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Town decides to keep local police department

Chris Patterson

(1/6/2005) The Town of Thurmont is starting the new year with a mandate from residents -- keep the town's police department.

At Tuesday's town meeting, the board voted to keep its department rather than replacing it with contracted deputies from the Frederick County Sheriff's Office.

The decision was made after two public hearings on the matter and consideration of e-mails and phone calls from residents, they said.

In November 2004, the board announced it was looking into the benefits of contracting with the Sheriff's Office for police support and potentially closing the Thurmont Police Department.

Town officials argued that years of problems fully staffing the department and recent injuries that sidelined officers made the board consider alternative ways to protect residents.

Temporarily contracting with the county to hire two deputies to fill a void was first considered, but later rejected because the town's police officers opposed the idea.

They said they could do overtime to handle the shortage.

During talks with Sheriff James W. Hagy (R), the idea of a replacement of the town's department was suggested and town leaders decided to consider that as a possibility.

The town has eight police employees, including one chief, one lieutenant, two sergeants, three officers and one administrative assistant. Two new police recruits began an eight-month training program earlier this week. Once they graduate, they can begin working in the Thurmont department.

The department has a budget for 12 staff members.

On Dec. 16, the town's board of commissioners held the first of two public meetings on the matter.

About 65 people attended, and, when polled, nearly all raised their hands to indicate they wanted the department to stay.

Comments in support of the department that night were echoed at Tuesday's town meeting.

Nearly 35 people attended this week's meeting and nearly all raised their hands again to indicate they wanted to keep the department.

Residents said they wanted to keep the town's police department so the town could maintain control over the costs and level of service, and maintain the personal service the department is known for.

The board voted unanimously to keep the department. Commissioner Bill Blakeslee was absent due to illness, Mayor Martin Burns said.

Following the vote, the board considered its next move in regard to getting a new station for the police.

Burns has said repeatedly that he wants the town to look at a plan for all town facilities, not just the police department.

The board asked the town clerk and police commissioners to bring information on the needs of the department and ideas for locations for the police department.

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