by James Rada, Jr.
Updating the Emmitsburg Parking Policy and Rates
Many of the Emmitsburg parking rates haven’t been raised since 2003, so the mayor and commissioners have started considering updating the parking policies and raising the parking rates. While it does not appear that the meter rate will change, some parking fines and permit fees may be increased. The increased fines that are being considered are for left-side parking, parking in a snow emergency route, and parking for 48 consecutive hours in a metered spot.
One of the suggested ordinance changes was not to allow parking within 25 feet of a stop sign. This caused a lot of concern for Commissioner Joseph Ritz, III.
“There’s going to be a lot of issues with that if we put that in,” Ritz said. Specifically, he said that North Gate had a lot of violators.
Town Manager Cathy Willets pointed out that it was just making the town ordinance consistent with Maryland state law. She said that it was a safety issue, dealing with visibility of the stop sign and intersection.
Ritz then wanted to know if it was state law why it needed to be in the proposed ordinance, because he felt the ordinance was overly long. Willets and Commissioner Tim O’Donnell explained that having it in the town ordinance gave the town parking enforcement officer the authority to take action against violators.
Other items were also discussed, and a few changes made.
“These ordinances aren’t done to target or punish people,” Willets said. “It’s to keep people safe.”
The suggested updates have been in the works for six months.
Town Will Continue Town Planner Position
With the retirement of town planner Sue Cipperly in July, Emmitsburg Commissioner Elizabeth Buckman suggested that maybe it was time for the town to do away with the position and use the Frederick County Planning Department to fill those duties.
She said that there isn’t a lot of growth in the town, and “Many of the community members don’t see it as needing to be a full-time position.”
Town Manager Cathy Willets noted that the town has multiple subdivisions still being built, and the planner is also in charge of code enforcement and town ordinances. Most importantly, Willets said, “They [Frederick County] don’t do that anymore.”
However, Buckman said that she wanted the town to look into the pros and cons of making the change.
Town Water Shortage Over
For the past few years, the Emmitsburg town wells have usually been well under the optimum level to meet the demands for water in town. At April’s Emmitsburg town meeting, Town Manager Cathy Willets told the commissioners, “Our well levels are the best we have seen in a very long time.”
Rainbow Lake is also at the spillway level. During February, 58 percent of the town’s water came from Rainbow Lake, 37 percent came from wells, and 5 percent came from Mount St. Mary’s.
The treatment plant also treated 782,000 GPD, of which two-thirds was wild water. Treating this water cost the town about $25,000. The plant also had exceeded its treatment capacity thirteen times during the month.
Commissioners Working Through Budget
The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners have been working on developing the town budget that will go into effect on July 1. Currently, the operating budget is $3.67 million, which is up $122,061 over the current fiscal year. Based on changes initially made to the general fund, there is a projected $53,000 shortfall.
“So, we’ve got some trimming to do somewhere,” stated Mayor John Kinnaird.
The final budget approved by the commissioners will have to be balanced before it is approved.
The commissioners are also working on the capital budget, water fund, sewer fund, and electric fund. These require separate budgets.
Once the commissioners agree on a budget, it will be presented to the commissioners for public input and comment.
Commissioners Discuss Program Open Space Projects
The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners discussed their priorities for potential Program Open Space (POS) funds. Among the potential uses for such funds might be another Community Park pavilion, lighting for the Thurmont Trolley Trail, a new sand volleyball court, and skateboard equipment.
One thing that the town probably won’t be getting with the funds is trees to replace the ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer. Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick told the board that trees cannot be purchased with POS funds.
Requests for POS funds are due May 5. The following month, Mayor John Kinnaird will meet with representatives from all of the Frederick County municipalities. Each municipality will have its own wish list of projects to be funded, and the leaders will have to decide on how to allocate the POS funds that the county receives.
New “Welcome to Thurmont” Signs Get Funded
The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved spending $30,342 to construct and install two new Thurmont Gateway signs. The new signs will replace two of the existing four signs. The existing signs are on the major routes leading into the town. The town had allocated $24,000 for the purchase. The difference will be made up with money saved from a car purchase the town made.
The existing signs, which are ten years old and still in good condition, will be repurposed to other areas of the town. The remaining two signs will be replaced at a future date.
Although the money had been allocated for this use in the budget, Commissioner Marty Burns felt that the cost was too expensive, and the money could be better used for a more-pressing need, such as fighting drug abuse in Thurmont, fixing bridges, or paying down town debt.
Commissioner Bill Buehrer said that maintaining the signs was “a cost of promoting our community.”
The commissioners voted 4-1 to have Shannon-Baum Signs of Eldersburg do the work. The new signs are expected to last twenty-five years.
Commissioners Approve Bond to Pay for Water and Sewer Replacement
The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners voted unanimously in March to borrow $2,945,000 to pay for water and sewer replacement along North Church Street. The money will be in the form of an infrastructure bond from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Inclusive Playground to Get ADA Restrooms
The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners accepted a bid from Blue Line Construction in Emmitsburg to renovate an unused building at East End Park to make them ADA-compliant restrooms. The cost will be $33,100.
The bid was $5,200 more than the amount of grant funding the town has for the project. Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick told the commissioners that the difference could be made up out of the parks department budget.
Mowing Contract Approved
The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved a bid of $71,750 a year for two years to have Mountain View Lawn Services do the mowing of town properties. Although this bid is significantly greater than the $44,000 per year that the town was paying, Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick said this increase was due to added acreage as well as pesticide application.