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 Town budgets 1.2 Million
for sewer system upgrades

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News-Post

(2/19) Members of the board of commissioners said Tuesday night that they intend to budget $1.2 million in the next fiscal year to repair the town's troubled sewer system, an increase of about $1 million .

The dollar figure was part of a preliminary report the town received from ARRO Consulting Inc., the Hagerstown engineering firm hired to perform a detailed examination of the system. ARRO figured the town will have to pay at least $925,000 to complete a list of 20 repairs. The estimate rose to more than $1.06 million when a 15 percent contingency was added.

More than 68 percent of the cost was tied to three big-ticket items. Lining an existing 8-inch main will cost about $297,000, replacing a 6-inch house connection was estimated at $218,000, and replacing a different 8-inch main carries a $120,000 price tag.

"There's no smoking gun," Commissioner Glenn Muth said of the firm's findings. "... There's $1 million worth of little things" that the town can do.

The cost estimate was included in a preliminary report that cited specific problems found to date. The firm's employees found cracks, broken pipes, leaks, and root infiltration into the system, among other problems.

The examination was commissioned because, during heavy rains, the town's system is prone to filling with water flooding some basements with raw sewage. About a dozen homes were flooded on a single day last May, prompting the board to hire ARRO and promise aggressive action to fix whatever problems were found.

Rick May, the town's clerk-treasurer, said Wednesday that the town is pursuing grants and/or loans to pay the immediate costs of the repairs. Loans would be repaid by money generated by increased user and connection fees.

The town budgeted more than $187,000 for infiltration and inflow projects this fiscal year, which ends June 30. About $60,000 of that amount remains available and willbe redirected toward the repairs.

Ron Bishop, whose home was one of those flooded with sewage in May, looked at the report for sever-al minutes, then assailed the town's past efforts to fix its sewer system. He claimed many of the problems listed would have been prevented if the town had properly trained employees, followed a basic preventative-maintenance program, or gave its employees the tools needed to do their job.

Mayor Martin Burns responded by saying the town's staff is competent, that it spent considerable money on infiltration and inflow projects in recent years, and that the department gets the equipment it requests.

Mr. Bishop also assailed the board, saying the commissioners have blamed families threatening to sue Thurmont for the town's fiscal woes and claiming the town has "turned their backs" on the affected residents.

The mayor, however, responded that while the potential litigation is part of the reason for the fiscal crisis, board members haven't blamed the residents for their problems. Also, rather than ignoring the problem, he said that town staff members have prevented the homes from flooding again and that the board will begin repairs as soon as the money is available.

"I hope that when everything's fixed," Mr. Burns said, "we can say we're not going to have this problem again."

Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner Bill Blakeslee informed the board that the Frederick County Board of Commissioners reportedly is considering delaying construction of an addition to Thurmont Primary School until at least 2007. He encouraged residents who disapprove of the delay to write the commissioners and attend two key public hearings in May.

The commissioners also continued to go over proposed town charter revisions with members of the committee that worked to rewrite the document.

The major discussion point was the committee's recommendation that a unanimous vote be required to hire an attorney or law firm to represent the town. Only a majority decision is required now.

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