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Commissioners set priorities

January 19, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners have listed their main "strategic initiatives" for the next four years, including resolving Water and Sewer Department issues.

Other initiatives involve education, updating the county comprehensive plan, supporting economic development and financial planning.

The commissioners developed the list, which has not been formalized or voted on, during the first of several planned Thursday workshop sessions.

At future work sessions the commissioners will make specific plans for dealing with each initiative, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The commissioners usually meet only once a week, on Tuesdays, except during budget discussions.

After taking office, though, some of the new commissioners wanted to meet a second day of the week to go over more complicated issues.

The point of the Thursday meetings is to get away from the operational issues that are discussed on Tuesday and delve into organizational issues, Commissioner John L. Schnebly said.

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The five initiatives involve issues the commissioners can't solve easily, Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said. Putting the initiatives on paper makes it easier for the commissioners to remember not to lose sight of them, he said.

The five nonprioritized initiatives are:

-- Resolve water and sewer issues. The county continues to grapple with more then $50 million in debt stemming from the now-defunct Washington County Sewer District.

The commissioners said they want to continue talking with Hagerstown officials about consolidating their water and sewer systems.

The commissioners proposed establishing a task force, consisting of elected officials and committee/commission members, to look at that and related issues.

- Continue working on education issues with the Board of Education, Hagerstown Community College and a proposal to open what some are referring to as University of Maryland, Hagerstown. The latter is a plan to build a campus in Washington County where students could attend classes offered by the University System of Maryland institutions.

- Update the Washington County comprehensive plan, which lays the groundwork for Washington County over the next 20 years, especially in areas of land use, growth management policy, roads, sewers and sensitive environmental areas. The county is seven months into the two-year project.

As part of that process the commissioners said they will have to decide whether to establish impact fees.

- Continue economic development in the county. This includes revitalizing urban areas of the county and promoting the airport.

Commissioner Bert I. Iseminger asked whether the county could do more to attract tourists to the region and inform county residents about local attractions. In response "tourism" and "marketing" were added to the initiative list.

- Do more financial planning, particularly on debt affordability and reserve funds.

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