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Senators call for reprieve for roundhouse

August 22, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Two U.S. senators from Maryland have sent a letter to the head of CSX Corp. asking him to delay the demolition of the Hagerstown roundhouse complex, according to the letter.

"We are asking that you delay demolition plans and provide the community additional time to work out an agreement that would be mutually acceptable to roundhouse museum friends and to CSX," states the letter from Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski.

Sarbanes' office, which faxed and mailed the letter Wednesday to CSX's president, had not received a response as of Friday, said Charlie Stek, Sarbanes' spokesman.

CSX officials in Richmond, Va., were not even sure whether John W. Snow, the company's president and chief executive officer, received the letter before going out of town this week.

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CSX Corp. is the parent company of CSX Real Property Inc., with whom city officials tried to negotiate a purchase agreement.

Stek said the federal government cannot buy the Hagerstown roundhouse property or prevent CSX from demolishing the complex. The property is not a national historic site, and officials do not know whether it meets criteria to become a national park, he said.

Sarbanes' office is exploring what federal funding could be available to restore and protect the complex if local officials succeed in saving it, Stek said.

Hagerstown and Washington County officials will meet Monday morning at the County Administration Building with representatives of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc., CSX Real Property and U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett's office to discuss saving the roundhouse.

Two attempts between Hagerstown and CSX Real Property officials for the city to buy the property failed because of liability and access issues.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he wants to know whether CSX can transfer liability for any environmental contaminants to the buyer or if CSX will always be responsible for any such contamination.

Under state law, CSX always will be held responsible for any cleanup of environmental hazards required on the property, said Shari Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Nothing prevents CSX from negotiating with a third party, such as the city, to be responsible for cleanup costs, Wilson said.

"I hope the county jumps on board" if the city and county can't work together to save the complex, said Bob Tracey, museum president.

If it doesn't work out, the county is not the museum's last shot at saving the 46-acre complex along South Burhans Boulevard, Tracey said. Tracey said he is still looking into whether the federal and state governments as well as private investors can help.

Museum officials hope to develop the roundhouse property into a tourist attraction.

Crews are removing asbestos and lead paint from 22 of the complex's 36 structures, including the crescent-shaped roundhouse, said Kevin Hurley, CSX Real Property director. That work could take about two weeks, he said.

Once those hazards are removed and a demolition permit is obtained, the contractor can raze the buildings in the order that is best for the contractor, Hurley said.

The contractor can raze the other 14 structures whenever ready, he said.




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