problems, a topic at many town meetings
this year, were a key area of discussion
at the last scheduled meeting in 2003.
Tuesday night, board members expressed
frustration with the lack of information about the ongoing
sewer system study and the recent public complaints of
residents affected by the sewage backups.
ARRO Consulting Inc., the Hagerstown
engineering firm hired to troubleshoot the system, has worked
for months but hasn't provided a written report on its
findings. The board seems anxious to get answers, even partial
ones, as soon as possible.
Commissioner Ron Terpko said some
problems ARRO found have been fixed. He said the board knew it
might take up to a year to find the source or sources of the
severe infiltration and inflow problem, but he said periodic
updates would be helpful.
"I know we all want (a solution) to
come quicker," Mr. Terpko said. "We need more information and
Commissioner Wayne Hooper said he'd
like ARRO to at least provide excerpts from its report so
affected residents could be told about the findings so far and
the corrective actions taken.
Mayor Martin Burns also had strong
words for residents who recently complained about sewage being
pumped from the system into their street to prevent back-ups.
Though he empathized with them, he said the town has hired
experts to find solutions and won't capriciously spend money
in hopes of repairing the problems by luck.
"If you have, suggestions more than
what we're doing now," the mayor said, "I'd like to hear them,
because we're at a loss."
He also said the residents shouldn't
be "crucifying" town staff for not fixing the problem. Staff
members could have ignored the problem, he reasoned, allowing
homes to fill with sewage again.
Commissioner Glenn Muth noted that a
two-foot break in sewer piping was found on West Main Street
after sewage backed up into a home. The cut apparently was
caused by a contractor installing a water line, but the town
wasn't told of the error. The house was vacant when the work
was performed, so the problem wasn't discovered until new
Mr. Muth said the break could have
added up to 250,000 gallons of water to the sewer system each
day considering how wet the ground has been.
In their lone vote of the meeting, the
commissioners adopted Frederick County's real estate tax
discount plan for the first billing period of 2004. The county
requested the change because it is switching software and
cannot program all town plans before bills are sent.
Thurmont normally allows residents to
reduce their payment by 2 percent if it's made in the first
three months after the bills are sent. The county's plan
provides a 1 per-cent discount if the bill is paid in the
first month and a 0.5 percent break if it's paid in the second
The lower discount rates will mean a
bit of extra tax money for the town. The county has said that
different rates for towns can be used for the July billing.
Mr. Burns lobbied briefly for the
commission to adopt the discount rates permanently, saying it
would help the county. Mr. Muth opposed that idea.
"it's not our money. Its the
taxpayer's money." he said.
The mayor argued that the amount was
relatively insignificant, but the commissioners limited the
change to this billing and will revisit the issue next year.
The board also heard a complaint from
a former colleague. Ken Oland, who was defeated in the October
election, said his wife, Marilyn, recently slipped on ice on
the sidewalk at the Town Square and fell. She wasn't seriously
injured, but he claimed he wouldn't have fallen if police
officers and public works crew members had done their jobs.
"They ought to be looking for these
things," he said.
Mr. Burns noted that town staff
members can't be everywhere. He said the side-walk was cleaned
but theorized that water from melting snow froze overnight,
causing the icy patch. Appropriate staff members will be
alerted to watch for such places.
Mr. Terpko also asked to see bills
from Cliff Bridgford, the former town attorney. He said the
town may have exceeded the amount it budgeted for legal fees
with more than six months left in the fiscal year.
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