Sager offers upbeat assessment of state of the city

March 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager listed administration accomplishments in an upbeat State of the City address at the Day's Inn on the Dual Highway Tuesday morning.

Sager also made it clear that areas of disagreement remain between city and Washington County governments, especially over what he called the "county water and sewer debt fiasco."

Sager said the local economy has experienced "a phenomenal growth rate" in the past several years. "We've added a net 1,000 jobs per year for five, six or seven years," he said. The city's unemployment rate has hovered at around 4 percent for the past several months, he said.


Sager ranked the following among the city's biggest achievements in 1996:

  • $20 million worth of water and sewer expansion and upgrades. Sager said changes at the Edgemont Reservoir and at the RC Willson Water Plant on the Potomac River will increase by millions of gallons per day the amount of water available to local residents and businesses.
  • Tourism marketing designed to reap profit from the area's rich Civil War heritage.
  • Economic development. Sager said several businesses expanded, and others broke ground in 1996. He said $6 million in new construction took place at the Hagerstown Business Park during the year.
  • Downtown development, including construction of a new parking lot in the northeast quadrant of the square; groundbreaking for the Clock Building in the square; and the start of Civil War tours.

Sager said the following were the main challenges in 1996:

  • The blizzard. "We spent about $650,000 on snow removal. We had budgeted about $175,000 for snow removal," he said. "We expect to have a surplus this year."
  • Flooding and the water crisis that followed when the city was forced to ban water use when equipment failed.
  • The pension plight. The city found out in 1996 that the Maryland State Retirement Agency had underbilled Hagerstown and other communities for their contribution to the state pension plan over several years. Thanks to help from legislators, that debt is being reduced by half, to $4.9 million.

Looking ahead, Sager said work on a new look for Public Square should begin by June. A new District Court building will be built downtown, he said. Work will continue to develop the fairgrounds, and efforts will continue to increase the city's homeownership rate, which at 38 percent is well below the national average.

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