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Sager focuses on ice rink progress

April 04, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager held a press conference Wednesday morning to emphasize that progress is being made in the areas of fund raising and construction for a city-owned $2.3 million ice rink.

Sager said afterward that he called the press conference in reaction to a headline in The Morning Herald on Wednesday that stated, "Mayor slams ice rink boss."

"I saw that the headline said I slammed Walter (Dill) and what I thought I'd done was offered constructive criticism to the board," Sager said.

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The mayor said the article's focus on the criticism overshadowed the positive aspects of Tuesday's discussion with ice rink officials. For instance, he said, construction is ahead of schedule and fund raising is about on track.

"The response of the business community so far has just been terrific," said Dave Barnhart, treasurer for the Washington County Sports Foundation. The nonprofit foundation will operate the rink when it opens at Hagerstown Fairgrounds on Aug. 15.

"A lot of the credit goes to Walter Dill for his personal efforts and his personal contributions," Barnhart said of the acting executive director for the Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex.

Dill has contributed $50,000 toward the ice rink project and paid for a marketing study, Sager said.

On Tuesday, Dill said two February articles about the possible salary for the rink's executive director and a discrepancy in his educational background had hurt fund-raising efforts.

The foundation has raised about $695,000 since last October, which Barnhart termed "a significant accomplishment."

"We didn't screech to a halt," he said.

After an April 15 deadline for in-kind contributions, foundation officials will begin focusing more on cash contributions, he said.

The city will contribute $1.2 million toward construction of the rink, which the foundation will reimburse through rent payments.

The foundation must pay for the remaining cost of the rink's construction, which stands at $1.1 million.

Foundation board members haven't determined the executive director's salary or when they will fill the position, Barnhart said.

Sager said he criticized the rink's board, of which Dill is not a member, on Tuesday for not publicly clearing up concerns about the executive director's salary and the educational discrepancy.

Much of Tuesday's discussion concerning the salary and educational discrepancy was between Sager and Dill, with Sager occasionally raising his voice at Dill.

In a Jan. 23 interview, Dill was quoted as saying he had a master's degree in computer science. On Tuesday he said that while he met qualifications for the degree, he didn't graduate from the State University of New York at Buffalo because he took some required courses at another school.

The $80,000 figure, listed as the anticipated salary for the rink's executive director on an application for Washington County Gaming Commission funds, was a high estimate, Dill said Tuesday.

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