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Public speaks today on building purchase

March 14, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

County residents get a chance today to weigh in on whether they think the Washington County Commissioners should buy the 12,500-square-foot Farmers & Merchants Bank building near downtown Hagerstown for $1.125 million.

The former Community Supermarket building at Baltimore and Hood streets now houses a banking operation. It has 101 parking spaces.

If the county buys the building, the plan is to move the county public works, planning and permits and inspection departments there, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The Washington County Commissioners have not voted on the purchase but they agreed at a Feb. 15 meeting to take the proposal to a public hearing, Shoop said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said he opposes the purchase. He has questioned Shoop's claim that the county has outgrown the County Administration Building.

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About $200,000 of the purchase costs would come from the general fund budget, according to county documents.

The building currently is a Farmers and Merchants Bank loan center. The loan center is to close by the end of the year and will be replaced by a 30,750-square-foot loans operations center at Top Flight Airpark next to Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The bank company bought the building for $340,000 in March 1995. The supermarket closed in 1991.

The county's proposed six-year capital program contains $1.6 million for downtown expansion: $1.2 million for acquisition, $325,000 for construction and $75,000 for equipment and furniture.

In June 1999, the County Commissioners narrowly rejected a recommendation by Shoop to buy the 24,000-square-foot Wareham Building at 138 W. Washington St. to give the county room to expand.

The building would have cost $635,000, plus an estimated $1.1 million for renovation.

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