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Voter Guide for Upcoming Town Elections

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(10/13) Thurmont is scheduled to hold a general election Oct. 24, to choose a mayor and two members of the Board of Commissioners.

The two incumbent commissioners, Ronald Terpko and Wayne Hooper, are running unopposed for their seats.

Bob Wagerman is challenging Mayor Martin Burns for his seat.

Election schedule The Thurmont town election is scheduled from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Oct. 24, at the Guardian Hose Fire Company Activity Building, 127 E. Main St., Thurmont. For more information about the election, call the town office at 301-271-7313.

The Gazette asked the two mayoral candidates to answer a series of questions about issues in the town, and their plans for the town, if elected. Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words or less.

Burns has served as the town’s mayor for the last four years, and works at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.

Burns said he feels that he and the current board have made a lot of progress in the last four years, and is hopeful that the residents of Thurmont will recognize that.

‘‘I’ve made my share of mistakes, but we’ve accomplished a lot..." he said.

Wagerman served as a town commissioner from 1988 to 1999, and has run for mayor in the last two elections. He is retired, but works at Boscov’s, and said he could make his duties as an elected official in the town his full-time job.

‘‘I’ve been involved in town politics before and have been a town resident for 38 years," Wagerman said. ‘‘I wasn’t too happy with the mayor and the commissioners [on the current board] for the first three years, and I would like to restore the town to what it once was."

Q What makes you qualified to serve as Thurmont’s mayor?

Burns: I am qualified to continue as Thurmont’s mayor because of the results we have made in the last four years. We could not have been as successful had it not been for the entire Board of Commissioners, specific commissions and volunteers who supported the goals, dreams and ideals to improve upon our wonderful town. Successes include reducing the tax rate, no annexations in the past four years, a town Web site with e-mail, a new police building and library due in 2006/2007, many grants applied for and/or received saving your tax dollars, and a second grocery store due in 2006.

Wagerman: I was a town commissioner from the fall of 1987 to the fall of 1999. There was a two-year break in here during this time period. I also have lived in the Town of Thurmont for 37 years and I have the knowledge on how the town has been run in the past. I retired from Moore Business Forms in 2002, after 38 years of service, and I have more time during the day hours to handle the business of the town.

Q What are the three most important issues facing the town in the next few years? Please list them in order of importance.

Burns: Maintaining infrastructure, reducing taxes when possible and controlling growth. We inherited a sewer system with unknown problems but we are determined to fix the problems in December with a very low 1 percent interest loan. This board lowered your tax rate this year and absorbed a 3-cent tax increase passed to us from the county. We denied every residential development in the last four years to control growth. All residential developments currently under construction were approved by previous administrations. At my request this board passed special impact fees charging developers for every home built in Thurmont.

Wagerman: A) Fuel costs is the biggest because it affects all of the services to the town. B) The town park system and all of your services to the people of Thurmont must be kept up-to-date so they can service everyone in Thurmont with no issues. C) All of the departments in the town need to be looked at because some of our most important personnel are getting close to retirement and we will need qualified people to fill these positions.

Q How would you have handled the town’s water and sewer problems in the past? How can the town avoid more problems in the future?

Burns: Water problems were solved by identifying a new municipal well (220 gallons per minute) and controlling growth, which we have done by not annexing or approving any developments in four years. This board did not create the current problems in the sewer system but have worked hard to resolve them. We had engineering studies, we were successful in getting a very low interest loan from the state, and we have implemented a grease policy for businesses, and adopted impact fees for developers. We will break ground on the sewer project in December and continue to monitor it closely.

Wagerman: The town has always had water and sewer problems. The sewer problems were always bigger than the water problems. More wells in the water system to help with the low levels. As far as the sewer system, upgrades are always being made and this plant operation is controlled by the state. The town sewer system needs to be looked at all of the time for the water levels in the system so we don’t have back-up problems.

Q Describe the ideal growth rate for the Town of Thurmont.

Burns: I will continue to be an advocate for low, controlled, growth. In six years of elected office I have not voted to approve any residential annexation or development. Four years ago there were 300 or more potential lots that could be built and I did not consider that low growth. We now have approximately 50 lots left in the pipeline and we denied a recent request to annex 30-40 more. That’s a commitment to low growth. Furthermore, we implemented new impact fees charged to developers to keep revenue coming in but keep the residential growth low.

Wagerman: The growth rate for the town needs to be based on the undeveloped land with in the town limits as they are right now. The Town of Thurmont doesn’t need anymore land added to the town.

Q What would you change about the town’s budget? Should spending be increased or decreased in certain areas? Why?

Burns: The board voted to reduce the tax rate and are committed to increasing revenue by imposing fees to developers, annexation agreements, grants and cooperating with the county on joint ventures to save residents’ tax dollars. We are phasing in a Five Year Development Plan (FYDP) to get all town departments thinking about the needs for the next five years so we can start planning now for the needs in the future and not be surprised when we need money for large projects. Previous boards only looked at one year at a time and we are trying to project and plan for the future.

Wagerman: The town’s budget is based on the income of the town in the individual departments and the budget is set from this income accordingly. The budget is controlled by our accounting firm also, and I see no changes here. Spending needs to be controlled and kept to a bare need because I don’t want to raise taxes at all.

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