Currently viewing the tag: "Town Hall Report"

by James Rada, Jr.

OCTOBER 2019 Meeting

Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners Reorganized

With the election of new town commissioners, the Emmitsburg Town Commissioners assigned new duties to the members. Cliff Sweeney remains the president, with Tim O’Donnell acting as the vice president and treasurer. Joseph Ritz, III, will be the liaison to the Planning Commission. New commissioners Frank Davis and T.J. Burns will act as liaisons to the Parks and Recreation Committee and Citizens Advisory Committee, respectively.

Town Attorney Recognized

Long-time Emmitsburg Town Attorney John Clapp has retired. He served as the town attorney for 24 years. The Town of Emmitsburg recognized his decades of service with a proclamation honoring him.

Leslie Powell, Thurmont’s town attorney and Clapp’s recommendation, will replace Clapp as the Emmitsburg town attorney.

Planning Commissioner Appointed

Bernard Franklin was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Frank Davis on the Emmitsburg Planning Commission. Davis had to resign from the commission when he was elected as an Emmitsburg town commissioner. The term will expire in July 2022.

Cochran Etching Dedicated

The Frederick County Fire & Rescue Museum dedicated the William Cochran glass etching, called “Volunteers,” on October 4. Its location is at the museum in front on the Community Center on South Seton Avenue.

The etching was moved from the Firehouse Financial Center in Frederick. The business was the former site of Independent Hose Co. No. 1 firehouse at 12 West Church Street. William Cochran developed the public art to replace the former engine house apparatus bay door. The new building owners decided the artwork did not fit into the future renovation plans for the building and donated the etching to the fire museum.

Mayor Don Briggs was delighted with the addition to the town. He has wanted a Cochran public-art piece for years, but the price was too expensive for the town.

Mayor Graduates from Municipal Official Program

Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs graduated from the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy on September 29. More than 90 public officials from across the state received a certificate from the academy.

Briggs completed classes designed to meet the professional needs of a municipal official. These included classes to increase his “understanding of local government issues and ethical standards for public services, but also developed a foundation for informed policy making and effective governance,” according to a press release from the academy.

The Academy, which has offered classes since 1998, is a collaborative effort between the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, the Maryland Municipal League, the Maryland Association of Counties and the Local Government Insurance Trust.

by James Rada, Jr.

October 2019 Meeting

Thurmont Welcomes Two New Police Officers

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird swore in two new Thurmont police officers in October.

Mike Mentzer had more than 20 years on the job with the police in Washington D.C. before he retired. He said he looked for something outside of law enforcement to do after he retired, but “There wasn’t anything I really wanted to do other than be a police officer and work in law enforcement.”

Brandon Boyle was formerly with Loudon County Fire and Rescue before taking a position with the Thurmont Police. He started his academy training in October.

Senior Center to Get Funding for a Part-Time Assistant Coordinator

Unlike the other senior centers in Frederick County, the Thurmont Senior Center receives very little of its funding, if any, from the county. The Town of Thurmont usually contributes $20,000 to the center’s funding; however, this year, it provided $23,000 so the center coordinator could get a raise.

The senior center board of directors is now asking for $10,140 more each year to fund an assistant coordinator position for 15 hours a week. The commissioners feel this burden should be shared by the county since roughly half of the attendees to the senior center live outside the borders of Thurmont.

Frederick County stopped funding the center several years ago, primarily over the issue of lunches. The Department of Aging required the center to serve food it provided through a grant. However, the food arrived cold and mushy to the center, according to Commissioner Wayne Hooper. The poor food quality was causing seniors to stay home and the senior center wanted to make its own arrangements for lunches. The county told the center it had to abide by county rules to receive funding. The board of directors chose to run the center itself.

The county has provided a small amount of funding in the past, but it cannot be depended upon.

The commissioners voted to fund the amount needed for the position, less any additional funding the county can be convinced to pay.

Thurmont Changes How Corner Lots are Defined

The Town of Thurmont changed how corner lots were defined in its planning code in 2017. However, the change caused unforeseen problems with many existing corner lots in the town, putting them out of compliance with planning and zoning regulations. The mayor and commissioners unanimously voted in October to change the code back to the way it had been where corner lots are concerned.

This should take care of the problems some property owners have been having.

by James Rada, Jr.

SEPTEMBER 2019 Meeting

Colorfest Services Contracts Awarded

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved contracts to provide additional services during the 2019 Colorfest. The total cost of the contracts is $3,075 over the cost of the 2018 Colorfest contracts.

Security services: May Security of Frederick will provide 29 guards, 1 supervisor, and 1 relief guard during Colorfest weekend for $4,694.

Bus services: Rill’s Bus Services of Westminster will provide 10 standard buses and 1 wheelchair-accessible bus on Saturday, and 8 standard buses and 1 wheelchair-accessible bus on Sunday for $17,440.

Portable bathrooms: Key Sanitation of Dickerson will provide 128 regular portable toilets, 17 handicapped-accessible portable toilets, and an on-site pumping truck for $16,850.

Trash services: Key Sanitation of Dickerson will provide a special trash pick-up after 6:30 p.m. each evening, 2 dumpsters, and a recycling truck on site for $2,750, plus tipping fees.

Thurmont Town Election on October 29

The election to fill two commissioner seats will be held on October 29 at the Guardian Hose Company Activities Building on 123 East Main Street. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote. The last day to register to vote in the election is close of business Oct. 1. Absentee ballot applications will be available on Oct. 4.

Commissioners Hear Road Improvement Estimates

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners heard from Arro Engineering about the probable cost to improve Carroll Street and Woodside Avenue. Mayor John Kinnaird said the improvements were a “long time coming” for roads that are “in dire need of repairs.” Doug Smith, senior project manager for Arro Engineering, said that 20-30 percent of the roads would need to be fully rehabilitated. He provided two estimates to the commissioners. One was the cost of road improvements with storm drains included ($5.3 million) and one estimate was without storm drains ($3.149 million).

Bamboo Added As Invasive Species

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners amended the town code to include bamboo as an invasive plant species. This will give the town some control over having property owners eradicate the plant if it moves onto a property outside of the person who owns the bamboo.

Halloween in the Park will take place on October 26 at Thurmont Community Park at 6:00 p.m. Rain date: November 2.       Trick-or-Treating: 6:00-7:30 p.m.

by James Rada, Jr.

SEPTEMBER 2019 Meeting

Paving Contracts Awarded

The Emmitsburg Commissioners awarded nine contracts to three companies to pave roads in town. The contracts total $90,941, which has already been budgeted for by the commissioners.

The roads to be paved are: Chesapeake Avenue (East Main St. to Lincoln Avenue); Chesapeake Avenue (Potomac St. to Potomac Avenue); Wagerman Lane; Bunker Hill Drive; Creamery Way; St. Joseph Lane (Seton Place and N. Seton Avenue); W. Lincoln Avenue at Jamison Ave. intersection; W. Lincoln Avenue at Patterson Ave. intersection.

ECM Corporation, C. J. Miller LLC, and Frederick County Paving won the contracts. By awarding the contracts by street, the town got a lower total price for all of the streets than if the commissioners had awarded one company all of the street projects.

New Businesses Move Closer to Construction

The new Rutter’s store is expected to have its final site plan submitted to the Emmitsburg Planning Commission by early 2020. Also, the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts on the site of the Silo Hill car wash is expected to submit a site plan with traffic study to the planning commission.

Emmitsburg Passes Firewood Policy

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved a policy allowing residents to collect firewood from town property. A free permit is required, and it allows town residents to collect firewood from June 1 to August 31. Only downed trees on town property within 100 feet of Hampton Valley Road can be cut for firewood. Also, motorized off-road equipment or vehicles cannot be used to remove the firewood.

Emmitsburg’s Annual Halloween Parade & Costume Contest is on October 31, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Parade starts at 7:00 p.m. (intersectioin of Federal & DePaul St.). Refreshments & contest winner announcements following parade at Vigilant Hose Co.       Trick-or-Treating: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

AUGUST 2019 Meeting

Town Starts Rain Barrel Program

The Town of Emmitsburg has started a rain barrel program to gain credit towards our stormwater management (MS4) program and to help the environment. The town will purchase the rain barrels from the non-profit Scott Key Center in Frederick. The barrels are manufactured by developmentally disabled adults, and they are made from recycled olive barrels. You can purchase a rain barrel from the town office and attend a workshop to learn to use it properly. The workshop will be help on October 1 at 6:00 p.m. Frederick City Sustainability Manager Jenny Willoughby will be the instructor. For more information, contact the Emmitsburg Town Office.

Emmitsburg Town Election on October 1

Emmitsburg citizens can vote for two open commissioner seats during the town election on October 1. Incumbents Glenn Blanchard and Elizabeth Buckman and Vigilant Hose Company President Frank Davis are running for the seats. Registered votes can cast their ballots at the town building at 22 East Main Street from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Town Selects Poet Laureate

The mayor and commissioners of Emmitsburg selected Francis Smith to serve as the Emmitsburg Poet Laureate. It is a two-year, honorary position. Smith will encourage reading, writing, and the sharing of poetry. Smith taught English and Latin in area high schools for 40 years before retiring. He is also a published poet who writes for The Catoctin Banner.

New Complaint Procedures for Off-Campus Mount Students

The Town of Emmitsburg, Mount St. Mary’s Univeristy, and Frederick County deputies encourage everyone to call the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office immediately if you are experiencing any issues related to noise complaints and/or destructive behavior, as soon as you experience it, with any Mount students. Don’t wait. It is harder to follow up about the problem when there is a significant time delay. Non-emergency number is 301-600-2071 or the emergency number is 911.

Pool House Rehabilitation Approved

The Emmitsburg Commissioners awarded a $66,329 contract to Omega Contracting and Consulting to renovate the pool house. The company specializes in this type of work and will warranty its work for a year. Program Open Space funds will pay 75 percent of the cost with the town matching the rest.

Sign Ordinance Approved

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved the town’s new sign ordinance on a 3-2 vote. Town staff has been working since February at refining and updating the sign ordinance to include new technologies being used to advertise businesses and events.

Commissioner Joe Ritz, III, said, “If a revised ordinance was really needed, why couldn’t it have been kept simple? Just list what’s allowed.” He also objected to what he called “excessive fines.”

Town Manager Cathy Willets took exception to Ritz’s negative characterization of the sign ordinance. She reminded him that not only was the new ordinance less stringent than the previous one, the EBPA supported the new ordinance. She also said that town staff had worked hard to not only gather community input but to address any concerns raised.

Commissioners Cliff Sweeney, Glenn Blanchard, and Tim O’Donnell voted for the ordinance and Commissioner Elizabeth Buckman and Ritz voted against.

Town Sells Trees

The Emmitsburg Commissioners voted to sell a selected group of trees as part of the town’s forestry management plan recommended by the State of Maryland. Tipton’s will pay $46,000 for the trees and will be responsible for removing them with minimal damage to any of the town’s trails in the area. The vote for 4-1 with Commissioner Joe Ritz, III, voting against the proposal.

July 2019 Meeting

Emmitsburg National Night Out on Aug. 6

Emmitsburg is planning a large celebration of National Night Out on August 6. The events will take place in Community Park at 201 West Lincoln Avenue, from 6:00-8:30 p.m.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is hosting its county-wide event in Emmitsburg. There is no admission. Enjoy hot dogs, ice cream, music, face painting, vendors, fire truck, SWAT teams, police K-9 demonstrations, McGruff the Crime Dog, and more.

National Night Out is a nationwide event, held annually on the first Tuesday in August, with the goal of making communities safer places to live by bringing police and the public together under positive circumstances. Emmitsburg has been hosting an annual National Night Out event since 2017.

All-Inclusive Playground Ready to be Installed

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved the final funding for the new all-inclusive playground to be installed at Community Park. The $302,350 playground will be paid for with funds from a Community Legacy Grant, Program Open Space money, Emmitsburg capital funds, and the Civitan Club. Playground Specialists of Thurmont will do the installation.

The new playground is based on the all-inclusive playground design in Thurmont and is ADA compliant.

Cross Connection Control Contractors Approved

The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners approved its recommended contractors for installing state-mandated backflow preventers.

Kelco Plumbing & Backhoe Services of Sabillasville is Emmitsburg’s approved residential low-hazard, non-testable backflow preventer contractor. Tri-County Plumbing & Heating of Rocky Ridge is the town’s approved commercial/industrial high-hazard, testable backflow preventer contractor.

Although these contractors are town recommended, homeowners and business owners are not required to use them.

Town Purchases Mini-Dump Truck

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved the purchase of a new mini-dump truck from MJR Equipment. The new truck will replace a 2002 mini-dump truck and will be used for plowing, salting, hauling dirt and stone, work in the parks, and water line repairs. The cost of $73,950 was budgeted in the FY2019 capital projects budget.

MJR Equipment was one of three bids. Although it wasn’t the lowest bid, staff recommended it because of other factors, one of which is that MJR will come to town to pick up equipment and make repairs and bring any necessary parts.

Farmer’s Market Postponed

The 16th Annual Emmitsburg Farmer’s Market has been postponed indefinitely because too few vendors planned on offering their goods. It may return later in the season if enough vendors decide that they want to participate.

July 2019 Meeting

Commissioner Deal With State-Mandated Energy Changes

The State of Maryland is requiring electric companies to double the amount of renewable energy they use from 25 percent to 50 percent. In particular, the amount of renewable energy from solar polar is increasing from 2.5 percent to 14.5 percent.

These changes could drastically increase the electric bills of customers on the Thurmont power system. Currently, Thurmont has the second-lowest electric rates in the state, but these increases could potentially increase the cost of energy for Thurmont by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Under law, if a power system is not generating renewable energy, then the system must pay offset credit. These credits were costing $10 per megawatt hour. However, because the changes in state law instantly increases demand without creating additional sources of renewable energy credits, the cost of those credits has jumped to $60 per megawatt hour.

Commissioner Marty Burns was very upset with the changes, saying they weren’t sustainable and that they negatively impact residents.

The commissioners are pursuing a two-pronged approach right now to deal with the changes.

First, they want to lock in the current energy rates if possible. Energy costs have been dropping since the last time the town negotiated an energy contract. These savings could offset the increase energy credit costs for a couple of years.

Second, the town will work with the Town of Easton and other small energy companies to lobby elected officials to try and get some relief.

Town Uses Outside Electric Company to Supplement Town Staff

The Town of Thurmont has seen an increase in after-hours calls to deal with power outages, but it currently does not have enough trained staff to fully handle the calls. Because of this, the town has entered into a contract with Diamond Electric in Keedysville to supplement town staff when after-hours power problems happen. The goal is to get enough town staff trained to handle things, but this will take time. In the meantime, Diamond Electric will keep town staff from being over-worked.

Year-End Budget Adjustments Were Made

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved the year-end budget amendment to balance out the fiscal year 2019 budget before it closed at the end of June. These included income increases due to interest on accounts and grants received. On the expenditure sides, various amounts were moved from one line item to another. The adjustments were small, with none of them causing concern among the commissioners.

by James Rada, Jr.

May 2019 Meeting

$1.9 Million Budget Approved

The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners approved a $1,930,323 town budget for Fiscal Year 2020. This is a 5.4 percent increase over the current year’s budget.

In addition, the current town property tax rate of 36 cents per $100 of assessed value will remain the same. Because the tax rate remained constant, the town had more money to work with because property assessments increased.

The budget was helped by increased revenues from the Frederick County Tax Equity Program and Maryland Highway Users Revenue.

The budget also included a 2 percent COLA for town staff, along with any step increases.

Other funds in the budget that were also approved include a $248,171 in capital projects, $583,910 in the water fund, and $735,613 in the sewer fund.

The new budget goes into effect on July 1.

Relining Appears to be Working

Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets informed the town commissioners that early signs show the town’s efforts to reline its sewer lines is paying off.

According to Willets, the town received two inches of rain on January 19. During the two days afterward, 4.5 million gallons of water were treated at the wastewater treatment plant. When a similar rainfall fell on April 19, only 2.5 million gallons were treated during the next two days.

“If we continue to make these improvements, I think we’ll see a lot of changes,” Willets said.

Two relining projects that will hopefully occur in the next year include relining the pipes from Irishtown Road to Creekside Drive and from the Post Office to Mother Seton School.

The relining seals cracks and holes in the pipes, keeping outside water from flowing into the sewer system where it can overtax the system and increase costs because it needs to be treated.

Boys & Girls Club Coming to Emmitsburg

Thanks to a $110,000 grant through Frederick County and $10,000 from the Town of Emmitsburg, the Boys & Girls Club will be coming to Emmitsburg. The club will run an afterschool program for 40 children next school year.

Community Deputy Contract Approved

The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners approved the FY2020 with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office to continue having two community deputies working in Emmitsburg. The cost will be $288,824, which is a 2.89 percent increase. This is due to salary merit increases and changes in the benefits costs for the deputies.

Town Purchases All-Electric Vehicle

The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners voted to purchase a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt from Wantz Chevrolet for $35,746. This new car will replace that current 2002 town car. Although the town now has charging stations for electric vehicles, town staff did not want an all-electric vehicle because it can be difficult to find charging stations.

The original motion to purchase a Chevrolet Volt failed 2-3. Commissioner Tim O’Donnell then made a motion to purchase the Bolt, which passed 4-1.

by James Rada, Jr.

May 2019 Meeting

FY2020 Budget Introduced

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners received the proposed budget for the town for fiscal year 2020 in May.

It is proposed to adopt the property tax constant yield rate of 29.92 cents per $100 of assessed value. The constant yield rate is the rate the town needs to adopt to generate the same amount of revenue as the previous year. As property assessments rise, the constant yield rate drops.

Under the proposed budget, the general fund revenues are expected to be $4,197,027, with $3,733,555 in expenditures and $449,594 in capital expenses.

The water fund is expected to have $980,825 in revenues, with $853,481 in expenditures and $51,000 in capital expenses.

The wastewater fund is expected to have $1,633,010 in revenues, with $1,479,853 in expenditures and $147,500 in capital expenses.

The electric fund is expected to have $6,704,881 in revenues, with $6,410,268 in expenditures and $249,000 in capital expenditures.

Copies of the budget can be viewed at the town office or online at the town’s website.

Road Paving and Patching Contract Awarded

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners awarded Tibbs Paving, Inc., of Manassas, Virginia, a $35,638 contract to do roadway patching and paving on Hammaker Street, West Moser Road, Locust Drive, Summit Avenue, Ironmaster Drive, Collier Drive, Carroll Street, Rouzer Lane, and Eyler Road. Tibbs was the low bidder among the five bids received. The money will be paid from the town’s highway user revenues paid by the State of Maryland.

Cindy Poole Recognized

Thurmont resident Cindy Poole was recognized for her efforts coordinating and organizing the Thurmont GreenFest.

“You are a spectacular volunteer,” Mayor John Kinnaird said. “You’re everywhere. You do a lot of stuff for our community, and we appreciate it.”

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

The Thurmont Code Enforcement Office has been receiving complaints of residents feeding wildlife. Please don’t feed wild animals, for their health and your safety. For more information why you shouldn’t, visit dnr.maryland.gov/Pages/plants_wildlife/Feeding-Wildlife.aspx.

Help with A Day in the Park

The Town of Thurmont is seeking volunteers to help with the town’s summer program for youth, A Day in the Park. The program will run Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to noon, on July 22-25, July 29-August 1, and August 5-8. You can volunteer one day or every day to guide children, divided into small groups, through organized activities.

For more information, contact Michele Maze at maze.michele07@gmail.com.