Wrecking ball near for roundhouse

August 25, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown and Washington County officials took one last stab at saving the roundhouse from demolition Monday before telling roundhouse supporters they need to look elsewhere for help.

"CSX's position hasn't changed at all," said Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II after meeting privately Monday morning with CSX, roundhouse and county officials at the County Administration Building.

CSX Real Property Inc. officials want the city, or buyer, to accept legal financial responsibility for environmental contaminants unearthed after a sale, Bruchey said.

CSX would clean the 46-acre site along South Burhans Boulevard to meet state standards before selling the land, CSX officials have said.


Members of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. have been trying to save the historic roundhouse for 10 years so they can turn the complex into a tourist attraction.

CSX officials decided earlier this year to proceed with the demolition after city officials said they were worried about the safety of firefighters responding to fires set by trespassers, because the property has several open pits and deteriorating buildings.

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

Workers began cleaning asbestos and lead out of the complex last week. They have a permit to demolish 14 of the 36 structures, not including the roundhouse.

City and county officials want to find a way the nonprofit museum can take over the land rather than having it sold to a government agency, said County Administrator Rodney Shoop.

CSX Real Property Director Kevin Hurley has said the museum doesn't have the money to take over ownership of the complex.

Museum officials now must look elsewhere for help, said Bob Tracey, museum president.

"We're very close to feeling a wrecking ball coming down on us," Tracey said.

Museum officials will approach the nonprofit National Railway Historical Society for help, but Tracey said he doesn't think the group has the needed money.

Tracey said he hasn't given up on seeking help from state and federal governments and private investors.

U.S. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski sent CSX Corp. President John W. Snow a letter on Aug. 19 asking him to delay demolition plans and give the community more time to work out an agreement to save the complex. CSX Corp. is the parent company of CSX Real Property.

Snow has been out of his Virginia office since last week and is not expected back until Wednesday.

Tracey said CSX has been made out to be the bad guy, but that's not true.

CSX has been patient with roundhouse supporters, allowing them to salvage some of the railroad equipment before the complex is razed, he said.

Tracey said he wished city and county officials had made their decision a long time ago instead of wasting so much time.

Bruchey said it was the liability issue that prevented the city from buying the land.

Visit the Save the roundhouse website.

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