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City plans to fix up run down building

September 29, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The City of Hagerstown will advertise for bids to fix up a city-owned building that was the target of a lawsuit by a former mayoral candidate who wants the building to be torn down.

City Engineer Bruce Johnston said Monday that the request for bids to repair the former Tristate Electrical Supply Co. Inc. building at 38 S. Potomac St., could be advertised this week.

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The city bought the building in late 1996 for $120,000.

The City Council would need to approve a contract for the repairs, the cost of which isn't included in this year's budget, Johnston said.

He did not have a cost estimate for the work.

"I think this is something that we'll probably try to do. It's just something we should be doing anyway," Johnston said.

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The work could begin this fall and be finished in the spring.

Joseph H. Walker, who ran failed bids for mayor of Hagerstown last year and for Washington County Commissioner in this month's primary election, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 8 in Washington County Circuit Court accusing the city of selectively enforcing its building code.

The lawsuit lists 20 complaints of building code violations against the former Tristate building, which is next door to a three-story red house at 32-36 S. Potomac St. that Walker owns.

Walker has said the condition of the city-owned building hurts his ability to sell the building he owns.

"That building is a dilapidated shell," Walker said. "As far as I'm concerned only a fool would fix up a dilapidated warehouse like that."

The building has been vacant most of the time since the city bought it. A sculptor has used the front section on the first floor in recent months to allow the public to see him at work, and a woodworker used the building for storage at one time, officials said.

Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator, said no developers are interested in the building at this time.

If no one expresses an interest within two months, Everhart said she expects the city will advertise the building for sale.

Repair work is to include repairing and repointing areas in the brick wall, fixing broken window panes, painting wooden window trim, scraping peeling paint from brick walls, replacing warped plywood covering three windows, removing weeds and debris in the back parking lot, and removing the rotted loading dock in the back, Johnston said.

City officials fix code violations on city property when they are made aware of them, said City Building Inspector Mike Heyser.

Heyser said he was not aware of any complaints concerning the city-owned building before the lawsuit was filed.

During a candidate forum in February 1997, Walker suggested downtown be torn down in an "organized fashion," leaving the Maryland Theatre standing. Walker lost in the Republican primary election to the eventual winner, Robert E. Bruchey II.

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