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Bartlett backs roundhouse preservation

June 16, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

by RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

click on image for enlargement

Bartlett backs Roundhouse

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., was in Hagerstown Monday to boost efforts to save the historic Hagerstown roundhouse from demolition.

Bartlett's rescue plan called for CSX Real Property to transfer ownership of the 40-acre complex along South Burhans Boulevard to the city before the property is cleaned up, thus absolving CSX of cleanup responsibilities.

CSX officials have said they want to have asbestos and lead paint removed from deteriorating buildings before transferring ownership.

They have given Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. officials until July 3 to raise $500,000 to buy the property and to find a government agency to assume legal responsibility.

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"I don't want this July 3 deadline to be a killer," said Bartlett, R-Md., who met with state legislators, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and museum members at the museum near the roundhouse on Monday afternoon.

Bartlett said he believes that if the city takes ownership of the property it would, because it is a government agency, be immune from legal responsibility for any environmental problems that crop up.

That could work only if CSX clears two violations with the Maryland Department of Environment, said Art O'Connell, chief of the site and Brownfields assessment/state Superfund division.

The 1990 and 1993 violations stem from oil leaking into an isolated aquifer, O'Connell said. CSX has been cleaning the oil up gradually over the years, he said.

CSX Real Property President Stephen Beck said in a telephone interview after Bartlett's visit that he would not change the July 3 deadline.

The risk of liability to CSX shareholders is a more important concern than an attempt to restore the roundhouse, Beck said.

Bruchey said local officials will have to wait until more environmental and cost information is available to determine the next step, he said.

The council has to decide whether to take over ownership of the property.

Bruchey and the City Council are meeting with the Washington County Commissioners today at 4 p.m. in City Hall to discuss funding feasibility studies for the roundhouse, a convention center and a baseball stadium.

If the city owned the roundhouse property and leased it to the museum, those two agencies would have better luck attracting donations and in-kind services for the cleanup, Bartlett said.

Bartlett and his wife pledged $1,000 to the museum's effort to save the roundhouse.

Vikki and David Nelson, new members of the museum, who arranged for Bartlett to meet with museum officials, handed over a check for $1,000 on Monday.

David Nelson said he would volunteer the use of cranes owned by his company, Jarnel Crane Rentals, on weekends to help with cleanup efforts.

Museum Treasurer William L. Knode said the museum has received about $50,000 so far without kicking off an official fund-raiser.

Within the last week those donations have included $5,100 from William L. Donaldson, $4,785 from the estate of the late Bonnie Hager, $4,043 from Jacques G. Hager and $1,000 each from Wayne W. Dixon, Scott A. Miller and brothers Ronald R. Reeser and Donald L. Reeser, Knode said.

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