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Roundhouse gets $250,000 pledge

August 02, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. received a $250,000 pledge from a New York charitable trust on Thursday to save the dilapidated roundhouse from demolition, the museum's president said.

Bob Tracey, president of the nonprofit museum, said he received word on Thursday that the Samuel L. Freeman Charitable Trust made the pledge.

The trust had previously pledged $25,000, but increased their offer on Thursday, he said.

News that the museum group may be getting the money may not affect the city's position concerning the 46-acre roundhouse property, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey said Friday night.

He said he still opposes the city taking over the property as long as questions remain about ground pollution. "I've said before it's not about money, it's about contamination and if the land can't be used," he said.

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It's a catch-22 situation at best. CSX Real Property, owners of the roundhouse, won't pay for an underground pollution study unless the city takes over the property and the city won't take it over unless it can be assured the ground under it is not contaminated, the mayor said.

He also said CSX pays real estate taxes to the city on the property. That money, which he said is substantial, would be gone if the city takes it over.

Hilton Smith, a local businessman and a trustee with the Freeman trust, said the trust's goal in pledging the $250,000 is to see that the museum gets the roundhouse.

"We want the city to say okay, you've come up with $250,000 now we'll match it so the museum gets the roundhouse. CSX gets to clean it up," Smith said.

"That's great news. That goes toward the purchase of the roundhouse," Tracey said of the Freeman Trust pledge .

Bill Knode, treasurer for the museum group, said more than $325,000 has been collected in cash and pledges so far in its effort to save the roundhouse.

CSX is asking for $500,000 to reimburse part of the cleanup costs and for a government agency, such as the City of Hagerstown, to take over legal responsibility for any environmental problems that might crop up on the land after CSX does its cleanup.

City officials are expected to decide on a counteroffer for CSX on Tuesday. They have said they want to know what hazardous materials are underground before buying the property.

Tracey said he's been around the more than 40 acres along South Burhans Boulevard for 15 years and never had a health problem from it.

"I don't think there's a bogeyman on that property," Tracey said.

Tracey said he doesn't think CSX is trying to hide anything from the city.

City officials "just don't get it," Tracey said. "If they don't make the right decision by Tuesday we're going to lose the roundhouse and the money it brought us," Tracey said.

The roundhouse complex is the largest remaining railroad complex from the steam era, museum officials have said. The museum wants to turn the complex into a tourist attraction.

CSX Real Property Director Kevin Hurley said the company is continuing with plans to demolish the complex unless it receives an acceptable purchase offer.

Hurley said he has told museum officials they can retrieve railroad artifacts and materials from the roundhouse before the demolition if the company proceeds with razing the buildings.

"Of course, we don't want to see it come to that," Tracey said.

CSX was getting requests for the materials from other railroads, prompting him to give the Hagerstown museum permission to retrieve any items they wanted, Hurley said.

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