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Museum gets no state money

April 03, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening has wounded, and perhaps killed, the planned Civil War museum in downtown Hagerstown by refusing to provide money needed for planning, a project spokesman said Monday.

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The project can't go forward unless it finds an another source for the $450,000 developers need for site planning and to pursue an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, said Dennis E. Frye, spokesman for the project.

Glendening did not include any money in his annual supplemental budget for the $46 million museum, which the nonprofit Antietam Creek Coalition wants to build on the corner of Antietam and Potomac streets.

Coalition members should know within 30 days if they can find the money elsewhere, Frye said.

Present funding, about $100,000 from the Washington County Commissioners and Hagerstown, runs out at the end of the month, he said.

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"If you're stuck in the pond without oars, you go nowhere," Frye said.

Coalition members will meet with business and political leaders to see if alternative funding can be found, Frye said.

"The museum is seeking suggestions on the best way to proceed with regard to funding," Frye said. "There may be an angel out there who likes the Civil War and wants to do something very positive for Hagerstown that could provide the funding."

He said he didn't know if the city and county would be asked for more money.

He met with Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II Monday afternoon to talk about the governor's decision, he said.

Bruchey said Frye will talk to the County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council about the funding problem at a joint meeting April 25.

The County Commissioners may have to make a difficult decision between funding the museum and funding a proposed stadium for the Hagerstown Suns baseball team, Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

A proposed increase in the county's hotel/motel tax still under consideration in the General Assembly would give the county $300,000 a year, which could go to either project.

Snook called the loss of state funds for the museum, "a severe blow to the project."

The museum cannot be delayed to try for state funds next year, Frye said.

He called it "highly unlikely" the museum could still get needed Smithsonian affiliation if it stalls now.

In addition, the museum would lose potential tourists to similar museums planned elsewhere, including one opening in Harrisburg, Pa., by the end of the year.

"No one can take the Civil War from Maryland but competitors can steal the Civil War tourists out of Maryland," Frye said.

Frye said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, pushed the project. He also thanked the governor for considering funding.

"Unfortunately, apparently the timing was not quite right and the money is going elsewhere throughout the state," Frye said.

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