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Supporters renew hope for museum

April 24, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Despite being shut out of the Maryland state budget this year, supporters of a national Civil War museum in Hagerstown have renewed hope of getting $450,000 to jump-start the project.

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At a press conference in front of the proposed location on Antietam Street, museum and elected officials said they now hope to take advantage of existing state programs.

"It's not dead by a long shot. It's full steam ahead," said Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

Holding the museum's glossy, thick business plan, Bruchey said he would personally deliver the business plan to Glendening. A meeting date has not been set.

"Through Mayor Bruchey's leadership, we have hope," said Dennis Frye, spokesman for the nonprofit Antietam Creek Coalition.

The tone of the press conference was a dramatic change from three weeks ago, shortly after a dejected Frye learned that Gov. Parris Glendening declined to give the $46 million project a line-item in his 2001 budget.

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Frye said he talked with Bruchey, as well as state lawmakers, who vowed to pursue money through state tourism and economic development programs.

"We want this opportunity. We don't want to let it pass us by," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

The governor's spokesman said Glendening will consider the project, but decisions on any expenditures this budget year will be made by state bureaucrats and will be in competition with other projects.

The state's tourism programs are designed mostly to promote attractions. The economic development programs are designed to attract new businesses, Michael Morrill said.

When museum supporters met with Glendening's budget analysts last month, they had questions about the risks involved with the project.

In particular, they wondered if the project could succeed without Smithsonian affiliation. Frye said Antietam expects to have an answer from the Smithsonian this summer.

If the museum doesn't qualify for any state programs, Frye said it could still pursue capital funding in Glendening's 2002 budget.

Meanwhile, discussions are continuing with the residents of the proposed museum site who would be relocated if the project moves forward.

The coalition will present the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Commissioners with copies of the detailed business plan.

The city and county each spent $37,000 on the plan. The state kicked in $20,000 and $5,000 came from a private donor.

The coalition has not asked Hagerstown or Washington County governments for additional money.

"This needs to be thought of as a state project. It's going to put Maryland squarely on the map in terms of a Civil War destination," Frye said.

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