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Commissioners lower Colorfest parking rates back to $5

(10/4) Tempers flared at the Sept. 25 Thurmont town meeting as PTA representatives protested a February decision by the commissioners to raise the parking rates at Colofest. Instead, they preferred making less money in order to keep the parking rate no higher than $5 per car.

In March, the commissioner voted to increase the cost of a permits was increased from $27 to $30; parking fees were increased from $5 to $8 with the additional $3 going to the town and bus parking was increased from $25 to $50. The changes were made to cover the rising costs of the expenses the town incurs when the festival runs each year.

“We cannot run in the red and make the taxpayers foot the bill for Colorfest,” Mayor Martin Burns said.

The reason the town was able to raise the parking rates originally is because the town provides free bus service from those locations. This makes locations like Thurmont Elementary and Catoctin High reasonable places to park.The money raised at parking at schools used to be split 50-50 between the PTA and town, but the commissioners decided to give all of the money to the PTAs in 2001 to help their fundraising efforts. So when the need came to raise the rates, the commissioners didn’t want to take back some of the money they were providing the schools.

“They’re not losing a dime,” Burns said. “They’re getting all the money they’re used to. They only thing is it was increased $3 which comes back to the town.”

Georgine Norwood with the Thurmont Primary PTA told the commissioners, “We appreciate the effort, We rode the coattails of that as long as we could.”

However, three PTA representatives said that they had not been included in the discussions and that they didn’t want the fees raised because it would mean their parking volunteers would have more abuse heaped on them and thus make it harder to find volunteers.

“People they complain, they cuss, they spit on people…The $8 will be an issue. The $5 is an issue,” said Lisa Kerr with the Thurmont Elementary PTA.

Kerr said instead of raising the fee to $8, it could remain at $5 and the town could have 10 percent. Thurmont Elementary generates about $3,000 during an average Colorfest weekend parking cars so instead of keeping $3,000 they were willing to keep $2,700 and give $300 to the town.

If the town didn’t agree to this, Kerr said, “We have the support of the principal to close off the parking lot and then you get nothing.”

This would also mean that the PTA would get nothing.

Nancy King with the Thurmont Middle School PTA said the main reason for the PTA’s resistance was problems the increase would create for the volunteers who help with parking.

“We don’t mind giving the town money,” King said. “We want to make it as easy for the volunteers as possible.”

Burns wanted to know why this resistance to the increase was coming nearly eight months after the decision was made.

Tempers then began to flare between Burns and Commissioner Ron Terpko over who was responsible for setting up the meetings about the issue earlier in the year, between Burns and Kerr over e-mails before the meeting and whether the town owed the parking money to the school to help the students, and between the PTA and Colorfest reps over how the parking situation could be handled.

Once everyone calmed down, the commissioners voted 3-2 to rescind the $8 parking fee and accept 10 percent of the $5 parking fee.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help park cars at the town schools should call Norwood at (301) 271-2293. Colorfest will be held Oct. 13 and 14. 

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