A look at 2005

December 30, 1999

Some predictions for the millennium and beyond:

It's 2005, five years after the turn of the century, and the parking area of Hagerstown's old Municipal Stadium is now a towing company's impound lot, surrounded by an eight-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

After the Suns moved to Aberdeen, the stadium lot was used briefly as a point from which to shuttle people to and from downtown. But then the city cut a deal with an enterprising shopping center owner on Eastern Boulevard to do the same thing in exchange for some zoning concessions, and the stadium lot was excess baggage.

On the council there's a split between those who want to tear the stadium down and others who want to keep it available for youth sports contests, which unfortunately, provide little revenue to offset maintenance costs.


And yes, there was some finger-pointing about who "lost" the Suns, but that subsided after the council cut the property tax rate by a penny.

Lured by a personal plea from West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum announces it will move to Martinsburg, where federal, state and local officials joined forces to save their historic roundhouse.

There's some talk about the county making an alternate proposal, by after being carved up like a Christmas turkey in Mail Call and on a local radio talk show, the county commissioner proposing that idea backs away from it.

Gov. Wise says he made the plea because after Washington County stole the Eastern Panhandle's thunder with the opening of an outlet mall, he hoped to use tourism to steal it back. Meanwhile, Washington County officials watch nervously as a Frederick developer announces plans for an outlet mall which would have child care, a fitness center and a service allowing shoppers to e-mail in a list of groceries, which they could pick up after shopping for other goods.

Emboldened by the retirement announcement of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Sixth, state Sen. Alex Mooney declares his intention to run for Congress, although his state legislative record consists mainly of opposing bills he deems too liberal, or which would raise taxes in any way.

He's moving up, he says, because the liberal Democrats and the "Beltway Bullies" won't listen to the concerns of Western Marylanders, a sentiment that is praised in Mail Call and on a local radio talk show. In all the hub-bub, it's hardly noticed, but once again, despite continuing state surpluses, Washington County gets less than $2 million in state money for local projects out of a $500 million state bond package.

The University Systems of Maryland campus opens a year later than predicted, due to unexpected problems with the renovation of the old Baldwin House and litigation with some property owners whose land was needed for close-in faculty parking.

Some local folks are not happy that the computer program that controls downtown traffic lights has been altered to give students rushing from their jobs to class fewer stops. Downtown restaurants protest a plan to add a student cafeteria, on the grounds that it would be a state-subsidized facility competing with taxpaying businesses.

The third blue-ribbon panel to study Washington County's fire-rescue system is recommending another consultant study, on the grounds that the last one is more than four years old, and because their proposal for a county-wide fire chief was about as popular as a porcupine in a balloon store.

A proposal by a state representative to fund fire-rescue operations by putting a surcharge on fire-insurance policies is dropped after it's denounced in Mail Call and on a local radio talk show as a back-door attempt at a tax increase.

A rural family in Washington County is deluged with help from the community after their wood stove, improperly installed without a permit, burns down their house. Unfortunately the community's generosity doesn't extend to the United Way, which, for the fifth year in a row, fails to make its goal.

A candidate for Washington County Commissioner reacts to the school board's budget request by noting that there seem to be a lot of highly-paid people at the board's central office. After the comment draws favorable reaction in Mail Call and on a local radio talk show, the commissioners trim the request and cut the property tax rate by a penny.

Those citizens of Washington County who realize that communities, like bank accounts, won't grow unless someone invests in them, quietly persist in trying to create a more progressive area, by volunteering, running for office and serving on committees to study variopus community issues.

Occasionally, for their trouble, they are denounced in Mall Call and on a local radio talk show, but they press on anyway, realizing that the shrill voices and sharp comments matter less than hard work and community service.

Bob Maginnis is the editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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