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Area entrepreneur championed local college campus

April 29, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

Behind-the-scenes support from a Hagerstown businessman willing to put up his own money helped jump start the University System of Maryland campus here, lawmakers said Thursday.

[cont. from front page]

Speaking to a group of about 150 business people, members of the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly said the backing of the business community, and especially of Wayne E. Alter Jr., made the campus an easy sell to Gov. Parris Glendening.

Glendening added $150,000 in planning money for the campus, which was approved by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this month.

Alter, founder of Dynamark Security Centers Inc., said he's willing to pledge $100,000 and challenged other businesses to give money toward educating the work force.

"It's the most important economic development tool we have available. We're not going to attract high-paying jobs to the community with water and sewer," he said in a telephone interview.

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The campus is to be built on land donated by Allegheny Power off Interstate 70 on Downsville Pike.

Lawmakers said the state planning money virtually ensures the state will follow through with building the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center, which will offer four-year degrees.

To pay for the campus and other projects statewide, Glendening had earmarked revenue from a 30-cent increase in the cigarette tax.

Delegation members were asked at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce forum whether they regretted their opposition to raising the tax, given its connection with the campus.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, all stood firm on their "no" votes.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, was the only member who voted for a cigarette tax increase.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, and Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, did not attend the forum.

Munson said there was no connection between the tax and the campus.

"To claim that it exists demeans the governor. (Glendening's) a man that values education," he said.

The pro-stadium audience made up of Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce members also asked the delegation why they haven't pursued money for a new minor league baseball stadium in the county.

Lawmakers said they first need to see a groundswell of support from the community.

McKee, who is delegation chairman, said the state has traditionally put up 25 percent of stadium costs. The City of Hagerstown and the Washington County Commissioners would have to contribute 25 percent each, with private interests making up the rest.

McKee said the delegation would carefully consider a detailed request to seek state funds for a stadium, but have not received that information.

Shank said the community should spend its money on more pressing problems, such as a $50 million water and sewer debt that's driving businesses away from the county.

Stadium supporters say they're working on a plan. Earlier this month, a proposal to build a $15 million business park with a stadium along Interstate 81 and Salem Avenue was deemed too expensive by a nonprofit economic development corporation.

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