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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(8/2012) Hot! Hot! Hot! I guess the only good thing is that you don’t have to cut the grass so often… Otherwise, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! The Community Pool is open with good attendance and in July the Board approved a contract with Paddock Pools to replace the baby pool with a splash garden that should better serve a wider audience with less trouble. Construction begins just after the pool season and the new feature will be available next summer. Town staff also plans to make some improvements to the parking lot that will aid access and circulation.

In response to the Citizens Advisory Committee, the town is pursuing an additional crosswalk at Patterson and West Main Street to complement the existing crosswalk at Jamison and West Main. We are also requesting an additional crossing guard at Federal and East Main Street to provide protection to children crossing Main Street on the east side of town. The timing of crosswalks at the town square continues to be an issue we discuss with the State Highway Administration.

Due to the recent drop in property assessments you should see a steep reduction in your property tax payment. Most Emmitsburg property owners should see a reduction as much as twenty percent versus last year. Monthly mortgage payments should also decrease due to the need to hold less in escrow. Many neighboring municipalities have increased their tax rates to counteract this drop in property tax assessments. Residents of those towns will not see their municipal tax bills decrease as we have in Emmitsburg because your Board of Commissioners acted to limit spending to match projected revenues so that no increase was required.

In July, contracts for the new wastewater treatment plant were approved. Pending final approval by the Maryland Department of the Environment and the US Department of Agriculture, groundbreaking could take place as soon as September – with a projected completion date of late 2014. Almost 75% of the total project cost is grant funded while the balance of the cost will be funded by the town through a long term bond issue between two and three percent.

Providing water and sewer service is the largest "business" of the town. At over $1,500,000, the costs of those two programs equal the total cost of all other town expenditures – such as the Community Deputies, other employee wages and benefits, and road maintenance. We make sure that user fees are calculated fairly and uphold our responsibility to maintain and improve the system. Water and sewer services are funded primarily by the users of the system - property taxes are not used – and the bills and receipts are managed separately from the general town budget.

The Mayor has been working hard with the Town staff to improve our economic development prospects. One success is that the State has approved our application to join the Maryland Sustainable Communities program. Participation will allow us to take advantage of a wide range of state programs offering financial support for public, private, and commercial improvement efforts. This program compliments our recent ‘Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area’ grant that will fund efforts to design and implement improvements on the town square. I believe all elected officials are in agreement that this should be a focal point of our efforts at economic redevelopment. The Mayor continues to work with staff to roll out and build upon these successes.

As always, I encourage your participation and input into these projects. Please consider contacting any of your elected officials with questions or comments. Sincerely, Chris Staiger.

Read other articles by Chris Staiger