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County votes to give $50,000 for ag center

November 18, 1998|By SCOTT BUTKI

The drive to raise $350,000 to help pay for construction of facilities at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center got a $50,000 boost from the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The center, which will include an office complex and the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, is off Md. 65 north of Sharpsburg. Construction is expected to cost about $1.5 million.

The state has agreed to match up to $350,000 in donations raised by June 1999. So far, $265,000 has been raised.

The county received about $70,000 in donations before the state matching program began.

Donors expected their money to help pay for the buildings, but instead it paid for maintenance and operations costs, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

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At the suggestion of Commissioner John S. Shank and a motion by Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers, the commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to donate $50,000 from the county capital improvement program contingency fund to pay for the project.

Shank has been the most vocal supporter of the project on the board. He and Bowers were defeated in the Nov. 3 general election. Their final commissioners meeting is Nov. 24.

The issue was not on the meeting agenda, but Shank brought it up during the portion of the meeting reserved for commissioners' reports and comments. Shank also brought up the issue at the Nov. 10 meeting, asking Shoop for a project update.

Shoop said Tuesday he expects the county to seek bids for the project in January.

Pubic Works Director Gary Rohrer has said that work could be finished next summer. A contractor is doing grading work at the site.

The commissioners have said they will issue an $850,000 20-year bond to pay for some of the project expenses. The commissioners usually issue bonds once a year, generally in February, said Debra Bastian, county director of budget and finance.

The commissioners in July approved a scaled-back version of the project after cost estimates came in at about $2.7 million.

Shank said the current $1.5 million plans for the 20,000-square-foot facility are closer to what he and other project supporters had envisioned.

At one point, plans called for other agriculture-related agencies housed on Maryland Avenue to be invited to move into the complex, but that idea was dropped.

Volunteers, many of them farmers, have done much of the work at the site. Volunteers plan to build a picnic pavilion and a maintenance building, Shank said.

The complex will house an agriculture museum, technology center, the University of Maryland Agriculture Extension Service and the county's weed control office.

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