City approves funds for ice rink

July 28, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

In a move that was criticized by several people, the Hagerstown City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve spending an additional $217,908 on the city's ice rink.

The city had already committed $229,200 to cover debt payments for the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex. The total city commitment of $447,108 is expected to be enough to sustain the ice rink through August 2000.

The money will be go toward utility bills, debt payments and operating costs at the rink, which is owned by the city and operated by the nonprofit Washington County Sports Foundation.

Foundation representatives have told the council that without the additional funds the rink would not be able to reopen in September.


The additional funding comes with conditions including:

-- The presentation of a detailed budget from the foundation to the city by Sept. 1.

-- Monthly financial statements to the city.

-- The presentation of a five-year business plan by Dec. 31.

An oversight committee will be created and meet at least every three months. The committee will be made up of local business people, foundation members and city staff, according to the agreement.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein voted against the additional funding for the rink.

"This motion flies in the face of efforts ... to balance the city's budget," Saum-Wicklein said, noting that the council chose to leave vacant positions unfilled and eliminate a city job to save money.

Saum-Wicklein, who has consistently asked for financial projections and other financial information from the foundation, said she is not against the ice rink. She said she wants to see more options explored, including selling the rink or having the city oversee it.

Saum-Wicklein suggested leaving the rink closed until it can be funded without additional city money.

"This is the incorrect approach to this problem," she said.

Before the council voted, Ira P. Kauffman Jr., a councilman from 1977 to 1981, listed several unpaid bills for the ice rink, which has operated at a loss since it opened in August 1997.

Kauffman said that the ice rink can't pay its bills and asked the council to, "please just say no to this plan."

During the portion of Tuesday's meeting reserved for citizen comments after the vote, two people said they were against the additional funding for the ice rink.

"We've asked for police protection and we can't get it, but we get the ice rink," said a man who lives on North Mulberry Street.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who votes on council matters only to break ties, said he, too, is against spending additional money on the rink.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said that he had "reservations" about spending more money on the ice rink.

"But what else can we do with it? I haven't heard any answers," Boyer said.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said he viewed the additional money as a "last-ditch effort" for the ice rink.

"This is the city's facility," Councilman William M. Breichner said. "It's not money being lost because we're putting money into a facility we own."

"To deny funding kills it," Breichner said. "Give the ice rink a chance."

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