James Rada, Jr.
(4/19) For more than 30 years, Maryland
State Government and the federal governments have benefited from having parks
near Thurmont. Now the Thurmont commissioners feel it may be time for the
governments to show their appreciation to Thurmont.
The state and federal governments both use
Thurmont’s sewer system to the tune of about 600,000 gallons a quarter. Though
outside of the municipal limits, the government’s use of Thurmont’s sewer
system has saved them the cost of building and maintaining their own wastewater
That may all soon change.
The town commissioners have started
discussing whether it’s time to shut off the governments access to the sewer
system in order to release some of the stress on the town’s overtaxed sewer
“With how bad the system or problem is,
any amount I can reduce it is significant. If I can reduce 600,000 worth of
treatment capacity a quarter, that’s significant,” said Mayor Martin Burns.
Part of the commissioners’ frustration
that has brought them to this point is that the state and federal have been
contacted repeatedly about helping fix the sewer system they use, but to no
avail. State Senator David Brinkley has tried to help the town, but so far,
nothing has come to his efforts. The town is still facing about $5 million in
additional needed repairs to its sewer system.
“The state gave more than $20 million in
grants to Baltimore and pretty much everyone else got nothing. If they had
given Baltimore a million or two less, they could have helped out a lot of
other communities,” Burns said.
Brinkley said Thurmont is in a
“netherworld” as far as state funding. The system is not bad enough to warrant
state grants, but it’s too extensive for the town to undertake repairing.
“If they don’t get some assistance from
the state, they still have to make the improvements and that will mean raising
the rates,” Brinkley said.
Under the agreements they governments
have, Thurmont would have to give them six years notice that their service is
being cut off. The town can also begin raising the governments’ sewer rates
with two years notice.
“I think we ought to give them a rate
increase as soon as we can,” Commissioner Glenn Muth said.
He said the town has talked about doing
this before and never done anything. It’s time to do something.
Burns said that this is an option the town
is discussing. “Cutting off any volume to me is a significant gain to the
residents,” Burns said.
The volume of sewer capacity the
governments use is equivalent to 30-60 houses in town. Burns said it is much
easier to save the capacity that way than to upgrade the town’s sewer plant.
“Right now to upgrade the treatment plant
capacity 330,000 gallons would cost us $6 million,” Burns said. “That’s a
non-starter. We can’t afford it.”
The hope is that by beginning these
discussions, and perhaps taking action, the governments will realize it is in
their interests to help Thurmont and continue saving themselves money.
"It’s very difficult to encourage the
government to do anything other than collect taxes,” Muth said.
When asked if he thought the actions would
help, Frederick County Delegation Chairman Rick Weldon’s e-mailed response
said, “Since the Mayor and Council did not seek my input (probably because I
don't represent the Thurmont area), I feel comfortable saying I think this
would be a foolish, bordering on childish, action by the Town.”
He said establishing “a line in the sand”
Brinkley views it differently. “If cutting
off the state and federal government is all that they have left to relieve some
stress on the system, then that’s probably what they need to do,” he said. “I
don’t think it’s punitive.”