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Commissioner wants say in traffic changes

(12/6) Thurmont Commissioner Robert Lookingbill wants to reduce the Thurmont police chief’s authority to change the flow of traffic in town after Chief Greg Eyler made part of Howard Street one-way without notifying the commissioners.

“It was done without any knowledge to me or as far as I know any of the commissioners,” Lookingbill said. “My whole point is to make it available for public input.”

Though Eyler was within his authority to make the change and said he did so because of a safety concern at the two-way intersection of Howard Street and Old Frederick Road that will fit only one car, Lookingbill used the instance to introduce a change in the town code to share the authority to change traffic flow between the chief and commissioners.

“If he (the chief) deems it a safety issue, I think he should be authorized to do it on behalf of the citizens,” said Mayor Martin Burns.

Under Lookingbill’s proposed change, the chief can still make “temporary” changes that last no more than 30 days without prior approval from the commissioners.

However, other changes would require the chief to submit plans to the commissioners and for the commissioners to hold public hearings on the changes.
Burns said he worries that such a change would politicize the process so that changes could be made for political reasons rather than safety ones.

Jim Peck with the Maryland Municipal League said Lookingbill’s request is not unusual. “In most instances, the elected governmental body continues to have the ultimate authority,” Peck said. “It is unusual that a chief would have complete authority.”

The commissioners will decide on the change at a future meeting with a full board of commissioners and Eyler in attendance.

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