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'Neighborhoods First' completes first project

January 18, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

A Hagerstown neighborhood improvement program that lets residents decide how city money is spent is boasting its first completed project - a parking lot.

There is now a nine-space parking lot at 111 High St. where two vacant and condemned houses once stood. The lot is expected to alleviate parking problems for residents of that block, who are the only people allowed to get permits to park there.

The parking lot was the first project undertaken by the Neighborhoods First Program, which was launched last May.

The Neighborhoods First Program committee is made up of 10 city employees and Hagerstown's HotSpot grant coordinator. The committee meets with neighborhood groups to find out what improvements residents want and how they could be funded, said Larry Boyer, a city community development coordinator and chairman of the Neighborhoods First Program.

The idea for a parking lot on High Street came from a meeting with a neighborhood watch group in the area, Bayer said.

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He said the 100 block of High Street has 31 housing units and parking spaces along the street for only 13 vehicles. He said the residents told the city they wanted a parking lot.

The lot cost the city $74,255, which includes $35,455 to purchase the property, $19,800 to remove asbestos and demolish the houses, and $19,000 to construct the parking lot, according to Tim Young with the city Engineering & Inspections Department.

"I thought it was excellent," said Joe Imes, president of the neighborhood watch program in the High Street area. "It proves that the city is trying to work with the neighborhoods to better the community."

Bayer said that right now, there are no other projects planned. However, the committee is expecting to hear from a Ridge Avenue area neighborhood group soon, he said. And at least two other neighborhood groups are being organized.

Bayer said the city budgeted for five neighborhood groups to spend $5,000 each this year. He said the $5,000 limit is flexible.

The program grew out of a 1996 survey done by Hagerstown city officials in which nearly 1,000 people replied that they would be willing to join a group to help improve their neighborhoods.

Anyone interested in joining neighborhood associations, or anyone who wants more information about Neighborhoods First can call Bayer at 301-739-8577, extension 133.

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