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Town wants Frank Bentz Pond to be a pond, not a creek

Chris Patterson
The Gazette

(11/17/2004) After two weeks of public input and talks with government agencies, it's clear the Town of Thurmont wants Frank Bentz Pond to be a pond, not a creek.

The pond -- one of six Frederick County properties the state announced Friday that it seeks to sell -- was created on Hunting Creek around 1910 to power a burgeoning new electric company. It was later dedicated to Frank Bentz Sr., the public relations director for the Game and Inland Fish Commission who helped restore the pond shortly before his death.

In recent years it has declined due to lack of care, and the dam that created the pond has collapsed. Because the pond is now only used for recreational fishing, the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put forward a proposal that would restore Hunting Creek's natural flow, removing virtually all remnants of the pond.

But town residents, town commissioners and the Frank Bentz Pond Committee, along with state Del. Paul S. Stull (R-Dist. 4A) of Walkersville, have sent a clear message that they don't want their pond removed.

Stull, who was responsible for winning state funding to restore the pond three years ago, attended a town meeting this week to reinforce his commitment to the pond.

Now Mayor Martin Burns and the board of commissioners have said the pond is an icon in the community and they do not want it removed. And they are prepared to put their money where their collective mouth is by taking control of the pond and assuming responsibility for maintenance costs, they said.

The strength of their conviction was so powerful that DNR project manager Harvey Bryant reported in a recent e-mail to town clerk Rick May that the pond will stay.

"Based on reactions from town people and officials, I think it's fair to say Thurmont wants the dam project as currently designed," Bryant wrote on Nov. 10. "Therefore DNR is committed to moving forward with the project."

But, the costs and the requirements to maintain the pond are unclear.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is telling Thurmont the pond must be inspected every year and after every "significant" rain event with the results sent to the state, Commissioner Bill Blakeslee said. But the DNR is saying inspections are probably needed only every three to five years.

Burns said the town and the county have agreed to put aside $5,000 each year for servicing the pond, but that money could go quickly if the pond must be maintained to the MDE standard.

Inspection costs are estimated at about $1,500, and there were three significant rain events this year alone, town clerk May said in an interview Wednesday.

And then there is the matter of the cleaning costs for the pond. In his e-mail to the town, Bryant estimated the contractor cost for dredging the pond at $40 per yard for the 1,300 yards of the pond, at a total cost of $52,000.

Burns and the board said that it has been about 20 years since the state ­ which currently has control over the pond -dredged the pond, something that has more than likely expedited the failure of the dam.

Now that the town has all but signed a final contract to assume responsibility for the pond, there is still the matter of when the work will be done to restore the pond and the dam.

More than three years ago, Del. Stull won funding for the work and it is still not done. Bryant ­ in his recent e-mail - urged the town to have Stull or someone apply pressure so the work can be done next year.

"Unless someone... exerts influence on the [Department of General Services], it is possible that this job will not get completed next year. The normal process is just too lengthy. [The department] will need a little push," Bryant wrote in his e-mail to the town.

Stull said Tuesday that he has already talked to Bryant about moving the process along and said he is committed to doing whatever he can to continue fighting for the pond.

"I'll promise you, I'm going to follow this and do everything I possibly can, including, as I told you, going to the governor's office and push this issue, especially to get the permit from the Army Corps of Engineers so we can continue to move forward with this project," he said.

Burns said he thinks the support by town residents for the pond may have already influenced the state to pay attention. He said the state removed a downed tree from the pond that was "really an eyesore" last week.

He also credited Del. Stull with helping to keep the pond issue alive.

"I think with our nicknamed 'Pit Bull Stull' in our corner, I think that we'll do real well with this," he said.

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