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Thurmont asks county for help with sewers

(2/1) Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns received some flak for telling developers hoping to have property annexed into town “bring your checkbook.” Now he has suggested to the Frederick County Commissioners that if they would like to stop growth in town, perhaps they should also bring their checkbook to the table.

“I respectfully request your consideration of providing a grant to the town of Thurmont to assist with sewer system I&I repairs. I feel this request serves the interest of Thurmont residents an Northern Frederick County residents alike,” Burns wrote in a letter to the Frederick County Commissioners on Jan. 17.

Burns explained that completing a $1.3 million sewer improvement was going to cause sewer rates to increase by at least $1/1,000 gallons and the next needed phase of sewer work could cost another $4.6 million.

“I didn’t ask for free money,” Burns said. “I told them they could put conditions on it.”

On a local forum, Burns asked Commissioner Kai Hagen, “would you support a grant to the town of Thurmont to assist with sewer repairs with some sort of agreement not to annex or build homes?”

Burns said this would not stop the current annexation requests from being heard on their merits but would apply to possible future requests.

“I support the notion of exploring the idea,” Hagen said. “It’s a legitimate, thoughtful request and worth consideration.”

However, at least one commissioner doesn’t think so. Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. responded to Burns’ request via e-mail, writing, “If Thurmont does not have the money to perform the needed repairs to its sewer system, it suggests that the Town has not been setting aside funds for a 3-R reserve. It also suggests that the Town's sewer rate schedule generates less revenue than is needed to operate the sewer system in a financially sound manner over the long run. It is up to Thurmont’s elected officials to rectify the situation.”

Burns sees the situation from a different angle. “The argument I make is that Thurmont has been subsidizing part, if not most of, SOME of the operations the County is responsible for many years,” he wrote in a reply to Thompson.

Burns points out that the Town of Thurmont has created savings for the county in other ways, such as donating the land for the new regional library, owning the local senior citizens center and undertaking construction of the new Guardian Hose building without county capital dollars.

“The volunteer fire and rescue companies alone have saved county taxpayers multi millions of dollars over their existence. Why then, using your argument has the county not provided ample funding to buy buildings, vehicles and equipment, or at least, paid these organizations back for ‘granting’ the county their equipment, time, and services?” Burns wrote.

Burns said the town is not inclined to ask the county for help, but he is pursuing all options to help with the looming expense.

“What I’ve asking for is the same type of deal like the Carroll Creek project,” Burns said. He also pointed out help the county had given municipalities like Emmitsburg for the renovation of the Community Center and Middletown to build a senior citizens’ center.

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