by James Rada, Jr.


Town Moves to Twice-a-Month Meetings at Least Temporarily

The Thurmont town meetings will switch from weekly to twice a month for the next three months. At that point, the mayor and commissioners will evaluate the impact of the change and decide if it should continue.

For January, the meetings will be on the second and fourth Tuesdays. In February and March, the meetings will be on the first and third Tuesdays.

The goal is to have meetings where a lot of work for the town can be accomplished without creating undue meetings that town staff and others need to attend. However, additional meetings can be held if needed. The town charter only requires that the commissioners meet monthly.

The town may also survey residents to see if they have a preference to how many meetings the town holds.

New Leadership at the Thurmont Police Department

With the retirement of Police Chief Greg Eyler from the Thurmont Police at the beginning of December, new officers were needed to lead the department. At two separate town meetings, Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird swore in new Chief Dave Armstrong and Dep. Chief Jerry Morales.

Town Receives a Clean Audit

Mike Samson and Alison Burke with Zlenkofske Axelrod, LLC, presented the results of the annual independent audit of Thurmont’s financial statements for Fiscal Year 2023. Samson told the mayor and commissioners that Zlenkofske Axelrod, LLC, gave the town an unmodified or clean opinion, which is the highest rating that can be given. The auditors had no difficulties performing the audit or had any disagreements with the management.

Town Considering Reopening Facebook Page To Comments

The Thurmont Mayor and Board of Commissioners are considering how to best interact with the public via social media. The mayor and commissioners had made the town’s Facebook page information-only and closed to comments when too many inappropriate comments and personal attacks were left in the comments.

Commissioner Marty Burns brought the topic up with the board again, wanting the comments turned back on. “I stood before the mayor and board before. I think constituents have a right to freedom of speech, even speech I find reprehensible,” Burns said.

The board was split on the matter, with both those against and for reopening the page to comments seeing the advantages and disadvantages.

Mayor John Kinnaird suggested leaving the town page information-only and creating Facebook pages for the commissioners that would be open to comments. The difference is the latter does not reflect poorly on the town if inappropriate comments are made, but it would create more work for town staff to monitor the new pages.

Commissioner Bob Lookingbill suggested sending a survey to residents to get their thoughts on the matter before making a decision. 

Town Celebrates 10 Years of Gateway to the Cure

Economic Development Manager Vickie Grinder recently told the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners about the town’s 10th Annual Gateway to the Cure efforts. The town has been raising funds in October for the Patty Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund. Events include a 5K race, golf competition, Zumbathon, offering parking at Colorfest, and selling pink light bulbs.

The first Gateway to the Cure in 2014 raised $3,000 for the fund. This year’s donation was $24,500, bringing the town’s 10-year total to $163,500. The money stays within Frederick County and goes toward direct patient care.

Woodland Ave. and Water St. Paving Project Approved

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved $88,133 from its Highway User Revenues to have Woodland Avenue and Water Street repaved and widened in areas. This is a joint project with the developer of Hammaker Hills. It is being done with a change order to work that C.J. Miller is already doing in town. Because the company is already working, it will save time and money for the town. The entire project costs $147,547 and is expected to be completed before winter sets in.

Colorfest Made Nearly $20,000 in Donations to the Town in 2023

Catoctin Colorfest President Carol Robertson made a presentation to the Thurmont Mayor and Board of Commissioners, announcing that besides the benefit town organizations get from selling or offering services during Colorfest weekend, Catoctin Colorfest, Inc. made $19,780 in contributions to organizations this year.

The contributions included: $2,500 to the Thurmont Ambulance Company; $5,000 to the Town of Thurmont for a new PA system in Community Park; $6,500 in scholarships; $150 so the Thurmont Food Bank volunteers could enjoy a dinner; $5,000 in $25 local gift cards for the food bank to distribute; $275 to the Thurmont Food Bank; $70 for 3,000 bags to be used at the Thurmont Food Bank; an FFA donation; and a Christmas in Thurmont donation.

“It’s amazing how the municipality as a whole benefits from Catoctin Colorfest, Inc.,” Mayor John Kinnaird said.


Town In Danger Of Losing Parking Meter Grant

The Town of Emmitsburg may lose $31,100 in grant funding to replace the parking meters in town if the commissioners cannot reach a consensus about what needs to done and when. The project would replace 125 coin-only parking meters in town and possibly add 20 new metered spots with new smart meters with coin and card payment options. The replacement is needed because the person who currently repairs the meters is retiring and replacement parts for them are no longer available. In addition, it was discovered that the current meters may be up to 15 minutes off in either direction.

The town obtained a USDA Community Facility Grant for up to $31,100. The grant requires a town match to make up the difference of roughly $30,000 when the total cost of the project is calculated.

The commissioners began disagreeing over whether the monthly charge for the new meters was worth it, whether the income will cover the salary of the staff member who handles parking enforcement, whether the income would help the commissioners purchase property for a town parking lot, and if 20 new meters along West Main Street should be installed.

Commissioner Cliff Sweeney tried to break the log jam by making a motion to accept town staff’s recommendation. The motion failed 3-2.

Because no decision was made to move forward, the town is in danger of losing the grant because of a USDA deadline that requires the grant to be spent by a certain date. However, the commissioners tabled the decision, and town staff is seeking to see if the deadline can be extended to relieve some of the pressure.

Expect Stricter Enforcement Along West Main Street

During the Emmitsburg Commissioners’ discussion about approving the new parking meter bid, one bone of contention was whether 20 new meters should be installed along West Main Street where there are currently none.

Arguments for and against were made. It was said the meters would help businesses along Main Street. Others said it would penalize residents of West Main Street or equalize the treatment of residents along West and East Main.

At one point, Commissioner Valerie Turnquist argued that the meters weren’t needed because the town code already prohibited parking at unmetered spots along the street for more than two hours, and she read from the code. This seemed to come as a surprise to some of the commissioners, and town staff admitted that it wasn’t being enforced because it had been misinterpreted.

However, because Turnquist had pointed out the law, town staff said they would need to start enforcing it because it is in the code. This means cars parked in unmetered spots along Main Street can remain in the spots for up to two hours. Otherwise, they can be ticketed at any time 24/7.

Town staff will post the parking limitation with signage on the street and let residents know through other means.

It was also discussed that perhaps the parking ordinance is outdated and needs to be reviewed. If the commissioners go this route, it could still take months to go through the legislative process before changes are made.

New Grant

The Town of Emmitsburg recently received a Department of Housing and Community Development Assistance Grant – Main Street Improvement Grant for $10,000. The money will be used to purchase and install four directional wayfinding signs for downtown. Once state representatives sign the agreement, the project can begin.

Appointments Made

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners made the following appointments during its December town meeting:

Shannon Cool to the Parks Committee, with a term of December 5, 2023, to December 5, 2025.

Sandy Umbel to the Parks Committee, with a term of December 5, 2023, to December 5, 2025.

Steve Starliper to the Parks Committee, with a term of December 5, 2023, to December 5, 2025.

Amanda Ryder to the Parks Committee, with a term of December 5, 2023, to December 5, 2025.

Dale Sharrer to the Planning Commission as an alternate, with a term of December 5, 2023, to December 5, 2028.

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