About Commissioner Candidate Bill O'Neil
Tara E. Buck
Bill O’Neil thinks the
town "is in a jam right now," he said recently from his home
on Stonehurst Drive.
Having lived here two years, he’s seen
its infrastructure stressed as more people move to town,
bringing with them more cars and more toilet flushes.
"The sewers are in complete
disrepair," Mr. O’Neil, 45, said. "They’re cracked, leaking
raw sewage into the streams. The town needs to tackle that,
but also control its own development."
Homes now in the development pipeline
will only compound the problems, he said.
"The problem with having all these
homes, it has a definite impact on the town," he said. "It
impacts traffic, especially at the square. People find it
increasingly difficult to cross the streets. There will be
more homes, more toilets, more sewage there with which we have
He’s quick to point out, however, that
his opposition to further residential growth right now does
not signal his opposition to commercial growth.
"I support commercial development," he
said. "Businesses provide jobs instead of bedrooms and
increase the town’s coffers without the revenue draw that
residences do. I support business growth and development.
Residential growth has to stop. We
need to come to grips with our situation in hand."
A veteran of Capitol Hill who
currently works as a federal affairs representative for Blue
Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Mr. O’Neil said he also
knows what it takes to get the big, federal dollars to town.
"I’m skillful at securing federal
funds," he said. "I’ve spent a decade on Capitol Hill as a
legislative director. ... It basically enables me to know what
funds to seek, how to best seek them and how to pursue them
for the town."
He faults the current board of
commissioners for not doing enough already to get the town’s
infrastructure back on track.
"Those who have served and haven’t
solved the problem do shoulder some of the burden," Mr. O’Neil
said. "You can’t point the finger at one individual but you
can say that for the past 20 years, this has been a problem."
He said he fears that the Maryland
Department of the Environment’s recent intervention in
stopping major sewer leaks here is "only scratching the
"This town, in its wisdom, is deciding
that it’s important to expand its residential base," he said.
"There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of growth. It got
some money infused in the economy for the town."
He said, however, that the upcoming
referendum to annex the 20-acre Bollinger property must fail.
"This is going to cause problems that
are going to have to be dealt with," he said. "If you allow
this development to go in, why shouldn’t we just take over all
the parks and build and build and build? It doesn’t make
The strong anti-growth message in town
has struck a nerve with some residents, who rushed to join
COPE, or the Citizens Organization to Preserve Emmitsburg,
which is led by Mr. O’Neil and his "running mate," Harold
"It’s taken Emmitsburg more than 200
years to get to its population now," he said. "That’s more
than 50 percent growth. It does not have the resources or
ability to grapple with that growth. ... Once the sewer’s
repaired, we have good roads, then we can re-enter the debate
as to whether we can grow."
He says recent bouts of crime, like an
armed robbery at the Silo Hill pharmacy, are also evidence of
too much growth.
"There’s demand for greater police
protection," Mr. O’Neil said. "We need new recreation
resources for our elderly and our children."
Mr. O’Neil and his wife live at Penn
Brook with their two children.