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County decides to buy building

March 14, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to buy the 12,500-square-foot Farmers & Merchants Bank building near downtown Hagerstown for $1.13 million.

During a public hearing preceding the vote, two county residents spoke against the proposal to move some county government offices into the building. Both had run unsuccessfully for County Commissioners seats.

"We don't need it. Why don't you consolidate?" Eugene "Buddie" Morris said.

John Munson, who ran for office in 1998, questioned whether the county needs to expand into the building. If the county buys property, it should sell some it owns, he said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell voted against the purchase. He said he is unconvinced by County Administrator Rodney Shoop's argument that the county has outgrown the County Administration Building on West Washington Street.

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The 1.45-acre property is at 80 W. Baltimore St. at the intersection with Hood Street. The property includes a one-story building that houses a Farmers and Merchants Bank loan center and previously was a Community Supermarket, and 107 parking spaces.

"The big thing, to me, is that we're getting 107 parking spaces," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said. Those spaces will help the county provide sufficient parking for downtown businesses and government operations, he said.

The building will serve the county's needs for more than 20 years, said Dean Lowery, the county's real property administrator.

The county will move into the building by December, Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said.

The plan is to move the county public works, planning and permits and inspection departments to the new building, Shoop said.

The Farmers and Merchant Bank loan center is closing by the end of the year and is to 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 Community Supermarket building for $340,000 in March 1995. The supermarket closed in 1991.

The county can pay for the building in three annual installments, County Attorney Richard Douglas said.

The county's proposed six-year capital program contains $1.6 million for downtown expansion. Of that, $1.2 million is 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 that the county buy the 24,000-square-foot Wareham Building at 138 W. Washington St. to give the county room for expansion.

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

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