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Women's club peeved over parking

February 18, 1997

By JENNYLYNN BROWN

Staff Writer

There's a battle brewing over a parking lot in Hagerstown.

On one side - 300 Women's Club members, ranging in age from roughly 60 to 90.

On the other side - city officials and the Board of Traffic and Parking, which oversee the parking meters.

Parking in the Rochester lot, at the corner of South Prospect and West Washington streets, became a problem for some Women's Club members last month when the city replaced some of the 10-hour meters with permit signs indicating parking slots had been rented, said President Charlotte R. Horst.

The parking lot has two levels connected by a ramp, and the permit signs replaced 12 of the 22 upper-lever meters.

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As a result, some club members who preferred parking on the upper level to gain easy access to the 31 S. Prospect St. building now must go to the lower level to find a parking space, Horst said.

Members who park on the lower level must walk up a steep hill to get to the club from the lower lot, said Marion Molten, a 36-year member.

"Walking is the biggest problem," Molten said. "I have a bad knee. We have women with canes and walkers and heart problems. We're not talking about teenagers who can run up a hill."

"The city should give us some consideration as an old establishment on Prospect Street - but it doesn't," Horst said. "They say if they compensate for us, that will open the door for everyone."

Five months ago, the city leased 12 spaces in the upper lot to Washington County employees, said Stephen Wolfensberger, treasurer for the City of Hagerstown.

"We put signs up because people with permits complained they couldn't get spaces even though they had permits," he said.

"The parking is always based upon what the public wants," he said. "We serve the public. If there's a strong demand for meters, we put in meters."

Wolfensberger said The Women's Club could rent the remaining 10 upper-level metered spaces.

The permits cost $22 a month. Groups of 10 or more permits are discounted.

"We can't afford it," Molten said. "We simply can't buy permits. It's almost blackmail - that to go to the club, you need to buy a place to park."

Horst said city officials would think differently if they evaluated the club's community ties.

In addition to daytime meetings and social activities, the club rents meeting space, dining space, wedding space and rooms. The Potomac Playmakers perform on the club's stage. Adults and children attend exercise classes in the club.

"One of our members crochets little caps for every infant born in the Washington County Hospital," said Molten, 80. "If asked to help, we help. We're community-minded. We try to make it easy for senior citizens."

During Tuesday's mayor and City Council meeting, Mayor Steven T. Sager asked City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman to work out the problem with the club.

The Women's Club, incorporated in 1921, is a social organization that schedules community service projects and activities for older people.

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