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Commissioners open to looking at benefits, costs of stadium

February 03, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Tuesday that the commissioners are open to evaluating the cost and benefits of a combined business park and baseball park to the community.

Snook answered the sole question posed to him after Tuesday morning's State of the County address, during which he outlined the commissioners' top five priorities.

"We do know it's a sensitive issue," Snook told the more than 150 people attending the address at the Four Points Hotel.

The city, county, Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation and private sector must be involved if there's to be a combined business park and ballpark, he said.

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"There has to be some kind of payback for all of us for it to be a win-win situation," Snook said.

Because money is limited, the commissioners will determine where a ballpark/business park falls among their priorities, he said.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz, who supports a new ballpark as an economic development tool, said he thinks his colleagues are waiting for a plan that shows a return on a county investment.

Snook said resolving water and sewer issues, supporting economic development, adopting a comprehensive plan, developing financial plans and improving education will be the county's focus this year.

The commissioners will work with subcommittees and Hagerstown officials to chip away at the county's water and sewer debt of around $53 million, Snook said.

They will continue to work on developing the PenMar Development Corp. at Fort Ritchie, Airport Development Park, Hopewell Valley and will help the city revitalize downtown, specifically plans for a cafe district, he said.

County officials expect to spend at least two years developing a comprehensive plan for the county to lay the groundwork for the next 20 years, Snook said.

The commissioners will expand the debt reduction plan, which was established four years ago, Snook said. The commissioners have reduced the amount of bonds they issue annually to about $7 million in the last three fiscal years.

Under a long-range plan the percentage of the general fund that will pay for debt service will drop from a rate of 10 percent to about 8.5 percent by 2007, Snook said.

The commissioners will help improve accountability, standards and funds for the Washington County Board of Education, complete funding for the $9 million Learning Resource Center at Hagerstown Community College and support having a University System of Maryland campus in the county, Snook said.

Staff writer Scott Butki contributed to this story.

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