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County may balk at new stadium proposal

November 13, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners appear to be one vote from rejecting the proposal to help pay for a new minor league baseball stadium.

"If I had to vote today, I would regrettably vote no," Commissioner John L. Schenbly said Thursday. The County Commissioners have to give budget priority to other needs, including the Washington County Board of Education, he said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell has long stated his opposition to taxpayer funding of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Sports Complex, whose primary tenant would be the Hagerstown Suns. The baseball field would have space for youth soccer fields in the outfield.

A third "no" vote from the five-member body would shoot down the proposal for the county to chip in $3 million for the proposed stadium that's estimated to cost up to $15 million.

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Schnebly said he is disappointed that stadium proponents, after soliciting donations in recent months for the current proposal, did not demonstrate much new financial support.

"This hasn't advanced much over the last six to eight months," Schnebly said. "Show us there is fire in the community's belly, if you will."

The stadium proposal gained support from the Hagerstown City Council last Tuesday.

Four of the five council members said they will formally vote Nov. 23 to contribute $3 million to the project if other conditions are met. Those conditions include $3 million from the Washington County government, $6 million from the state and $3 million from private sources. Councilman Wally McClure was the lone dissenter.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger agree with stadium supporter Commissioner Paul L. Swartz that they must make a decision by the end of December so stadium supporters can try to get $6 million in state funding.

Snook and Iseminger said they don't know how they will vote. Snook voted against a different stadium proposal in February 1998.

Snook said he wants to know more about the stadium proposal and how the city will pay its share before taking a position. Iseminger said he wants to see more financial information before deciding how he will vote.

Swartz and Wivell have not wavered in their positions since being elected in November 1998. Only Schnebly has staked out a new position.

Richard Phoebus, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce stadium task force, presented information on the current proposal to the County Commissioners at an Oct. 26 meeting and to the City Council on Nov. 2.

Phoebus told the City Council the stadium has "indications" of support from individuals and companies that would be worth almost $1 million. The proposal calls for getting $3 million from private sources.

Those donations are in addition to Allegheny Power's offer to pay $1 million for naming rights.

Under the plan, a stadium and railroad museum would be built someplace in Hagerstown or on unspecified land adjacent to city limits that could be annexed into the city.

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