Poolesville swore in its new commissioners Tuesday at a Poolesville town meeting.
Jerry Klobukowski and Brice Halbrook were returned to four-year terms and Valaree Dickerson defeated longtime commissioner Eddie Kuhlman.
Jim Brown, who had been vice president of the commission, was elected president. He replaced Kuhlman, who had served as the commission’s president for a decade.
“He more or less redefined the presidency,” Brown said in a speech thanking Kuhlman for his many years of service to the town.
Brown described Kuhlman as a “tireless advocate” for the town, who also helped solve Poolesville’s water problem, balanced the town’s budget and pushed the town to hire talented administrators.
After the transfer of power, the new commissioners received their committee assignments. Dickerson joined the Community Economic Development Committee. Halbrook was appointed to the Parks and Streets Committee. Klobukowski remained liaison to the schools, and Chuck Stump was re-appointed to the planning commission.
In addition, three main issues were discussed at the meeting — whether to give a $2,500 grant to The Gathering Place, how to deal with Poolesville’s wastewater lines and whether to bring a solar array to the town.
The key issue of the meeting was a discussion about the town’s “inflow and infiltration” issues.
As the town’s terra cotta pipes have deteriorated, they have become less efficient at moving wastewater. They also are absorbing ground water, new Town Commission President Jim Brown said.
Town Engineer John Strong explained to the commission that the town’s pumps had to deal with more pumping during Hurricane Sandy in part because its pipes were leaking more than in the past. For example, five years ago, a 2.2-inch rainfall would not stress the town’s pumps, he said.
A similar rainfall, which took place shortly before Hurricane Sandy, sent the pumps into “high alarm,” he said.
He presented two options to the town — relining the main pipes, or all piping to the property line. The first option would cost the town $1.6 million, the second option would cost $4.6 million.
The town had earlier relined the Wesmond subdivision and has been monitoring the Westerly subdivision for the last two years, he said.
“For the last two years the town has been monitoring Westerly, we have to do it over a period of time to get a baseline,” he said.
Town commissioners also heard comments from advocates of the town’s proposed solar array.
The town is negotiating with Standard Solar, “but we are checking out another company to gain more knowledge of contract and process,” Brown said after the meeting.
The array would power all of the town’s municipal buildings.
“We’re very excited about the solar array and hope the town commissioners continue to proceed with the project,” said Joyce Breiner a proponent of the project who was at the meeting.
“We want to do this — but there are a lot of factors involved,” Brown said. “What if electricity prices fall through floor and we’re locked into a contract? Those are the things we’re working on.”
Rabbi David Shneyer spoke to the commission about a $2,500 grant to support the “The Gathering Place,” a proposed seniors activity center, which is being run out of the Am-Kolel’s Sanctuary Retreat Center in Beallsville.
Shneyer said he first approached the town a year and a half ago and formally submitted a written request about six weeks ago.
The town approved the grant, which would go to programming costs like renting vans for field trips, toward programing supplies and bringing speakers to the center to speak about subjects like computer literacy or issues around aging, Shneyer said.
In his request, Shneyer said he had received pledges of more than $3,000 from town residents to support the project.
With the grant and the show of community support, “Now I can go back to a couple of other foundations I’ve been speaking to and the county.”
Shneyer said the intention was to do something that would enrich the community, and senior citizens are an integral part of Poolesville.
“We are a fiscal agent to help make The Gathering Place happen, and it is our hope that with our other partners, which include local civic associations and churches, that The Gathering Place will become its own non-profit organization,” Shneyer said.
Am-Kolel has partnered with the Monocacy Lions, the Odd Fellows and several churches among other organizations.
The town also decided to modernize street signage. “The town wants to come up with a unified look — this was the very first step of that,” he said.