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Town residents tell commissioners they want to keep local police

Chris Patterson
The Gazette

At a public meeting Friday, about 70 Thurmont residents emphatically told town commissioners that they want to keep the Thurmont Police Department.

Later that night, several commissioners said they were moved by residents' statements to support keeping the department in town.

But the board has not made a final vote quite yet.

Mayor Martin A. Burns said Wednesday the board would hold another public meeting about the fate of the police department, scheduled for 7 p.m., Jan. 4, in the town hall, 10 Frederick Road. A vote will be taken at that time, he said.

The board promised to hold two public meetings on the matter, and so the second meeting will be held, despite overwhelming support for keeping the department, Burns said.

Town commissioners announced in early November they were considering eliminating the police department in favor of contracting with the Frederick County Sheriff's Office for police services.

The reason is a staffing crisis, Mayor Martin Burns told the roughly 70 residents assembled at the meeting. Despite many attempts, the town has been struggling for the last few years to meet its planned police staffing levels. The board considered contracting for two sheriff's deputies as a stop-gap measure.

When Police Chief Terry Frushour met to discuss the possibility with Sheriff James W. Hagy (R), Hagy suggested that the town consider switching entirely to deputies.

The meeting Friday was the first of two public meetings to get feedback from residents and to answer questions about the pros, cons and costs of changing over to deputies.

The difference, in personnel costs, was significant. Paying salaries for the 12-person Thurmont Police Department costs the town about $9,000 less than it would cost to contract for eight sheriff's deputies and management staff, recommended by Hagy.

But, Burns said, significant advantages could override the cost burden. Currently, when an officer with the Thurmont department is unable to work, the town is left shorthanded. If the town contracted with the sheriff's office, another deputy would be sent to fill the void.

It was apparent early in the meeting that the vast majority of the residents there wanted the town to keep its department. Several of the town's police officers and the chief also said they thought the town police department should stay.

By the end of the meeting it appeared a majority of the commissioners were moved to decide against closing the department.

Commissioner Wayne Hooper said he felt obligated to consider closing the department initially, if it would benefit the town. However, the comments in favor of the police department, and in favor of raising taxes to fund a better facility for them, had caused him to lean toward keeping the department.

Commissioner Ron Terpko expressed similar thoughts.

Commissioner Glenn Muth, who was not able to attend the meeting due to a death in the family, has previously said he is in favor of keeping the town's police department.

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