Roundhouse talks continue

August 19, 1998

From staff reports

Hagerstown and Washington County elected officials discussed the possibility joining forces to save the roundhouse from demolition on Tuesday, but weren't optimistic about chances for success.

After Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. officials and supporters asked them for a letter of intent to acquire the property, elected officials said there environmental and legal issues still needed to be addressed.

Hagerstown Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said the city alone cannot buy the property, but there's potential to save it if the city and county did so as partners.


Talks between city officials and CSX Real Property Inc., which owns the 46-acre complex along South Burhans Boulevard, broke down last week after the two sides couldn't agree on access and liability terms.

Commissioners John Shank, R. Lee Downey and Ronald L. Bowers said they would like to save the roundhouse, but had concerns.

The commissioners said they want to be sure liability problems, cleanup costs, and inability to resell the property would not turn the gift into a financial nightmare.

The commissioners wanted to know if they could immediately resell the property to the museum or other buyer.

John Darnell with the office of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., said CSX doesn't want the property resold to the museum because it isn't financially strong enough.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he was concerned that if the property were contaminated, financial institutions might not offer loans needed to develop it.

"I want to know my worst-case risk," said Commissioner James R. Wade.

Roundhouse supporters said both U.S. senators, state legislators, and Bartlett supported purchase of the roundhouse.

"That argument means nothing to me. They've got nothing to lose is my point," Wade said.

Roundhouse supporters discussed the matter with the commissioners during their morning meeting and again in the afternoon at a joint meeting with Hagerstown's mayor and City Council.

Workers began removing asbestos from the roundhouse complex this week, including removing the roofs from some buildings to get to pipes with asbestos, officials said.

CSX has a permit to demolish 14 of the 36 structures that don't have asbestos.

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