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Town approves new charter

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(3/1) After four years of review, rewriting, hearings, meetings and discussions, the Thurmont Commissioners finally approved an updated town charter.

“The charter review committee spent an exhaustive amount of time on it,” Mayor Martin Burns said.

For the most part, residents won’t notice a change in town government. “Basically the citizens wanted the same type of government, which is the ‘weak mayor’ form of government,” said Commissioner Bill Blakeslee.

The new charter will take effect in 50 days, which will give town officials time to change over anything that needs to be changed from the old charter to the new.

“I believe we need a transition plan which involves examining our ordinances so we know what needs to change,” Commissioner Glenn Muth said.

However, neither he nor any of the other commissioners knew of any possible conflicts that might need addressing.

For any new positions that the town is required to have, Burns said, “We could interim appoint someone and not be in violation of the charter.”

Blakeslee said, “I can’t imagine anything being in conflict with what we did here. What we did here is broaden our ability to do things.”

Commissioner Ron Terpko said that he felt the powers and duties of the mayor were changing in the new charter.

“This one’s much clearer,” he said. “With what we have now, the person who’s held accountable can’t even blow his own nose without four people saying go ahead and do it.”

Muth said he viewed the changes as creating a stronger mayor’s office, but Burns said the charter only clarifies the power his office actually had all along under Maryland law.

Muth did find some numbering problems that needed to be addressed in the final document. The commissioners voted 3-1 to accept the charter with the numbering changes. Muth was the lone vote against the charter.

To address Muth’s opposition to the charter, Burns said he wouldn’t be against reviewing different sections of the charter each year to make sure it stayed updated.

Muth agreed that was a good idea. “There’s stuff in here that’s new and if it doesn’t work it should be fixed,” he said.

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