Roundhouse demolition permit to be issued

August 11, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

A demolition permit for 14 of the 36 structures on the Hagerstown roundhouse property is expected to be issued today, but does not include the roundhouse, a city official said Tuesday.

The most significant of the 14 structures is the turntable pit, said Bob Tracey, president of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc.

Losing the turntable pit would make it more costly and difficult, but not impossible, to turn the crescent-shaped, 25-stall roundhouse into a tourist attraction, Tracey said.

The CSX Corp.-owned roundhouse is part of the largest railroad complex left from the steam era and the turntable is the second longest in the world at about 115 feet, museum officials said.


Mike Heyser, the city's building inspector, said the Maryland Department of Environment won't allow the city to issue the demolition permit for the remaining 22 structures until asbestos has been removed from them.

Asbestos removal is expected to begin today, Heyser said. State and city officials had believed it was already underway.

CSX Real Property Director Kevin Hurley said CSX will proceed with razing the approved structures, but didn't know how soon it would begin or how long it would take.

"If someone comes with an offer that we can accept, we'll try to put a brake on the process," Hurley said.

CSX is determining a value for the turntable since the museum wants to buy it, Hurley said. The turntable would have to be moved and the pit filled in, he said.

Tracey said if the roundhouse can't be saved, the museum will eventually need to move from its 300 S. Burhans Blvd. building so it can accommodate its growing collection. The turntable would move with it. The museum building is not slated for demolition.

Tracey said museum officials are still exploring options to save the railroad complex, but he wouldn't elaborate.

Tracey was to make another pitch to the City Council behind closed doors on Tuesday night to save the roundhouse, but he wouldn't elaborate on that either.

While CSX officials have been good to deal with during this ordeal, Tracey said he felt slighted by Hagerstown officials. Last Tuesday City Council members decided behind closed doors to reject CSX's purchase offer because they didn't know to what extent the property was contaminated by diesel fuel or whether it was developable.

City officials were "naive" and "overcautious" when considering the potential environmental problems on the property, said Tracey, who contends the property is not significantly contaminated.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said city officials have been justifiably cautious in looking out for the city's taxpayers.

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