A proposed spending freeze for the
town got a cold reception from its residents and police chief
Because it faces unprecedented
potential legal bills and judgments, the board of
commissioners sought to control spending by ceasing hiring,
promotions and discretionary spending for the rest of the
fiscal year. But several residents objected to the plan,
especially since the town police force, budgeted for 12
positions, is four men short.
"Is that not a safety issue?" asked
Phil Walko, chairman of the town’s police commission. "If it’s
not a safety issue, why did we need (the four positions) to
Don Tyler said the impact affects all
employees. "Why should we jeopardize the last little bit of
goodwill we have with town employees by freezing salaries and
promotions?" he queried.
Rick May, the town’s clerk-treasurer,
said the freeze would save an estimated $80,000. Without the
money, Commissioner Glenn Muth questioned whether Thurmont
will meet its expenses.
"We can’t raise taxes now," he said,
"so where do you suggest we get the money?"
Police Chief Terry Frushour said he
objected to the board’s bypassing of the department heads in
dealing with the potential budget crisis. He said he didn’t
hear about the freeze until the morning after it was mentioned
at the Jan. 20 town meeting.
"I felt it should have been discussed
with the department heads so we wouldn’t be blindsided by it,"
the chief said.
The three commissioners in attendance
(Mayor Martin Burns and Commissioner Ron Terpko were out of
town for business reasons), opted to delay any decision,
preferring to discuss options with department heads first.
Early in the meeting, the board voted 2-0 to approve up to
$15,000 to rent flow meters for two months to help engineers
diagnose problems with the town’s sewer system. Backups into
homes occurred several times in 2003, but no major cause of
the malfunction has been found.
Gary Dingle, the town’s water
superintendent, said ARRO Consulting Inc. wants meters
installed at seven points inside the system. The data should
help the engineering firm determine where most of the
wildwater is infiltrating the system. The meters will be
monitored between March 15 and May 15, Mr. Dingle said,
because that’s typically the rainy period in the spring. The
money will come from town sewer-enterprise funds, not the
general fund that would be impacted by a spending freeze.
Town resident Doug Green also raised a
question for the board, objecting to being ticketed for
leaving cars parked on the street near his East Main Street
home for more than 24 hours. He said he has five legally
tagged vehicles that are not junk but only has parking room
for two in his driveway. The rest, he said, sometimes aren’t
moved for months at a time. Chief Frushour said the town
usually doesn’t enforce the ordinance unless it gets
complaints. Those calls, he said, usually are sparked by
disputes between neighbors.
The commissioners said they want
advice from the police commission and asked Mr. Green to
attend its next meeting. Commissioner Bill Blakeslee warned
him that many residents likely support the ordinance.
One such resident rose to make his
voice heard. John Kinnaird said he has no parking at his home
and has to rent space for his vehicles. He called the
ordinance "pretty reasonable," saying eliminating it could
turn the streets into parking lots.
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