Boonsboro candidates cover issues

May 05, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

BOONSBORO - Family restaurants, Civil War attractions and a swimming pool all played a part in visions for the Town of Boonsboro during a candidates forum Thursday night at the Eugene C. Smith Community Center.

Eight of the nine candidates for four Town Council seats up for grabs and Assistant Mayor Howard W. Long, who is running unopposed to retain his seat, fielded questions from residents and moderator Pieter Bickford.

About 30 residents attended the forum, which focused on issues such as downtown development and the Shafer Memorial Park expansion.

Candidates for Town Council include Roni Bane, G. "Jeff" Kerns, Natalie Mose, Mervin "Frank" Nuice and Milbert "Tom" Rose and incumbents Kevin Chambers, Ray Grove, Richard E. Hawkins Sr. and Ray C. Hoffman.

The election is Tuesday. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the community center.

Bane, a mother of three and a barber at Pete's Barber Shop on North Main Street, was the only candidate not to attend the forum.


In response to several questions about attracting businesses downtown, the candidates said they hope to create an environment that inspires drivers to stop, look around and shop.

"My vision for downtown Boonsboro is very similar to what you see in Shepherdstown, W.Va.," said Chambers, 45, the chairman of the Boonsboro Municipal Utilities Commission and a member of the Boonsboro Free Library board.

Kerns, 53, the vice president of Thompson Gas in Boonsboro, said he believes the town needs a unified vision for downtown.

Grove, 59, who has served on the council for 14 years, said the economic development commission is seeking residents' input on increasing foot traffic.

"Just so you know, when we get these things, please support them, that's the main thing," Grove said later in the forum.

Long, 57, who has served as a council member and assistant mayor for 23 years, also emphasized residents must support whatever businesses the town attracts.

"Don't get in your car and drive clear out to Hagerstown to get an ice cream cone or a soda," Long said.

Rose, 60, Mose, 64, and Nuice, 45, all said they believed the town's current parking options might discourage people from shopping downtown.

But Nuice, who works for the City of Hagerstown, said he believes the town has made improvements in recent years. To increase downtown traffic, he said, business owners should spruce up their businesses and the town should increase the visibility of signs for the parking lots.

"Getting people into town is the main thing," Nuice said.

Candidates told one resident that while they would like to see a skateboard park established in Boonsboro, they are worried about the liability of such an attraction.

Rose, a retired Maryland State Police captain, said he would like the town to offer a facility for young people.

"Some sort of building where they could play not only basketball, but other sports, that's sorely needed," he said.

Hawkins said the town plans to open both a swimming pool and community center in Phase 5 of its park expansion.

When asked by a resident what sort of businesses would attract people to Boonsboro, some of the candidates said they would like to see a moderate-priced family restaurant open downtown.

"I've had a lot of people talk to me about a dollar store," said Mose, who has lived in Boonsboro almost all of her life.

She is a member of the Boonsboro Board of Zoning Appeals and Boonsboro Police and Public Safety Committee.

Grove said restaurants would anchor the downtown's revitalization.

"Till we get some of those, it's going to be people living downtown, and people driving through," Grove said.

Chambers said the town should focus on creating a theme based on its history. He said he believes stores such as bakeries and coffee shops would create walking traffic downtown.

In a heated exchange with Victor Klass, who said the town had failed to support businesses and take advantage of its proximity to historical sites, Hawkins said Boonsboro is in the process of setting up a model railroad station.

Klass intimated the project had collapsed.

"We've never let a project be left hanging that was valuable to the community and the town," Hawkins said.

The town treasurer for 14 years, Hawkins said the town's Civil War heritage offers opportunities for business growth.

Rose said businesses must offer competitive prices.

"There's a lot of opportunity in the town, if somebody wants to come in and take advantage of the excise (exemption)," Rose said, referring to an arrangement that gives a tax break to residents and business owners downtown.

In response to a question earlier in the forum, Kerns said business owners also must take responsibility for themselves.

"We need to create the environment for the business to operate and survive. They need to operate properly, and that's about all we can do," Kerns said.

Hoffman, 70, was appointed in January to fill the seat of Gene W. Smith, who died.

Echoing Long's sentiments about supporting local businesses, Hoffman noted that some previous restaurants downtown had failed.

"So I don't know. If everybody had helped support them, they might still be here. But we've got to support them," Hoffman said.

Mose told Klass she believes Boonsboro is a "bypass," and since not everyone is interested in history, the town must find other ways to increase traffic.

"I don't know the answer, to be honest with you," Mose said.

Kerns said one way the town could cheaply and easily create interest in the downtown and Boonsboro's history is by sponsoring events.

"More and more events would stimulate a lot of activity in this town. A lot of activity," Kerns said.

The Herald-Mail Articles