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Third house in sewer lawsuits condemned

Cailin McGough
News-Post Staff

(12/20) A third house involved in a new lawsuit against the Town of Thurmont will be condemned, town commissioners said Tuesday.

The house at 11 Ironmaster Court, among eight houses flooded with sewage in March 2003, joins two others on the list of those condemned by the town. The town will eventually condemn all of the houses flooded in 2003, Mayor Martin Burns said.

"I guess that's Merry Christmas to me and my family?" homeowner Ron Bishop said after the board told him the town would not be responsible for moving or legal expenses. Asking where the town would find money to buy his house, board members told him they were not at liberty to talk about it at the time.

All three condemned houses belong to homeowners who filed a second suit against the town in September, alleging damages from subsequent flooding and noise from a town-operated pump. The town's condemnation of the houses does not necessarily reflect the condition of the structure; rather, it is a means for the town to acquire the property.

Purchasing the properties is the only way for the town to stop lawsuits, commissioner Bob Lookingbill said.

Burns said it is the board's responsibility to protect residents from lawsuits. While the town's insurance company will pay for 100 percent of damages for a first lawsuit filed by homeowners in 2004, it may not cover the second lawsuit.

Eight homeowners filed a lawsuit against the town in June 2004. The town and the seven remaining plaintiffs are both appealing a judgment of $2.55 million.

"At the very beginning there was a family that sued for $10,000. That's fair and reasonable. Now that they saw the judgment, they're suing for $2 million. It won't stop," Burns said.

Ironmaster Court resident Sharon Little, whose house was not flooded, said she is not convinced the town's strategy is sound and suggested the board knew Thurmont would face more lawsuits. The board told homeowners to take the case to court, she said, and the town lost. She criticized the move to condemn houses when the town cannot guarantee flooding will not occur in other houses.

"So we can stop these six or seven families, but what about the rest of the town?" she asked.

Little worried about the future of her neighborhood.

"Am I going to live in the slums? Who's going to buy these houses?" she asked the board.

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