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Roundhouse gets reprieve from CSX

July 10, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

The Hagerstown roundhouse got another reprieve Friday, but some who attended a two-hour, closed-door meeting offered dim hope of saving the historic railroad property.

Roundhouse owner CSX Real Property agreed to wait until the end of the month before moving forward with its plans to raze the crumbling building, officials who attended the meeting said afterward.

That gives Hagerstown and Washington County officials more time to investigate the possibility of taking over the 45-acre site.

A joint meeting between the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Commissioners is set for July 28, said Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

Bruchey called Friday's meeting at the Roundhouse Museum on Burhans Boulevard productive, but said there's still no deal.

One major hangup is the property's environmental concerns, officials said.

"Unfortunately, they're probably more extensive than we anticipated before coming here," Bruchey said.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said he doesn't think the city can afford to assume responsibility for possible underground oil contamination.

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"I must be honest. The price is too high. Even if it was free, the price would still be too high," Boyer said.

Boyer said he wishes CSX would compromise and agree to lease the property to the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc., which plans to restore it into a working roundhouse and tourist attraction.

So far, CSX has not changed its offer. The company wants $500,000 from the roundhouse and a commitment from someone, such as a governmental body, to assume liability for potential environmental concerns.

Museum President Bob Tracey called the offer "generous."

He and other railroad enthusiasts remained hopeful that the property will be saved although they haven't been able to raise the $500,000 purchase price.

They said it is positive that all parties continue to talk.

"I'm eternally optimistic. It's not over 'til it's over," said Stuart Mullendore, who is on the museum's board of directors.

CSX has not yet applied for a demolition permit from the city.

The meeting drew many high-level players including representatives from the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Maryland Department of Environment and the Maryland General Assembly.

Two Washington County Commissioners, R. Lee Downey and Ronald L. Bowers, attended the meeting.

Both said they left with concerns.

"I think there's additional obstacles placed on the table that many folks weren't aware of," said Bowers, who declined to elaborate because there are sensitive legal issues involved.

Bowers said the project is worth pursuing, but it would need the backing of a major philanthropist or national group.

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