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Hagerstown mayor supports stadium referendum

June 07, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he supports a referendum on funding for a proposed $15 million minor league baseball stadium and railroad museum complex, which he supports.

Calls for a referendum on the issue have primarily come from those opposed to public funding for a stadium, and supporters have argued against a referendum.

Bruchey said he is confident a majority of city voters would support the stadium plan.

"Right now we're hearing the vocal minority. You don't hear the solid majority," Bruchey said Tuesday.

Bruchey said city residents should vote on the proposal because under the current plan the city would be liable for repayment of $6 million in bonds and "the citizens should have a say."

City and Washington County elected officials have made conditional pledges to contribute up to $3 million each toward the stadium project.

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To come up with the combined $6 million, the city, under the current plan, would obtain 20-year bonds for that amount and the county government would pay off half of the debt.

Including interest payments, the financing would cost the city and county $5 million each, to be paid off with annual payments of $250,000 from each governmental body. The county funding would come from a portion of the proceeds from an increase to the county hotel tax.

Bruchey said he is investigating whether the matter can be put on the November ballot. He said a referendum in November would show the state legislators from Washington County that the public supports public funding for a new stadium before the next legislative session begins. Stadium supporters are hoping to get $6 million from the state for the project. Another $3 million is slated to come from private donors.

Bruchey said if the issue doesn't make it onto the election ballot, he would support a petition to take the issue to referendum.

"I'd sign the petition and vote for the stadium," Bruchey said.

City Councilman Wally McClure, an opponent of public funding for a stadium, has said he would petition the issue to referendum.

Under the City Charter, ordinances may be taken to referendum if a petition signed by at least 20 percent of registered city voters is submitted within 30 days of the ordinance being approved. Decisions to go for bonds are typically done by ordinance.

According to the Washington County election board, as of February, there were 17,192 registered voters in Hagerstown. About 3,440 signatures would be needed.

Bruchey said he didn't know if he would take an active role in the petition drive.

The preferred site for the proposed $15 million Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex is behind the new Centre at Hagerstown, near the Interstate 81 and U.S. 40 interchange.

The Maryland Stadium Authority is overseeing preliminary architectural and engineering plans being done for the project.

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