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Election, bridge closure among Funkstown's major undertakings

January 15, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

FUNKSTOWN - With the dawn of 2008, the Funkstown Mayor and Council have a number of important projects on their agenda.

Not the least of these for three of them will be an election in May.

The four-year positions now held by Vice Mayor Paul N. Crampton Jr., and council members Sharon Chirgott and Robert D. Rodgers Jr. will be up for grabs.

Elections are held every two years so the positions are staggered.

Not up for election this year are Mayor Robert L. Kline, and council members Jerry Walker, Richard Nigh and John Phillips III.

Town residents can vote at Town Hall on May 5.

Before the election process gets under way, the current town officers will be dealing with the specter of the closing of the historic one-lane stone bridge over Antietam Creek for repairs.

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"The first of the year, we're sending out a letter to make people aware of the closing of the bridge for eight months beginning in April," Kline said in December.

The bridge on East Oak Ridge Drive, built in 1833, has been buffeted by high water and debris, as well as increasing traffic flow for nearly 175 years.

A long-awaited rehabilitation of the bridge will result in a full closure of the span, according to bridge engineer Scott Hobbs.

Last fall, Hobbs said he hoped the job could be completed in four to five months, but that will depend on weather and other variables.

Kline described the closure as a short-term solution.

"The bypass is the answer," Kline said in December. "But I won't live to see it."

Rodgers said he doesn't have a long-term solution. But he is kicking around a proposal for a street festival during the time of the closure to at least brighten up some sagging spirits.

"We could do it behind the fire hall and have some street dancing," Rodgers said.

Nigh said he is concerned about the impact of the bridge closure on businesses in and around Funkstown.

"I'm in favor of a two-lane bridge," Nigh said. But he agrees with Kline that the Southern Boulevard is the answer to the bridge situation and the general traffic woes that Funkstown has been experiencing.

Nigh said county and state officials all say they don't have the money for the boulevard.

This year's longer bridge repair will be a problem for schools, as well as businesses, Phillips said.

In an e-mail last fall, Steve Demory of Demory's Christmas Memories at 222 E. Oak Ridge Drive expressed his concerns about the plans to keep the bridge one lane, which he believes is inadequate for firetrucks, dump trucks and the thousands of cars that cross every day.

One-way woes

As for other traffic problems in Funkstown, Phillips pointed out that the test period for the realignment of one-block stretches of Chestnut and Poplar streets will be up on Jan. 20.

"We'll see then if it helped or not," he said. "We're keeping the lines of communication open."

Phillips is serving his third term, which will expire in 2010.

Rodgers said he is generally pleased with the one-way decision, as are most of the constituents who have contacted him.

"It has done the job we wanted it to do," he said.

Jerry Walker agreed that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Most people who live there love it," Walker said. "It has been a huge inconvenience for one resident and I feel bad, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

Park plans

Another big project for 2008 will be the completion of a series of upgrades to the Funkstown park.

"We've been very lucky," Kline said, pointing to all the work that has already been completed there. "This year will see one more step for the public use of the area."

Using funds from Program Open Space, the town has been able to see the completion of a new road, construction of the large pavilion, landscaping, playground equipment and bathrooms.

Still to come are a basketball court, security lighting, handicapped walkways, and design work for two multipurpose fields, additional parking and a stormwater management pond.

The town has received approval for the funds needed for those projects.

Crampton added that a lot has been done to make the park more accessible to all the people.

"It serves many more people than just Funkstown residents," he said.

Walker said he'd like to see the two portions of the park joined so visitors can access them via their vehicles rather than just the existing walking path.

Rodgers added that while he is happy with the new park construction, he would also like to see upkeep of the existing facilities get some attention in 2008.

Chirgott said she has been on the council for at least 21 years and plans to run again in the spring.

As for the bridge closing and the problems associated with increased traffic in Funkstown, Chirgott said traffic will be an ongoing issue and travelers must be ready to tough it out.

"Growth is all around us," she said.

Whatever the town does, it won't be perfect, but she hopes it will be more comfortable.

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