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Housing agency merger in doubt

February 10, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Housing agency merger in doubt

A deal to merge the Hagerstown Housing Authority and the Washington County Housing Authority was in doubt after the County Commissioners expressed reservations Tuesday about giving up control over the county's housing developments.

The commissioners also were concerned about confusion over how much money the merger would save.

A decision on the merger could come as early as Thursday, when the Hagerstown Housing Authority will meet to discuss a county proposal to increase the authority's board of directors from five to seven, with the additional two directors appointed by the commissioners.

Commissioner James R. Wade said he wasn't convinced that merging the two authorities made sense. Wade said he wanted to make sure that a resident from outside Hagerstown would be given as high a priority as a Hagerstown resident.

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Wade's comments came after the commissioners were presented with a proposed $184,490 budget for the county housing authority if no merger occurs.

All of the commissioners said they wanted to make sure the new housing authority continued forward with senior housing projects planned for Williamsport, Clear Spring and Hancock.

Hagerstown Housing Authority Director Ted Shankle said the authority would go forward with those projects if they made sense financially. Shankle said requiring the authority to go forward with those projects regardless of cost could break the deal. Those decisions would be up to the new authority board, Shankle said.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey said the county probably is going to have to put a little money into those new sites to get them off the ground.

Snook said that "if any of us are here next year" they could work with the new authority to subsidize startup operations.

Del. John Donoghue told the commissioners that the county bill to merge the two authorities is in the process of being written. The filing deadline to guarantee that a bill gets a hearing before a committee is Thursday at 3 p.m. Donoghue said he could go to the Rules Committee chairman after that if it's an important enough issue.

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