Walkersville leaders blast lack of county funding -- Gazette.Net


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The relationship between the Frederick County commissioners and municipal leaders may have improved, but as far as some Walkersville officials are concerned, it is as contentious as ever.

Walkersville Commissioner Chad Weddle is angry that the county has yet to provide money for such services as a senior center, or a new, bigger library.

Although several other municipal leaders told The Gazette in February that relations with the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners have improved, Weddle said he sees no evidence of that in Walkersville.

“I’m tired of Walkersville being looked at as second-class citizens because we’re six miles away [from the seat of county government],” Weddle said. “We don’t get nothing. Thurmont gets a [new] library, Brunswick gets a [new] library. ... I’m just tired of everything.”

Weddle, who made his remarks at a Walkersville town meeting on Feb. 27, received support from his board colleagues that evening.

“Well said,” Commissioner Debbie Zimmerman added.

Walkersville Town Commissioner Russell Winch went even further, joking that when the town does get a new library — which is slated in the county capital budget for construction in 2016 — it should be named in honor of county Commissioner Billy Shreve (R).

In February of last year, Shreve proposed closing the Walkersville branch and halting plans to build a new facility, instead merging the library with the one at nearby Walkersville Middle School — all in an effort to save money.

That plan drew concern over student safety and access to the school from library customers.

Under the current proposal, the Walkersville Branch Library on West Frederick Street in Walkersville would be closed and a new $6 million facility built on South Glade Road.

In July, Shreve also started requesting that the commissioners receive more information on what materials the entire library system is purchasing to better track where the money is going.

In an interview Tuesday, Shreve said Weddle is more than welcome to attend a joint meeting of county and municipal leaders to discuss his issues.

“I would be more than happy to resolve the issues,” he said. “I haven’t received a call from Chad Weddle since I was elected [in 2010]. It sounds like political grandstanding, and that is not what we need in government. I think it’s time for him to retire.”

Weddle said Tuesday that he would not attend any meetings with the commissioners because they would only dismiss his concerns.

When he testified in January against a countywide fire chief, the commissioners disregarded his opposition to the proposal, Weddle said.

The commissioners have since named Tom Owens the county fire chief.

“I don’t like to waste my time,” he said. “I testified one time in the 17 years I have been on the board, on the fire chief issue, and I am not going to do it again during their final years in office.”

The commissioner’s four-year term ends in 2014.

But refusing to lobby commissioners for county funding is a mistake, according to one former Walkersville official.

“You’ve got to go in and fight for us,” former Burgess Orley Bourland said at the Feb. 27 meeting. “If you don’t go in and get some of our tax money we’re paying, I don’t think you are doing your job.”

Bourland said when he was burgess in the early 1990s, he lobbied and was successful in getting Glade Elementary School built in town.

“You’ve got to be more proactive,” he said.

The current Walkersville burgess, Ralph Whitmore, did not address Bourland’s or Weddle’s comments at the meeting. But Whitmore, who did not return phone calls this week, regularly attends the joint county and municipal meeting.

Whitmore has been very involved with the county in expanding the library, Shreve said.

Whitmore lobbied the county to expand the library at its current location, but was unsuccessful because his board colleagues voted to move the library to South Glade Road.

Since the commissioners took office in 2010, several of the county’s other 11 municipalities say their relationship with the commissioners has improved.

In September, the commissioners shifted County Manager Dave Dunn to a newly-created post as a liaison between the county and the towns. Dunn is also the former Brunswick city manager.

Dunn said in an interview Monday that one of his main duties is attending the municipal meetings and reporting back to commissioners what was discussed.

Dunn said Walkersville is the only town that continues to have a strained relationship with the county.

“We have such good relationships with all the municipalities,” he said. “They are the only one.”

In February, Thurmont Mayor Marty Burns and Middletown Burgess John Miller both told The Gazette that the relationship with the county had improved under Dunn’s new role.

Dunn said the county will even be giving Walkersville $700,000 in tax equity money in fiscal 2014, $16,800 more than last year.

Under the tax equity program, the county gives towns money to pay for services that it does not provide inside their limits, such as road maintenance, planning and zoning, police and parks and recreation.

“I feel the county has done everything it can do,” Dunn said.

When he attended the Feb. 28 Walkersville meeting, Dunn said he thought it best not to address Weddle’s comments.

“I try to stay out of the fray,” he said. “I’m not there to call them to task.”

Dunn said he did report the concerns back to the commissioners.

Staff Writer Ryan Marshall contributed to this story.

sgreenfield@gazette.net