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Town considering creating election laws to be added to the town code

Chris Patterson

(11/17/2004) At Monday's town meeting, the Emmitsburg board of commissioners again discussed creating election laws to be added to the town code.

New parts of the code will include sections on voter qualifications, write-in candidates, absentee ballots, counting votes, recall elections and penalties for violations, among others.

One of the new laws will require that all candidates and "any organizations or individuals who publicly support or oppose a ballot initiative to present a tally of expenses, including receipts, used to conduct his/her/their campaigns."

Town resident and Planning Commission Chair Chris Staiger asked the board to remove the section on recall provisions because he was concerned it would only interject more partisanship into the elections.

Also, by having elections every three years, the town was, in effect, having a recall election and removing people from office the voters do not believe should be there.

As currently written, the section would require 33 percent of the town's registered voters to sign a petition to recall an elected official. If the requisite number of signatures is obtained, the person is removed and another election will be scheduled within 30 to 45 days.

Other residents said they wanted to be certain a voter who was challenged would still be able to cast a provisional ballot and that the town would only have a 30-day residency requirement for voting.

Commissioner Bill O'Neil said the board would like to hear from residents about the proposed changes, which will be voted on at the next town meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 6, in the town hall.

The vote was deferred until that meeting because Commissioner Dianne Walbrecker ­ who was not present at the meeting ­ had asked the board to vote on the matter when she returns, O'Neil said. A provision to establish poll watchers during elections will also be considered at that time.

In other business, board members approved rental increases for eight properties it has owned in the College Mountain area for about two years. The properties - on Crystal Fountain Road, Scott Road and Hampton Valley Road ­ were acquired when the town arranged to purchase the old Ski Mountain property.

Only five of them are currently occupied, and all the rents were extremely low when they were purchased, town manager Dave Haller said.

Haller said the increases were necessary due to inflation and the cost of liability insurance. The increases range from $50 to $75 per property, representing anywhere from a 14 percent to a 33 percent increase for residents.

The properties are being kept due to their location, which is where the town's reservoir and the majority of its wells are located, Haller said. Protecting the water sources was a key reason for purchasing the properties, and the town didn't want to displace anyone.

At the meeting, the board also named area resident Dave Martin to the Water Committee and approved free parking in the business district between Dec. 20 and Dec. 31.

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