Tough economy forces Funkstown to scale back

March 14, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Lead operator Randy Gaver shows the difference in a mix liquor sample, left, and an effluent sample, right, during a test taken at Funkstown's sewage treatment plant.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

FUNKSTOWN — Like many small towns, Funkstown is making do in a tight economy as town officials try not to raise property tax rates and cut back on regular infrastructure upgrades such as milling and paving some streets every year.

Mayor Paul N. Crampton Jr. said Town Clerk/Treasurer Brenda Haynes does a good job seeking and applying for grants to help the town pay for projects such as the sewer treatment plant that, according to Maryland Environmental Service, went online in June 2008.

But in tight times such as these, there are areas in which the town government has to scale back.

Last year, the town reduced trash pickup from twice to once a week, and routine street paving hasn’t occurred in at least two years because the state cut highway-user revenues.

For the foreseeable future, the town will only be fixing cracks and potholes rather than repaving entire streets, Crampton said.

The town used to get $50,000 to $60,000 a year in highway-user revenue, Haynes said. This fiscal year, the town was expecting an estimated $6,000, but Haynes said she recently learned the state revised the estimate to $2,047.

One area in the 100 block of North High Street, where a water main broke in January, has been patched a few times. Cones remain in the area because the temporary cold patch sinks and a permanent fix can’t be made until the weather warms up, Crampton said.

The town’s water distribution system was replaced in 1968 and various repairs have been made since then, town officials said.

Cement lining was added to the town’s sewer lines around the late 1980s to lengthen the lines’ durability, Crampton said.

“We’re constantly updating, constantly working on those when we know there is a problem,” Crampton said.

The town repaired six storm drain boxes last year, repointing the brick and installing new concrete lids, Crampton said. Another one on Poplar Street will be fixed this spring, town officials said.

Almost three years ago, the town replaced its lagoon treatment system for sewage with a $3,368,622 sewer treatment plant, officials said. The Maryland Department of the Environment wanted the town to get rid of the lagoon system, which was suspected of leaking, but Haynes said a leak was never confirmed.

The new treatment center consists mainly of a building that holds two above-ground tanks where the sewage is treated and a third tank that holds biosolids, said Brad Yeakle, enviromental systems superintendent for Maryland Environmental Service, which operates the plant.

The town received $1,493,400 through three grants to help pay for the plant, Haynes said. The town’s water and sewer rates went up significantly in 2007 to help the town pay off the $1,875,222, 30-year loan that paid for the rest, she said.

Town Hall also is in better shape, Crampton said.

Crampton said he expects the town to pay back by June 30 the $23,500 borrowed from a certificate of deposit to put a new roof on the former church.

Town employee Jeffrey Smith replaced rotten wood in the upstairs windows last year, Crampton said.

Crampton said he has a friend who, for free, is drawing a design to see if a ramp can be added from the back parking lot, alongside Town Hall, to a second-floor window in the front that could become a handicap-accessible entrance to Town Hall’s second floor.

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