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Everyone's a winner in Hagerstown

February 03, 1999

The Washington County Commissioners ask for the authority to borrow $5 million. Why? Because they don't need it.

Hagerstown acts out a keen investment strategy in which it buys the Delta Hosiery building downtown for $150,000 and sells it for a cool $40,000.

In Hancock, the author of a campaign flier insinuating Hancock has a $50 million debt blames "a typo" when it's revealed that the town's debt actually is less that $2 million.

A member of the housekeeping staff at the local Motel 6 wins $1 million in a contest sponsored by Food Lion.

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A Hagerstown electrician will win $1 million if Jeff Gordon wins the Daytona 500.

No, it wasn't exactly a quiet week for finance in Lake Washington, where money news made Internet stocks look like U.S. savings bonds.

So let's see, Washington County is a plus $5 million, Hancock is a plus $48 million, one county resident is up $1 million and another could be. But the City of Hagerstown is down $110,000. So who's the big winner?

Yes, it's obviously the City of Hagerstown. Because getting a downtown building out of the hands of "Vacancy" Vincent Groh and into the hands of developer Dick McCleary is easily worth about five times the city's cost. Although in the same breath I must say Groh's new Bookstore Etc. building is a wonderful renovation for downtown. What do you say Mr. Groh, go for two? Just don't renovate too many and put me and my downtown Hagerstown jokes out of business.

And McCleary - well, he's obviously the enemy of downtown Hagerstown humor. If you haven't seen the Roccoco building it's worth the trip downtown - to string together four words I never thought I'd use in the same sentence.

And then you wander over to Twilight's Martini Bar or Harry's House of Blues and suddenly the realization hits you like the hot kiss at the end of a warm fist: there's stuff to do in Hagerstown after 5.

I know, I'm scared, too. I need to stagger back to more familiar ground, that being either the Snow White Grill or the commissioners' request to the legislature for a $5 million line of credit which they say they don't need but might if times get tight.

I can sympathize with this request, because I know that in my own household if it comes down to a matter of borrowing gobs of money or spending what I have responsibly - well, would Visa give you the cash-advance option on the ATM if it weren't the right thing to do?

Because who knows, any day now you might win a million dollars, and as about the only person in Hagerstown who hasn't won a million dollars lately, I figure it's my turn.

I will, by the way, abandon my Ford bias and root for Jeff Gordon (speaking of four words I never thought I'd string together) at Daytona because if Gordon wins, Ray Grimm of Hagerstown will collect $1 million courtesy of a tobacco company contest.

I believe that if Ray wins we all win. Because in a county in which the idea of economic development is a warehouse and a couple of Sheetz stores, I think that contest entries may be the brass ring we've been searching for. Look, two million dollar winners and our per-capita disposable household income goes up 22 percent.

What couldn't we do for our schools if everyone were to enter Publisher's Clearinghouse? Why not? Ed McMahon for mayor.

And if we don't win and the money isn't there we'll do like they do in Hancock and claim it's there, just like a couple of campaigners claimed the town incumbents had rung up a $50 million debt. When it turned out to be nowhere in the neighborhood of being correct, the campaigners blamed a typo.

This could have a great impact on local projects. For example, who could object to spending $14.50 for a new baseball stadium/industrial complex?

After it's built we say "Oops, typo. It was actually $14.5 million." Still no problem. To pay it off all we need is a line of credit or a couple of Powerball tickets.

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