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Some skeptical about one-way plan

November 06, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II on Wednesday pitched a plan to change the flow of traffic in the Sumans Avenue area to a sometimes-skeptical group of residents.

Under the plan, to be voted on by Hagerstown City Council on Nov. 25, several streets and alleys would be changed to one-way northbound roads.

Bruchey and Police Chief Dale J. Jones told about 25 residents at the Sumans Avenue Community Center that the changes would make it harder for drug buyers to loop around the neighborhood in search of dealers.

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The plan also calls for restricting parking on Sumans Avenue to two hours during the day.

"We feel that as a city, we're not doing enough and we're laying it all on the police department. It's not a battle one person can fight," Bruchey said.

But several residents said making the streets one way would inconvenience people who live in the neighborhood and do little to combat the drug trade.

"I can't understand why one-way streets and two-hour parking has anything to do with drug trafficking," said Boward Street resident Brenda Laughlin. "You can drug-traffic whether you go one way or two ways. And you can do an awful lot in two hours."

Jones said similar traffic changes have proven effective in other cities. He said people often drive around the neighborhood several times before they find a drug dealer.

Forcing them to drive several blocks out of their way would not only inconvenience them but make it easier for officers to spot and catch them, Jones said.

Willie Conyers, an area resident and board member of the nearby Memorial Recreation Center, said he objected to the fact that city officials seemed to have made up their minds before Wednesday's meeting.

"This is an after-the-fact meeting. I am totally against this idea of making Sumans Avenue one way," he said.

Bruchey, who acknowledged after the meeting that he probably erred by not seeking more input sooner, told residents that the streets can be changed back to two way if the move proves ineffective.

Bruchey also pointed to a number of supporters in the community. Some residents at the meeting praised the plan.

Pamela Parson, president of the Parkside Homes Residential Association, also supported the proposal.

"I truly believe it would help," she said.

Bruchey urged patience and said the city is taking other steps to combat crime.

"You're never going to win this war unless you win little battles along the way," he said.

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