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Citizens tell county to restrict spending

December 06, 1999

William WivellBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




The repeated message delivered at a town hall meeting attended by about 60 Washington County residents Monday was that the county needs to change its spending habits.

cont. from front page

The Washington County Commissioners are struggling to find money to pay for spending increases despite a robust economy, said Clarence Scheer, who moderated the meeting at Hagerstown Community College.

The county is unprepared to deal with an eventual economic downturn, said Scheer, the former chairman of the Washington County Water and Sewer Advisory Commission and a former member of the Washington County Gaming Commission.

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"What happens when the good times end?" asked Gordon Crabb, a member of the same advisory commission. "Let's act now and control our expenditures."

The County Commissioners should "step up to the plate" and not allow any departments to have budget increases next year, Crabb said.

Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell made the longest presentation at the meeting cosponsored by the Citizens for the Protection of Washington County and the Washington County Taxpayers' Association.

Wivell explained to the audience about $50 million in spending cuts he suggests the county explore. He wrote a report suggesting the cuts because he felt the county needed to deal more directly with the $52.3 million water and sewer debt.

Wivell suggests the county retire $33 million of the debt in the next five years. The debt is the result of decisions made by the Washington County Sanitary Commission before it was taken over by the County Commissioners in December 1995.

Wivell said the meeting was not about him or his ideas but about getting citizen input on what the county should do next.

"I think tonight is a beginning," said Wivell, 35, an accountant for Allegheny Energy.

Roger Worthington, president of the citizens group, said Wivell is the first County Commissioner he can remember who developed his own plan for the county's financial future.

"It takes guts to do it," Worthington said.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz and Del. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, attended the meeting and applauded Wivell for his report.

Wivell suggestions include capping general fund spending increases at an average of 2.5 percent a year, a step he said would save the county $47.3 million over a five-year period.

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