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Fire inspectors to decide fate of armory

May 20, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

A Hagerstown youth group could find a permanent home at the former National Guard Armory, but still faces the possibility of a temporary eviction, officials said Monday.

The Maryland State Fire Marshal's office will inspect the 328 N. Potomac St. building today to determine whether 21st Century Teens and Has Beens Boxing Club need to move out, said Charles Cronauer, deputy chief state fire marshal.

If there are life-threatening safety violations, the building cannot be used until the violations are corrected, Cronauer said.

"Nobody should occupy a building that is unsafe," Cronauer said.

Mayor Steven T. Sager said, "There are life safety violations."

A city fire marshal found safety violations earlier this year, including the need for a fire alarm system and emergency lighting, said Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker.

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State fire marshals must inspect the building because it is owned by the state, he said.

Rev. Philip Hundley, president of 21st Century Teens, has asked the City Council to lease the armory from the state so the city could lease the building to the teen group. Hundley teaches Christian education to teens in the building about twice a week.

City officials support that proposal, but won't pay to fix the safety violations, Sager said. The lease would probably be for $1 a year.

The arrangement would put an unused building to good recreational and education use for youths, Sager said.

The final decision on the lease will be left up to the administration elected in today's municipal election.

The boxing and teen groups continued to use the armory after the Hagerstown Armory Youth Consortium Inc. dissolved at the end of March, Hundley said.

The nonprofit consortium's board voted to dissolve because it couldn't get the needed repairs taken care of as quickly as city officials wanted, said Gerald Spessard, who served on the consortium's board.

Hundley said 21st Century Teens has started raising funds and will apply for community development block grant funding through the city.

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