Housing merger talks to be held behind closed doors

February 04, 1998


Staff Writer

The Washington County Commissioners will meet in secret this morning with the Hagerstown Housing Authority and the Washington County Housing Authority to discuss a possible merger of the authorities.

A notice of the meeting, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Hagerstown Housing Authority's offices at 35 W. Baltimore St., had been sent to The Herald-Mail from the county administrator's office, but the newspaper later was informed that the meeting would be closed to the public.

Hagerstown Housing Authority Executive Director Ted Shankle said his authority's board decided to close the meeting so people wouldn't become inflamed after reading reports of what happens at the meeting and so the participants could feel free to discuss matters.


"Sometimes what gets reported gets misinterpreted," Shankle said.

Shankle described the session as a question and answer period to discuss his agency's latest merger proposal.

He said closing the meeting was justified because it dealt with acquisition of real estate and also touched on personnel issues.

Shankle said the merger would save money because the combined authorities could cut down on overhead. He also said housing authority residents would receive the same level of service and be charged the same rents after a merger.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he wanted the session to be closed because he wanted to talk about what would happen to personnel who would be affected by the merger.

"It's a sensitive issue," he said. Snook said once the personnel and legal issues have been discussed he wouldn't mind having an open session to discuss the merger.

The county and the Hagerstown Housing Authority have been negotiating a merger for months at the staff level.

The meeting today will be the first time the County Commissioners will sit down with the boards of the two authorities, Snook said.

"To me this is the start of this process," Snook said.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he didn't agree with having the meeting closed to the public, but said it's up to the Hagerstown Housing Authority.

"Discussions on the future of housing in Washington County should be open," Bowers said.

"This has all been done thus far without really going out into the public. The citizens in our housing developments should know what's going on."

The county has 88 housing units for the elderly in Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport and 25 houses scattered throughout the county for families.

Hagerstown's housing authority is much larger with 1,180 public housing units.

The Herald-Mail Articles