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Smithsburg public works director to retire

Bill Loughridge says after 12 years, it is time to move on

August 10, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Bill Loughridge, director of public works for Smithsburg, is retiring Dec. 31.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG -- Bill Loughridge remembers when he took the job as public works director in the town of Smithsburg in 1998, when the operation was based out of a small concrete building.

"It had one little fluorescent light in it, and it had no heat," Loughridge recalled recently.

Loughridge convinced the town to build a new public works building off Kimler Lane near the Smithsburg post office, and it is now one of two such buildings. The other facility, in Veterans Park, houses much of the department's large equipment.

Like other communities in the area, Smithsburg has grown, keeping Loughridge and the department's two other employees busy with parks maintenance, snow removal, street repairs, maintenance of town buildings, and sewer and water operations.

After 12 years on the job, Loughridge has decided it's time to move on.

The Smithsburg native said he will retire Dec. 31, freeing up time so he and his wife, Barb, can do some traveling.

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The growth of the town is reflected in jobs like reading water meters. Loughridge said his department used to have 635 meters to read, but now it has 1,270 meters.

The town now has a new 360,000-gallon water tank and there are three sewage lift stations that Loughridge's department has to inspect every day. There are 110 fire hydrants to maintain and the public works department has to deal with water that flows into the town's sewer system lines when the clay pipes leak. There are more than 300 sewer manholes in town and water flowing into the openings can create challenges, too, Loughridge said.

Loughridge has started using black plastic covers that fit inside the manholes to keep water from flowing into them.

"That has saved us a lot of money," Loughridge said.

Loughridge said when he took the job, he didn't know what he was supposed to do. So he started doing research on the Internet about the field and talked with people in other towns about public works.

And he depended on his other skills, like having initiative and being organized, which are obvious when one walks into his shop on Kimler Lane.

Supplies like street signs are neatly hung in the bright, clean shop, and there are labels above pieces of equipment like ladders and traffic cones.

"When we open the door up, we know if something is missing within two or three minutes. We take pride in our place," Loughridge said.

Loughridge said he set his retirement for Dec. 31 because he wanted to give town officials plenty of notice as they prepare to look for a replacement. Loughridge said he hopes the person who will take over his job will appreciate how far the department has come and will be prepared to take it to the next level.

Before Loughridge was public works director, he spent 21 years in the Marine Corps. He was a sniper, and among his duties was providing cover for American firefighters putting out fires on oil rigs that were set while Iraqis were fleeing Iraq at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, he said.

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