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Candidates for town commissioners speak out

Tara E. Buck
Frederick News Post

The town commissioners’ candidates forum Thursday night saw its share of tension; but in the end, each of the candidates agreed that concentrating on the needs of the town’s citizenry is their chief concern.

The five candidates are vying for the two commissioner seats that will be up for grabs in the April 27 election.

Facing fines from the Maryland Department of the Environment after nine sewer leaks in 2003, the town’s residents are now divided over the future of growth and how much the current infrastructure can support.

Asked when development should begin again or if a permanent building moratorium should be in place, candidate Stan Mazaleski, 70, said he doesn’t believe in the concept of "zero growth."

"We can get $8,000 to $10,000 on new homes to fix the sewer lines," he said. "Or, if you’ve got to borrow money, borrow it. But get the dang thing (sewer system) fixed."

Bill O’Neil, 45, and president of COPE — Citizens Organization to Preserve Emmitsburg — said it’s taken the town more than 200 years to get to the point it’s at today.

"And we’ll continue to grow," Mr. O’Neil said. "These houses have already been planned. ... But it’s time to be adult about this and say we have a problem."

Incumbent Commissioner Cliff Sweeney, 39, said he "is definitely for growth."

"I don’t think by shutting the town down completely that we’ll accomplish anything," he said, adding that the town has been playing a game of catch-up in fixing infrastructure problems with money as it becomes available.

Dianne Walbrecker, 48, said that development in town should only "begin again when the citizens and Town of Emmitsburg knows where it wants to be 20 years from now. Once you understand that, then you can begin to grow again."

She said implementing a sensible plan for growth will allow the town to plan now so that the proper infrastructure is in place.

Harold Craig, 73 and vice-president of COPE, said he favors "balanced growth. That means businesses as well as houses. I think appropriate growth is wonderful, if that’s in accordance with" an adequate public facilities ordinance, or APFO, which the town currently does not have in place.

"We need (an APFO) badly in this town," he said.

Each were also asked what they believe to be the town’s three main concerns, aside from growth.

"Education," said Mr. Sweeney, who is pushing for a middle school to return to town.

"And water. We’re drilling new wells to find new water sources," he said. "And traffic. ... When you sit at the square, 85 percent of the cars are from Pennsylvania. A bypass is a good idea. We need to find a spot for that."

Ms. Walbrecker said healing tensions between new and old residents is a top priority for her.

"I think there are issues there on both sides of the fence," she said. "Second, I’ve heard the citizens say they don’t feel welcome in this community. I think that’s a shame."

She also supports more activities for the town’s teenagers, who she says are sorely neglected.

Mr. Craig said traffic is his top concern, but he also mentioned a drug problem "that has been here since 1966. The police and the sheriff’s office can do something about it."

Mr. Mazaleski said the sewer problem is his top priority, but also cleaner, contaminant-free drinking water.

And he said he supports a southern route for a possible bypass around town, allowing Pennsylvania traffic to avoid already crowded streets.

Mr. O’Neil said he, too, puts the sewer issue at the top of his list.

"Along with traffic and schools. Growth touches everything," he said, adding that development of the proposed Bollinger property annexation will only compound the problems.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government