Balanced budget, stadium funding are city priorities

March 02, 1999

State of the CityBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Balancing the budget for the next fiscal year and raising private funds for a minor league baseball stadium are among the city's priorities this year, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Tuesday.

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The mayor and City Council have trimmed $775,000 off the $1.1 million projected deficit for the budget year that begins July 1, Bruchey said in his administration's second State of the City Address.

He and the council were to work Tuesday night to find ways to make the rest of the cuts, Bruchey told about 200 people attending the address at the Ramada Inn and Convention Center.


There was no discussion about budget cuts during the public portion of the meeting.

He said a committee is looking at ways to save money both internally and by consolidating some services with Washington County government.

The city is projecting deficits for the next several years because of flat property tax revenues.

Near the end of his hour-long presentation, Bruchey addressed the much debated issue of building a new baseball stadium.

"Without a new facility where minor league baseball can be played, there will not be minor league baseball in Washington County," he said.

Hagerstown Suns General Manager David Blenckstone said in a telephone interview that if a new stadium isn't built, his father will try to sell the team rather than move it again.

Blenckstone said he thinks a buyer would move the team. No local investors have stepped forward and offered to keep the team here, he said.

Bruchey said a new stadium is needed because Municipal Stadium is old, doesn't have enough parking and isn't easily accessible.

A new stadium also could be used for concerts, college baseball games, American Legion games and possibly high school playoffs, he said.

A new stadium and business park complex would cost $14.5 million. The favored site is along Interstate 81 between Salem Avenue and Marshall Street.

Bruchey said he expects to start an initiative in April to encourage more private contributions for a stadium.

The proposed stadium does not have the total support of the council or County Commissioners.

Bruchey said this year's theme is to make Hagerstown a priority and listed several accomplishments the city had in 1998 and projects to be tackled in 1999.

He said he shakes his head every time someone says the city has water and sewer issues.

"The cooperation on water and sewer issues is mostly for the benefit of the county and not the city," he said.

But two of the city sewer projects Bruchey said were done are not.

One is behind schedule and the other is expected to be done in May 2000, said Water Pollution Control Manager Rick Thomas in an interview.

A $3.7 million project to repair sewer lines in the North End is about two months behind schedule after a contractor fell behind the city's schedule, Thomas said.

The city pumps raw sewage into Hamilton Run periodically to prevent sewage from backing up into basements and bathrooms in the North End. The problem occurs during heavy rains because ground water leaks into the sewer lines.

A state consent order that allowed the city to pump sewage into the stream expired on Feb. 23. On Feb. 16, the city asked the Maryland Department of Environment for a 90-day extension and to excuse the city from any fines, Thomas said.

Thomas said he has not heard back from the state yet.

A spokeswoman with the state department's press office said Tuesday she did not know whether a decision had been made on the city's consent order extension request or on the fine.

If fined, the city can recoup the amount from the contractor, Thomas said.

The other sewer project is the $8.5 million biological nutrient removal project, which began on June 1, 1998, and is expected to be done in May 2000, Thomas said.

That project is intended to help improve the environment for aquatic life in the Chesapeake Bay.

The State of the City address was hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by Smith Elliott Kearns & Co. and Wright Gardner and Tischer Insurance Inc.

Bruchey's address included a 13-minute video which Antietam Cable Television produced for free.

Staff writer Dan Kulin contributed to this story.

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