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Council revisits free meals debate

May 05, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

A proposal to end the free meals offered to Hagerstown's mayor and City Council members during their weekly meetings is being reconsidered.

The meals are offered during council work sessions generally beginning at 4 p.m. and often last until after 7 p.m. The meals, typically sandwiches and chips, cost an estimated $2,500 a year. The expenditure is not in the proposed budget for the 2000 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Council members J. Wallace McClure and Alfred W. Boyer said they favored keeping the meals.

McClure said the meals are beneficial because they keep him and other council members from getting irritable during long meetings. Also, the meals provide a chance for city politicians and city staff to "rub elbows," which McClure said was an intangible benefit.

Boyer suggested the meals be paid for out of the council's taxpayer-funded expense accounts.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he favored cutting the meals for the politicians. But Metzner wanted to continue providing food for city staff who are required to attend the meetings.

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Councilman William M. Breichner favored eliminating the city-bought meals.

"We're eating on the taxpayers and that's not right," Breichner said.

Breichner suggested starting the meetings at 3 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. so less meetings will run into dinnertime.

In response to that suggestion, McClure said Breichner wasn't taking into account the schedules of other council members.

McClure, who owns a piano shop and moving company, said he would rather hold meetings outside regular business hours.

However, when McClure first explained his objection to Breichner's idea, McClure said Breichner did not work - instead of saying Breichner did not work at a store.

McClure's statement sparked an argument between him and Breichner, who works as a consultant for a New York company that cleans and relines water mains.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II interrupted the argument and postponed further discussion of the proposal to eliminate funding for the meals until next Tuesday.

A final decision on the matter must be made before the final vote to adopt a budget, which is expected to happen on May 25.

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