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Merger could save taxpayers $140,000 a year

February 12, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Merger could save taxpayers $140,000 a year

Merging the Washington County Housing Authority and the Hagerstown Housing Authority could save county taxpayers about $140,000 a year, according to figures provided by the county Wednesday.

The county would save money because the city agency would assume management of both housing programs.

If the merger went through, the county wouldn't have to fund the county authority's budget request of $28,696 for next year.

The merger also would free up office space valued at $24,906 a year. The county authority also uses an estimated $86,000 worth of support services that the city agency would provide.

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Richard Willson, director of the county authority, said the $28,696 in direct funding for the authority next year is down from $100,000 this year.

The authority cut its costs by replacing four permanent staff members with three temporary staffers and raising revenues, Willson said.

The county had incorrectly totaled the expenses at $184,490 Tuesday, County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop said.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers questioned the savings Wednesday and said the county should walk away from a merger.

"I think they are highly inflated figures," Bowers said. Bowers said other office space could be found for the authority, and said the $86,000 didn't count services that the housing authority provides to the county at no cost.

Bowers said it's possible for the housing authority to be self-sufficient regardless of whether there is a merger.

"I think we should protect our investment with our senior citizens and say thanks, but no thanks," he said.

Willson said a merger would save money, but said some intangibles would be lost. Willson said the county authority has built up contacts with municipalities, and has been active in the community in getting new projects for seniors up and running.

"I'm afraid we'll lose the emphasis on meeting elderly housing needs," Willson said.

Commissioner James R. Wade said Tuesday he wasn't sure if the merger was a good idea.

The commissioners said Tuesday that there would be no deal unless the Hagerstown Housing Authority's board is increased to seven members with two members coming from the county.

The commissioners also said that they wanted to make sure that senior housing projects planned for Clear Spring, Hancock and Williamsport go forward as planned.

A merger would require agreement by the boards of both housing authorities and the County Commissioners, Willson said. Both authorities are scheduled to meet today.

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