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City-county cooperation up

March 01, 1999

ANNAPOLIS - Hagerstown business leaders have noticed more cooperation between Hagerstown and Washington County government leaders since four new County commissioners took office in December.

"I think that's probably a watershed event that type of cooperation is going on," Robert Cirincione, chairman of the Greater Hagerstown Committee, told the Washington County legislative delegation this week.

The county is willing to support projects such as the downtown arts and entertainment center, which used to be thought of as a city project.

Likewise, the city is willing to negotiate a merger between city and county sewage treatment operations, committee members said.

"I've seen a whole new mind-set with the City Council and the County Commissioners. They're finished with the bickering and the backbiting and they're working together," agreed Delegation Chairman Bob McKee, R-Washington.

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Del. Louise Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, said Washington County is one of the few counties in the state that has business and government leaders working together.

 

McKee talks up bill in five minutes

ANNAPOLIS - Sometimes, the short and sweet approach works best, said Washington County Delegation Chairman Bob McKee.

McKee, R-Washington, testified for less than five minutes in support of his bill before the House Judiciary Committee. There were no questions and no one else testified.

The bill would allow the state prison system to take away "good time" credits earned in local detention centers.

Currently, the prison can only revoke credits earned in the prison system.

"It would be an added tool in dealing with inmates," said McKee, whose district includes the prison complex south of Hagerstown.

Al Davis of Williamsport, an employee at Maryland Correctional Training Center, brought the issue to his attention, McKee said.

Davis wouldn't comment, saying as a state employee he wasn't allowed to talk to the media.

In a Maryland General Assembly session filled with marathon hearings, McKee said he thinks the committee will appreciate his brevity. The same day in another hearing room, an electricity deregulation hearing lasted nine hours.

The good time bill has been cross-filed in the Senate by Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington. A senate hearing is set for March 10.

Bill would split local district into 3 parts

ANNAPOLIS - Del. Chris Shank's committee is considering legislation that could affect voters in the northeastern part of Washington County.

Voters in District 3 - which includes 20,000 people in Washington County communities such as Fountainhead, Smithsburg, Maugansville and Cascade and 80,000 voters in Frederick County, Md. - now have three representatives in the House of Delegates.

A bill being considered by the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee would divide that district into three single-member subdistricts, said Shank, R-Washington.

"This is really cool. It would be wonderful for Washington County," Shank said.

The District 3 voters are disenfranchised because their three representatives live in Frederick County, he said.

Likewise, it is harder for those representatives to cover such a large territory.

Shank argues that single-member districts such as his make campaigning more affordable because candidates can rely on the inexpensive "shoe-leather" approach.

"I'm living proof that theory works," said Shank, whose southern Washington County district has 16,000 voters.

The single-member district bill has a dim history. In 1996, 1997 and 1998 it got unfavorable reports from the Commerce and Government Matters Committee.

But the committee is also considering a resolution to study the issue, which may have a better chance of passing, Shank said.

- Laura Ernde

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