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City informally OKs participation in homeownership program

July 23, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown officials decided informally on Tuesday to include enough funds for a homeownership program to would allow three city employees to participate.

Last week City Council members were split over whether the city should participate as an employer in the program, but returning Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said city employees should be allowed to participate. Metzner was absent last week.

The state's new Live Near Your Work program gives employees of participating employers $3,000 to help with purchase and closing costs if the employee contributes at least $1,000 toward a new home near their workplace.

The state, the city and the employer each contribute $1,000 toward the benefit. If a city employee were to participate, the city would provide $2,000 of the $3,000 benefit.

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The city has nine slots left for the program this budget year, with one possible participant from Morin-Rocco Contractors and five from Ellsworth Electric, said George Andreve, Department of Community Development manager. That leaves three slots for the city, he said.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure reiterated that the council could be perceived as helping its employees buy houses with tax dollars, but not helping others.

Metzner said others aren't being helped because their employers chose not to participate in the program.

Council members will vote next Tuesday on budgeting $12,000 in federal community development block grants for the program as well as $12,000 in the Community Betterment Fund in case participants don't meet the block grant's income eligibility requirements, Andreve said.

The betterment fund is fueled by City Light revenue.

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