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County Housing Authority stays alive

December 04, 1996

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to provide funding to keep the county Housing Authority operating for at least 18 months until a decision is made whether to merge it with the Hagerstown Housing Authority.

Funding will continue at the reduced rate of $100,000 a year. The county had already nearly slashed the budget in half by cutting about $90,000 from the department.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the county housing authority has not completed the audits requested by the City of Hagerstown, which is considering the county's proposal to merge the two departments.

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County officials said they plan to schedule meetings with city officials to discuss merging the departments.

County officials have said it could be more efficient to merge the two agencies.

County Housing Authority Director Richard Willson said he wanted to know if the department would be funded until a decision was made on what would happen to his agency.

Willson said the indecision on funding Willson presented the commissioners with the numbers to operate various parts of the county housing program and how much it would cost for the county to operate only a housing program for the elderly.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers, who has strongly opposed ending the county housing program, said he favored guaranteeing funding for the program until a decision has been made on whether it will be merged with the city or not.

He criticized other commissioners for going after what he called a successfully run program that has been cut down to a $100,000 expense for the county.

"Why are we going after these guys so much?" Bowers said. "I hope you ain't a senior citizen trying to get in there some day. And for what reason? To save $100,000."

Willson later said that he believes other agencies would pick up those enrolled in the housing program if the county ends the department.

The county housing department serves about 1,348 clients, according to a department report.

The department had a staff of 14. Willson said three have left for other jobs and he has not filled their positions. He said half of the other employees are actively searching for other jobs.

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