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City Council hears stadium funding proposal

April 07, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

After some debate, the public was allowed to attend a meeting about funding options for a proposed minor league baseball stadium and business park, now projected to cost $15 million.

During the meeting, representatives from Charitable Consultants Inc., a Baltimore-based company that develops financing plans for major projects, told the mayor, council members and city staff that their company could help save the city millions of dollars if it went forward with plans to build a stadium.

According to John F. Canney, one of the financial advisers who gave the presentation on the plan, people would contribute to a fund, which would be used to fund a stadium or to pay off money borrowed to build a stadium. The contributions would be to a charity and there would be tax benefits for the contributors. And the contributors would receive payments, similar to a dividend payment, until they pass away, he said.

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The meeting lasted for more than an hour, with council members and staff asking questions about how such a fund would be created and about the city's obligation. The city would, in the end, be responsible for any money owed, they were told.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer asked how much their services might cost the city.

He was told a financing plan for $10 million, the estimated cost of a stadium, might cost the city $60,000.

The mayor and council members directed city finance department officials to meet with officials from the company again to go over the proposal and return at a later date to give another presentation.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said city officials were far from deciding whether to hire the firm.

"We don't even know if we're going to build a stadium," said Bruchey, who has been an outspoken supporter of a new stadium.

The Washington County Commissioners and City Council members have not taken a vote on funding the construction of a stadium.

A new baseball stadium would replace the city's Municipal Stadium as the home field for the Hagerstown Suns, a class A-affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

A proposal developed by city staff outlines plans to build a stadium and business park near the intersection of Salem Avenue and Interstate 81 in Hagerstown.

The total cost of the project, dubbed the Home Run Business Park, was projected to be about $14.5 million.

City Economic Development Coordinator Debbie Everhart said Tuesday that the latest estimates put the cost at $15 million.

Bruchey originally had scheduled the meeting to be held in executive session.

Bruchey said he wanted City Council members to hear about it before everyone else.

Council members Lewis C. Metzner and William M. Breichner voted against holding the meeting in private.

Metzner said the topic didn't meet the legal criteria for closing a public meeting.

After some debate, council members chose to allow the public to sit in on the presentation.

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