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Berkeley County needs a way to end 911 dispute

February 23, 2000

Like ants converging on a picnicker's stray crumbs, a host of Washington County citizens is swarming over the plan devised by the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to fund a new minor league baseball stadium and reduce the county's sewer debt. Given the plan's complicated nature, we understand that there's room for refinement, but its basic nature is sound.

The plan would increase the hotel/motel room tax and restructure the way tip-jar gambling proceeds are distributed. The cash raised would go toward a new stadium, the county's Economic Development Department and a variety of tourism promotion projects in the county's incorporated towns.

The latest objection comes from some local hotel operators, who support the stadium project, but not money for EDC. The short answer is that it's all tied together, and that if the plan didn't free up county money now going to EDC, the county wouldn't have its share of the stadium cash.

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The longer answer, and the one that may convince the hotel/motel people, is that the more local businesses there are to generate business travel, the more rooms will be occupied in their businesses.

And then there's the objection from the county's fire/rescue association, over changing the Gaming Commission split from its present 60-40 arrangement, with 40 percent going to fire and rescue, to a 50-50 split.

Though fire/rescue companies would get the same amount of cash, Jay Grimes, the association president, says his group is afraid citizens will believe fire/rescue companies are getting big bucks from the gaming commission and thus stop contributing.

For fire/rescue companies in this county, the real problem is that the majority of citizens (and businesses) don't contribute. We've long held that a combined county-wide appeal, perhaps held during Fire Prevention Week, would draw more response, particularly if citizens knew that if the drive were a bust, a fire tax would be the next logical step.

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