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Stadium funding vote is defended

December 16, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Each of the five Washington County Commissioners said Thursday he was being told by constituents that he voted correctly on the stadium funding issue.

cont. from front page

The County Commissioners by a 3-2 vote Tuesday agreed to ask the county delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to increase the county hotel-motel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said most of what little feedback he received supported his vote to fund the stadium.

"The decision we made was based on what we thought was best for the county, not what we thought would get the most votes," Iseminger said.

The additional money from a hotel-motel tax increase - an estimated $320,000 a year - would go toward paying off $3 million of a $6 million loan, which under the plan would be taken out by the City of Hagerstown. About $60,000 of the proceeds from the tax increase would go to county government.

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The money from the tax increase would be counted as the county's contribution to the proposed $12 million to $15 million Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex.

The Hagerstown Suns baseball team would be the primary tenant of a new stadium.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioner William J. Wivell voted against the proposal.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz said he hadn't gotten any calls criticizing his vote in favor of the plan.

"I have gotten nothing but compliments in term of calls," he said.

Commissioner John L. Schnebly, who made the motion for the stadium funding plan, said the only feedback he received was from stadium supporter Dick Phoebus thanking him for his vote.

Phoebus, chairman of a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce stadium committee, said he hadn't heard any negative feedback on the proposal or the commissioners' vote.

Wivell said he had talked to about 10 people, all of whom said they supported his vote against the plan.

Snook said about 20 callers have told him he made the right vote. The callers aren't anti-stadium but oppose using tax money, including that from the hotel tax, to pay for one, he said.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board supported the tax hike with a 10-1 vote earlier this month.

The three board members who are hotel managers did not vote on the issue, Bureau Executive Director Ben Hart said Thursday.

Mike Winberg, owner of the Super 8 Motel, attended the meeting but abstained from voting because he felt it would be a conflict of interest, Hart said. Winberg would not comment on the issue Wednesday.

David Melugin, manager of the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, and Joe Bencivenga, general manager at the Venice Inn, did not attend the meeting, Hart said.

Melugin said Wednesday he supports the tax hike.

Hart said about half of the 10 hotel operators he called told him they support the 2 percent increase.

He refused to identify those who support the tax increase.

Six of nine hotel operators contacted Tuesday and Wednesday said they oppose the tax and questioned whether the hotels would benefit financially from a new stadium.

Iseminger said he was not surprised to hear that some people responding to a Herald-Mail reader call-in were opposed to the idea.

"Folks that oppose are the ones who are the most vocal and the ones who tend to call in," Iseminger said. "That doesn't mean they don't have legitimate concerns and shouldn't be listened to."

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