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Armory notice posted

September 09, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

An official notice was posted by Hagerstown's building inspector on Monday forbidding anyone from occupying Hagerstown's former National Guard Armory starting Wednesday morning.

On orders from the building's owner - the state of Maryland - Hagerstown officials turned off electricity and water at the 328 N. Potomac St. armory last Wednesday because of overdue bills.

Under city code, a building without power cannot be occupied, yet a nonprofit group was using the building on Monday and another held a meeting there Sunday.

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City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said he does not intend to fine the state if the building continues to be occupied on Wednesday.

Under city code, the city could start fining the state $100 a day if the building is occupied, said building inspector Mike Heyser.

"This issue really boils down to a code compliance issue," Zimmerman said. Both city and state officials have given officials with the nonprofit 21st Century Teens time to come up with a schedule and plan to fix building code violations, but they still haven't received an appropriate plan, he said.

The state allowed the teen group and Has-Beens Boxing to operate for a long time in the building without a lease, Zimmerman said. While that demonstrates patience on the state's part, it also creates risk for the state since code violations remain, he said.

Chuck Fawley, with the Maryland Department of General Services, could not be reached for comment.

The building is not supposed to be occupied now, but the boxing club was using the rear of the armory on Monday.

Boxing coach Johnnie Johnson said he was under the impression the group could still use the building. After seeing the notice on the armory's front door, Johnson said the group will no longer use the armory.

The other nonprofit in the building, 21st Century Teens, held a Christian education lesson in music in the armory on Sunday, said the Rev. Philip Hundley, the group's president.

A generator was used to supply power and two portable toilets were provided behind the armory, Hundley said.

Heyser said the building was still not safe to occupy because there was no power for the smoke alarms.

Hundley continued to accuse state and city officials of racism on Monday for shutting the teen group out of the building.

The locks were changed Monday so he couldn't get inside, Hundley said.

Zimmerman said government officials discovered on Friday the locks had been changed so the state couldn't gain access to its own building. He said state officials planned to change the locks again so they could get into the armory.

Hundley said his group changed the locks earlier this year because of vandalism. They had been changed to prevent vandalism last year as well, he said.

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