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Delegates ask governor for museum funds

March 16, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers asked Gov. Parris Glendening Wednesday to add $450,000 to his budget to help bring a national Civil War Museum to downtown Hagerstown.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, met with Glendening to lobby for his support.

The Antietam Creek Coalition, the nonprofit organization developing the $40 million museum, made its pitch to the governor's staff a month ago.

But it wasn't "on the radar screen" until Wednesday's personal visit, Hecht and Donoghue said.

The museum request has been added to a long list of projects Glendening is considering adding to the budget, the lawmakers said.

But Hecht said getting the museum money is a "long shot."

"We are grateful for their initiative," said coalition spokesman Dennis Frye.

Frye said that without the state's help this year the project is dead. The Smithsonian's Civil War collection that the coalition wants to bring to Hagerstown would go elsewhere.

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"Now is our only window of opportunity," he said.

The state's $450,000 would be used to plan the site and exhibits. It would also be used for marketing and finishing a financing plan to be sold on Wall Street.

The coalition has already spent a $100,000 government grant for an initial study, the results of which will be presented to Hagerstown and Washington County officials on Tuesday.

The Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly has written to Glendening, seeking his help in persuading the Smithsonian to choose Hagerstown.

But Hecht and Donoghue are worried that a recent flap over the location of the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown Education Center could hurt the museum.

"It would be a shame to see the museum crushed by that controversy," Frye said.

Frye said he hopes to convince Glendening that the university and the museum could bring about a renaissance in downtown Hagerstown.

"The governor is a visionary. We need him to focus his vision on Hagerstown and to help us create a blueprint for the 21st century," Frye said.

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