Letters to the Editor

September 22, 1998

Poor priorities

To the editor:

A $50,000 study to justify spending millions more on another stadium, $87,000 to paint a courthouse tower which nobody sees, $100,000 for a Baltimore attorney, $450,000 on the umpteenth renovation of the Square, yet we can't seem to find the funds or the collective will to save the world's largest steam-era roundhouse complex, which includes the world's second-largest turntable.

Can't anyone imagine the business that passengers traveling by rail from Hagerstown to Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields, Forts Frederick and Ritchie, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry, Whitetail Ski Resort, Pen Mar Park, Hershey and Washington, D.C. would bring to our city and county?

The Roundhouse itself would attract visitors from all over the world, especially if the huge (115 feet, diameter) turntable could be made operational. I myself traveled to Frostburg specifically to watch a magnificent old steam locomotive spin on their comparatively tiny turntable. What if we could give turntable "rides?"


Why are our officials unwilling to support this project? Are local developers pressuring them to use the land for four-lane access to Antietam Street? There is a better alternative route. Do they think the city needs a few more empty buildings or another mall? Do they see development of the Roundhouse property as competition?

Such a lack of vision. It would revitalize the downtown area, something no one has thus far been able to do. We already have Morris Frock's wonderful street-adapted locomotive, which could head a small fleet of shuttles from the Roundhouse to City Square, the theater, playhouse, museum, art galleries, shops, restaurants, stadium, parks and special events.

The contaminated-ground excuse by local officials for their lack in interest rings hollow in light of (1) the 16 test wells on the property which have tested clean for years and (2) CSX's written promise to pay for any clean-up costs over the $500,000 they are asking us to contribute.

My husband and I have contributed $1,000 toward the purchase of the Roundhouse Complex. Allegheny Power accountant William Wivel, 301-824-3045, is holding our check with the promise to return it if the $500,000 is not raised. Can't any more of you be persuaded to invest in a priceless piece of our nation's railroad history - and in Hagerstown's economic future?

Can't our legal experts at least find a way to stall demolition until after the elections?

Beth Beckner-Mills


County did the right thing

To the editor:

After so many letters on the issue of the proposed posting of the Ten Commandments at the county courthouse, I have to comment. The County Commissioners had no choice but to refuse the proposal.

A decision to post the Ten Commandments at a public building would be challenged in court and would lose. In Stone vs. Graham in 1980, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to display the Ten Commandments at a school. I'm not willing to wager the decision would be different if the plaque were at a courthouse. Some communities have paid exorbitant court costs trying to establish religion in public policy in violation of the First Amendment.

Let me put this in perspective. If you received a summons to appear at court, and the words "There is No God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet" were posted at the courthouse, might you be left with the impression that you as a Christian might not get fair treatment there?

In Moslem countries, flags bear the Islamic crescent and star, and laws are based on Sharia, Islamic Law. How do you suppose the Christian minorities feel about that? The Moslems might say there is nothing wrong with it - after all, they are the majority.

I also have to challenge the assumption that the Founders were all traditional Christians and all were in agreement on matters religious. They had very heated arguments on the subject. Some were Deists who rejected the supernatural aspects of Christianity. Fortunately for us, enough of them agreed that state churches, such as some states had, was a danger to freedom and had to be abolished.

They rejected the establishment of religion in public policy and so should we.

Robin Ward


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