13 April 2020 | Approved: 18 May 2020
The unprecedented emergency health crisis poses a challenge to all – individually and collectively. To protect ourselves and do our part to impede the spread of the coronavirus and COVID -19 disease, the Regular Meeting of the Town Council was held remotely.
Mayor John Compton called the regular meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilors Darrell Anderson, Charlie Challstrom, Rob Gilmore, Marida Hines, Patty Klein, and Audrey Maskery. Also in attendance were Treasurer Mary Challstrom and residents Mimi Bolotin, Georgette Cole, Joe Clark, Dave Cosson, Robert Johnson, Betsy Klinger, Joan Mahaffey, Donna Shriver, Nick Suzich, Freda Temple, and Gary Temple.
Approval of Agenda:
Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the agenda. Patty Klein seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, agenda approved.
Kathy Lehman inquired about stakes with bright pink ribbon spotted in various places around Town. Audrey Maskery explained the stakes are markers for tree planting by Stadler, expected in the coming week.
Approval of Minutes:
Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the March 9, 2020 Town Council Meeting Minutes. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Patty Klein moved to approve the March 23, 2020 Budget Work Session Minutes. Marida Hines seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Treasurers Report 2020-March pdf
Patty Klein moved acceptance of the March 2020 Treasurer’s Report. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, accepted.
Town Election and Annual Town Meeting – Discussion:
Mayor Compton addressed the restrictions placed on gatherings in town by the COVID-19 health crisis, and plans for conducting the upcoming Town Election and Annual Town Meeting.
Board of Supervisors of Elections Chair Nick Suzich explained the Board’s proposal for the election. The Board believes the election can be handled remotely using the Town’s absentee ballot procedures already in place, and outlined how the Board could use the provisions for Absentee Ballots and Emergency Ballots already adopted. He also raised the possibility that the election could take place on May 9 as scheduled with polling place procedures modified to include social distancing, masks, and other safety precautions. The Mayor and Council explored various details of how these options could work and the subsequent ballot counting by the Board. Focusing on the absentee ballot procedure, the discussion concluded there was adequate time for notification and explanation of a “Vote By Mail” process. The notification would be done via Grove Alert, Town Website, and special mailing through the USPS. Mimi Bolotin, Georgette Cole, and Betsy Klinger have volunteered to organize a virtual candidate forum again this year. It will be available on the Town website and the ListServe.
Action: The Town Council agreed that the Board of Supervisors of Elections should conduct this year’s election using the previously adopted secure procedures for Absentee and Emergency balloting. The election would conclude as usual at 7:00 p.m. on May 9th, followed by an electronic Town Meeting that evening (see below)
Resolution 2020-03; To Amend The Town Charter Section 5, “Town Meeting”, To Allow A Town Meeting Convened During A State Of Emergency To Be Conducted Electronically, And To Authorize The Town Council To Specify An Alternate Date, Notification Procedures, And Establish Alternative Rules For The Conduct Of Town Meetings; Also To Amend Section 31, “Election Of Town Officials”, To Authorize The Town Council To Set An Alternate Date For The Elections; And To Amend Section 42, “Budget” To Authorize The Town Council To Adopt A Provisional Budget
Mayor Compton explained that the current health crisis restrictions precluded the Town Meeting being held as a physical gathering in McCathran Hall. Since the Town Charter is specific about when and how the regular Town Meeting and Elections should occur, amendment is necessary. While normally the Charter amendment process requires several months to complete, it is possible for the Town Council to do so immediately because of the recent Executive Order by Governor Hogan suspending the notice requirements required to make changes to the election provisions of Maryland municipal Charters. Through Resolution 2020-03, the Town Council has the opportunity to change the Town Charter and allow for flexibility in emergencies to reschedule the Town election, to reschedule and/or conduct the regular Town Meeting electronically, and to provide a budget when the approval process of the regular Town Meeting is delayed.
Discussion: Some members expressed concern about potential spending abuse with the use of a provisional budget, the potential of weakening the importance of attending Town Meeting by the use of electronic meetings, and the lack of language setting a time limit for the Town Meeting vote on the budget. An alternative proposal was raised that the budget continue at FY20 budget levels as is done in the Federal government, rather than approving a new provisional budget. Discussion also ensued over the apparent breadth of circumstances permitted by the language “as soon thereafter as reasonably possible to protect the health, safety, comfort, convenience, and welfare of Town residents when so determined by the Town Council“. A proposal to add the words “as soon thereafter… under emergency circumstances…” was accepted. Further minor amendments were made. Charlie Challstrom moved to approve Resolution 2020-03 pdf as amended. Rob Gilmore seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0, approved as amended.
Resolution 2020-04; To Provide For Convening The Town Meeting Electronically, And Provide Notice Electronically, And Establish Special Rules Of Order For Communicating By Electronic Means, And Establish Other Rules To Respond To Technical Or Practical Difficulties, And Adopt The Proposed Budget As A Provisional Budget:
Mayor Compton gave a review of the ordinance implementing provisions permitted by the Charter amendments in Resolution 2020-03. There was discussion about the mechanics of electronic meetings, specifically the roll call vote. Minor changes were made for consistency. Charlie Challstrom moved to approve Resolution 2020-04 as amended. Marida Hines seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0, approved as amended.
FY 2021 Budget and Tax Rate – Discussion and Recommendation to the Town Meeting:
Treasurer Mary Challstrom reviewed the changes made at the Budget Work Session on March 23, 2020. Treasurer Challstrom and Mayor Compton attended a webinar presented by the Maryland Comptroller’s office on the projected impact on State revenues of the emergency health crisis, where a provisional 25% decrease in overall revenue was suggested. Anticipated income tax revenue to the Town, highway user revenue from the State, and tax duplication funds expected from the County were re-evaluated and revised downwards in light of this information. No further changes were proposed for the Budget. Patty Klein moved to accept FY 2021 budget and tax rate for proposal to the Town Meeting, and to accept the Budget as the Provisional Budget, providing for continuity in the event a vote by the Town Meeting was delayed. Rob Gilmore seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0, approved.
FY 2021 Budget Ordinance 2020-05 – Introduction:
Patty Klein moved to introduce Budget Ordinance 2020-05 pdf. Charlie Challstrom seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0, approved.
West Woods Stormwater Damage and Mitigation – Review and Discussion:
Woods Committee Co-Chair Joan Mahaffey stated there are three (3) drainage issues to be addressed; Town-wide (parks, gullies, swales), in the West Woods at Towne Crest, and in the West Woods from Washington Grove Lane and Maple Lake. The Town issues will be discussed at another time and the Towne Crest issues need assistance from to solve. The WG Lane and Lake problems are mainly due to water run-off. The high volume of stormwater and fallen trees, many due to erosion, have resulted in new channels being cut through forested areas. Robert Johnson, Stormwater Management Committee Chair, proposed a joint project to remove dead wood, debris and downed trees to clear obstructions, and to fill in unwanted channels, which could be carried out by Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts, the Woods and Stormwater Management Committees. Logs can be removed with the skid loader and other equipment rented, for which money exists in the budget. Steve has agreed to manage this project, and the work can begin when the ground is sufficiently dry. The Council applauded the combined committee efforts.
Town Council Reports:
TC Report // Mayor Compton asked for an update on placement and installation of the second speed hump. Darrell Anderson reported the second hump would go on Chestnut Road approximately halfway between Oak Street and Brown Street. He asked for confirmation from the Mayor and Council. All agreed with the placement. There was a discussion about installing the speed hump removed from Grove Road (having been replaced with a gentler hump) to a location on Hickory Road. All agreed. Darrell and Steve will determine the location.
Administrative Business: There was none.
Bikeways – Mayor Compton reported in his last discussion with Kyle Lukacs, lead on the DOT study of bikeway connection routes to Washington Grove, that three (3) options were likely to be studied in detail: Crabbs Branch connecting to Railroad Street, to the end of Brown Street, and to Ridge Road through the Conservation Meadow.
5G Small Cell Towers – Mayor Compton reported the County Office of Broadband Programs and CTC Technology & Energy, which reviews applications, held a briefing online to explain County timelines and process and the requirements placed on affected municipalities. The Mayor stated that the recently approved Town standards should be reviewed in detail. He has asked the Historic Preservation Commission to lead a review.
Resolution 2019-13; Providing for Proper Governance of Washington Grove Committees – Additional Discussion and Action: Mayor Compton gave a review. Patty Klein proposed some additional edits. Rob Gilmore moved to delete paragraph G, and Charlie Challstrom seconded the motion. After a detailed discussion and debate about the value of philosophical statements in the guidelines, several sentences were proposed to close the Resolution. Vote to amend: 5 in favor (Anderson, Challstrom, Gilmore, Hines, Maskery) – 1 against (Klein), approved. Resolution 2019-13 pdf
There was further discussion on the Resolution as a whole. Darrell Anderson did not support the last sentence in paragraph E. Ron Gilmore moved, and Charlie Challstrom seconded approval.
Vote: 5 in favor (Anderson, Challstrom, Gilmore, Hines, Maskery, Klein) – against (Anderson), approved.
This meeting was Rob Gilmore’s last meeting. The Mayor and Council thanked Rob for his service. Rob said it was an honor and a privilege to serve on the Council and he plans to stay involved in town affairs.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:07 PM
Kathryn L. Lehman
TC REPORTS – April 2020
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – Darrell Anderson
The HPC held a virtual meeting on March 17; the next meeting will be held on April 22 at 7:30 pm by virtual means.
There were no reviews of permits at this meeting.
The HPC discussed and approved purchasing two color copies of the final National Register report for the Town Office, and eight black-and-white copies of the report for individual members. They will find out the cost before purchase, because the report is more than 500 pages.
The HPC would like more involvement in the WSSC permit process. This has been brought up because of the current work on 6th Avenue.
The HPC has submitted an award nomination to the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for the sign project. This award will be announced in August.
As part of Masterplan Section 9, the HPC will be recommending training for town staff.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Darrell Anderson
Completion of our FY 2020 repaving contract is contingent on the weather the next few months. In looking ahead to the FY 2021 repaving contract, the final area (Chestnut Road between Brown Street and Oak Street) will be awarded to A.B. Viers, at the Council’s approval, for approximately $37,000. In addition, it is likely that a few emergency spots will arise during the next year that will have to be fixed.
The first of the two new speed humps were installed on Chestnut Road between Center Street and Oak Street with the small bumps at the Oak Street intersection being removed. I have heard only positive feedback about these changes. With Council approval, the second of the new humps will be placed on Chestnut Road between Oak Street and Brown Street. We still have one speed hump that needs to be placed after Council discussion.
The Lighting Committee held a virtual meeting on March 25; the next meeting will be held on April 22 at 7:30 pm by virtual means.
Examples of replacement fixtures for the light pole at Oak Street and Grove Avenue were presented and discussed. The Committee approved the purchase of one Mogul Barn Light ($89 + shipping) to try at that location.
The Committee continues to discuss the possible use of bollard lights for our walkways. Significant problems are that they would have to have electrical service and a transformer for each light to reduce voltage. There will be ongoing discussions.
A sample of a bollard-type light has been installed on Center Street and Maple Avenue with electrical service provided from a nearby home.
The Committee is developing a list of questions to use when they meet with PEPCO in the near future. The questions will address maintenance, savings from LED bulbs, and cost for replacing fixtures if needed. Also, the Committee would like to know if the Town owns the lights and poles on Ridge Road. A draft of the questions will be circulated to Committee members for review and suggestions.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – Darrell Anderson
Nothing to report.
PLANNING COMMISSION – Charlie Challstrom
Building Permit Activity –
- 116 Ridge Road – PC approved permit for a new fence; boundary survey done in 2018.
- 125 Grove Avenue – Contractor inquired regarding foundation/structural modifications for the existing shed. Charlie reported on his conversation with the property owner, noting the shed intrudes about 3 feet onto the property next door, there is no boundary survey, and the PC cannot endorse or approve the proposed major alterations. Peter will call the contractor.
Master Plan 2020 Update – A master plan work session was held on March 18. Georgette reported there are questions about Section 8 needing further discussion and proposed inviting a consultant to attend the next work session to advise on commercial zone uses. Robert offered to research GIS/mapping capabilities for updating Exhibit A (Current Zoning and Growth Areas). Charlie will finish an update to Exhibit B (Town Buildings, Parks, Community Facilities; same as the Town Directory map) to add the Dog Park. The next PC work session is scheduled for April 15.
MCCATHRAN HALL – Charlie Challstrom
Flooring Repair/Upgrade – Steve Werts continued his masterful flooring work for the Lower Level in the area at the base of the stairs, between the three doors. Termite-damaged underlayment and support pieces were repaired/replaced (termite treatment was done in 2019). The linoleum tiles in this area were upgraded to solid hardwood using materials remaining from previous flooring work.
MONTGOMERY MUNICIPAL CABLE (MMC) – Charlie Challstrom
MMC continues operations as a 3-person team, each working from home. In addition to programming support for the MMC channels on cable and YouTube, MMC also distributes the “MMC Inside Scoop” weekly which is forwarded to town residents via the Yahoo Group. This email newsletter provides the County’s website link for COVID-19 updates, along with video links for MMC programs intended to help cope, such as “Cherry blossom Yoga” and “Happy & Health” episodes.
CENSUS – Charlie Challstrom
The April Town Bulletin included “2020 Census – It’s Time to Respond!” Other Census announcements were shared with town residents via the Yahoo Group and NextDoor. More than 60% of Washington Grove households have responded already, according to the Census response rates website.
CONTRACTS – Rob Gilmore
The Town’s leaf contractors performed a spring leaf collection Friday, April 3, 2020.
DOG PARK – Rob Gilmore
Nothing to report.
WOODS – Rob Gilmore
The Woods Committee held a meeting on April 6, 2020. The Committee began updating its Strategic Plan for Deer Management to prepare for deer harvesting during the fall 2020 season. It will reorganize its 50th Earth Day activities in the West Woods, originally scheduled for April 25, so that individuals and families can participate on their own schedules to pull garlic mustard, pick up trash, and clear out Whetstone Spring in the West Woods. The WC will proceed with plans to replant the former Emmons Property along Grove Road, while observing social distancing. It also will schedule an online meeting with Steve Werts, and chairpersons of Storm Water Management Committee, Woods Committee, and Lake Committee to address erosion and tree fall between Washington Grove Lane and Maple Lake. The Committee plans to present a plan to the Town Council on April 13.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – Rob Gilmore
Nothing to report.
STORMWATER MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE – Rob Gilmore
The Stormwater Management Committee held a meeting on Tuesday, March 10. The Committee reviewed the Council decision to withdraw the RFP for the West Woods Watershed Study and discussed ways to reduce the scope to fit the anticipated budget for the coming year. It also arranged to have Steve Werts conduct a walk-through with the Committee to review and document the damage in the West Woods in preparation for an electronic meeting with Montgomery County Watershed Planners and the City of Gaithersburg. Since then the Committee has been discussing with the Woods Committee a possible joint project to remove some of the deadfall between Washington Grove Lane and the lake that is contributing to the erosion problem.
The Committee’s next meeting will focus on preparation for the electronic meeting with the County, restructuring a reduced scope RFP for the West Woods study, and on identifying and coordinating smaller projects that can be undertaken by the town in the near term.
WEBSITE – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
RECREATION – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
COMMUNICATIONS WORK GROUP – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY COMMITTEE – Pat Klein
The Committee conducted a virtual meeting via Zoom on March 27, 2020 to discuss the following topics. The EPSC reviewed the Town government COVID-19 response actions to date, with a focus on communications and the Town website. The recent use of Grove Alert email messages was discussed. EPSC members noted that Grove Alerts provided changes to Town operations and links to online meetings, but some residents reported they did not receive these Alerts which were distributed only from the Town Office. This is an inefficient process. The Alerts were not posted on the Town website and some vital information links were hidden within “Latest News”.
EPSC recommends that the Grove Alert process should be able to be sent from several locations by several authorized senders using Grove Alert email addresses stored on thumb drives; the Town website should have a homepage banner enabling one-click access to COVID 19 webpage containing vital links (County/State government, WHO, CDC); Communications Committee should follow up to upgrade communications for residents to receive emergency alerts, notifications, and updates via email and/or text messages.
The EPSC appreciated the recent activities by the Washington Grove Cares volunteers who can provide vital services in time of need and provide social contact for those confined to their homes. The EPSC also noted that Maryland has started a free, opt-in, telephonic service to check daily on Maryland’s older residents — details available on www.aging.maryland.gov website by clicking on “Maryland Senior Call Check Program.”
The EPSC suggested follow-up interaction with the Mayor to ensure safe handling of mail and other materials in the Town Office using gloves, masks, wipes, hand sanitizer; reminders of social distancing and other safety reminders in the Town Bulletin and on the Town website; informing residents of the Maryland Senior Call Check Program; and updated review of Everbridge communications service features and cost.
The next virtual meeting via Zoom will be on April 23, 2020.
MAPLE LAKE – Pat Klein
The Lake Committee cancelled its March 19, 2020 meeting while the Town government was transitioning to virtual meeting platforms as part of safety responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following notes reflect planned Committee activities in the coming month being mindful of social distancing and stay-at-home directives by county and state government authorities.
The annual Spring cleanup of the Lake and West woods was being planned for Saturday, April 25th as a joint project with the Woods Committee. NOTE: More recent decisions have modified these plans to allow for volunteers to work on a list of individual clean-up activities.
A pair of Canada geese were seen building a nest on the island. We will use the Humane Society’s protocol again to humanely prevent eggs from hatching this spring.
Lifeguards are needed for Maple Lake this Summer. A couple of applications were received but a few more are needed. Jessica Kramer will be the swim instructor. Lainey will help organize.
Repairs made included fixing holes in fence around lake and repairing broken boards on the bridge. The video surveillance cameras will be installed before the Lake opens on Memorial Day (5/23), and the diving board will be installed on June 15. Some initial concerns raised about whether the Lake opening may be delayed depending on the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The Lake Committee chair will meet with MCPD about random patrols 2-3X weekly in late May and early June.
The next Lake Committee meeting will be held online via Zoom on April 16, 2020.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
2020 F&B meeting took place March 11th.
The business of the evening was the re-election of Georgette Cole as Chairperson and the re-election of Cynthia Werts as Recording Secretary.
The main subject – plans for Spring tree planting sites and selection of possible tree candidates. The subject of R&B guideline was reviewed and received a unanimous vote.
The final plan was sent to the Town Council for acceptance.
Jay Everhart volunteered to write an article for the April Town Bulletin.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Removed toilets from the Ladies and Men’s bathrooms in Woodward Park, and replaced the toilets with new 1.8gal low flow water conservation toilets. Stripped/cleaned the floors and walls in both bathrooms. Painted bathroom walls, floors and walk-in area.
Dug a ditch from private property to Maple Road to divert the flow of ground water from flooding Acorn Library. Grass sod was then placed in ditch to slow down water flow entering the culvert under Maple Road.
Cut grass, removed leaves and branches from Town roads, avenues, and tennis courts. Trimmed branches hanging over Railroad Street at the bridge.
Filled stump grinding holes with dirt and spread grass seed. Removed heaps of extra stump grindings and hauled over to the Maintenance shop for future use.
Continued working on the children’s playhouse fort, replacing the rotten wood supports.
Installed new wood chips around the playground equipment. Removed the debris from playground area and took to the dump.
The renovation of the Old Town Council room, kitchen, bathrooms, passage and stairway connecting The Town Hall, Old Council room and New Council room has been completed.
Replaced boards on the bridge at Maple Lake.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
Nothing to report.
PLAYGROUNDS – Audrey Maskery
Maintenance removed support beams from main climbing frame and replaced supports, bunny rabbit re-set in concrete to stabilize the equipment. Old wood chips removed from playground equipment and replaced with new wood chips.
Due to the current situation, we are unable to order the additional (chemical free) wood chips from our source in Virginia.