FEDERALSBURG — Things are heating up as a group of leaders vies for two council seats and the position of mayor in Federalsburg. There were common themes running through all of their goals. Everything from the fish farm to fixing the streets to fixing up some derelict houses is all up for discussion. Also, getting a new trash truck is on everyone’s mind. A lot of the candidates have already held the position for which they are campaigning. One current councilman, David Morean, is not seeking re-election.
The voting happens from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the Town Hall at 118 North Main St., Federalsburg. Councilmen make $2,000 a year, and the mayor makes $5,000.
Some think common sense is the best way forward. Others want to implement more technology to make the town run efficiently. All seemed pleased with the industrial park and are hopeful about the proposed fish farm. The mayor’s seat is for two years, and the council seat is for four.
Starting at the top spot for mayor are two candidates that everyone in town already knows. They are Kim Abner and David Armes. Abner is the incumbent mayor.
“When I came on, the town was not run like a business. There was no forethought or strategic thinking. The first thing I did was not re-elect the town manager. This opened the door for a nationwide search. We wanted someone who was professional and knew how to run the town like business. What’s going on in Town Hall? What processes could we streamline?” Abner said.
“For example we bought a system that allows us to put tickets in for Public Works. It schedules grass cutting, fire hydrant maintenance and pump maintenance of the water. Now you can go on the website and pay your water bill,” she added.
“We are looking at some grants to get a new trash truck,” Abner said.
She also made the point that if each citizen mowed their lawn and was responsible for the 200 square feet in front of their house, that the town would look better.
“I feel like at the small town level you can make a difference,” she said. “I want to make a difference to make the town be better. Code enforcement. I want to get to a place where we can go after absentee land owners to help clean up the town.”
She had one last technology idea.
“The Mayor’s Minute would be a Cliff Notes recap of the council meetings so if you miss the meeting, you can get what happened at the meeting,” she said.
The other mayoral candidate is David Armes, who is a well traveled military veteran with a neatly kept front yard.
“The streets in general need to have repairs. I was on the council before, and we talked about how 50% of the town are renters. The code enforcement officer needs to make sure they are complying and need to keep the property straight. They need to enforce the ordinances we have. Single owned family homes take care of their house. That is a fact. The more owners we have the better,” said Armes.
“We need to buy a new garbage truck. The money is there to do it. My understanding is that we got a grant from the stimulus package. It is about $2 million dollars. That is an easy decision,” he said.
Armes got down to what he thinks is the most pressing problem in the town.
“Drugs need to be looked at. We have the highest proportion drug problem in the county. Instead of arresting everybody, I think we need to get people into treatment programs. They have got to want help. And we should get the police a dog to sniff out drugs,” he said.
When asked why he should mayor, Armes said, “I was born and raised here. This is my home and I would like to get it cleaner. The roads will take a whole bunch of money, but with a little elbow grease, we can clean up the town. I am retired military, so I have the time to do it. We need to get the roads fixed.”
Three candidates are vying for two council seats.
Stephen Bollinger is running for councilman. He is an IT specialist who has served on the council before.
“When I was on council before we were going in a good direction trying to get the roads repaired and serviced. We have several roads that need to be improved drastically. I am not opposed to a penny or so tax to get the roads repaired. I would like to see some cooperative effort. I talked with the Denton town manager, and they have a crack sealer, so we could reseal some of our roads. I talked to them about borrowing their crack sealer. He was agreeable. Us smaller towns, we can help each other,” he said.
Bollinger had some thoughts on the garbage truck. He did not like having a piece of equipment like that sitting around four days a week. Maybe Federalsburg could have a cooperative effort and partner up with Preston or Hurlock to do like a consortium to buy a truck and have it service all three towns.
If you want a reason to vote for Bollinger, he says, “Scott Phillips and I have the most experience from the council side. After 35 years, I think you can finally call me a local.”
Scott Phillips has lived in the town “forever.” If re-elected, this would be his second term.
“I am trying to get the town to present a better version of itself. We need to tighten down on inspections on property maintenance. I would like to see a few more businesses in town. Both restaurants or something to cater to what the public needs. We have done a pretty good job of keeping the industrial park full. I don’t know if the fish farm is 100% a done deal. That is one of the things I would like to stay on the council to see through. It is a passion of mine to finish something we have started. We need $250,000 to $300,000 to buy a new truck,” Phillips said.
He said he was born and raised here, had his children here and sent them to school here. He called the town his “lifelong home base.”
“The number one thing going forward is the town needs to limit their debt load. It is way too high right now. We need to focus on paying down our past debts,” Phillips said.
Rob Willoughby, who is running for council and works for the Caroline County Board of Education, said, “We should be the town that a lot of us remember as vibrant town. We all remember shopping on Main Street. We have kind of lost that. You know a lot of this starts with making sure folks who live in town have pride in their town — and have trust in their government to have the same pride. I think we have lost some of that. People aren’t seeing local government in a positive light.”
He also said that he would like to work with the local historical society to pull the history out of the town and make it a destination where people want to come for a day.
The salmon farm is also in his mind. He likes the idea of 150 to 200 jobs coming to Federalsburg. He raised some concerns about the farm draining fish water back into the water system.
“The worst phrase you can have is ‘We have always done it that way.’ When you are entrusted with public funds and tax funds, you have an obligation to make a comprehensive view of what the town does and how it does it. One of my strongest skill sets is knowing how to organize. Being able to write a plan, implement a plan. Create a structure and really be able to think of the big picture and think outside of the box. It is time for me to step up and see if I can offer something different,” he said.