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False threat closes City Hall

November 30, 1999|By TARA REILLY and DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

tarar@herald-mail.com

daniels@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Hall and the Washington County Administration Building were searched Wednesday afternoon because of an anthrax threat.

Washington County spokesman Norman Bassett said someone called the county's main information number after 12:45 p.m. claiming anthrax had been used to "contaminate second floor City Council chambers."

Hagerstown City Hall on East Franklin Streeet was closed for about an hour while Hagerstown's police and fire departments searched the building, according to a news release from the city.

The county's Emergency Services Division Hazardous Materials Team and the Washington County Health Department also conducted a floor-by-floor sweep of the County Administration Building on West Washington Street but did not find any presence of a biological agent, according to Bassett.

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Hagerstown Police Capt. Charles Summers said city police locked down City Hall, released non-city employees after taking their contact information and asked city workers to stay where they were in the building while officers searched for any suspicious items or the presence of anthrax.

No anthrax was found, he said.

"The standard with anthrax is you try to keep people in place so it doesn't spread," Summers said. "We could find no suspicious packages, no suspicious materials, nothing to indicate the area had been contaminated with anthrax."

Summers said further testing was scheduled to take place Wednesday evening, and the police department was following several possible leads. He said the department also contacted the Joint Terrorism Task Force about the threat.

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