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Deal to merge housing groups killed in county

February 18, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Deal to merge housing groups killed in county

A deal to combine the Hagerstown Housing Authority and the Washington County Housing Authority was rejected by the County Commissioners Tuesday.

The County Commissioners said they will instead work with the county authority to see if it can be made self-sufficient over the next few years.

The commissioners left open the possibility that a merger could still take place if the county authority can't pay for itself.

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Commissioner James R. Wade made the motion to reject the city authority's takeover offer. Wade said he felt that the County Commissioners should have representation on a combined authority's board.

He also said he was concerned that the combined authority wouldn't have the same focus on meeting housing needs for senior citizens in the county as does the county authority.

County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop said a three-year plan could be developed to wean the county authority off county subsidies, possibly to include moving the administrative offices from downtown Hagerstown to the authority's senior citizen housing development in Williamsport.

Wade was seconded by Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers, who said he also felt the county authority could become self-sufficient.

Bowers and Wade said they objected to the tone of the letter sent to the commissioners by Carolyn W. Brooks, the chairman of the Hagerstown Housing Authority's board.

Brooks' letter, faxed last Thursday, criticized the commissioners for trying to expand the combined authority's board from five members to seven, with two members appointed by the County Commissioners.

All five members of the city authority's board are now appointed by the mayor of Hagerstown.

Wade originally made a motion to reject any merger or takeover outright. After a plea from Commissioner R. Lee Downey, he amended it, calling for rejection of the offer from the Hagerstown Housing Authority as it stands.

County officials have estimated that a merger would save the county about $140,000 a year. The county would have saved money because the city agency would take over administration and maintenance of the county's housing units.

The proposed county subsidy for the county authority next year is $28,696, down from $100,000.

The county has 88 housing units for senior citizens in Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport and 25 houses scattered throughout the county for families. The city housing authority has 1,180 public housing units, including Walnut Towers and Potomac Towers.

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