Asked & Answered: A conversation with Mayor Robert E. Bruchey

May 13, 1998

Mayor BrucheyAsked & Answered:

A conversation with Mayor Robert E. Bruchey

Editor's note: Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II will mark his first year in office on June 3. We asked a number of people in Hagerstown - elected officials, residents, business people - what they would ask the mayor if they had the chance. City Hall reporter Julie E. Greene posed 25 of their questions to the the mayor in an hour-long interview May 8. What follows are his answers in his own words, edited for length.

What's the reality of the job versus what you thought it was going to be?

The reality is that you spend a lot of time dealing with more minor issues than major issues. Now yesterday was a major issue, the drowning on Thursday (April 30). I was out there (at) 12:30. I went home at 3 a.m. I had been home to eat dinner and then back out again. And it's a good thing that I was there ... because ... someone had to make a phone call to find out this and that. That was me. I tell you I was amazed at how hard everybody worked yesterday. And I thought I had it rough. I don't have it rough at all compared to them.


Is there anything else?

For my part, a lot of it has to do with dealing with the public more than anybody else. Bruce (City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman) handles a lot of things and then brings it to my attention and then we work on it together from that point. But he's the contact for a lot of things that have to do with city issues that come up - police protection, overtime, things like that. Actually we all work very hard and right now especially during budget time to try to come up with ways to find cuts and make everything work.

List your view of the city's top three priorities in order of importance for the coming year.

Fiscal responsibility. Balancing the budget. That's number one.

We're looking at having a 7-cent (tax increase), probably, maybe. We're trying to whittle that down. The worst problem I guess is that capital improvements were started (before it was) determined how they were going to fund (them), three, four, five years down the road.

Number two is economic development, it's still right there. What would have been the number two before would have been crime prevention, crime control. I think we've got a handle on some of that.

So economic development is probably right up there with fiscal responsbility. I probably couldn't tell you which one's first. I know that without economic development, taxes go up and we gotta find ways to be able to even that out somewhere where we're finding more industry, more businesses to locate in the city where our taxpayers aren't shouldering all the burden.

Number three would probably be the Fairgrounds. Trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, how to fund it. I know we have to come up with a definite plan well before fall.

People come up to me on the street (and say) why don't you sell to some private investor who wants to put housing in, but that's not what that's for. We bought that because we need green space. ... but yet we don't want to stop economic development.

So it's a real juggling act.

What's your vision for the downtown and do you feel there is concensus on the City Council for this vision?

My vision for the downtown is to find somebody or somebodies who want to come in to redevelop and revitalize, rehab the old buildings - the Baldwin House, Tri-State. And in order to do that, I think we have to put the buildings that we own up for bid.

My only problem is, if you put them up for bid, who bids on them? How do you judge the bid? Are you looking at who's going to pay the most or are you looking at who has developed what in the past and made something happen? And that's where I think we're going to have problems between myself and the council. And maybe not.

My vision isn't to just look at what's going to happen in the next year or before the next election, my vision is to look at what's going to happen 20 years from now when Bob is 60 years old. What's Bob's tax going to be on his property?

What is the city doing with the Routzahn building?

There's $60,000 budgeted to put a new roof on to try to stop the deterioration of the inside.

I love old houses. I love old buildings. But I know when you buy an old house it costs a lot of money to make it economical for heating and things like that. And the same thing happens when you get an old building. Maybe what we need to do is to preserve the facade in the front and wipe it all out from behind and start all over with something else. I don't know. But that's an option that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars too. So we don't really know.

The business community realizes that one thing that makes downtown attractive is people feel they can go walking down there and it's clean and safe. What progress has been made to improve the perception of the city as a clean and safe place to go?

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