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Thurmont voters to pick new commissioners

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(9/27) Thurmont’s 3,201 voters will have the chance on Monday to affect how their town government is run during the next four years. Two spots on the town’s four-member board of commissioners are up for grabs that day.

Commissioner Glenn D. Muth is running for re-election to a second term. Commissioner William H. Blakeslee has opted not to seek another term; he plans to become the town’s chief administrative officer.

Town commissioners created the chief administrative officer position when they approved a revised town charter in February. Rick May, the town’s chief financial officer, held that post temporarily.

In all, seven candidates are running for the two seats. Joining Muth are John W. Ashbury, Rosalie E. Bentz, Randall D. Cubbedge, Robert E. Lookingbill, Brian J. Lynch and Keith P. Naff.

Commissioners will have a few big issues on the table when they are sworn in Nov. 6, many of which are linked to the hard rains that fell in 2003. Those rains caused sewer backups into several residences in town. The backups, caused by leaky pipes that allowed too much rainwater to infiltrate the sewer system, sparked a lawsuit that ended this summer with the town being held responsible for $3.4 million in damages.

The town is currently appealing that judgment.

At the time of the backups, the town responded by pumping raw sewage into Hunting Creek, a natural trout habit and recreational stream protected by the state. That move prompted the Maryland Department of the Environment to step in and compel the town to spend millions upgrading its sewer system.

So far, Thurmont has spent $1.6 million. The town is set to complete a $175,000 engineering study this year, and a further $4.6 million is estimated for the system’s repair.

Thurmont officials are seeking grants and loans to pay for the repairs.

Meanwhile, an agreement between the town and the state says that the town can allow 66 or fewer houses to be built per year, due to lack of sewer capacity.

Thurmont’s sewer woes have not led to a decline in interest from developers. Two national builders want to build a total of 617 dwellings on land currently outside town limits. The builders and the owners of 239 acres of land abutting the town’s southern boundary – on both sides of Moser Road – have asked the town for annexation. The developers have pledged millions in impact fees and proffers to the town.

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