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Town Studies Colorfest and Sewer Issues

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

(11/12/03) The town's leaders have begun the process of troubleshooting its biggest event and setting up a new group to help manage it.

The board of commissioners on Tuesday decided to create a town committee to study issues arising from Catoctin Colorfest, the arts and crafts festival that draws throngs to Thurmont each October.

While the annual fall festival provides an economic windfall for some businesses and residents, it also creates problems, officials said.

The only current committee member is the board's representative, Commissioner Ron Terpko.

Preferring to have committee input, the board deferred detailed discussion of problems related to trash, transportation, permit costs and the sale of inappropriate items like slingshots and knives to youths.

Though the town was hit with a $3,425 bill for towing services, it made enough money to give some back to the community. Parent teacher groups affiliated with Catoctin High School ($2,357.50) and the Thurmont elementary and primary schools ($1,760) as well as the Thurmont Senior Center ($165) got to keep the money they collected in parking fees.

The decision to give the $4,282.50 back to the groups left the town with a deficit of $31.15 from the event. Catoctin Colorfest Inc., the organization most responsible for festival planning, will cover the loss.

In other matters, the commissioners unanimously decided to provide a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise to town employees. The raise, which will cost the town about $19,300 this year, will be applied retroactive to July 1, when the new budget year began.

When finalizing the budget for this fiscal year, the commissioners approved a step increase for employees that amounted to a 3.5 percent raise. They delayed a decision to provide more money until they learned how state budget cuts might affect revenues.

The board also was provided an update on ARRO Consulting's examination of the town's troublesome sewer system. Raw sewage has backed up into some homes at least three times this Year, and town workers have had to pump sewage from the system several times to prevent other backups.

Gary Dingle, town water superintendent, said manhole inspections and televised testing of the system have been completed. The company will begin smoke testing next week.

That test involves filling parts of the sewer with non-toxic smoke. If the smoke comes out in someone's basement, it may mean 'a homeowner's sump pump is improperly connected to the sewer line.

A testing schedule will be posted on Channel 99, the town's cable-access station.

During the public comment period, Carol Hutson informed the board that the Support the Troops group would be sending out another round of care packages to troops overseas as part of the peacekeeping effort in Iraq. She requested that updated information on troops who are overseas or have been sent home be reported to the town office.

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