James Rada, Jr.
(9/20) On Oct. 1, residents of
Thurmont will elect two town commissioners. To
assist residents in getting to know the
candidates and their positions, The Thurmont
Dispatch asked the candidates a number of
questions on issues relating to the town. Here
are their answers.
The candidates are: John Ashbury, Rosalie
Bentz, Randy Cubbedge, Bob Lookingbill, Brian
Lynch, Glenn Muth and Keith Naff.
What is your position on the three
annexation requests (Myers Farm, Lawyer Farm,
and Drees) before the town?
Ashbury: The Myers Annexation will
be decided October 16 – before the new
commissioners take office. I have real
concerns about the Drees proposal because of
its location, the traffic it will generate in
an already congested area, and the wetlands
which will be in close proximity to it. The
Lawyer Farm annexation makes the most sense to
me at present, but I would have to study the
entire proposal in depth before making a final
decision. I do, however, believe Thurmont
should pursue annexations so it controls those
areas adjacent to Thurmont, if only to create
Bentz: I think we should use land
available throughout the town first. Slow
Cubbedge: I favor the Myers Farm
annexation. I like its development mix and its
yearly development is within the limits the
town survey said the citizens of Thurmont
would like to see. Affordable properties (MPDU's)
will be included and the potential for a
northern county emergency care facility is a
plus. Drees Homes should not be approved until
the sewer system is capable of handling the
increased flow this property would generate.
It would include MPDU’s, which is a plus.
Access to the property still needs to be
worked on and the pool must be open to all
citizens. Lawyer proposal would be the least
favored by me at this time. Their plan for the
sewer only seems to be a bypass and will not
help us in the long term. It will increase
traffic and not have any housing variety.
Lookingbill: I am for smart,
controlled growth. The Myers Farm would not
only impact the close neighbors and the town
but every traveler that would drive on US 15.
I know very little about the Lawyer Farm
proposal except that I think the
builder/developer said they had to build a
minimum 35 houses per year. The townspeople
have spoke loud and clear that they feel we
should only allow 30 permits per year. I’m not
saying I’m against annexing this property but
you have to go by our rules. As for the other
request about all I know about that is they
seem to want to build their own community.
Lynch: As was announced the present
board of commissioners will decide the Myers
Farm annexation request. My viewpoint is that
all three would be good additions to our town
with each having strengths and weaknesses to
iron out. I recommended to the Planning &
Zoning Commission to proceed with the Myers
Plan as it offered the best variety of homes
and businesses with the least direct impact on
the town & the sewer systems. I continue to
have grave concerns about the traffic problem,
specifically “J” turns. Might Drees be the
Muth: I am opposed to the Myers
annexation. It is beyond our Municipal Growth
Boundary and would open that area to more
development. The Lawyer and Drees annexations
would be better fits for the town. Both will
need to use our sewer system and therefore
have a vested interest in helping us fix it.
That being said, both the Lawyer and Drees
properties have issues that need to be
resolved before we even could consider
Naff: I believe it is the best
interest for the town of Thurmont to grow by
no more than 25-35 homes per year. I also
believe the town does not need a “big-box’
store, such as a Wal-Mart. This would have a
damaging effect on the local environment and
would put our local businesses in jeopardy of
closing. I am not supportive of the Myers Farm
annexation request. I believe the Drees
request is asking for too many permits during
a one year period. Also I believe they need to
build a true “community pool”, not a private
pool. The Lawyer Farm request has offered a
good amount of open space and they have stated
they have a good plan for our troubled sewer
system. They also state they would have 35
permits a year. I still would like to study
this proposal more.
How can the town solve its sewer problem?
Ashbury: Thurmont should have
already applied for grant funds to correct its
sewer problems in addition to asking the
General Assembly and Congress to aid with
funding. The town must resolve all issues
pertaining to its sewer system before
proceeding with any other initiatives. A major
problem, which falls to the homeowners, is the
laterals from the houses to the sewer line. We
need to identify those which need repair and
assist owners with the replacement of lateral.
However, the town should not provide any
direct assistance from taxpayers’ pockets.
Bentz: The sewer system needs to be
fixed. Use the money paid for taps to fix the
problems. Municipal, Bonds, Grants.
Cubbedge: Our current I&I projects
must continue. Our sewer lines decayed over a
course of time and fixing them will also take
time. A temporary relief to the system could
be the retention pond. I would like to look
into the long term of finding a way for the
town to fund the property owner's lateral
repairs. Starting in our oldest sections of
town and working forward. Legal issues and
funding will be issues with this idea I am
sure. If we are to ever be sure that the sewer
system is repaired, the whole system must be
addressed. Finally, continue our ongoing
efforts to inspect and monitor the grease
runoffs from our local restaurants must
Lookingbill: I do not think there is
a “magic bullet” solution to our sewer
problem. For one thing I do not think a proper
engineering study has been done. I believe we
need more camera work and special attention
should be given to the laterals that run from
the houses/buildings. Even if we were to spend
millions of dollars on the main system, if the
laterals are leaking we still have the same
problem. Grants are available for this work
and we need to work with the state and federal
government to help with funding.
Lynch: No one suggestion or idea
will “solve” the sewer problem. All
municipalities have ongoing sewer issues.
Monies need to be budgeted yearly for pipe
repair & replacement and for plant up-grades.
If costs exceed budgeted funds, money may have
to be re-allocated from other areas or rates
increased. Continue systematic inspection and
repair of all town lines then look at
laterals. Install an equalization tank to help
prevent what happened at Ironmaster Court. Use
proffers from annexations, not specifically
earmarked, to continue repairs. Grants, low
interest loans, donations are part of the
Muth: The quickest band aid for our
sewers is an equalization basin - a covered
cesspool that holds sewage until the sewer
plant can catch up. Price tag? $5 million.
That only masks the problem. We have about
2,200 subscribers to the sewer system. If
everyone used the same amount (this makes the
math easy), the basin will cost each
subscriber about $120 a year for the next 30
years. And remember, that doesn't fix the
problem. Fixing the problem will cost $5 – $10
million more ($120 - $240 additional per year
to the same sewer bill that I pay).
As you can see, this is a very expensive
problem with no easy answers. I suggest
contracting another civil engineer that might
bring a fresh perspective and new ideas.
Naff: The town needs to fix the
aging sewer system as quickly as possible. The
town has already been fined and taken to court
and we cannot afford this again. As
commissioner I would apply for grants with the
Board of County Commissioners, the Maryland
Department of the Environment as well as our
State and Federal Legislators. I would also
attempt to obtain low-interest loans to assist
in paying for repairs.
Are there other major issues that the town
needs to address?
Ashbury: We need to locate and
acquire additional water resources to answer
Thurmont’s future needs. Doing so now will
save money and provide insurance for the
future instead of having to address the issue
in a crisis situation later. Also, there are a
lot of senior citizens struggling to remain in
their homes because of rising utility bills
and taxes. The town has had the opportunity
for two years to provide some property tax
relief for those over 70, and has failed to do
so – or even discuss it.
Bentz: The town needs to be more
careful about spending. All the money for a
new police station could be better used to
repair sewer and streets.
Cubbedge: I would like to see a
strong effort made to get our young adults
(18-30) more actively involved with our town
government. Ladies and gentlemen these young
citizens are the future leaders of Thurmont. I
would like to see planning and zoning, parks
and the police commission, specifically
announce and seat, one member, in this age
bracket onto their committees. I would also
like to see if by our charter, we could have
one of our high school seniors seated on these
commissions also. While they could not be a
voting member, their input will be invaluable
to our town. They would follow the same rules
for attendance and preparation as the current
commission members. I think we could solicit
the high school government classes in
September when the school year begins and seat
them from November to May. They could then
take their experience as background for their
senior project. Further, at a town meeting
they could address the town in what their year
has been like. Currently our commissioners
have an open roundtable with the town. I would
like to continue that practice and have a
special meeting to invite everyone under the
age of 30.
Lookingbill: I don’t know if they
are major issues but there are some things I
would like to work on if elected. I would like
to start a “Seniors Commission”. This would be
similar to the Parks, Police, Ethics, Planning
& Zoning, etc. It would allow a direct voice
to the Board of Commissioners from one of our
most valuable sources. I would also like to
form a group of interested citizens to see if
there is any interest in starting a “Y” in
Thurmont. I would like to see one started in
Thurmont because of the benefits for all. I
would also like to see a hospital open a
satellite operation in Thurmont.
Lynch: As I have listened to the
“man on the street” the major issues depend on
your state in life – teenager, senior, married
with children, age, condition of your home,
etc. Major for some may be minor for someone
else. Examples – municipal growth boundaries,
rate increases, code enforcement, speeding,
teen involvement, senior care. These and more
come under the question “What quality of life
do I want in Thurmont?” We must share our
ideas, listen and reach common ground. We are
all in this together. We just have different
roles and talents.
Muth: The number one issue in my
mind is public involvement in town business.
We need more of it. You are our supervisors.
We need more supervision. I want and need your
thoughts on issues that affect all of us. Do
not hesitate to contact me GMuth@Thurmont.com.
Should the town participate in the town’s
economic development and what should that
Ashbury: Certainly the town must
participate in its own economic development.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that
taxpayers’ money should be used to promote it.
There are myriad ways to promote this without
spending public money. One way is for the town
to meet in an advisory capacity with anyone
planning projects for the economic development
of the town.
Bentz: The town should be a part of
any economic growth. Industry brings in
Cubbedge: The town should continue
its support of our economic development. Our
main street program has been a success, the
farmers market, our gallery walks, the
economic meetings and the notoriety it brings
to the town, are but a few of the positive
effects. Each in its own right has brought
more people into our town, and assisted us
Lookingbill: I believe the town did
the right thing when it started this group. It
always takes someone to get the ball rolling.
Now that the group seems to have a great start
it is my opinion they should be on their own.
Many towns and cities have an Economic
Development Commission or Chamber of Commerce
and I think Thurmont should have one as well.
I think a commissioner should be appointed to
continue to regularly attend the meetings and
functions of this group.
Lynch: I believe that the catalytic
institution of Thurmont is business. Owners
are the stimulus or spur that brings about the
greatest result in all areas of Thurmont –
main street designation and fundraising to
name a few. This began with Jacob Weller and
continues today. I am pleased that our
Economic Development Committee is made up of
business owners, residents, and a
representative of the town government. This
participation by town government should
continue. Line of communication regarding the
budget, future town plans, etc. are stronger
with this arrangement.
Muth: The town is currently
participating in economic development. We
funded the part time position of Main Street
Manager for three years. The manager’s
responsibilities are to assist with economic
development as well apply for grants that will
help the town. Businesses have created an
economic development group to further their
growth. The town provides a commissioner
liaison to that group. I supported these
Naff: I believe the current Board of
Commissioners, as well as the local residents
and business owners on the Economic
Development Committee have done an excellent
job in both promoting current businesses and
encouraging new small business partnership
between the Board of Commissioners and the
Thurmont Economic Development Committee.
Are there places in the town budget can be
trimmed and what are they?
Ashbury: Any budget officer who does
not build some fat into his product isn’t
doing his job. A careful comparison of the
past five town budgets, with spread sheet
analysis, would reveal the places that cuts
can be made. But, it is possible that reducing
the percentage growth of the budget from
year-to-year will be the best way to control
the spending rather than having to make cuts.
Bentz: I’m sure there are but I do
not have access to the town budget.
Cubbedge: I have sat in the audience
during the last 5 budget reviews and
participated in its discussions. I believe the
BOC has tried their very best to keep the
operation of our town as conservative as
possible. The increase in salaries and
benefits has helped to keep the town staffed
and our turn over minimal. With the potential
of some key employees leaving us very soon we
must be aware that finding replacements in
today's job market may actually cost us more
and we should prepare for this occurrence.
Lookingbill: I want to see what is
known as a “bare bones” budget. Spend to
maintain but spend the minimum. To spend $2
million dollars on a new police building
knowing we need millions to repair the sewer
was not, in my opinion, very good management
of taxpayer money. Since it appears to be no
way to stop it now, I would propose going back
to the sheriff’s office and see if they would
still be interested in opening a north county
substation and use part of this facility for
it. This could help with expenses for this
building and free up money to be used for the
Lynch: All costs especially in the
form of salaries and insurance continue to
rise. I sat at budget meetings and watched
department heads come with their requests for
funding. Some were denied outright, some
deferred to next year and others reduced for
this year. Compromise was reached and the
budget was balanced. I do not see where there
can be much trimming except in the escrow and
rainy day funds – but at what cost to our
future? Like my own budget that is lean but
lacking capital, maybe the town and I need to
“grow” our income a bit?
Muth: I am a fiscal conservative. I
did not vote for the tax rate increase, so yes
the budget could be trimmed. We could cut some
of the money that we put into our “rainy day
fund” (savings acct. for emergencies which is
already well funded).
Naff: I feel that it is not appropriate to
comment on trimming certain areas of the
budget without first discussing the needs of
all town department heads. Our dedicated and
loyal leaders such as Chief Gregory Eyler
(Police Deptartment) and Gary Dingle (Water
and Sewer) deserve this respect.
How should the town deal with its traffic
Ashbury: There are four major roads
which traverse Thurmont – MD 77, MD 550, MD
804, and U.S. 15. Before significant
corrections can be made concurrence with the
state and federal governments must be
obtained. There are some corrections in
traffic patterns that the town can address –
placement of stop signs, traffic lights and
calming devices. A major problem for drivers
has been on S. Frederick St. at its
intersection with E. Moser Rd. My suggestion
that a yellow line be painted on the center of
E. Moser Rd. has alleviated somewhat the
hazard of making a left turn.
Bentz: I don’t have any solutions
for the traffic problems. It’s only at peak
hours that there are back ups. Like when the
NVR and Donnelly and Structural Systems change
shifts. If Thurmont Boulevard were completed
it would help the south end of town.
Cubbedge: Wouldn't it be nice if we
could play SIM CITY Thurmont and redo our road
system as a computer game. Unfortunately we
just can't do that. Our roadways are in place
and we must deal with what we have. However,
we can dictate our traffic patterns for future
development. In all new development we should
strive for a minimum of two entrances/exits.
Hopefully this will reduce bottlenecks and
spread traffic patterns as well as help with
public safety in an emergency. Additionally, I
would like to see an officer directing traffic
for our school buses at Woodside and the Town
Square at arrival/dismissal time.
Lookingbill: It is not an easy
situation to deal with traffic that is driving
on basically the same streets that were used
by our ancestors driving horse and buggies. I
think the truck routes in and out of town were
a good idea that needs to continue to be
enforced. Locals might try to take side
streets when possible rather then going
through the square. During the annexation,
design, and development process it is the duty
of town government to make sure the new area
does not have an adverse impact on the current
residents and make a bad situation worse.
Lynch: No growth, no tourism, no
extra traffic. If we desire Thurmont to be a
town that welcomes tourists to our rich
history and asks businesses to set up shop
here, then traffic will inevitably increase.
Present - Continue to minimize truck traffic
“in town.” Is it too late to widen Carroll
onto Church Street? A light at Moser Road and
806 is inevitable. Future – Don’t give up on a
commercial bypass to Rt. 15 or completion of
Thurmont Boulevard. Maybe a “green” shuttle to
take people to bank or store. Hmm – a job for
a teen, and answer for seniors?
Muth: The first solution is to not
add to the problem by annexing the Myers farm.
Another possibility is to have a traffic light
installed at Frederick and Moser Roads to help
with new traffic from the library.
Naff: Dealing with the town’s
traffic issues is simple. Have a slow growth
policy and plan ahead. Also I would deal with
traffic problems that arose quickly, by
utilizing local, county and state agencies to
solve the problems that affect the citizens on
our busy roads.