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City to reject CSX proposal for roundhouse

August 05, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Three of five Hagerstown City Council members said Tuesday that even though they want to save the roundhouse, they will reject a CSX Real Property proposal that would allow a local group to preserve the landmark.

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"Basically, their offer is unacceptable. That's what we decided ... Are we open for further negotiations? Absolutely," said Councilman Alfred W. Boyer after the council met behind closed doors in City Hall on Tuesday night to discuss a possible counteroffer to CSX.

When Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II was asked what his counteroffer was, he said it would not be made public until it was delivered to CSX.

But Boyer and Councilman William M. Breichner said there was no specific counteroffer.

City officials said they could not accept a CSX condition under which the city would be liable should the land be disturbed after CSX cleans it up to the satisfaction of state environmental officials.

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CSX's cleanup could involve capping the land with a clay topsoil or blacktop rather than removing contaminated soil, officials said. Should that be the case, the city would not be able to develop the land without accepting liability for any contamination found if bulldozers dig up the soil.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he was pessimistic that the city and CSX could come to terms.

City officials cannot make a counteroffer until they know what contaminants might be on the roughly 40-acre site, he said.

"No one would turn the property down if it was found to be substantially pollutant free," but CSX wouldn't be offering it to the city if that were the case, Metzner said.

The demolition permit for the roundhouse complex could be ready by the end of this week, according to the city permit office.

Demolition would begin as soon as the permit is issued and the contractor can get equipment to the property, perhaps next week, Hurley said.

Between a public discussion on the roundhouse and one behind closed doors, Breichner said if it weren't for the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc., the city would have said no to CSX a long time ago.

The dedication of museum officials, who want to preserve the roundhouse complex for a tourist attraction, makes it difficult to reject CSX's offer, Breichner said.

Museum officials told the council during the public discussion that the museum would pay the $500,000 CSX wanted toward cleanup costs.

Blaine Snyder, the museum board's chairman, said the museum also was prepared to pay $59,000 for a three-year, $10 million insurance policy on the property.

But, CSX Real Property Director Kevin Hurley said CSX wants a government agency or private investor with significant resources to buy the land.

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