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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(5/11) Once again, April saw a busy month with many changes for our community – some bad and some good. We also were forced to cope with Mother Nature and the flooding throughout town on Saturday, April 16. At one point, all roads into town were water covered – many to an impassable degree.

County government has continued its retreat from the North County area by de-funding the successful Up County Family Partnership. This program has served families and children from the Walkersville / Lewistown areas up through Emmitsburg for almost thirty years. The previous county board took over funding from Catholic Charities, who discontinued their participation approximately three years ago. The Town has also participated through a reduced fee structure for the building rental as well as an annual contribution of $12,000.

It should be noted that the town’s contribution to the program, as a percentage of our budget, is 12x greater than the county contribution as a percentage of their budget. However, the removal of funding by a Baltimore based non-profit set the stage for the current board’s decision to end county funding also. Even if the county had decided to make up the difference, their new contribution (as a percentage of their budget) would still have been less than Emmitsburg’s current contribution. Instead, this worthwhile program joins the list of reduced services provided by county government – from local Community Agency School Services, to the local library, to the local Senior Center, to the local Head Start Program.

With little fanfare, the town has also (finally) passed an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance based of the Frederick County document adopted by the previous county board. While this ordinance does recognize the hard transportation realities of the local area, it draws the line at overcrowding our local schools. Unlike the current county board proposal, the town will not allow a financial contribution (never to be seen again in Emmitsburg) toward future county school construction in order to promote development that drives local attendance over 100% of CURRENT capacity.

The Town Council has also begun to assess permit fees and other charges in an effort to determine if some may be re-formatted, reduced, or eliminated. While many fees are less than those of communities of similar size, I would still question why we charge based on estimates of staff time required to review, process, and approve when we have already budgeted to hire a person specifically to fulfill those types of activities! When you come into the town office to utilize a service your taxes are already funding, why should you as a resident or business owner have to pay an (additional?) fee? I can understand a pass though charge related to advertising costs or legal fees related to a specific review – or other such costs not already budgeted for. The town council will continue to discuss these possibilities next month…

Also, Commissioner Tim O’Donnell deserves recognition for his work to secure grant funding for a Multi User Trail in the vicinity of Rainbow Lake. The trail is primarily designed for mountain biking but may also be used for hiking – this will complement the paved, walking trail system the Mayor has developed for Community Park. Tim is working hard to organize and obtain independent grant funding to cover all construction costs while also establishing a network of volunteers to conduct oversight and maintenance. The town council has approved these efforts with the understanding that no construction can be undertaken prior to public review and approval of a design concept.

Lastly, the Town Council is sensitive to community concern over the flooding that periodically prevents access to the Northgate subdivision every four years or so. While we have reviewed the history and considered possible actions previously as a body (although some faces may have changed), we are now attempting to officially inquire as to Fire and Rescue capabilities when this situation arises. I believe Public Safety, in terms of the provision of emergency services, is the first question that must be better answered. I am certainly willing to discuss past actions and possible future actions with area residents – and encourage them to share their concerns with the Town Council. We may not be able to resolve the situation to everyone’s convenience, but we certainly have an obligation to make sure everyone is as safe as possible.

Read other articles by Chris Staiger