1st Urban Fiber: A not-so-cheap thrill for future archaeologists

August 13, 1997

Late the other night I was walking past the city's new "Entertain the Winos" program, aka the renovation of Public Square.

A whole row of people were gazing open-mouthed at the backhoes, commenting on the dust and offering constructive criticism over operators' concrete-destruction techniques.

The renovation essentially involves ripping up a bunch of bricks, trees and fountains and replacing them with a bunch of bricks, trees and fountains. This will make things downtown better somehow.


In an effort to keep traffic interference to a minimum, the construction work was to be performed at night. I remember thinking that this would be a tremendous boost to the 2 a.m., fresh-from-the-bars crowd who might be wanting something to watch.

But of course the senior citizens, always out to spoil a good time, objected because - get this - the all-night pounding and hammering going on at the base of their senior apartment building was keeping them up at night. The city gave in, of course, and now the work is being done during the day.

The seniors want to sleep? Of all the nerve. Next they will want to eat. And they will force a grocery store to be located downtown. And once they can sleep - and eat - what won't they demand? Probably entertainment and the right to have something totally nuts, like transportation to concerts, ballgames and dances throughout the county.

I warn you, I see nothing good coming out of the city's acquiescence.

Another neighborhood that is getting off way too easy is the South End along Memorial Boulevard where, in direct conflict with the Hagerstown's "Making City Life as Intolerable as Possible" initiative, the 1st Urban Fiber paper recycling/ear, nose and throat-attack plant closed its doors.

1st Urban Fiber, which organized and was financed in compliance with handbooks drawn up by the savings and loan industry, operated under the motto: "You can always sell a less desirable product as long as you remember to charge a higher price."

The project won former Mayor Steve Sager's "Project of a Generation" (nonoperational category) acclaim, which left you wondering: Which generation was he talking about? The generation that will fly a manned space mission to Neptune, cure the common cold and enact campaign finance reform?

Happily, this is only a "temporary" shutdown, which means we will only "temporarily" have that 4,000-ton after-dinner mint on Eastern Boulevard as a living, monolithic reminder of all the tax money, users fees and electrical sales that we were falsely promised as a salve to ease the thought of a heavy industry smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

Perhaps temporary is right, and perhaps it's not.

The price of pulp could easily go back up and the plant could restart with hopes of making a profit.

But just as easily I can see archaeologists 10,000 years from now dusting around the old green dinosaur's circumference and speculating what it might have been used for. Scholars will conclude that it was a ceremonial burial place for prehistoric mayors and search with teams of scientists and fortune hunters for the mysterious inner crypts filled with gold and mummified remains.

Conspiracists, however, will conclude it was actually an ancient landing strip built by civilizations from outer space, who flew to earth for the express purpose of starting a superior race and seeding the clouds.

Then, the 1st Urban Fiber plant will truly be "The Project of (Star Trek: The Next) Generation.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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