New council members debate future fate of Governors Hall

 

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas The new city commissioners were sworn in at the July 25 meeting, ready for four years of decision making. From left, City Manager Sandra Tripp-Jones, Robert Hanson, Dave Cannon, Donald Sydnor, La-Shon Foster, and Steven Rideout. Mayor Victoria Jackson Stanley was out of town for the meeting, and could not attend.

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas

CAMBRIDGE — The City Council has a new look. Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley was back in her old chair at the center. The new commissioners, La-Shon Foster, Dave Cannon, and Steve Rideout were getting comfortable in their new seats while Commissioners Donald Sydnor and Robert Hanson returned to their old seats. On the extreme left, City Manager Sandra Tripp Jones, and balancing on the right, City Attorney Robert Collison, completed the new working council. And work they did. A three-hour council session covered a lot of ground.

First up, the consent calendar. The council approved variances for some of Cambridge’s most colorful events: the Annual Ironman, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2 at Great Marsh Park; The Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race at Long Wharf on Sept. 24, and Family Movie Night at the Sailwinds Park Amphitheater on Sept. 23.

Charter revision, bringing the city charter up-to-date, is a council goal, and as a part of that, a resolution to amend the requirements of residency, qualifications, and tenure was introduced and discussed briefly. Also, the method of election is on the agenda. Commissioner La-Shon Foster requested time to research and study the change and the matter was deferred for three months to give the commissioners time to conclude how the charter will read on the matter of requirements.

A joint economic venture with Dorchester County and Hurlock was also on the agenda. The council authorized the sending of a letter to invite the county and Hurlock to join in the project of drawing up a list of properties available for development and cataloging their marketability. If it goes forward, the prospect of including two citizens from each jurisdiction on the project will be developed. The citizens would be persons with business and economic development expertise.

Oden Wheeler, public works director, spoke for the $1,800,000 grant application that would be used for turning Cannery Park into a place with many attractions for young and old alike. A previous ambition is cleaning up the stream, and additional money would provide for walking paths and a skate park for the town youngsters who came to the council seeking a facility.

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) seeks grants and tax relief for the site of the Phillips Canning Factory and asked for Council support. They are looking to convert the derelict property to a Food and Farming Exchange program.

The contract to remove asphalt to be replaced by topsoil has been awarded to Barkers Landing Excavation. That means the Gateway Project at US Rt. 50 and Maryland Avenue is moving ahead.

The most controversial subject on the agenda, Governors’ Hall and Sailwinds, left a palpable tension and hostility. The council appears to be wresting control from the present directors of the event and entertainment venue at Sailwinds. As construction starts, City Manager Tripp Jones reports that keeping the building operative will add $80,000 to $100,000 to the budget because the construction will have to work around it. The city wants Sailwinds to pay a share of it and they respond that they don’t have the money. A look into the finances and salaries brought questions on cleaning expenses and salaries in the operation of the nonprofit venue. The directors say they have gone without any salary at all when the income has been low. As for the cleaning fees being too high, they explained to me they hire two men at a salary just a little above the minimum. Bruce Reed, vice chairman of the Sailwinds Of Cambridge (SOC), seethed as he said “This is a witchhunt. It appears the entire City Council wants us out of Governors’ Hall. They have forgotten that we went without any pay on some years, that we work many hours, and we make so much less than others who head nonprofits in Cambridge.”

In executive session following the input from the SOC directors, the commissioners voted to set Sept. 30 as the end date for the SOC. That is in accord to the City Manager’s recommendation that they not keep the SOC in place. The city will send out a Request for Proposal for other parties to bid on running Sailwinds during the repair/construction phase and pay the extra cost. The SOC may also apply, they add.

The City Manager is on record recommending that presently the SOC not be approved. One of the prettiest waterfront sites in Cambridge is also one of its uglier controversies. Just sayin’.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.