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CSX rejects city's offer

August 12, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

CSX Real Property Inc. on Wednesday rejected an offer from the City of Hagerstown that was designed to save a portion of the CSX-owned complex that includes the roundhouse, CSX officials said.

CSX spokesman Rob Gould and CSX's regional vice president for state relations, Stephen C. Thienel, said the city's offer to take over about five of the approximately 41 acres required CSX to agree to an easement to provide access to the five acres.

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CSX officials rejected the offer because the easement would have decreased the value of the property and lessened its appeal for development, they said in a telephone interview.

Gould said there's a chance an opportunity could arise to save the roundhouse, but he said CSX is proceeding with asbestos removal in preparation for demolition.

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"I thought the plan was a workable plan that has some possibilities, but it's evident that the railroad's position is all or nothing at all," City Councilman William M. Breichner said.

City officials felt that CSX's original offer would have transferred too much liability to the city, Breichner said.

City officials have said they didn't want to accept responsibility for the property without knowing what environmental contaminants were underground.

Realizing CSX wanted a government agency involved, Breichner said city officials presented the counteroffer to buy only the five acres with the roundhouse. Had CSX agreed, city officials would have worked out a development contract with the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc., he said.

Museum officials have been trying to save the roundhouse complex for almost 10 years to turn it into a tourist attraction.

The roundhouse is part of the largest railroad complex remaining from the steam era and the turntable is the second longest in the world at about 115 feet, according to museum officials.

The museum would have provided insurance coverage, Breichner said.

On Aug. 11, museum officials told the council they were prepared to pay $59,000 for a three-year, $10 million insurance policy on the entire complex.

Breichner said he was surprised to hear that some museum officials believe the city let them down. Council members cannot act without making sure the taxpayers are protected, he said.

"That's what we were elected to do ... Sometimes that's not easy and you don't always give everyone the answer they want to hear," Breichner said.

Breichner said city officials would have given up on the property earlier if it hadn't been for the determination of museum officials.

Asbestos removal at the roundhouse complex is expected to begin on Monday, but CSX officials weren't sure how long it would take.

There may be some asbestos in all 36 of the structures on the complex along South Burhans Boulevard, and demolition won't start until the asbestos has been removed, CSX officials said.

The city on Wednesday issued a demolition permit for 14 structures that were believed to be asbestos free, said Mike Heyser, the city's building inspector.

The 14 structures include the turntable pit in front of the crescent-shaped, 25-stall roundhouse, but not the roundhouse.

A news conference about the roundhouse complex has been called by the City of Hagerstown for 9 a.m. today on the second floor of City Hall, but Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II would provide no additional information.




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