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Lawmakers need info on stadium deal

December 15, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Maryland State Sen. Alex X. Mooney said Wednesday he probably would vote against raising Washington County's hotel-motel tax to fund a new $12 million to $15 million baseball stadium/railroad museum complex.

Three members of the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly said they need more information before taking a stand on whether to support the increase.

The other four delegation members did not return telephone messages left Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. Three were out of town.

The Washington County Commissioners Tuesday voted 3-2 to ask the delegation to seek permission to raise the hotel-motel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent.

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The money from that tax increase would be used to pay off a portion of the loan needed to fund a new stadium/railroad museum, and would be counted as the county government's contribution toward the project.

The tax increase would bring in an estimated $320,000 annually.

Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said he hasn't seen a specific request for the tax increase yet, "but I am inclined not to want to raise the hotel-motel tax."

"I think the government spends too much," Mooney said. "My role as a state legislator is to hold the line on taxes."

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, each said they have a lot of questions and need a lot of answers before taking a position.

"It's not that I don't support it, I just have more questions," Snodgrass said.

"If they can do this for a stadium why can't they do this for the water and sewer debt?" she asked.

Washington County has a $52.3 million water and sewer debt.

Munson said he was concerned about the commitment from the private sector. He wants the private sector's contribution to be at least $4 million to $5 million. Under the current plan, the private sector must come up with $3 million.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he would not comment on the proposal until he sees a formal presentation.

The delegation is scheduled to meet with Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council on Monday, and the stadium issue probably will be discussed.

A majority of City Council members said Tuesday they probably will back the plan endorsed by the commissioners.

Councilman William M. Breichner, a supporter of the stadium funding plan, said there won't be a full-fledged presentation of the plan Monday.

Breichner said the delegation should be given a formal presentation within the next month.

"It's reasonable (for them) to ask for a presentation," Breichner said. "The first step is just to find out what they want."

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