FROSTBURG — The heavy turnout of about 100 Frostburg citizens Thursday night to listen to the 11 candidates for five elected municipal positions could signal a high number of votes to be counted when the city poling place closes on the evening of June 6. Voting will take place at the Frostburg Community Center, 27 South Water St., from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

About 3,400 residents are registered to vote in the city election, according to City Administrator John Kirby.

The candidates’ forum was sponsored by University Neighbors, a citizen group whose members reside near the campus of Frostburg State University.

Comments from the candidates came in the way of statements and as answers to questions from University Neighbors and members of the audience.

Voters will also decide between two-year and four-year terms of office and choose whether to be governed by a commissioner or mayor and council version of management.

MAYOR

James V. Cotton


Cotton, who has served the past four years as mayor following time as an elected council member, has been an outspoken proponent of a change in city governance to the mayor and council form.

“It’s a major issue. That form of government will provide a broader range of activities for (the elected officials) to work on projects while staff handles daily duties. I also prefer the four-year term of office.”

Cotton pointed to accomplishments during his service, including street scaping, Main Street programs, the Parris Glendening Recreational Complex and the reopening of the swimming pool.

He said his top priorities for the next term will be to see every vacant building on Main Street filled and to have the city become a bigger player in the overall county development.

Arthur Bond

Bond, an experienced politician at the city and county level, is not only running for mayor, but was one of the individuals who organized the successful petition drive so that city voters could choose the form of government and the terms of office.

Bond said that he was proud of his efforts as a former elected official in Frostburg when he was instrumental in raising $4 million to help rehabilitate Piney Dam, which impounds the city’s drinking water.

“People take comfort knowing they can contact a commissioner when they have a particular problem,” Bond said, in explaining his support of that form of government. “Commissioners help get things done, but they don’t run a whole department.”

His top priorities are to increase the rapport with FSU and to add to successes already achieved by the Main Street Program and the Frostburg Business and Professional Association.

PUBLIC WORKS

Susan Keller


“Change is coming and we need to be able to address it,” Keller said in support of her favored switch to a mayor and council form of government.

Keller said she has supported pay raises for city employees and smart growth during her current term of office. “I have helped in obtaining more than $5 million in grants,” she said.

“Landlords can be helpful, but can’t be held responsible for actions of their tenants,” Keller said, responding to a plea from University Neighbors to help in such matters. “There could be a stipulation in a lease just what will and won’t be tolerated. The city has been attending meetings of University Neighbors and will continue to do so. Partnering is the key.”

Keller explained that ridding the city of a blighted property is time-consuming and expensive. She said the city has not been able to keep the position of code enforcement officer filled for any extended time period.

Jeff Bailey

A backer of the commissioner form of government and two-year terms, Bailey said if a person is doing a bad job it will be easier to get rid of him and if he is doing a good job he will be re-elected.

“I am running because this is my community. I want to make Frostburg the best it can be,” Bailey said, citing honesty and his work ethic as reasons for election.

“I believe taxpayers’ money can be better spent and that grant money should not be used all in one place,” Bailey said. “I believe that Frostburg State University can be our greatest ally.” Bailey said that as the university grows, it needs to provide additional dormitories or the problems associated with off-campus student rental properties will increase.

Bailey said he believes the best way to deal with blighted properties in the city is to keep them from becoming blighted in the first place.

Dennis M. Bridges

Bridges said he moved back to Frostburg in 2000 because it is one of the better communities he has seen during his career travels.

Bridges promised to keep the government open to the public and himself available to voters if elected. He said he would work to better utilize the assets that exist in Frostburg, such as Glendening Park, Palace Theatre, Depot and Main Street. “I believe that the most important asset in Frostburg is the people and that civic organizations, landlords and businesses should work together to move the city forward.”

Bridges favors a commissioner form of government and two-year terms of office.

PUBLIC SAFETY

John C. Ralston Sr.


Ralston, retired from the Maryland State Police, has been the public safety commissioner for two terms, totaling six years. He listed a number of improvements, including a renovated police department, updated computer room, inclusion into the National Crime Information Center, acquisition of hand-held portable radios, new uniforms and a compact that allows city police and FSU police to assist each other.

Ralston obtained raises of $3,000 for police officers in addition to the 2.5 percent all city employees will get in July.

He suggested that the city could require landlords to use a standard contract in renting properties as an attempt to alleviate negative interactions between students and year-round residents.

Ralston said the city needs a code enforcement officer on the street at all times to reduce and/or correct property violations.

W. Robert Flanigan

Flanigan recently resigned after 19 years as a Frostburg police officer to devote his time to a property management business in the city.

“I miss the people that I worked with and our efforts to improve the way of life in Frostburg,” Flanigan said.

“I protected you for all those years and now I want to protect you in a different way.”

Although six officers now in training will bring the city’s police force back to its full complement of 16 officers, Flanigan said the recently approved pay raises will not be enough to keep them. “Some officers will leave just because they don’t have proper equipment.”

Flanigan said that he acquired more than $700,000 in federal funding for the police department, the reason that the full staffing increased from 13 to 16 officers. “Part of my duties in addition to general law enforcement were yearly budgeting, vehicle maintenance, new officer equipment and safety presentations.”

FINANCE

Richard Weimer


Weimer was appointed as the commissioner of finance when Robin Gorrell resigned and relocated.

“During my short term in office, I have found city government to be extremely proficient,” Weimer said. More needs to be done to address business development, revitalize Main Street, resolve rental housing issues, improve working relations with FSU, improve parks and recreation facilities, and resolve water rate issues with the county, he said.

Weimer said his top priority for the city is to revitalize Main Street.

“I bring ... the time, energy, experience and willingness to do a good job for all the citizens of the city. I am a team player who strives to build consensus to resolve problems and issues.”

Eileen B. Steele

“The finance commissioner’s job is one of making policy, not counting the beans or running the department,” Steele said.

“I have owned two or three businesses here and have a great investment in this town.”

Steele said she also is a university neighbor. “I think we all are,” Steele said. “If FSU is going to grow, it is up to the town.”

Steele said she would work to bring better jobs, especially state jobs, to the city and to increase the tax base by adding housing.

Steele was the lone candidate of the 11, when asked, to say she favors removing fluoride from the city’s drinking water.

A landlord herself, Steele questioned whether the city would have the legal right to monitor the actions of tenants.

Steele said she wants housing inspections to be done by city employees rather than contracted to private firms.

WATER, PARKS,

RECREATION

Ronald W. Dugan


A veteran firefighter, Dugan said it is time for the city to consider paying firefighters. He cited recent calls to which the Frostburg company responded with a dearth of volunteers.

While stating that the city has the knowledge and manpower to operate the drinking water treatment facility on its own, he said he would have to study the matter before deciding whether he favors continuing a contract with a private company that now deals with those matters.

“We need community involvement on many issues,” Dugan said. “Get fraternities, sororities, Scouts, athletic teams to help with a trash pickup day.”

Dugan wants to seek corporate sponsorship of parks and recreation facilities whereby the company’s name is used in return for money for upkeep and modifications.

Doug Lemmert

Lemmert said his priority as a commissioner would be to improve facilities at city recreational fields. He cited the need for a concession stand. Lemmert had unsuccessfully requested $30,000 from the council on behalf of a youth football team recently.

Lemmert said that his job as maintenance manager for a large area factory allowed him numerous contacts with the construction trade that could be of help in such matters.

“My only reason to run is to serve the citizens and the children,” Lemmert said.

Michael A. Sawyers can be reached at msawyers@times-news.com.

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