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Today's special: ground Roundhouse

August 26, 1998

Tim RowlandIt's equal parts melancholy and hilarity that the only thing the City of Hagerstown and Washington County have agreed upon in the last dozen years is that area's most historical piece of industrial architecture must be trashed.

Sewer? No. Water? No. Firefighting? No. Ballpark? No. Economic development? No. Tourism? No.

But flattening the Roundhouse? That's two big thumbs up from the Syria and Israel of the Western World.

I half expect them to hold a press conference to tell us what a positive development this is: "In the spirit of cooperation, the City of Hagerstown and the Washington County Commissioners proudly announce the complete destruction of one of the region's most vital links to the past."

Here's what confuses me. If city couldn't to do the job, what in the name of Casey Jones led people to believe the county could? Hope does spring eternal, I guess. But outside of the Cow Palace on Md. 65, when was the last time the county showed initiative on anything? If you're counting on the commissioners to save your project, you are in an unhappy state indeed.

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The city and county both fear the Roundhouse grounds are steeped in all manner of petroleum juices which the government may force the owner, which in this case would be the government, to clean up.

This reminds me of the Monty Python skit in which wrestler Colin Bumba Harris enters the ring for a semi-final match against Colin Bumba Harris. The wrestler then proceeded to chase himself around the ring. (He won and went on to face himself in the finals).

It's priceless that government can live in such fear of the government. No wonder we regular civilians are scared stiff.

Wouldn't you think that, in such a rare, special instance as this, that the state and federal governments' rules might be flexible enough to allow the City of Hagerstown to take control of the property without fear of a bigger brother forcing a cleanup at taxpayer expense?

No, of course you wouldn't and here's why. Because it would make sense.

The Roundhouse has been issued a death sentence and there apparently is no human being in or out of government with the authority to hear the appeal and lend some reason to the situation.

No one in government, be they local, state or federal, seems to have the will or wherefore to act.

(Say what you will about the ice rink, but at least it was a project that actually got done.

It's losing money? What government service doesn't? The ice rink only loses a third of what the parking garage is losing per year, probably because using it would violate the oath Hagerstonians take stating "I do solemnly swear that I will not walk more than one block to my destination even if I must use a handicapped space, double park - with or without flashers - or put two wheels up on the sidewalk, under punishment of possibly losing weight.")

Probably the biggest problem the Roundhouse faces is not the pollutants, but the fact that it cannot be moved to Frederick.

If local officials thought this was something like the Civil War Medical Museum we could lose to our eastern neighbors you can bet they'd find a solution, tout suite.

This, I think, is the answer the Roundhouse Museum folks have been looking for - annex the 46 acres to the City of Frederick.

For reasons of contiguity, you may need a half-inch strip of land 25 miles long. I suggest using the median of I-70. Believe me, if officials get visions of a sign advertising the "Frederick Roundhouse," something will get done.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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