Officials say law should give liquor board more control

November 25, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

Hagerstown officials on Tuesday asked for the state government's help in keeping drunk and disorderly people off downtown streets.

Drunk people leave the bars and taverns that are clustered downtown and disrupt residents and business owners, city officials said.

Police patrol as best they can, but in some cases the problems lie with tavern owners who serve customers too much alcohol and allow them to loiter outside, said Police Chief Dale Jones.

A change in state law would allow the liquor board, formally known as the Board of License Commissioners, to give stiffer penalties to license holders, said city officials, who presented 10 requests Tuesday to the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

Tavern owners who are charged with criminal violations often are excused from liquor board fines or suspensions after they receive sentences of probation before judgment, city officials said.


A big part of the drunk and disorderly problem downtown stems from the liquor license laws themselves, said Councilman J. Wallace McClure.

In some cases, people buy liquor and drink it on the streets, said McClure.

Certain types of licenses allow taverns to sell liquor to go and the board doesn't have the power to change the classifications.

Del.-elect Chris Shank, R-Washington, said the liquor board proposal might not address the entire problem.

"Somebody's got to have some moxie here to do something about it," McClure said.

Hagerstown officials also asked state lawmakers to:

- Consider supporting a new baseball stadium in Hagerstown. A consultant will present the results of a feasibility study at 4 p.m. on Dec. 15 at the Frostburg State University Center downtown.

- Provide enhanced pension benefits for city employees who were excluded from a state program last year. The city is prepared to pay an estimated $65,000 to cover its employees.

- Recoup the $386,000 it spends to maintain the city fire marshal's office, which provides a service for the state.

- Allow the police to confiscate vehicles used by people soliciting prostitutes.

A similar bill introduced in 1994 died in committee because of constitutional questions.

- Persuade the State Highway Administration to lower a $1.5 million access fee being charged to developers of The Centre at Hagerstown.

City officials said the fee is unfairly excessive and could kill development of the shopping center at the intersection of Interstate 81 and U.S. 40.

- Change lead paint laws to conform to federal standards, which are less restrictive than state law.

- Remove municipalities from the Forest Conservation Act, which requires developers to plant trees.

- Continue funding for a mortgage program that allows qualified buyers to get interest rates of 4 percent.

- Consider state bond financing support for projects such as the stadium, a business park, Hagerstown Fairgrounds and downtown improvements.

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