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City, county want CHEIF's stadium input

February 11, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council decided Thursday to ask a public-private agency to study the feasibility of the proposed Home Run Business Park.

The proposed business park complex at Interstate 81 and Salem Avenue would house a new minor league baseball stadium.

The county should take advantage of the experience that the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., known as CHIEF, has in planning and building business parks, Commissioner John L. Schnebly said. .

The five commissioners, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Councilman Alfred W. Boyer agreed, but did not vote, to ask the CHIEF board of directors to look at the business park's feasibility.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop and City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman planned to call CHIEF President Merle Elliott today to tell him about the request.

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If CHIEF decides the business park idea is feasible, it may decide to take over the planning, promoting and building of the project, commissioners said. That could dramatically reduce the county's share of the project costs, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

While he would look at a business plan developed by the city of Hagerstown for the business park, CHIEF might create its own plan, Shoop said.

The city's plan estimated the project would cost about $14.5 million. Under the city plan, the county would pay $4.2 million to buy the 68-acre site and pay to put a road and water, sewer and gas lines on the property.

The County Commissioners voted 3-2 last year not to spend taxpayer money to help fund a new stadium. Snook is the only commissioner from that group remaining in office.

That vote quickly ended discussions between the city and the county about a new stadium, Snook said.

"Sitting down like this, we never did this before. We never got that far before," Snook said.

Snook voted against taxpayer funding of the stadium but said he will be open-minded about the business park idea.

Bruchey said he was pleased by Thursday's decision.

"It is moving forward. It is leaps and bounds beyond where we were last year," he said.

Schnebly said that while the commissioners support the construction of a new stadium, the $53 million water and sewer debt limits how much money the county can contribute.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz is the only commissioner who has said he supports taxpayer funding of the stadium.

Commissioner William J. Wivell says he supports building of a stadium but opposes using county taxpayer money to pay for it.

In order for the project to be built, a cooperative effort between the city and the county is needed, Boyer said.

Members of the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly have said they need to see county support for the project before they would push for state funding.

The city plan calls for $5.1 million in state funding.

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