Smithsburg receives Livability Award

June 25, 1997


Staff Writer

Smithsburg, population 1,500, duked it out with towns from all over the country and came out a winner in the 1997 City Livability Awards Program, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Waste Management Inc.

Livability awards honor cities and towns for innovative programs designed to make them a better place to live.

Smithsburg won an Honorable Mention award for a program to fix streets, sidewalks and curbing in the old part of town, and for its square beautification project.

"It's kind of neat, I never thought we'd make it," said Smithsburg Mayor Mildred Myers. "In fact, when I got the application in the mail, I almost tossed it in the trash."


The town was one of 10 award winners chosen from 25 finalists in the small cities category. There were about 300 applicants in the small cities and large cities categories from across the country, according to the Conference of Mayors.

The competition wasn't shabby. Smithsburg beat out the likes of Monterey, Calif., Trenton, N.J., Ocala, Fla. and Fargo, N.D., to make the final cut.

Other award winners in the small cities category were: Canton, Kettering and Lima, Ohio; Folsom, Calif.; Lakeland and West Palm Beach, Fla.; Lynn, Maine; Meriden, Conn., and Natchez, Miss.

It was the first time Myers has entered the town in the competition.

After the winners were announced, she got a call from J.K. Deuel, mayor of Los Ranchos, N.M.

"He's mayor of a town much larger than us, and he'd entered for two years without winning. He wanted to know how we did it," Myers said.

She sent him the town's application, and her best wishes for next year.

Myers said the town's improvement program began in 1994 because of long-standing concern over deteriorating sidewalks and streets in the older section of town. Safety also was a factor, she said.

Myers said the town overlays streets, replaces storm drains and crumbling curbing, and urges homeowners in the project area to fix or replace their own sidewalks in return. Many do.

Some want to, but can't afford it. In those cases, Myers said she has the town do the work, and sets up an affordable payback plan for the resident.

In other areas of town, residents who willingly replace or repair their sidewalks have their curbing costs reimbursed by the town on a one-time basis.

"Citizens were so pleased to see the town doing something else for them that pride took effect and they started to replace their sidewalks without (town officials) having to enforce our ordinance," Myers said in her awards application. "I found that more can be done with setting an example, sharing the burden and instilling pride in our people than enforcement will ever accomplish, and everyone is happier. Enforcement should be a last resort."

The square renovation also involved a partnership between the town and its residents, Myers said. Half of the cost was covered by donations, while the town footed the bill for the rest, she said.

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