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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(8/2013) I hope everyone is surviving the summer heat. The best benefit is that the tomatoes are finally starting to come in from the garden! Of course, I also won’t complain that the grass grows slower…

Town Election Day is Tuesday, September 24. As of this writing, no one has signed up to run for the two commissioner positions to be filled. The current incumbents are Commissioners Pat Joy and Jim Hoover. If you would like to run for office or are interested in serving as an election judge, please call the town office at 301-600-6300.

I’m sure we are all thankful that the recent, lightning triggered fire at the Mount Saint Mary’s Chapel bell tower did not result in even greater damage. While the tower may need repairs of a half million dollars or more, the chapel below was largely undamaged. Thank you to the region’s fire fighters who were able to contain the blaze. There was some impressive video footage on the web!

July town meetings saw the final approval of code changes that will allow residents to raise hens in residential areas that don’t have additional HOA restrictions. Careful attention was paid to rules from other towns and counties in crafting our revised ordinances. Although there appeared to be little opposition to the change after discussion at numerous town meetings, the Board still approved an eighteen month "sunset" provision.

This means that Board will need to reapprove the changes in early 2014 – or the ability to raise hens will lapse at that time. This allows us to basically take a test drive for a reasonable period of time to make sure there are no unforeseen or unintended consequences to the changes as approved. If implementation proceeds as smoothly, reauthorization shouldn’t be a problem. If no one even applies, the ordinance will simply go away. If there are issues with implementation, we can address them.

There are no new updates on the town square re-design project. Mayor Don Briggs has asked for an additional $10,000 to allow our design consultant to continue to lobby the State Highway Administration to allow proposed traffic changes at the square. We are still waiting for the final report from the design consultant following the wrap up meeting in January. The Board has requested a funding plan from the Mayor for presentation in September. Next steps and funding mechanisms are largely undefined. Meanwhile, a majority of the Board is unwilling to stop allocating money for fear of appearing hostile to the project. Sounds like a government project, doesn’t it(!)

The dimmer, blue lights now seen throughout town are a consequence of the transition from high pressure sodium to LED lighting. Cost savings due to the lighter electricity load and the longer lifetime of LED lights were used to justify the transition, but have not been factored into the current budget effective last July 1. If the savings are not identified and captured, they will most likely be absorbed into other expenditures.

The plan to transition the current irrigation field at the existing sewer treatment plant into a solar field seems to be moving forward. The intent is to sell solar generated power back to the grid in an effort to reduce the increased power costs of the new wastewater treatment plant currently under construction. Of course, sewer user rates were raised last year to cover some of these same increased costs – there’s been no discussion of reducing them if an alternate funding mechanism is identified...

As with the town square redesign, additional funds to move the solar project forward have been requested by the administration, but not much information on the total installation cost or funding has been presented. The Board has agreed to allocate these funds to evaluate proposals already received by the Mayor and Town Manager. In my experience, there is usually a trade-off. Inevitably, there will be a "partner" who installs the solar field. What needs to be effectively negotiated is the balance of up front installation costs versus the division of income from the solar field generation proceeds. More to follow once the info is finally shared!

And, as always, please keep an eye out for opportunities to contribute and don’t hesitate to share your opinions with your elected officials by sending an e-mail to

Sincerely, Chris Staiger

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