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Emmitsburg Town election approaching

(8/1) No candidates filed, but incumbents announce intent to run

The Emmitsburg town election will be Sept. 27 with residents voting for who will fill the seats currently held by Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover and Commission President Chris Staiger. While both men have announced their intention to run for re-election, as of July 26, no one had yet officially filed.

The last day to file to run for either mayor or commissioner this year is Aug. 29, according to Town Clerk Donna DesPres.

"I think a lot of people are capable of serving," Staiger said. "I just don’t think many of them want to take the time to get involved with town government."

The last day to register to vote in this year’s election is Sept. 2. Candidates for election must be Emmitsburg residents and registered voters in the town.

"They must also live in the town for the duration of their term," DesPres said. "If they move out of town while in office, they must vacate the office."

While no one has filed to run yet, Hoover said it is not that unusual for candidates to wait to closer to the deadline. Staiger said that his delay in deciding had been because he had considered running for mayor before deciding to continue as town commissioner.

Hoover has been mayor since 2002 and will be running for his fourth term in that position. Emmitsburg has around 1,500 registered voters, though only about 12 percent of that number vote (based on election numbers from 2000 to 2010).

Staiger will be running for his third term as a town commissioner and he said that he is pleased to see that a lot of the burning issues when he ran previously have been put to rest. He is looking at the issues that will need to be dealt with in the future. He said that the town needs to do a better job with economic development and not leave local businesses to shoulder that burden.

"We’ve got to make this a place where people want to come to do business," he said.

Town residents are going to see an increase in their sewer tax rates during this next term. The State of Maryland mandated that the town upgrade its sewer facilities, a project that is estimated to cost around $20 million. While the state "Flush Tax" is paying for 75 percent of the project, the town has to fund the remaining $5 million or so.

"We’re going to need to collect an additional $400,000 to $450,000 a year in sewer fees. That means our rates will increase and we have to increase the rates at all levels as a condition of our getting the grant funding," Hoover said.

The next Mayor and board of commissioners will have to finalize the rates and put them into effect. They will also have to deal with the complaints that will likely come from residents who are shocked by their increased bills. Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2012.

The town’s property tax rate has remained at its current level since 2002. While this is good news for residents, it has meant that the tax revenues have decreased as property values have fallen. This has led to decisions about trimming and cutting to create a balanced budget each year. One such decision was to reduce the number of community deputies from three to two.

Staiger noted that while the board’s decision was unanimous, it has been somewhat controversial in the community. While the decision has already been made, he said that he is not averse to having the community create a ballot initiative about whether the town should have a community deputy at a cost of five cents more in their property tax rate or maintain the two deputies.

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