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Candidates speak during the election forum held on Monday, April 15, 2019 in Taneytown. From left are mayoral candidates Bradley Wantz, Paul Chamberlain, James McCarron, and Donald Frazier, and city council candidates Daniel Haines, Barry Guckes and Darryl Hale.
Candidates speak during the election forum held on Monday, April 15, 2019 in Taneytown. From left are mayoral candidates Bradley Wantz, Paul Chamberlain, James McCarron, and Donald Frazier, and city council candidates Daniel Haines, Barry Guckes and Darryl Hale. (Jon Kelvey / Carroll County Times)

The seven men running for office in Taneytown’s upcoming municipal elections spent two hours Monday evening answering questions in a forum held at the Taneytown Senior and Community Center.

Questions and discussion covered such topics as economic development, what to do about dilapidated buildings on Main Street and how to approach the process of hiring a new police chief — after former Chief William Tyler pleaded guilty to federal machine gun charges.

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The election will be held May 6 and features a four-way race for mayor between incumbent Jim McCarron, who is running for his fourth term, and challengers Bradley Wantz and Donald Frazier, who are current councilmen, as well as former Councilman Paul Chamberlain.

Wantz and Frazier would have been up for re-election to the council, but because they chose to run for mayor, their seats are now open, with three candidates vying for those two spots: Barry Guckes, Daniel Haines and Darryl Hale.

On the question of how to handle the police department — and, in particular, whether to conduct an open search for a new chief, or perhaps promote the current acting chief, Lt. Jason Etzler, to the permanent position — many of the candidates were critical of the city’s decisions while praising police themselves.

Hale said that while police “were doing a great job” on the ground, it was a mistake not to audit the police department and “we should have done what [Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees] offered to do in the first place, come up here, make an audit, check out our training.”

Both Wantz and McCarron noted that the police department is, in fact, under outside audit and investigation.

“The city took it very seriously when these things went down,” Wantz said, and the question now is, “What do we do about replacing chief? Cast the net out and see who is interested in leading a department of 14 officers.”

“Whether or not the acting chief will be selected for that position is really up for council,” McCarron said. “I recommended Lt. Etzler for the interim chief, and rightly so, the council approved that.”

Guckes, meanwhile, was supportive of an open hiring process.

“I think we sell our town short if we don’t go out and look at what talent is available,” he said.

Frazier said he’s concerned that the February meeting that resulted in Etzler being appointed acting chief took place in an executive meeting — rather than an open one.

The municipal elections in Taneytown will be contested this year, with four candidates running for mayor, according to information provided by the city clerk.

On fixing dilapidated or vacant buildings in downtown and the connection with economic development, Chamberlain was clear he wanted to know what people think about that.

“With dilapidated buildings, it is getting the input from the citizens on what they see,” he said. “Getting input and then implementing those requests.”

Frazier said he felt that Taneytown could better accommodate businesses to make them want to stay in downtown buildings — particularly with better parking options.

“I really think we could do more to keep businesses by being more user-friendly,” he said.

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Haines suggested the town could use dedicated building inspectors and should “give private building owners incentives to make their buildings not so vacant and dilapidated.”

Hale, along with Wantz and McCarron, suggested improving the city’s building codes and making use of grants when they are available.

“Smart growth, that’s still a thing, incentivizing biz owners to have a business on the first floor and living space on the second,” he said.

McCarron said he has long championed maintenance standards for existing buildings and also pushed back on the notion that Taneytown was having difficulty attracting businesses, by noting some recent entries: Firehouse Pottery and Arts, Bollinger Gunsmithing, Brewery Fire and The Caramel Kettle.

“Taneytown is really the poster child for business development,” he said.

Absentee ballots will be available by April 15. The election will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 6, at the Taneytown Police Department at 120 E. Baltimore St.

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