Up to delegation to loosen purse strings

March 04, 1999

The days are growing longer now, and when I get home in the evenings I can walk the dog around the yard without taking along a flashlight. The trees are still bare, but the parts of the lawn that get the most sun are starting to green up. The ground moles, hunting the grubs from last year's bumper crop of Japanese beetles, make trails visible underneath the turf, trails I'll have to flatten out with the lawn roller before the first mowing.

As the dog and I make our way past the tall evergreens that mark part of the property line, flocks of doves burst out of the foliage as if they're afraid that the hound on my leash might decide to scale the tree.

The squirrels aren't as skittish, retreating slowly from their clean-up of the last few black walnuts. In an earlier era, we'd have gathered the nuts ourselves, husked them until our fingers were stained an indelible brown, then cracked them in front of the fireplace, eating some and selling others to make a few dollars. Those frugal ways were not a lifestyle choice, just the way things were, but it's good to remember that many of us have what we have because those who came before us didn't waste anything.


A Hagerstown merchant asked me to find out and publicize the rules related to city garbage pick-ups. Too many of her neighbors, she says, just wait until a bag is full, then throw it out on the sidewalk, regardless of whether the trash collection is that night, or three days from now.

According to the Hagerstown Engineering Department, garbage collections for the North End are made on Sundays and Thursdays. Garbage bags shouldn't go out before 4 p.m. on those days. For the South End, garbage is collected on Mondays and Fridays, and again, don't put those bags out until 4 p.m. on collection day. On Wednesdays. there's a city-wide collection of recyclables.

(The dividing line between North and South is West Washington Street, which is on the south side for collection purposes.)

In other municipalities, residents get a city-issued waste can which can hold four to six kitchen-sized bags of refuse. On collection day, the can is wheeled to the curb. Then after the pick-up, it's wheeled back into the yard again. The virtue of this system is that if the can is placed on the sidewalk early, the bags inside can't be shredded by hungry stray dogs.

The point of this lady's request is to suggest to her neighbors, and to city residents at large, that they should keep their garbage inside or in a can until collection day, so the city will look like a municipality, instead of like the city dump.

There's one more day to enter the Best Carryout contest. Because the deadline's so close, you'll have to hand-carry entries to our plant at 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, or fax them to (301) 714-0245. Or they can be e-mailed to To win the grand prize of $20, describe your favorite place to get a reasonably priced, reasonably nutritious take-out meal for four people.

In last Sunday's column on the City of Hagerstown, I said that to make progress, the city government needed to replenish the $2 million made available (and quickly loaned out) as part of Parris Glendening's Smart Growth program to revitalize older, urban areas of the state, and thereby prevent costly suburban sprawl.

After his State of the City address, I asked Mayor Bob Bruchey II what progress had been made on that topic. Not much, he said.

"We put in a legislative request to have some more 4 percent mortgage money," Bruchey said, but added that "for state that had a surplus of a couple hundred million dollars, they sure are poor-mouthing it now."

This shouldn't be a difficult request; the state is not being asked to give away money, but to loan it, at low interest rates, as part of a program that Glendening has made the centerpiece of his administration's programs. On April 29, the Chamber of Commerce will host another post-legislative session with the county's General Assembly delegation. I hope they'll be able to report that they performed on this issue, because without new homeowners, the city's property-tax revenues will remain flat, and its prospects for progress will be greatly reduced.

In a related development, on Feb. 19, J.L. Hearn, director of State Water Management Administration, said there was no money available this year to help the city and county with a joint sewer project. Last September, Hearn's deputy, Dane Bauer, told me that WMA would "help to finance an engineering solution." Now the two governments are being told they'll have to "get in line" for state money. What we need is a delegation that knows how to butt in line.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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