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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(7/11) As always at this time of year, thank you to all the volunteers who helped make the Emmitsburg Lions Club 29th Annual Community Day such a success! Events on Saturday June 25 included the traditional morning children’s games, afternoon horseshoe tournament, Sheriff’s Department five mile youth bike ride, Tommy West Memorial Car Show, Vigilant Hose Company Ladder Truck rides, live music all day, Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association sponsored parade, Lions Club program, scholarship awards, and – of course – evening fireworks! Thanks to all those who attended and had a great time!

In town business for June, the fiscal year 2012 budget (beginning July 1, 2011) was approved. Members of the Board voted unanimously for the reductions necessary to bring our town budget back into balance while maintaining the tax rate at the previous level. The most painful reduction was obviously the elimination of one Community Deputy position. I discussed this possibility in depth last month (and it’s been covered in many articles since), so I won’t belabor it here… All of the town’s elected officials approved of this decision and, as I have stated numerous times, we are all property owners with families and children in the community.

An additional, possible area of concern was the 2% cost of living increase granted to town employees (except for elected officials). This was the first such increases in three years. While proposed by the Mayor and approved by the Board of Commissioners, the Board took action to reduce administrative costs in numerous areas that not only covered the COLA increase but also led to further reductions to overhead costs.

In other areas, Commissioner O’Donnell continued his effort to establish a Hiking and Mountain Biking Trail in the vicinity of Rainbow Lake. This would nicely complement the walking trails recently constructed in Community Park after years of effort by Mayor Hoover. The Board approved a tentative design plan and flagging of the proposed trail for further review. Costs to the town will be minimal as the trails would be largely created and maintained by volunteer mountain biking organizations.

The Board also discussed financial estimates for a sidewalk extension along the north side of Main Street to Timbermill Run which was proposed by Commissioner O’Donnell. I would expect that most of this cost could be covered through the "impact fees" of $1200 to $3200 charged to each home in the newer developments that the sidewalk would more safely connect to the town center.

At the request of Commissioner Joy, on July 5 the Board will continue a discussion on reducing development related fees. The last changes were a twenty percent reduction to total fees effective back in January 1, 2009. In preparation, I have asked Town Staff to re-validate our sewer and water connection charges. There may be some room to remove the surcharges that were helping to fund sewer and water infrastructure repairs and updates throughout town, since these programs are now completed. Adequate funding for future repairs should now be collected through future connection fees for new homes and quarterly user fees for all those connected to the system.

The Board will also continue consideration of a smoking ban in town parks proposed by Commissioner Blanchard. During discussion on June 20, the Board proposed limiting smoking restrictions to play areas, ball fields, and the town pool (where I would propose a smoking area be provided). Although no action was taken following our initial discussion, it was requested that Commissioner Blanchard bring the idea back for further debate once the community is more aware of the proposal.

The Town Planner has also received Board approval to continue work developing a set of architectural guidelines and recommendations for renovations and construction in the Village Zone – almost all of which is included in the National Register of Historic Places. We are very lucky that so many of our historic buildings from the 19th century survive and are clearly recognizable versus pictures taken over a hundred years ago. We need to develop a partnership and incentives for property owners to take preservation into account when making the repairs and updates required as time marches on!

Finally, town officials will be meeting with county and local emergency service representatives in July to discuss access to the Northgate community at times where Flat Run floods the North Seton / Provincial Parkway intersection. The Board is looking forward to again discussing this situation once some feedback has been received from emergency services providers.

As always, I encourage you to share your opinions on these and other issues with your elected officials. Have a great month.

Read other articles by Chris Staiger