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CHIEF to agree to stadium study

February 12, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The president of a public-private agency says it probably will agree to a joint city-county request to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed Home Run Business Park.

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

Merle Elliott, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., known as CHIEF, said he will present the joint request to the CHIEF board at its next meeting.

Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman told Elliott Friday about the request. Zimmerman and County Administrator Rodney Shoop will discuss the request with Elliott in more detail next week, Zimmerman said.

Unless there is some problem with the idea, he thinks the board would agree to do the study, Elliott said.

"We are always willing to help," he said. It would be premature to estimate how long it would take to do a study, he said.

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CHIEF has built four industrial parks in the county, most recently the Newgate Business Park in Hopewell Valley, he said.

The Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council decided Thursday to ask CHIEF to study the city's plan for the proposed business park complex or develop its own plan.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz is hoping CHIEF will offer to build the business park itself, which would dramatically reduce the county's costs.

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

If CHIEF were to do that work itself, the most the county would have to pay is $1 million, Swartz said. The city's share of the cost probably would not drop under that scenario, he said.

Swartz is the only commissioner who has supported using county funds to build the stadium.

Members of the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly have said they need to see county support for the project before they would consider pushing for the $5.1 million in state money the city plan calls for.

The County Commissioners voted 3-2 last year against spending taxpayer money for a new stadium. Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, who voted against stadium funding, is the only commissioner from that group remaining in office.

The CHIEF study and analysis would not slow plans for the park, Zimmerman said, since the city wasn't expecting to get state funding for it this year anyway.

Commissioner William J. Wivell is opposed to taxpayer funding of the stadium. He did not speak during Thursday's meeting.

He said Friday he thinks the two projects, the stadium and the business park, should be considered separately.

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