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Decision on $80 thousand transformer postponed

Richard D. L. Fulton

(4/10) The Thurmont Board of Commissioners elected to postpone a decision at their April 8 meeting regarding the replacement of the Catoctin High School transformer

According to Butch West, municipal superintendent for public works, concerns over the high school transformer actually arose as the result of a power issue at the school not directly related to the transformer.

West asked the board to approve a budgetary allocation to pay for a new transformer, and its relocation, as a "priority" consideration for the 2015 budget. The cost involved was estimated at $80,000. "That needs to be taken care of," he said. "The transfer is 40 years old and it’s a scary thought it could go anytime."

The superintendent told the board, "That transformer has to be moved. It’s a fire hazard where it is sitting. If that catches on fire it could catch the school on fire. We’re planning on moving it in that grass pond at the tennis courts…and move it away from the school."

Commissioner Martin Burns immediately opposed any move to approve a budget allocation until other aspects could be considered, such as cost-sharing or having another agency pay for it.

Burns said, "So 40 years we’ve had no problem with it. They had one issue that they caused that had nothing to do with the transformer and now we’re going, ‘The sky is falling. Oh, we’ve got to fix it. Oh, it could catch the school on fire.’"

"They didn’t say it could catch the school on fire when they placed it there 40 years ago," he said. "I don’t buy it. We’re playing the sky is falling at the rate payers’ expense of $80,000…I’ve got a problem with that."

The commissioner said, "We took out a $2 million loan to do infrastructure repairs to the electric utility, and we’re going to take $80,000 of that and do it for something because it might go bad?"

"It should be the school board, the county, and this municipality (paying for the replacement), a third, a third, and a third, to cover the expense of that, and not just the rate payers of the Thurmont municipal electric company," he said.

Burns said, "If it’s determined it is the town property, then we’ll pay for that. I got no problem paying 100 percent for that."

The board elected to await the gathering of additional information, and responses from the county school board and commissioners regarding financing, before deciding on how to address the issue in the pending budget.

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