Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


Growth, infrastructure incite debate
between town, citizens

Tara E. Buck
Frederick News Post

(4/7/2004) Repairs to the town’s underground sewage pipelines have been needed for several years, town leaders here acknowledge.

Terra cotta pipes laid in the 1930s have been crumbling beneath the ground for years.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) could soon impose fines, however, if work is not completed to replace the “North Trunk” sewer line, running about 3,000 feet from the Rutter’s store to North Seton Avenue.

Whether the work is being required thanks to a series of letters to MDE from members of COPE — Citizens’ Organization to Preserve Emmitsburg — is uncertain.

What is certain is that on April 27, voters will fill two seats on the town’s board of commissioners, and in the weeks before the election, the battle between “new” and “old” Emmitsburg is coming to a head.

“It’s too bad this has gotten out of hand,” said Dot Davis on Wednesday. She is a former town commissioner and one of the founding members of COPE. “I don’t believe in dirty politics.”

But politics has become very dirty in Emmitsburg, a saga that continues to unfold in the “letters to the editor” sections of several local newspapers.

Town Commissioner Cliff Sweeney’s April 1 paid advertisement in The Emmitsburg Dispatch, the town’s monthly newspaper, prompted a strong reaction from COPE’s vice president, Harold Craig, himself a candidate for one of the commissioner seats.

Dispatch publisher Raymond Buchheister said Wednesday that the men are showing “a difference of opinion over a public issue and we, at The Emmitsburg Dispatch, allow people to have a platform to speak. And we think that’s what we’re doing.”

Mr. Sweeney has said repeatedly that the interest group doesn’t have the true interests of the town at heart.

But its vice president, Harold Craig, says it’s current town leaders like Mr. Sweeney who have ignored infrastructure problems while allowing continued residential growth.

COPE successfully fought annexation of the 64-acre Boyle property last year, and is gearing up to fight another proposed annexation, this time the 20-acre Bollinger parcel, in late May. Both annexations would bring new residential development to the town, which COPE, for now, adamantly opposes.

A candidates’ forum on April 15 at 7:30 p.m. promises to be an eventful one, with each of five candidates for two commissioner seats expected to attend. Two members of COPE, Mr. Craig and Penn Brook resident William O’Neil, are seeking election.

Mr. Sweeney is seeking re-election. Candidates Dianne Walbrecker and Stanley C. Mazaleski, who are not members of COPE, are also running.

Meanwhile, town officials will met with MDE officials later this month to try to avoid fines related to its deteriorating utility system and to discern if further requirements must be added to the planned scope of replacement work.

The town received a consent order from the agency in early March requiring sewer line replacement and reminding officials that “the discharge of any pollutant into waters of this State is prohibited by ... the environmental article.”

The state has also said the town may not authorize new sewer taps for the time being, essentially halting new development.

Mr. Hoover said Tuesday that letters from COPE to MDE regarding 2003 sewer line back-ups contained false information, however.

He said the town suffered nine sewer back-ups for all of 2003, not more as some COPE members’ letters said.

COPE’s members, like Mr. Craig, say they wrote the letters on their own, not as part of the larger group; but those who wrote letters, including Mr. O’Neil, are all members of the organization.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government