Bright Lights Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at a ceremony at the college’s Roy Kirby Jr. Field. Washington College President Kurt Landgraf accepted the award from the comptroller and he also received a Comptroller’s medallion. Franchot lauded the college’s efforts to lower tuition rates and college debt, initiatives begun under previous president Sheila Bair. Also receiving a medallion was Joe Holt, the college’s director of institutional giving for the Office of College Advancement for his 25 years of service to the college.

An overflow crowd of concerned parents vented their frustration at the Kent County Board of Education and Kent County School superintendent Dr. Karen Couch on Monday night at the school board headquarters in Rock Hall. Parents and concerned citizens spent several hours criticizing Reliable Transportation’s performance as the school system’s new transportation provider. Representatives from Reliable were also at the meeting. Concerns range from late buses, buses missing stops, students being dropped off at wrong stops, along with charges of drivers driving unsafely and behaving rudely. The school system changed to Baltimore based Reliable Transportation who put in the lowest bid for the county’s transportation services, with a bid lower than the local company that served the county for 20 years. Superintendent Couch cited savings of $1 million over the next four years. The county cites issues with some drivers that were hired who failed to show up and Kent County’s Economic Development department is actively advertising for qualified bus drivers. Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian was present and many of those in attendance Monday night were criticizing the commissioners over what they see as underfunded schools. School board president Trish McGee said she was appalled by the situation and told the head of Reliable Transportation they have a lot of explaining to do, a sentiment also expressed by the rest of the school board. Superintendent Couch said she was deeply sorry for the problem and fixing it is very important, but said that it will likely take a couple of weeks or more.

Two candidates have announced runs for the Chestertown Town Council. Owen Bailey, who works for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy has announced he will run for the 1st Ward town council seat currently held by Liz Gross. The Reverend Ellsworth Tolliver is running for the 3rd Ward seat currently held by Sam Shoge. Neither Gross nor Shoge is running for re-election. Bailey and Tolliver, both Democrats, will be at a meet the candidates event with First District Congressional Candidate Michael Pullen on Thursday, Sept. 21, 7pm at Cassinelli’s Distillery at 323 High Street in Chestertown.

The Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville is getting $78,471 in funding from the Federal Department of Transportation. The airport joins three other Eastern Shore airports in Easton, Salisbury, and Crisfield in DOT funding to be used for repairs and improvements to the runways.

A report of a suspicious vehicle near Queen Anne’s County High School led to weapons being seized from the vehicle. On Wednesday Sept 6 a teacher’s aide reported a suspicious vehicle, a green Dodge pickup with a cap, parked across from the high school. Police then located the vehicle parked at the Board Of Education warehouse facility on Ruthsburg Road. After locating the vehicle’s owner, Queen Anne’s County deputies discovered the owner was under a protective order and not allowed to be in possession of firearms or ammunition. A box of ammunition was sighted in plain view in the vehicle which led to a search and seizure of several weapons. The owner was also advised that he is not allowed on any school system property and he was released pending possible charges from the State’s Attorney’s office.

The town of Rock Hall unanimously adopted a resolution that would allow for interim financing for the Catholic Avenue water main project. The vote was taken at the Thursday, Sept. 7 workshop and town manager Ron Fithian said the $930,000 interim financing for the project will come from People’s Bank and should only be for about three months before the grant funding is finalized. The town also voted unanimously to fund two more weeks of Maryland Department of Agriculture mosquito spraying estimated to cost about $2,000. However, councilwoman Beth Andrews expressed concern that the spraying would give the town an $800 budget deficit which violates the town charter. She suggested that the town pull funding from somewhere else in the budget to pay for the spraying. In July, councilman Timothy Edwards suggested ending Festive Fridays and use the money for mosquito spraying but the motion was overruled by a majority of the council. The town also voted to only run the Rock Hall trams on Friday through Sunday through the end of the season on November 1, but voted against a fee increase on the trams. Andrews also asked about the town’s engagement letter with the McLeod Law Group and asked town Attorney Chip MacLeod how the agreement does not violate the town charter since it wasn’t put out to bid when MacLeod and co-town attorney Patrick Thomas left the law firm of Funk and Bolton. MacLeod replied that the engagement letter is not a contract but an agreement the law firm has with a client. He said that he and Thomas work at the pleasure of the town and are only paid if they do work. MacLead added the town can choose to use another law firm at any time.

Monday night’s Kent County Board Of Education meeting will be dedicated primarily to the transportation issues that have plagued the first week of school. The meeting at the central office in Rock Hall will start at 5pm with a closed session to discuss personnel issues, but will have an open public session at 6:30pm to review the personnel actions from the closed meeting and then will have a public discussion about the transportation problems. While the school system will save $1 million over four years with the contract with Baltimore based Reliable Transportation, the company’s performance in the first week has been described as disastrous with buses running late or not arriving at all. There have been mechanical issues plus drivers failing to show up to work. The move to Reliable has been unpopular in the community since they are replacing a local company that held the contract for 20 years. Adding to the problem was the move to close Millington and Worton elementary schools. School Board president Trish McGee told the Kent County News that the transportation situation is unacceptable, but she added that there has been some misinformation from the public as well as reports of confrontational behavior from parents attempting to board buses while using racial epithets and telling drivers to go back to Baltimore.