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City adopts stadium plan

February 01, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Construction of the Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex would be partially subsidized by the City of Hagerstown, under an agreement City Council members adopted by a 4-1 vote on Tuesday.

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Questions regarding the proposed $12 million to $15 million baseball stadium and railroad museum complex remained unanswered.

For example, how much the city and county governments can contribute remains unknown. And the council decided to discuss later what will become of Municipal Stadium, the city's existing baseball stadium.

According to the agreement adopted Tuesday, the city will subsidize the construction of the complex at the same rate as the city subsidizes its existing stadium on Memorial Boulevard. City Finance Director Al Martin said that over the past five years that annual stadium subsidy has been about $120,000, a figure that includes operating, maintenance and repair costs.

As expected, the council approved a transfer of the subsidy from the existing stadium to a new stadium even though the plan goes against an agreement adopted by the council in November. The November agreement stated that no property tax money would be used to pay for a new stadium.

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Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said transferring the subsidy from the existing stadium to a new stadium was the intent of the November agreement.

"We all anticipated spending the existing subsidy on a new stadium," she said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said that although he supports using the current subsidy for a new stadium, he thought using tax dollars for a new stadium was prohibited by the November agreement.

Metzner said he now supported "spending no more tax dollars than we are spending now."

Metzner said he was originally told the subsidy for Municipal Stadium was about $60,000 a year, and now he's being told it is $120,000 annually. The smaller figure did not include money spent for maintenance and repairs.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure, who voted against the agreement Tuesday, said he would not oppose the city spending up to $80,000 a year on any stadium, new or the existing Municipal Stadium. However, McClure said he probably would petition to referendum any decision to spend more than $80,000 on a new stadium.

Tuesday's vote was to adopt a funding plan, not to transfer any money to the project, which would require another council vote.

The agreement adopted Tuesday stated the city also would use money from a proposed increase to the Washington County hotel-motel tax to fund construction of a new stadium. The agreement did not state how much of a tax increase would go toward the project, or how much of a tax increase is desired.

The Washington County Commissioners have requested the tax, which is currently 3 percent, be raised to 5 percent, with most of the money from the increase going toward the stadium project.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said there has been some discussion about raising the hotel-motel tax to 6 percent.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said Monday he wouldn't vote for a stadium funding plan that did not include money to pay down Washington County's $52.3 million water and sewer debt.

The city agreement does not say how much money the city and county governments will provide for a new stadium.

"We don't know how much we can afford because we don't know how much we will get from the (hotel-motel) tax," Martin told the mayor and council.

Dick Phoebus, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce stadium task force, said it would work with however much money the city and county governments could come up with.

"It's good news. The City Council has worked through the issues to provide the funding," Phoebus said Tuesday.

Initially, the city and county governments were each asked to contribute $3 million to the project, but Phoebus said if the local governments can only come up with $4 million they would ask the state and private donors to come up with more money.

Other aspects of the plan adopted Tuesday call for considering loaning $50,000 to the Chamber's stadium task force to assist with private fund-raising, and asking the governor for $750,000 or more in state funds to pay for preliminary designs of the complex, site review and other project expenses.

The primary tenant of a new stadium would be the Hagerstown Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Suns' home field is currently Municipal Stadium.

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