by James Rada, Jr.
The Emmitsburg Town Election was held on September 25, 2018. Incumbents Clifford Sweeney and Timothy O’Donnell ran unopposed for two open commissioner seats. Forty-eight ballots were cast. Sweeney received forty-four and O’Donnell received forty-one. The winners were sworn in for their new four-year terms during the October 1 town meeting.
Following a recommendation from Mayor Don Briggs, the board of commissioners was reorganized. Sweeney became the new president of the board and O’Donnell became the treasurer. Glenn Blanchard became the new vice president of the board. Elizabeth Buckman remained the liaison with the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and Joseph Ritz, III remained the liaison with the Parks Committee.
Rezoning of Emmit Gardens Property Approved
The Emmitsburg Commissioners held a public hearing during their October 1 public meeting to consider rezoning the property at 600-602 East Main Street Ext. Joseph Baldacchino, representing the Sarah E. Baldacchino Trust, asked that the property be rezoned from low-density residential (R1) to neighborhood commercial (B1). This zoning better represented how the property had been used years ago when it served as a home and dentist office.
The commissioners agreed that a mistake had been made in the original zoning, but they had concerns that B1 zoning would allow a future property owner to install a large sign that was out-of-character with the neighborhood. Another concern was the placement of required fencing would impinge on a utility right-of-way.
After much discussion, the commissioners approved the rezoning, while reserving the right to approve signage and fencing when, and if, it happened.
Commission Turns Down Group Asking to Hunt on Scott Road Farm
The Indian Lookout Conservation Club asked to enter into an agreement with the town to allow its group to hunt on the town-owned Scott Road Farm if the group took care of the maintenance of the property. Town staff did not recommend this agreement to the commissioners for numerous reasons, such as making it harder to enforce the no-hunting ban and showing favoritism to a small group of citizens. The commissioners decided to stick with their original decision to re-evaluate its no-hunting rule next August.
Town Sees Big Insurance Savings
The Town of Thurmont entered into an agreement with the Local Government Insurance Trust. The trust is a pooled insurance fund among government entities that allows their combined size to get them better insurance rates.
The Thurmont Commissioners had allocated $100,000 in the current budget for insurance. The town’s insurance provider at the time quoted the town $96,143. However, town staff decided to shop around to see if a better rate could be had. LGIT quoted $60,471 for the same insurance. Chief Administrative Jim Humerick told the commissioners that LGIT also offered an extensive line of online training in different areas of municipal government that LGIT customers can use for free.
Commissioner Marty Burns raised the issue as to whether Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird had exceeded his power by authorizing town staff to change insurance providers without approval from the commissioners.
Kinnaird said, “It’s my duty to see we don’t exceed our stated budget.” It was pointed out that the line item was for insurance and did not state a specific company. Those types of things are typically left to the decision of staff and/or the mayor. Kinnaird also noted that had the insurance quotes exceeded the approved $100,000, he would have brought the issue back to the commissioners to decide what to do.
The other commissioners had no issue with Kinnaird’s decision, particularly since it saved the town more than $35,000. The commissioners unanimously approved the agreement with LGIT.
Colorfest Looking Good
A few days before the 55th Annual Catoctin Colorfest, the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners received an update on the number of permits issued for the festivals.
Last year (which was the record year for permits issued), a total of 764 permits were issued. This year, with three days to go before the festival, 719 permits had been issued with more expected. This is more than either 2016 or 2015. Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick told the commissioners that he expected the 2018 total permits to be at least as many as 2017 and possibly more.
The town issues permits for craft vendors, for-profit-food vendors, non-profit food vendors, information-only booths, parking, and yard sales. Craft vendors make up the majority of the permits, but the for-profit-food vendors pay the most for their permits.
All income from the permits is used to pay for the services that the town provides during Colorfest. This includes staff overtime, security, trash removal, porta-potties, and shuttles.