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Thurmont commissioners want bypass

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(2/29) Elected officials in Thurmont and Frederick County have been playing political ping pong over a stretch of road that all officials agree won’t exist for decades.

One of them even walked out of a meeting over it on Monday.

The road in question, which is on Thurmont’s 20-year master plan, would bypass the northeastern section of town to connect the industrial park to U.S. Route 15.

During a work session on Monday, Frederick County commissioners David P. Gray (R) and John L. Thompson Jr. (R) wanted to vote to remove it from the county’s 20-year growth plan for the Thurmont region.

Commissioner Kai J. Hagen voted against the road’s removal, saying that the Frederick Board of County Commissioners would vote on it again on March 17.

Commissioners Charles A. Jenkins and Jan H. Gardner were not present for the vote.

Hagen walked out of the meeting 20 minutes later, removing the board’s quorum, in protest of Gray and Thompson’s continuing 2-1 votes to pull proposed roads and parks in Thurmont and Emmitsburg off the region plan document.

Hagen on Wednesday stood by his walk-out.

‘‘I’ve seen other boards take advantage of some board members not being around, literally," Hagen said, referring to two previous boards of county commissioners. ‘‘To this point, we [current board members] have never taken advantage of a temporary shift in the balance of votes or opinions or anything like that."

Hagen said the meeting was meant only to be a fact-finding session for the commissioners. Hagen said his pleadings with Gray and Thompson to refrain from voting, which he said would give ‘‘conniptions and gyrations of concern" to Thurmont and Emmitsburg officials, went unheeded.

‘‘They ignored me," he said.

Burns praised Hagen’s walk-out. ‘‘I have to give Kai Hagen all the credit in the world," Burns said, adding that Monday’s vote against the road caught him by surprise.

He took aim at Gray and Thompson, saying, ‘‘A phone call would have been nice to let us know, so we can defend it."

Gray and Thompson during the meeting at Winchester Hall said they were helping create reality-based plans. Gray called Hagen’s move ‘‘childish." Hagen called Gray and Thompson’s actions ‘‘irresponsible."

Hagen, who lives in near Thurmont, has previously told Thurmont commissioners that the road probably won’t ever be built unless a major business move into town.

But he told Gray and Thompson that the road’s inclusion in the Thurmont Region Plan could affect developers’ future decisions.

Commissioners to meet in Capitol over sewer money

A recent meeting between officials from Thurmont and the state and federal governments yielded promising results for the town, as commissioners seek grants to pay for repairs to the town’s derelict sewer system.

‘‘I think we’re off to a good start," Commissioner Ronald A. Terpko said. ‘‘I’m really excited to see what’s going to come out of this."

Commissioners persuaded officials from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Catoctin Mountain Park, Cunningham Falls State Park, and the offices of U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett to come to the table by informing directors at the two parks last year that the town may consider not renewing its contract to treat their wastewater.

‘‘I think we’ve scared everybody half to death," Terpko said.

Commissioners will next meet with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mikulski, Bartlett and U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin in Washington, D.C., Burns said.

‘‘They know our dilemma," Burns said.

Thurmont commits to study biomass power plant

Thurmont commissioners on Monday voted unanimously to spend $37,500 — an amount they expect to have reimbursed by the state — of the town’s electricity fund to see if they can build a power plant that would run on wood chips and farm waste.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development will match Thurmont’s money for the study, commissioners said.

They added that the plant, if built, would immunize Thurmont from exorbitant rate hikes by power companies, and would allow the town to generate profit by selling extra power.

The study will take about 60 days to complete, said Bill Rodenberg, a Thurmont resident who is serving as the town’s consultant.

For information on biomass energy, go to biomasscenter.org.

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