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The Unhappy Citizens

Back in early March, a young friend of mine asked me what I knew about a group in town that wanted to recall the Mayor. At that point, I knew nothing at all about the group and their aims, but became interested in finding out more. It took a while but eventually I found the Facebook page for the group and was able to see what it was that they are trying to accomplish. Their first and primary goal is to have language added to the current town code to allow for the recall of an elected body within the town. I don't really think that's asking too much and plenty of other towns within the state do have such a procedure in place. 

But it probably didn't really start out as just wanting a charter amendment, as such modifcations are called, it mostly started out as a group of citizens looking for answers and relief to water bills that had suddenly tripled. As they sought answers to their questions about the water bills, they also found other issues that many found disturbing about the elected officials in town. There's also the question of the town's purchase of the old Dielman Inn with town money, the sale of the Seibel ball fields to Lehigh Cement, a healthy raise for a town manager that many feel is unnecessary, and of cource, the fact that the Mayor and Council chose to build a far larger water treatment system than was actually needed, based on growth that has yet to happen.

Many of the residents who have joined the Facebook group behind the charter amendment feel that the Town does not do a very good job of communicating to its residents. I have to agree. The primary method of communication for the Town has been the quarterly newsletter and the website, neither of which is terribly up-to-date most of the time. While the minutes from the Town Council do appear on theTown website at some point after the next month;s meeting, they are often very brief and tend to be filled with acronyms that may just confuse readers more.

Residents could also easily make the point that the communication from some of the town officials, have not helped ease the troubled waters. An article in the Baltimore Sun of March 19, shows the reaction of Councilman Pierce:

Councilman Pierce doubts the petition drive will succeed. Even if the issue makes it to referendum, "there is not a chance in the world it will pass," he predicted.

Even if he's right, and I have my doubts there, the words are hardly conducive to promoting better communication. 

Though all of the issues that the residents' group have mentioned are troubling in one way or another, it is the water bills that are hitting town residents the hardest. I know that when I first purchased my home here in town in 1999, my quarterly water bill was about $45 - it is now nearly ten times that amount at nearly $400 a quarter. WIth many of the town's older residents on fixed incomes, and in the midst of a very poor economy, the size of that water bill is just beyond the ability for many to pay. In a town that has been concerned for years with the implications of a dwindling business base, the idea of residents leaving due to excessively high bills should be a major concern for its elected officials. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case,

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