Currently viewing the tag: "John Kinnaird"

Emmitsburg

 Mayor Don Briggs

As always, May brings a lot with it, both in the expected and the unexpected. None more touching, as expected, than the many graduations: pre-K to kindergarten, middle school, high school, and college. The passage of time, a child one day, a youth another, then on to an adult and out to the world that awaits. With each step comes the unexpected sinking feeling that they all happen so quickly. This year, we will see our fourth grandchild off to college.  

On May 1, youwill find me participating as a forum panel member at Hood’s (College) Green Neighborhood Festival. On May 7-8, to the same subject, I will be attending a second two-day State of Maryland-sponsored program on climate change. This program was supposed to have been held in February, but there was the homage that had to be paid to the weather. Here is a catchy phrase for you: “Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get.” The program consists of three, two-day sets. The third set will be held in June on a very interesting topical subject presented by the Association of Climate Change Officers. Our town concentration has been on reducing waste and lowering costs, one of mitigation and re-adaption. We have done so primarily through shifting over 94 percent of town account energy needs to renewable energy. On May 6, at the town’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the town council will deliberate on the Mayor’s 2020 budget.

May 21 is the wrap-up session at St. John’s College Annapolis — Santa Fe Classics program. This year’s topic was: “Tyranny and Democracy.” The readings were from Plato, Chaucer, Hamilton, Shakespeare, Shelley, Kafka, DeTocqueville, and Ursula LeGuin. It’s my fifth year attending. From Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville’s observations of the new American form of democracy in the 1830s, I was captured by one sentence in particular: “There exists a love of native country that has its source principally in the unreflective, disinterested, and indefinable sentiment that binds the heart of man to the place where man is born” (My translation).

In April, I attended the spring Mount Athletic Advisory Committee wrap-up meeting for the school year, where members reviewed data on the student athlete academic performance. Competition and winning are important for a Division I School. The Mount has to be commended on its commitment to academics. It’s a delicate emphasis that many institutions lose. Well done.

The town celebrated Arbor Day in Community Park, on Saturday, April 13.  Eight—not just any type, but native-adaptive—trees were planted along Willow Rill, where it crosses in front of the elementary school. Thank you to the town staff, Lion’s Club, the EBPA, and other individual volunteers.

The town was honored by the visit of a dozen University of Maryland grad students, who toured the town’s innovative water systems.

Once but a “unicorn,” our historic area 50-50 grant program genesis 2013, now has grown into over $880,000 of façade improvements in our downtown. Every year, we apply for grant money and our allotment seems to always be $50,000. Please contact our planning department if you have an interest.

Looking forward in the not too distant future for another spectacular Community Heritage Day on Saturday, June 29; a full slate of summer concerts; and, on August 6, National Night Out, sponsored by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department. From the official narrative, “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live and work. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement, while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.” The K-9 team, the SWAT team, and vehicles. Please plan to join us.

The town was recently awarded two grants. One, a $5,000 “Keep Maryland Beautiful” grant to be used for nine recycling bins for our parks, and another for $3,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to be applied to a storm water management project. Thank you to our planner, Zach Gulden.

I hope all had a wonderful Easter. 

Thurmont

 Mayor John Kinnaird

The Town of Thurmont recently appointed Harold Lawson to the position of Director of Public Works. Harold has been with the Town of Thurmont for 29 years and has served as Superintendent of the Water Department for the last 6 years. Harold is well acquainted with our infrastructure and will serve our residents well in this new position. I congratulate Harold on his appointment and look forward to working with him.

The months of April and May are always busy for our staff and the Board of Commissioners (BOC) as we craft the Town budget for the upcoming year. Our department heads have already submitted their preliminary budgets, and the BOC is in the process of reviewing the budget for each department. There are actually four budgets to be reviewed: the general fund budget covers streets, parks, police, Economic Development, Planning and Zoning, and office staff. The revenue for the General Fund Budget is received through property taxes, permit fees, tax equity refunds from Frederick County, and other user fees. The other three budgets being reviewed are for the Water, Electric and Wastewater Departments. These departments function as Enterprise Funds and are self-sustained by the fees paid for the services each provides our residents. Currently, the BOC has completed a first review of each budget and has recommended several changes in each. The next step will be the official introduction of the budget, at which time addition recommendations can be made by the BOC and public comment will be received during a public hearing on the final budget. Currently, the budgets all show a positive balance of revenue over expenditures. As of today, April 24, 2019, we have based the General Fund budget on the Constant Yield Tax Rate. This rate is calculated to generate the same amount of Property Tax revenue we received during the current (2018-2019) budget year. If we hold to the Constant Yield Tax Rate, our residents will actually pay a slightly lower Property Tax Rate this coming year. The Tax Rate for the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year was 30.41 cents per hundred dollars of assessed property value. If the BOC decides to use the Constant Yield Tax Rate, the Property Tax Rate for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year will drop to 29.92 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value. This change is due in part to increased property values and the construction of several new residences. Generally speaking, we try to use the Constant Yield Tax Rate as often as we can, but increases in costs for materials and labor will sometimes require an increase in the tax rate, as we experienced last year. I invite you to watch or attend the upcoming budget discussions and public hearing; you will be surprised by the amount of effort that is put into the Thurmont Budget process.

This summer, we will be hosting two Summer Concert in the Park events. The first will be on June 9 and will feature the Spires Brass Band; the second will be on August 25 with our own Gateway Brass Ensemble. The concerts are held at Memorial Park and begin at 6:00 p.m. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and join us for this great small-town tradition!

As always, I can be reached at 301-606-9458 or by email at jkinnaird@thurmont.com. I hope everyone has a great spring!

Emmitsburg

 Mayor Don Briggs

Alas, April. Closer to warmer weather is our earnest hope. Earlier sunrises and later sunsets surely spurs the imagination. But to keep one grounded, and still encouraged, comes the timeless reminder, “March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.” Then the tempering reality in the warning given to Caesar, “Beware of the Ides of March.”

As I write this, we’ve just passed the Ides of March with no ill effects other than the loss of an hour of sleep and waking up in darkness again for Daylight Savings Time.

That’s not all—how about Lent? Late start this year. Ash Wednesday fell on March 6. A shove, a prod, a nudge…whatever draws my attention that it is time for some moral calculus. Can I give something up that I really like and/or do something for others who are in need? Dauntless, I signed on. Took the ashes to the forehead with a hope that I can do a combination of both. We’ll see how well I did when Lent ends on April 18.

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, fell this year on Sunday. Guardedly, with some trepidation, I welcomed the fete with a tip of my hat to my Irish heritage, knowing full well the celebration brings with it flauntingly many offers of contraband to my Lenten season. At about the same time, I received the book, Lincoln and the Irish by Niall O’Dowd from my daughter. It recounts the key role Archbishop John Hughes of New York played during the Civil War in swaying the strong Democrat Irish support over to the Union cause under Republican President Abraham Lincoln. As if the Civil War did not pose enough trouble, there was still the simmering undertow of the Nativist anti-immigrant feelings in the North. John Hughes, once an impoverished Irish immigrant to our area, worked as a gardener/stone mason at the Mount. After some time, he applied for admission to the Mount and was initially turned down by the Rector Father John Dubois. It was only after the intervention of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton that he was admitted to the school and went on to graduate from the seminary.

On one snow delay day, I joined others from the community at Mother Seton School to be readers as a part of the celebration of National Education Association (NEA) “Read Across America Week.” I read to Mrs. Marr’s third grade class, where sat my beautiful granddaughter amidst other beautiful children. This year, I read a Dr. Seuss book featuring none other than the Cat in the Hat to take us step by step through what it means to live in a free country, and the responsibilities that are granted to, borne by, and gifted to us. Most importantly, to register and vote. It is always an honor and a grace to read with them. It’s the innocence in their eyes that “sticks the landing.” What a future we must build for them. A new pool, dog park, exercise trail, mountain multi-user trail are not enough. We have to lead by example and follow Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat lead to instill in them and preserve for them their freedom. They’re excited about living. Let’s make it so, to the best of our ability, a happening for them. I have always said that my grandchildren and their generation are a major part of my constituency.

We have a beautiful town. One that was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1992. I reference that because we want to protect its nuances, character, and even its quirky inconveniences. New technological changes in lighting capabilities and presentation methods bring almost assuredly that a new type of signage could threaten the historic ambience of our town. To this issue of public concern, the town is revisiting its sign ordinance. We want to get in front of it. Our sign ordinance has not been reviewed in over twenty years. I am familiar on several instances in the past that it seemed the interpretations of a signage request was handled by the town in a darn near arbitrary way. All signs, billboards, and small ones, the criteria is being revisited. I know there is a lot to be said for, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but it may well be broke. Nationally, things are changing. From the strong encouragement of the Maryland Municipal League (MML)—to which the town is a member, along with 156 other municipalities and two special taxing districts—has recommended that every municipality, big or small, revisit their sign ordinances. The American Planner’s Association (APA), of which MML and the town are members, has a tested model for municipalities that choose to protect its streetscape. The basic format is the one recommended by the MML. These ordinances are organic, living rules that need to be reviewed and updated periodically. Public meetings are scheduled. Please call the town office at 301-600-6300 or go to our town social media resources.

Spring, in case you haven’t heard, we’re pulling for ya!

Thurmont

 Mayor John Kinnaird

Spring has finally arrived, and with it, we will see warmer weather, and the coming months will be filled with lots of outdoor activities and events. As the weather improves, we will start seeing lots of kids out and about, heading to sporting events, playing, and visiting friends’ houses. Please keep an eye open for our youngest residents, as they may not always be aware of their surroundings. I have noticed that Little League has been holding practice as well as soccer, lacrosse, and other outdoor sports. I recommend that if you want to see some dedicated kids playing sports and having a great time, just visit any of our playing fields and see what is going on. The kids will appreciate that you have taken the time to watch them play.

 There are some exciting events coming up in Thurmont during the month of April, including the 2nd Annual Thurmont Green Fest and the Annual Thurmont Business Showcase. The Greenfest will be held at the Thurmont Regional Library on Saturday, April 13, from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. There will be nature crafts, games, stories, a rain barrel raffle, composting information, planting instructions for trees and plants, and an electronics recycling drop-off. With the exception of CRT tubes in televisions or monitors, all electronics can be dropped off to be recycled. This event is for kids and adults, so be sure to bring the little ones along for a fun day of learning how we can all improve our environment. The Thurmont Business Showcase will be held at the Thurmont Event Complex on Saturday, April 27, from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. This is a great opportunity to find out what kinds of products and services local business and non-profits offer our community. There is always something new to see at the Thurmont Business Expo. Admission is free, and the Showcase is at the Thurmont Ambulance Event Complex, located at 13716 Stratford Drive in Thurmont. You are also invited to enjoy A Taste of Thurmont Restaurant Week, from April 5 through April 13. Visit any of the participating restaurants to enjoy special meals or discounts. Participating restaurants will be revealing their Taste of Thurmont Specials in the coming week.

The Board of Commissioners was recently presented with a plan of action to extend the Thurmont Trolley Trail, north from East Main Steet to Eyler Road Park. This extension of the extremely popular Trolley Trail will open the north end of Thurmont to a safe and well-maintained trail system for the use of walkers and bicyclists. The trail will connect not only to the existing Trolley Trail but also to the Gateway Trail we establish through a partnership with the Catoctin Mountain Park. This extension will also provide access to a planned bike trail between Thurmont and Emmitsburg. The final route of the north extension to the Thurmont Trolley Trail is still in the planning stages;  volunteers are welcome to contact the H&F Trolley Trail Association on its website if you would like to join the association or help with this community project.

I hope the nice weather gets us all outdoors for some much-needed sun and fun! As always, please contact me at 301-606-9458 (8:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.) or via email at jkinnaird@thurmont.com with any comments, complaints, or compliments.

Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs

Teased, better yet, taunted by a 65-degree day, not once, but twice, had me calling out, “Hey, show me some robins!” Alas, none were to be seen, but there were voices, then sightings of returning redwing blackbirds—no wing coloring yet—to join the seasonal regulars: cardinals, titmice, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, mourning doves, and wrens, especially those who winter their nights under the eaves of our porch. Also, the visiting of jays and cameos (unfortunately, not on demand) from area attracted woodpeckers—the downy, hairy and red-bellied. All attracted by Mrs. Lib’s feeding stations here and wherever we have lived. Missed dearly from our farm days are red-headed woodpeckers, sapsuckers, and common flickers. We are anxiously awaiting our summer visitors, the catbirds and mockingbirds drawn to an old mulberry tree and Mrs. Lib’s sliced grapes.

We really miss Zurgables for the convenient purchase of birdseed for Mrs. Lib’s backyard guests, but it was time for Mark to step back. Thank you for your service to our community, and we tip our hats to you. We are still helping keep Jubilee going with ample shelled peanut purchases for the squirrels and jays.

President’s Day marked our annual mid-late national observance to our Aquarian February. So, a good time to add a tribute to the day to the many. This one is from the author of War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, who wrote some forty-five years after the assassination of Lincoln, “The greatness of Napoleon, Caesar, or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln.”

At our last town meeting, our planner, Zach Gulden, introduced an update to our sign ordinance, the first of three planned consecutive presentations. The update is recommended, “Due to modern technological advances and recent Federal Supreme Court cases. The proposed amendment seeks to meet the needs of businesses and other organizations while protecting and enhancing the visual quality and traditional design concepts of Emmitsburg.” The business audience was engaging.

Mr. Gulden also presented the “MS4” town compliance update. MS4 is the handle for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. “The town is identified as an urbanized area and is mandated by the Environment Protection Agency and State of Maryland Department of the Environment to hold a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Our current permit is valid from 2018-2023. This is an unfunded mandate, which means we must meet the permit requirements with no funding help from the state or federal governments. The town may be fined up to $100,000 per day if the permit requirements are not met. The most costly requirement of the NPDES permit is treating at least 20 percent of the town’s impervious surface stormwater runoff every five years. The following are acceptable restoration strategies for receiving impervious area restoration credit: new stormwater ponds, existing stormwater pond retrofits (such as converting a dry pond to a wetland or providing additional water storage), restoring failed stormwater ponds, street sweeping, buffer planting, reforestation, stream restoration, inlet cleaning, shoreline stabilization, and others. Town staff is researching stream restoration projects and grant funding opportunities to meet this term’s permit needs. Staff projects the NPDES permit could cost the Town at least $500,000 every five years. That is certainly imposing as yet another mandate.

To our benefit, as I mentioned last month, is our timber asset and the town will be submitting requests for grant assistance.

New business development: (1) preliminary plans have been received for a Rutters gas and convenience store on part of the 200+ acres undeveloped within town limits on the east side of US 15. Yes, a Rutters may return to town, but this time on a much larger scale. This initial development will bring water and sewer to that area that could open the area to more commercial development. Additionally, there are preliminary plans for a retail commercial building on Silo Hill Parkway next to the car wash. Also the town-owned property on South Seton Avenue is being changed from residential to commercial (as allowed) and now being offered for rent.

We are not losing our mind, prices are rising. From an article in the Saturday, February 16, 2019, Wall Street Journal, “The Price of a Clean House” confirms our suspicions. The article tracked prices of several top-selling brands for everyday use household goods for the January 2018-January 2019 period. Manufacturers cited increased costs of production and delivery. By the way, more cost increases are expected to come this year… Kleenex 160-count tissues rectangular box, price bump 8.4 percent. Bounty Size-a-Super Roll 6 pack, price bump 19.4 percent. Huggies 112-count, size 4, disposable diapers up 1.9 percent. Glad Force Flex 13-gallon kitchen bags, 140 count, price bump 4.5 percent.

Ambivalent in its cadence, is the tempered assurance that spring will “stick the landing” once again. Unpredictable as to specifically when and how, there is always the predictability that it will be. The seasons do come with a wonderful rhythm. Let’s take care of it.

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird

Recent snowfall has dashed any hopes of an early spring, but it is coming. In the meantime, a few thoughts when it snows: If you can get your car off the road, please do so, it helps our snowplows; Don’t shovel driveway aprons until our snow plows go past; Do be careful when driving close to snow plows; Keep an eye on your elderly neighbors when it gets really cold or we get snow and ice; Be sure your kids are dressed appropriately for the cold or snow; Make sure your pets are indoors during extreme cold or make sure they have ample shelter with fresh water and food. Snow can be fun, but it can also be very hazardous. Please remember to call 911 for all medical, fire, or rescue emergencies. Thurmont residents should call 301-271-7313 to report any water, electric, or sewer emergencies. Use the same number after hours and follow the instructions for reporting an emergency.

The next months will bring some great local events to Thurmont, courtesy of Thurmont Main Street. Get a head start on your own wellbeing at the 2nd Annual Zumbathon, being held on Sunday, April 7, at the Thurmont American Legion, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Proceeds from this event will help support Thurmont’s Gateway to the Cure 2019. On Saturday, April 27, be sure to attend the Thurmont Business Showcase, from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., at the Thurmont Event Complex. This well-attended annual event features many local businesses and nonprofits and gives you the chance to discover local businesses, services, and products of which you may not have been aware. Bring your family and friends to the Thurmont Event Complex at 13716 Strafford Drive for this wonderful event. If you are looking for some outdoor fun, head out to the 1st Annual Gateway to the Cure Golf Tournament, being held at Maple Run Golf Course on June 21. Keep an eye open for further details on this local golfing event at Thurmont’s own Maple Run Golf Course.

There are lots of projects planned for the Thurmont area this coming year, from a third pavilion at the community park, new lighting in the trolley trail, to new wayfaring signs around town. Cunningham Falls State Park is in the process of making some great improvements to the facilities at the lake and at the Manor area. New restrooms, picnic facilities, beach improvements, enhanced entrance facilities, a new outdoor center, and several other projects are in the works. These improvements may have an impact on park accessibility during the summer, and officials ask for your understanding—the improvements will be worth the inconvenience!

I hope everyone has a wonderful March, and we are all looking forward to warmer spring weather when we can get back outside to enjoy all Thurmont has to offer!

As always, please call me at 301-606-9458 or email me at jkinnaird@thurmont.com with any questions, comments or suggestions. You can also follow my Facebook page for updates on local issues or upcoming events.

Emmitsburg

 Mayor Don Briggs

Like everyone, the town started the New Year at full pace. Here are a few things the town is working on.

This spring, through grant assistance, the town will be adding wayside exhibits to our historic district streetscape, describing the role of the Square, the Doughboy, and the Emmit House history of the town. The exhibits are intended to complement the ones situated in front of the post office, which describe the encampment of the Union forces in the town before embarking to Gettysburg in those first days of July in 1863. But, complement in an enhanced manner. The new 24 x 36-inch exhibits will not only contain narrative accounts but also supporting photography and other depictions.

Moving forward, the town is applying for grants for exhibits featuring the Vigilant Hose Company on West Main Street, the Great Emmitsburg Fire on East Main Street, the Chronicle Press – Schoolhouse, and the Carriage House Inn on South Seton Avenue. As an administrative goal, and much dreamed and talked about by many, Emmitsburg will have points of interest identified for a visitor’s walking tour in the near future.

Finally, the four electric vehicle (EV), level two, recharge stations have been installed. At times, it has been a cumbersome journey for the town staff to coordinate work under grant guidelines with the contractor, the power company, and the county. The stations are wired for future level three service and should be operational by the end of February.

Emmitsburg encompasses more than the quaint community, set between and along Toms Creek and Flat Run Creek. It includes over 900 acres of forest land situated, generally, on the north and west faces of College Mountain that are outside of town limits. To be more exact, according to Michael Kay of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the town has 947 acres of forest, 23 acres of fields, and 17 acres of reservoir “up there.” Some of its mountain holdings, 400-450 acres and another 130-140 acres along Scott Road, were given to the town around the year 2000 through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Conservation Fund, of which I served as a facilitator. Some twelve years later, after I was elected in 2013, I directed the staff to order a forestry report. The report, once in hand, not only described the holdings but also set out recommendations to protect its health. Deer feeding, invasive plants, gypsy moth defoliation, “oak decline,” and emerald ash borers over time have damaged the healthy regeneration of our forest. The report calls for timbering as a necessary step. Mr. Kay’s recommended action was presented to and approved by the town council during the January meeting. There are various intensities of cutting timber. As recommended, only select-cutting, as opposed to clear cutting, will be permitted. Of the 18 tracts identified in the report, a 60-acre tract near Rainbow Lake will be select-cut later this year. The plan is to timber one or two tracts annually, thereafter.

While bracing for our share of snow, ice, and/or rain, my thoughts are towards an early spring.

Thurmont

 Mayor John Kinnaird

On January 31, 2019, the residents of Thurmont lost to retirement one of the hardest working and dedicated employees they have ever known. On that day, Butch West retired from his job with the Town of Thurmont after forty-one years. In those years, Butch held many positions and worked his way up through the ranks to serve as superintendent of Public Works.

I have known Butch for many years, but it wasn’t until I was first elected that I realized how much he was intertwined in the day-to-day operations of our town. Butch has taught me a lot about the inner workings of Thurmont, our streets, parks, and electric system. On any given day, Butch literally seems to be everywhere at the same time. He spends most days going from one project or problem to another, supervising, providing advice, or getting his hands dirty working alongside our crews. He has never shied away from digging right in and helping get things done. I learned early on that if I asked Butch to do something next week, he was already thinking about how to get it done before I was finished telling him what I wanted, and he usually had it finished that day or the next. He made sure things were completed well in advance of when you expected them to be done. Butch began each day by driving around Thurmont and checking on everything from street lights to trash pickup. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the vast majority of our town’s infrastructure and could pinpoint issues and devise solutions on the fly.

For many years, Butch seemed to forgo vacation time or scheduled days off; only recently, has he started taking the days off he was entitled to. This was a problem for me because I was used to calling him any day of week and he would be right there. I was quite surprised the first time I called him and he said he had the day off. Needless to say, after January 31, I will not have to worry about whether he is at work or off enjoying his free time.

The town employees have a picnic every year, and the commissioners and I have the opportunity to say a few words to the staff. I usually tell them that one of their main jobs is to make the commissioners and I look good, and Butch always laughs about this. As an elected official, I am basically a part-timer, whereas Butch and all of our staff are on the job full-time. It is through the hard work of employees like Butch that our town is the great place that we all love and enjoy.

It is hard to believe, but Butch has been here through ten mayoral elections, and during those terms, he has served our residents and elected officials with courtesy and a level of dedication that is above what anyone could expect. The first time I saw Butch after being elected, he was standing in a ditch manning a shovel to help fix a water-line leak. Last week, I called Butch about meeting me to see about some concrete that had been dropped on one of our streets; by the time I got there, he already had most of it cleaned up on his own. Some things never change! I will miss seeing and speaking to Butch on a daily basis, but it is time for him to start enjoying his days with his lovely and understanding wife, his children, and his grandchildren. On behalf of our residents, I want to thank him for all he has done for us during his forty-one-year career with the Town of Thurmont. I also want to th

Emmitsburg

 Mayor Don Briggs

In our Community Christmas Stocking

Thank you to those who added the trees on the square, and then, decorated them. A spontaneous occurrence and a very nice added touch.

Thank you town staff for the decorations at the square and at the Community Center. Many compliments.

Thank you E&E Trees, Walkersville Tree Farm, Ken and Barbara Willets, for donating the beautiful town Christmas tree.

Thank you third grade class at Mother Seton School, and all the grades from elementary school, for decorating the town Christmas tree in front of the Community Center, adding to the trimming efforts of the town staff.

Thank you to all the volunteers of our churches, organizations, and businesses who participated in the various Emmitsburg events, starting with the traditional town Christmas tree lighting, on the first Monday in December, in front of the town office, Christ Community Church children’s chorus (My error on invitation to Mother Seton School. They will be singing next year.), Santa Claus arriving in a Vigilant Hose truck, the lighting of the tree, then following Santa on foot to the Carriage House Inn for the 30th Annual “An Evening of Christmas Spirit.” The weather was kind again to the many who attended.  

The state finished the square and sidewalks project, except for some loose brick work. Just can’t seem to get the state’s contractors out of here.

Things are moving along on the Flat Run Bridge project, with the concrete being poured for the new bridge lanes. If the weather cooperates, the complementary road work could be completed and we could have a lane switch by the New Year.

For the New Year

Lots of New Year’s resolutions to add to pushing away from the table with a little bit more fervor and with more, much more, resolve. Oh well…

Mount St. Mary’s University is moving ahead with plans to enter a venture with Frederick Memorial Hospital affiliate to build a medical facility on its campus. At the facility, primary and urgent care will be available for students, faculty, and community residents. The university will make a presentation on the proposed medical facility at the January 7, 2019, town meeting, at 7:30 p.m.

At the January 30 Green Team meeting, Hilari Varnadore, Director, LEED for Cities and Communities, U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will be the guest speaker. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The topic will be: Helping cities and communities use data to drive more sustainable, equitable investments. Hilari was formerly with Star Communities, which recently merged with the USGBC. Before that, she headed up the Frederick County Sustainability Office that assisted the Frederick County Sustainability Commission when I was chairman of the commission.   

With the New Year comes the sad reality that after seventy-four years of service to the community, Zurgables Hardware will be closed. All those convenient planned and emergency stops no more. According to Mark Zurgable, it was time. Mark has owned and operated the store for thirty-nine years. Thank you, Mark, for all the years of service to the community at your store.

To all, hoping you all had a wonderful Christmas and have a wonderful New Year. Emmitsburg, a great place to live.

Thurmont

  Mayor John Kinnaird

Mayor John Kinnaird was as busy as Santa Claus at the time of our deadline for this issue, and we think his column may have been eaten by a reindeer! He wishes everyone a Happy New Year!

Emmitsburg

Mayor Don Briggs

The new signs about the square, “Old Main Streets,” are part of the State of Maryland Tourism program. Its promotional anthem is: “Vibrant streets invite visitors to explore history, heritage, and architecture, while savoring the flavor of local shops, eateries, and lodging.” The signs accurately reflect the vibrancy enfolding in our downtown. The square is special again, not just something left to speed through. Embellished now with enhanced crosswalks, the Mount four-faced clock, flowers blooming, and the commemorative centerpiece to the fountain where it was once set. New businesses, possibly a new restaurant, and new homes are coming to our town. To the square sidewalk revitalization, “If you build it, they will come.” Our grant request from the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area for three interpretive signs for the old square fountain, Doughboy, and Emmit House was approved. The signs will be like those in other historic towns, on a stand that will contain a picture and a narrative for each landmark. Walk, walk, walk…the town is connected, so let’s get out of the cars and walk to the downtown and the parks.

Good to see landscaping going in around the square, and this fall will come the trees to complete the revitalization taking place up and down Main Street. Green soon will line our downtown. Our community parts of Pembrook Woods and Brookfield to the west are now connected by sidewalks, as are the homes along Route 140 west of the Doughboy. The approach coming into town from the west, looking up Main Street, now paralleled with sidewalks on both sides, is inviting.

The Farmers Market opened in June with thirteen vendors, fresh vegetables, and more. Stop by the farmers market on South Seton Avenue through September, Fridays, from 3:00–6:30 p.m.

Great initiative of the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association on a trash pick-up brigade. Much appreciated. Thank you to that lady who weeds, waters, and picks up trash around the square. She’s back at it for, what, the sixth year?

Great to have a pool. Great to have a new pool. In all, 437 swimmers used the pool on Community Heritage Day in the first month. Over 5,700 sun lover’s made trips to the pool, almost tripling the 2016 same period of use. Thank you to those who choose to make those anonymous gifts so that families can use the new pool this summer. Also, thank you to our town staff for all the hard, high-pressure work needed to make sure the pool was finished for the summer season. With a pool and a 14-mile multi-use trail, exercise trail, and dog park, very few towns offer the passive and active recreational choices of Emmitsburg.

Final Pool Party will be Friday, August 17, from 6:00–8:00 p.m. Cost is a $1.00 admission. The party will feature a DJ, free hot dogs, lemonade, and maybe McDonald’s hamburgers.

We had wonderful summer visits from the Frederick Rescue Mission summer campers. All forty-eight strong. The first visit started off in the Community Park pavilion with a magic show by our Michael Cantori, pizza from Stavros for lunch, and then up to the pool. On the second visit, there was a stop at the Carriage House for lunch and dining etiquette lessons, then up to the Frederick County Fire Rescue Museum and National Fire Heritage Center. One more visit is scheduled for an August swim.

The Town election is coming up at the end of September, with two, three-year term council member seats. The deadline to file is 4:00 p.m. on August 27.

Farewell to our planner Sue Cipperly. After a decade with the town, she is retiring. Her role as an umpire calling the balls and strikes for development expanded to grant writing and being a part of the Square-sidewalk project. Job, well done! Her attention to detail will be hard to replace.

Welcome to Zachary R. Gulden, our new town planner. Zach holds a B.S. and MPA degrees.

It’s summer. Enjoy. Be careful in your travels.

Thurmont

Mayor John Kinnaird

We have been having wild weather so far this year. Recently, two sets of thunderstorms managed to knock out some of our electric service. These outages can be very inconvenient, regardless of how quickly power is restored. When power goes out, you can call the town to report the outage by dialling 301-271-7313. After regular business hours, you will be instructed as to how to speak to an electric department employee. Please keep in mind that after power goes out many people are calling to report the outage, and, more than likely, our crew is aware of the situation. It can take some time for our crew to come in and get their trucks out, then it can take some time to identify the problem and repair the damages. I am happy to report that outages in Thurmont are repaired fairly quickly due to the size of our service area and our hardworking crew. We have also had several heavy rains recently that caused flooding of several streets. This flooding is something we have little control over, other than to close flooded roads to traffic. If you come upon a flooded road, especially one that has barricades, please do not attempt to drive through the water. Remember, when you encounter flooded roads: Turn around, don’t drown!

The summer brings with it long outdoor days, working or playing. When you are outdoors, please wear sunscreen and a hat. Be especially careful with children, and make sure they have sufficient sunscreen while outdoors playing or swimming. A childhood sunburn can lead to skin cancer later in life. When we were young, sun block was not as available as it is today, and many of us now suffer from skin cancers that were preventable. Do your kids a favor and make sure they are protected while outdoors;they will thank you for it later in life.

The Thurmont Main Street Farmers Market is held every Saturday morning, from 9:00 a.m.-noon. There is always a great selection of locally grown produce, fruit, locally raised Red Angus beef, local pork products, fresh cut flowers, delicious baked goods, jams, and many handcrafted goodies. Be sure to get there early for the best selection, and bring your friends!

This summer, there will be two carnivals in Thurmont, something we older residents remember from years ago. The Thurmont Community Ambulance Service will be hosting a carnival at its Events Complex, located on Strafford Drive in Thurmont. The carnival will be held from August 21 through August 25, and will feature live entertainment, nightly. Kids will enjoy all-you-can-ride fun for one low price each evening. There will be a nightly buffet, homemade food, games, and raffles. I hope to see you there.

As always, you can contact me with questions, concerns, or complements at 301-606-9458 or at jkinnaird@thurmont.com.

Emmitsburg

 Mayor Don Briggs

The New Year comes with traction. On January 3, the first day of business, we had a meeting with the executive director of the Frederick County Boys and Girls Club. We have been working with the club for some time. Things seem to be moving in the right direction for a youth program in Emmitsburg, possibly in the fall. On January 4, I attended the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Memorial Mass and reception at the basilica. The main celebrant was Archbishop William E. Lori of the Baltimore Diocese. The service was a solemn tribute and very well attended. On January 6, Lib and I were among the 245 people who attended the 134th Annual Vigilant Hose Company 6 Banquet, which also included Ambulance Company 26. The banquet was held at the facility on Creamery Road.

Inspirational is the best way to describe how the two companies joined together to better serve our community. The merger that began last July was completed officially on January 1.  From what I have heard, if and when other fire and ambulance companies should choose to merge, this is the county’s official template.

Congratulations to Leo “Mike” Boyle on receiving an award for his sixty-five years of service and support of the company. Well done. Also, congratulations to the company. The 2017 statistics are more than compelling. For the year, Vigilant Hose responded to 534 calls, on average (over 10 a week or almost 1.5 a day). EMS calls for both (including Station 26, up until July 1) totaled 1,139 calls for the year (almost 22 per week or over 3 per day). Since July 1, the dispatch arrival average time to “its first due area response area” (Emmitsburg) averaged 6.54 minutes.

On January 11, I attended the monthly County Executive – Mayor/Burgess meeting. The main topic of discussion was updating all those who attended on the status and priorities of the Maryland State Highway Administration for improvement to U.S. 15 and Interstate 270. The time table has been moved up on the construction of additional lanes south of Frederick to 2025 completion; there will be four lanes each direction, of which two, each way, will be toll. To everyone’s dismay, the widening of U.S. 15 through the City of Frederick has been pushed back to 2030. Upgrading of Biggs Ford Road at U.S. 15 interchange timetable is scheduled for 2040.

On January 13, Lib and I attended the Emmitsburg Lions Club Banquet, commemorating its 35th charter year. It was very well attended. Congratulations to Gene Rosensteel on receiving a special award for assisting in the Emmitsburg Lions Club formation.

Late Christmas present for Emmitsburg and a prize indeed for the community: A fire company-themed glass etching done by nationally renowned artist William Cochran is coming to the Frederick County Fire Rescue Museum. The three-panel, 15-foot x 8-foot, 120 square-foot etching is presently displayed at the Firehouse Financial Center on W. Church Street in Frederick, the old Independent Hose Company building. It was done in the mid-1980s to commemorate the Independent Hose Company that had moved to its present location on Baughman’s Lane.

This fall, the Mount will field a men’s soccer team, men’s and women’s golf teams, and women’s bowling team to take the university to twenty NCAA teams.

From last December: I forgot to mention that on December 18, Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill visited the Mount to learn more about the Mount’s newest majors: entrepreneurship and cybersecurity. I participated in the meeting with President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D., Chief of Staff Wayne Green, Christine Adamow, Director of the Palmieri Center for Entrepreneurship, Professors Nick Hutchings and Donald E. Butt, Jr., Jane Graves, DC, Board Chair of Seton Center, Inc., and Sr. Martha Beaudoin, DC, Director of Seton Center, Inc.

Like all, I am hoping for some warmer weather so the State can get back to work on the square. It would make a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift. Thank you to everyone for your patience for any inconvenience the square/sidewalk project has brought about, but when finished this spring, we will have something special.

Thurmont

Mayor John Kinnaird

The cold weather not only brings snow, sleet, and rain, but it also causes issues with our infrastructure! I am sure that everyone is aware of the electric and water issues we have had recently, many caused by the weather. The freezing weather can cause residential water lines to freeze and can be a prime factor of breaks in our water mains, both of which we have experienced recently. We have also suffered power outages caused by high winds, freezing precipitation, and circuits under strain, due to increased electric heating demand. When power goes out or water service is interrupted, we encourage residents to call our office at 301-271-7313 and report these issues. After hours, there are instructions for reaching staff during these emergencies. When the office is closed, please listen to the recorded information. The instructions will tell you to dial 1 for emergencies; you will then be instructed to dial option 1 for electric, option 2 for sewer, option 3 for water, and option 4 for streets and parks. When following these instructions, your call will be transferred to one of our staff. Please keep in mind that once an issue has been reported, the person answering the phone is most likely working on the problem and may not be able to respond to all calls. It is a safe bet that once several people have noticed an issue, town staff has been made aware of the situation. You are free to call, but if your call is not answered promptly, it is probably because the staff person is working to repair the problem. You can also check out the Town of Thurmont Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Town-of-Thurmont-390226201124250/) or my page (https://www.facebook.com/john.kinnaird.3) to see if anyone has reported an issue. It is important that our residents are informed of any infrastructure issues we may be experiencing, and we keep an eye on Facebook for reports of questions about issues and we attempt to provide updates as they are available.

Currently, the Town of Thurmont is making sewer line repairs to Rouzer Court, and will be working in the coming weeks on repairs and improvements at locations on Apples Church Road, Mantle Court, and Moser Road. Please be aware of these ongoing projects and be careful while driving where sewer line work is being completed.

This summer, we are planning to start work on waterlines on North Church Street, between Emmitsburg Road and Rt. 15. This project will see the replacement of water mains and the installation of new service lines. The work is expected to cause disruption to traffic, with narrowed or closed travel lanes. During this project, be sure to allow more time if you are passing through the work area or plan on taking alternate routes. There will be flagmen directing traffic and, as always, be sure to pay close attention to the directions they are giving traffic.

Finally, I want to thank our residents for your patience and understanding during the recent water and electric issues we have been addressing. Our staff is dedicated to restoring service as quickly as possible whenever there is an outage or loss of services.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at jkinnaird@thurmont.com, by calling me at 301-606-9458, or through my Facebook page.

Thurmont

Mayor John Kinnaird

The Town of Thurmont celebrated Arbor Day on April 22 by planting more trees in the Community Park.  This planting was undertaken by the Thurmont Green Team, as part of their ongoing efforts to ensure a clean environment for our current and future residents. The damages inflicted on our Ash trees by the emerald borer resulted in many of the mature trees having to be removed from the Community Park. The planting of new trees will, over time, replace the cooling canopy we enjoy in the park. The Green Team also sponsored a Hunting Creek Clean Up Day and managed to remove 690 pounds of trash from the steam and its banks. The Green Team also wants to remind everyone that garden spots are still available in the Community Garden. Many thanks to Thurmont’s Green Team for their hard work!

The Board of Commissioner (BOC) recently approved a bid for street improvements within town. The work includes blacktop overlays of East Street, Lombard Street, and Shipley Avenue. This work will be completed during the summer months; please be aware of these projects and, as with all of our street repairs, please be careful when driving through the construction areas.

The BOC is currently working on the 2017-2018 Budget. I am hopeful that we will use the Constant Yield Tax Rate for the upcoming year.  This means that we will be collecting the same amount of taxes as during the 2016-2017 fiscal year. With recent increases in property values, everyone should realize a very small decrease in property taxes. We hope to adopt the final budget in May.

In recent weeks, you may have noticed underground work being completed at the intersection of Rouzer Lane and Rt. 550. This work is part of the ongoing effort to ensure dependable electric service for Catoctin High School and the Catoctin Heights subdivision.  Currently, Catoctin Heights is at the end of a service line that starts on the Emmitsburg Road and crosses Rt. 15. The improvements will include new underground service lines, as well as a new loop connected to Sandy Spring Lane, to provide a backup circuit should there be a problem with the current feed line.

I was recently appointed to serve on the Frederick County Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC). SWAC is charged with reviewing the County Solid Waste Plan, and we have been following closely the What’s Next initiative, established by County Executive Gardner to investigate improved recycling options for our residents. The State of Maryland has mandated a recycling level of 90 percent for organic waste, including food waste and grass clippings, by the year 2040. This goal will require a massive undertaking within Frederick County to start a program of collection and composting to realize these levels of recycling. The current recommended plan calls for as many as 10-14 small composting facilities across the County and new methods of collection. Ultimately, all residences, businesses, schools, and other facilities will be included in this plan. I encourage all of our residents to pay attention as this plan moves forward and to get involved! For more information about What’s Next, visit www.frederickcountymd.gov/whatsnext.

Please take the time to enjoy the newly rebuilt Roddy Road Covered Bridge, as well as the improvements to Roddy Road Park and Loy’s Station Park!

I can be reached at 301-606-9458 or by email at jkinnaird@thurmont.com.

Emmitsburg

 Mayor Don Briggs

In April, I was given the opportunity to speak at three events.

On April 8, at the Doughboy statue, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the town commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the United States declaring war on Germany and entering World War I. Commissioner Blanchard and I spoke. Thank you, Commissioner Blanchard, for putting this event together.

In addition to a quote of General Douglas MacArthur, I referenced, in a humble tribute to the soldiers who fought in WWI: “There, for those soldiers, in the prime of their lives, it was a hope for a tomorrow and a prayer for their – now. For us, because of them and what they did and gave, we have a tomorrow of tomorrows and prayers for our now and those nows to come.”

Also on April 8, I joined the  more than two hundred people who attended the dedication of the sprinkler system at the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum National Fire Heritage Center on South Seton Avenue, sharing in awe of the live-burn demo, which used a “Side-by-Side Burn Trailer.”

“Welcome. They say every story has a protagonist, a leading character. The good person, the good people. In our town, there are many protagonists for the many stories that form our community story. And what a story it is, with a rich history that includes both an emphasis on education and spiritualty… Today, we gather for one such story to recognize the collaborative efforts of suppliers, installers, fire service personnel, and all levels of government, to bring about the installation of the sprinkler system in the Fire Museum and National Fire Heritage Center…But underlying this effort has been the quiet efforts of a group of amazing people, lifelong fireman, rooted here in Frederick County and from all over the country… To these founders, it is an honor and pleasure to know and work with you,” I said during my remarks.

On April 10, Libby and I dined with Korey Shorb and Conrad Weaver. Korey is doing great things for the county to educate and understand addiction through his “Up & Out” Foundation. Our Emmy-Award-winner Conrad is producing a documentary on drug addiction, with a focus on Frederick County. More to come on the town’s collaboration with these gentlemen.

On April 12, Libby and I, along with Commissioner Buckman, attended the presentation on addiction at Catoctin High School, sponsored principally by the Schildt family: “CHRIS for Family Support in Recovery.” It was a moving program that touched all the sensibilities of those in attendance, in the nearly packed-full auditorium. I am blessed to have coached young men, in either football or rugby, over a span of five decades, during which I attended funerals for five of my players. Recently, I have been blessed to be mayor of Emmitsburg for the past five years, and during this time, I have already attended five funerals for drug-related deaths.

It is written, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Our treasure is our families. In the face of this insidious onslaught, put away petty distractions, and, yes, everything is petty when it comes to our families, as well as our friends and community.

They say that our grandparents—and for some, great-grandparents—were the greatest generation in what they did during WWI. We need another greatest generation in this fight for our children. We can be the next greatest generation—we have to be the next greatest generation.

I am so blessed to live in Northern Frederick County.

Thurmont

Mayor John Kinnaird

The months of April and May are budget-crunching time here in Thurmont. Our department heads have submitted their department budgets and capital project requests, and our CFO has been busy organizing the requests and reviewing the recurring funding needs for the operation for the town. Beginning in April, the Board of Commissioners will be discussing our Draft FY2018 Budget, with the input of our staff and department heads. Budget workshops will be held on April 4, 11, and 18. The final budget will be introduced on May 2, with a public hearing on the tax rate and proposed budget on May 16. The tax rate and budget will be adopted on May 30. Residents are welcome to attend any or all of the budget workshops or hearings. Public comment will be welcome during the May 16 public hearing.

I am happy to announce that Frederick County is planning a dedication ceremony for the newly rebuilt Roddy Road Covered Bridge, and the vastly improved Roddy Road Park. The ceremony will be held at 3:00 p.m. on April 17 at the Roddy Road Park. I want to thank Frederick County for stepping up and repairing our covered bridge to its original appearance. There are three covered bridges in Frederick County, all of which are maintained by the Frederick County Department of Public Works. The County has demonstrated time and time again that they are interested in maintaining these historic structures so future generations can enjoy the living history embodied in these cherished bridges. There are new truck-height warning devices installed at both ends of the bridge to warn drivers of the height limitations. There is also a new truck turnaround being placed on the South side of the bridge for those drivers not deterred by the warning signs at the intersection of Apples Church and Eyler Road. The County is also installing new signage, intended to direct truck traffic back onto Rt. 15 to help keep trucks from getting to the covered bridge.  The improvements to Roddy Road Park will bring a new appreciation to the bridge and Owens Creek. There is a new parking lot with playground, picnic facilities, and even a new restroom! Roddy Road has been moved away from Owens Creek, so visitors can walk along the creek and enjoy the view of the covered bridge without worrying about dodging traffic. I look forward to the dedication ceremony and to visiting the bridge and park for many years to come.

The nice weather will mean that our children will be spending more time outdoors in the coming weeks. Be sure to watch out for children, and remember that they may not be watching out for you. I am sure everyone remembers what it was like when we were kids and the weather improved enough that we could get out on our bikes, play ball, ride skateboards and scooters, and walk to our friend’s houses! We were not always aware of our surroundings and would occasionally cross the street without looking both ways. Please be aware of our speed limits and watch out for pedestrians in the many crosswalks in Thurmont.

As always, I welcome your phone calls, emails, and text messages! I can be reached at 301-606-9458 or jkinnaird@thurmont.com, and on my Facebook page. Enjoy the nice weather before it gets too hot!

Emmitsburg

 Mayor Don Briggs

Warm weather, blooming flowers…and then eight-plus inches of “Robin’s snow.” No alarm, instead it was a quiet respite, a beautiful settled gesture to coax a slowdown to enjoy.

On the way to the town office last week, there, at the far edge of the parking lot, was a man and woman with two goats on lead lines and a group of children. The man, as it turns out, was a dear friend, Sam Castleman of Thorpewood, and the lady was his associate, giving Head Start program children the opportunity to learn, hands-on, and to lead the goats on the grassy school grounds behind the town office. Several years ago, Sam and I were two of the three founders of the Catoctin Land Trust (CLT), a conservation group, formed to preserve land in the Catoctin Mountain area. Through CLT efforts, a green belt of over 1,300 acres surrounding Emmitsburg has been preserved.

Spring weather or not, on Saturday, April 8, at noon at the Doughboy, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and town, will conduct a service to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the United States declaring war on Germany and entering World War I. (The actual date is April 6, but the commemoration will be held on Saturday, April 8.) Please join us.

Also, on Saturday, April 8, at 11:00 a.m., the sprinkler system at the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum National Fire Heritage Center on South Seton Avenue will be dedicated. This is a celebration of the two-year private and public collaborative effort. An effort of donated sprinkler industry materials and equipment and local installers labor working with town, county, state, and national elected officials and administrators. The National Fire Sprinkler Association intends to conduct a live-burn demo, using one of their “Side-by-Side Burn Trailers.” The unit then will go on directly to New Jersey for statewide public education use there. An identical unit will shortly be donated to the Maryland State Firemen’s Association for use across Maryland. That time is of the essence is never truer then when there is a home or building fire. Sprinkler systems can provide that time that saves lives. Vigilant Hose Company Chief Chad Umbel has approved fire company apparatus and personnel being on-hand in support of the live-burn demo.

Please note that even though the pool will be closed this summer for a major makeover, the town will still be hosting the Mayor’s pool parties. The venue will be the Community Park pavilion. Please join Lib and me for free hot dogs and lemonade, a DJ, and more! The dates for the pool parties are as follows: Friday, June 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Friday, July 21, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; and Friday, August 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

All this will be going on while the $3.5 million State-Highway-Administration-funded downtown streetscape–square revitalization and sidewalk project should be underway. At the March town meeting, the State Highway Administration (SHA) staff made a presentation and took questions from a resident-packed room. The project is scheduled to start the first week of April, with work beginning at the entrance to the Brookfield subdivision.

Renewable energy is provided using the natural sources the sun, wind, or hydrology. The town is committed to the renewal source of solar energy, now and in the future. Through this commitment, the town is doing its part not to compete with town residents for energy and driving up their energy bills. The town has twenty electric accounts. Currently, our solar production is outperforming our professional-supported expectations. By agreement, the excess is repurchased by our provider at wholesale costs, so there is a gap from our retail purchase. The gap is in the neighborhood of $1,300 a month. We have new accounts to bring on that should level this out, but we are currently not permitted to do so until after December of this year. Our goal is to provide the energy needed for the excess capacity of the state-mandated new wastewater treatment plant. Alas, growing pains.

Lent, in the past, seemed to always be attached to some form of mortification in giving something up. Today not so much; more so, it is the time to do things for those in need. In some ways, it seems to becoming the season of giving. The residents, the town, Lions, EBPA, churches, Knights, and Masons, are all contributing to the richness of the Lent and Easter season. Happy Easter.

John Kinnaird has called Thurmont home since he was seven years old. He loves it and couldn’t imagine calling anywhere else home. Still, he occasionally feels the pull toward the land of his birth. He recently had a chance to visit Scotland once again with his wife and two of his grandchildren.

His last visit to Scotland was three years ago. He was able to take his mother back to visit relatives in Aberdeen one last time.

“When she died, I realized that I had aunts in their nineties, and I thought I had better go back and see them before they are gone,” said Kinnaird.

He also decided to take along his granddaughters, Megan and Madison. They were about the same age his own daughters had been years ago when he took them on a trip to Scotland. “They are old enough to be able to appreciate what they were seeing.”

The two-week trip saw them visiting Aberdeen, where Kinnaird had been born, including the house where he was born. They visited other towns, boated on a river, toured castles, and kept an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster. They saw rolling hills and cliffs that fell away into the North Sea.

The number of his family members has never been large, and he only has two aunts and a cousin who still live in Aberdeen.

One place that Kinnaird got to visit that he always wanted to see was Beamish. It is called an open-air, living museum because the town is set in different periods of the region’s history to show its growth and industrialization.

At Loch Ness, Kinnaird got his granddaughters excited when he told them he was going to show them where their mother had seen the Loch Ness Monster. They were let down when he only showed them an old replica of Nessie floating in a lake.

All in all, they traveled 1,800 miles during the trip, trying to squeeze in as many sights and memories as they could.

This was Kinnaird’s fourth trip back to Scotland, and he doesn’t plan on it being his last.

img_0662

Urquhart Castle sits beside Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland.

img_1142

While visiting Aberdeen, Scotland, John Kinnaird and his wife, Karen, stand in front of the house where John was born.

Deb Spalding

The History of Orchards in Thurmont with Elmer “Lee” Black

Interview date September 14, 2015:

Lee and his wife, Frances, came up to Thurmont from North Carolina to make his funeral arrangements. He had purchased grave sites at Eyler’s Valley Chapel years before. He seemed excited that this would be a beautiful place to be put to rest. Lee’s grandson is a mortician in Westminster. Lee said he sat down with him and went over the whole process and costs. He said, “It’s all planned out. I want a natural stone out of the mountain. I found one where I used to live. John Kinnaird will engrave it.”

Elmer “Lee” Black, 92, passed away on November 9, 2015, in Burlington, North Carolina, following a brief illness.

Elmer “Lee” Black was born January 31, 1923, near Thurmont. He was the son of the late Willis G. and Maude Baker Black. He had a brother, Harry, and a sister, Betty. Due to the untimely death of their father when Harry was 16, Lee was 14, and Betty was 12, they all learned to work hard to help their mother during the 1930s when times were tough.

Many days were spent picking green beans at the Zentz Farm (now Rodman and Bobby Myers farm). Lee and Harry built a small chicken coop to raise and sell chickens and eggs. They took care of several bee hives to get honey for themselves and sold or bartered it. They cut, split, and sold cords of wood during the winter months for some income.

The boys would trap and skin small wildlife to get money for the pelts. When trapping skunks, you had to keep the skunk’s feet off the ground or it could spray. Lee remembered one time, when he was getting a skunk out of a trap, he held it by its tail while working the trap, but accidently got its back feet back on the ground and, got sprayed!  When he got home his mother had to scrub him down in vinegar and tomato juice to get the smell off of him!

When Lee was a kid in the 1920s and 1930s, there were two places to get fruit around Thurmont. The first was a big orchard owned by Hooker Lewis on the hill behind where Cozy stood and before the highway went through. That land is now developed. About the same time, Johnny Kelbaugh had an orchard where Gateway Candyland is now. Harry Zentz was known for making cider at the time. Lee said that before he was born, most farmers and homesteaders had a small orchard of their own.

After graduating from Thurmont High School in 1940, Lee enlisted in the Army Air Corps. While serving with Headquarters Squadron 21st Air Service Group, he served as a photographer. During WWII, he was sent to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, and was stationed in Australia and then New Guinea. He took thousands of photographs from the ground and air for Public Relations and History Reports in locations from New Guinea to Tokyo.

Discharged in 1945 after earning the rank of Staff Sargent, Lee then started a photography business in Thurmont and Emmitsburg.

Lee met his wife Frances, at the Monterey Tea House on New Year’s Eve. She was born and raised in Baltimore City. She said, “My prudish and strict mother left me with my promiscuous aunt and she took me along to a drinking place.” Frances was 16 at the time, Lee was 10 years her senior. Within three months, they were engaged and married. The year was 1949.

With a chuckle and glance at his wife, Lee said, “We’ve been together ‘off and on’ for 67 years.” This comment earned him a thump on the shoulder from his ‘Fannie’. Still smiling, he added, “I’ve had interesting things happen to me.”

Wanting to spend more time outdoors, Lee and Frances bought Hooker Lewis’ Strawberry Field in 1950 and started Blacks Hilltop Orchard. Hooker Lewis had several little orchards around Thurmont. Lee said, “During World War II and right after – nearly everyone who had an apple tree could make money from it. But after the war, you had to be good at making an orchard to stay in business.”

Lewis’ Orchard, Pryor’s Orchard, and the original Kelbaugh Orchard were the main orchards in the area. Over the years, different people bought parts of Kelbaugh’s Orchard. Russel Flanagan, who had been a mason, quit and went into the orchard business. Right after the war, Hooker Lewis’ son-in-law opened an orchard that is now Pryor’s Orchard. Galen Pryor of today’s Pryor’s Orchard is a great-grandson.

Lee enjoyed the independence of owning an orchard. All of his and Frances’ six children – two girls and four boys – worked the orchard by picking and thinning fruit.

Ira Kelbaugh, son of Kelbaugh Orchard’s originator, Johnny Kelbaugh, originally planted the orchard along Kelbaugh Road. Lee’s brother, Harry, worked for Ira during the war. When Ira semi-retired, he told Harry he would sell him the orchard. For years, Harry took care of the orchard for half the profit and eventually bought it.

This purchase included the road-side market that was very small at the time. Lee said, “When Kelbaugh first started, he didn’t sell fruit along the road. It wasn’t until the highway came through that the market (a smaller version of today’s Catoctin Mountain Orchard Market) was built around 1948.”

The two brothers, Harry and Lee, now owned orchards. Harry said to Lee, “You take care of the picking, and I’ll take care of the selling.” Lee reminisced, “We added pick-your-own black raspberries that he (Harry) raised and strawberries that we raised. There were a lot of problems along the way, I’m sure he disagreed with me and I disagreed with him, but we never had an argument.”

A regional University Of Maryland Extension man named Charlie Dunbar told Harry to build a retail market and to pack baskets with “good fruit!” Most fruit stands or “hucksters” at the time would place seconds (bruised or spotty fruit) in the bottom of a basket and top it off with good fruit! Lee and Harry used good fruit throughout and that is how it made both of their farms successful businesses.

Lee said there wasn’t any place that sold good peaches and apples between Thurmont and Washington, D.C. So, when they first opened, they had more business than they could handle. People canned at the time and would load up bushels at a time. The biggest apple growers were in Adams County, Pennsylvania, but, Lee said, “That fruit was all bruised up — the workers didn’t care.”

Business was up and down because of the economy and the weather. Lee said that at one point the orchard business was so bad that they started to raise broiler chickens.

Blacks Hilltop Orchard was, and Catoctin Mountain Orchard still is, known as “conservation showcase” orchards. Harry’s family and Lee and Frances’ family worked closely with the State of Maryland to implement smart ideas. In doing so, things changed with orchard procedures and standards.

They started to grow smaller trees to save on costs of picking and spraying; while they always used pesticides of some sort, the pesticides became more effective and made better; over time, the types of fruit were made stronger and more vibrant in color. Lee did some budding on trees, but didn’t do any genetics like the Catoctin Mountain Orchard Black family (Harry’s son Bobby’s family, Harry’s daughter, Pat) does today…

Read Part II in January issue.

DSC_0874

Pictured left to right are Pat Black, Frances and Elmer “Lee” Black, and Bobby Black.