County officials mark progress on local economy, finances

February 03, 1998


Staff Writer

The Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday the county has made progress in improving the economy, tackling the water and sewer debt and supporting education.

Three business parks the county has developed at the crossroads of Interstates 70 and 81 have brought five new employers and 855 new jobs, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said at the annual State of the County forum.

The forum was sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The success of the business park complex, called Hopewell Valley, was highlighted in a CNN report that the commissioners showed to about 130 people at the Four Points Hotel by ITT Sheraton on Dual Highway.


"This effort has taken a long time to get to this point," said Snook, who credited the cooperation of business and government.

Such cooperation between county and city governments is critical to the future of the water and sewer systems, Commissioner James R. Wade said.

The county has made progress straightening out the mismanaged system it took over in 1994 from the defunct Washington County Sanitary District, he said.

All customers are paying the same rates, the county has a plan to deal with the system's $54 million debt and the county has hired someone to market the $9 million Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Facility, he said.

But the county and city must plan for future growth together, he said.

Also, the county must stand by planned water and sewer rate increases even though it is unpopular in an election year, he said.

Other highlights of the presentation:

- The county is renewing its commitment to education, contributing $59.5 million to the Washington County Board of Education budget.

"We're well poised to bring this county into an era of being the education county," Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said.

- Fire and rescue services in Washington County are at a critical point. Volunteerism is on the decline while requirements on education and training are increasing, said Commissioner R. Lee Downey.

A March study could show the county how to address those problems, he said.

Volunteers have asked for a retirement plan, he said.

- A museum and office building will be built this summer at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center near Sharpsburg, said Commissioner John S. Shank.

- In the next three years, the county will undergo a comprehensive rezoning.

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