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Council opposes buying train station

October 09, 2000

Council opposes buying train station



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


SMITHSBURG - Most of the Town Council's members oppose Mayor Tommy Bowers' plan to turn a former railroad station into a police station.

Bowers announced at the October Town Council meeting that he was looking into buying the railroad station on Maple Avenue to give the police department some elbow room. The vacant building is for sale for $159,900, town officials said.

During the meeting Bowers told council he was pursuing possible federal grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the project.

Councilmembers Elizabeth "Peachy" Mann, Charlie Slick, Jerome Martin and Mike Rohrer have said in phone interviews they are against the proposal. Councilman Jake Johnson did not return telephone messages left Thursday.

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"We don't need that building. We need to put our efforts to building a library," said Slick.

"It seems ridiculous," said Mann. She said the town is juggling a lot different projects already and must make finding a new site for a library a priority.

Mann and Martin said they were surprised to find out about Bowers' plans for the first time during a council meeting.

Martin said the town doesn't have enough crime to merit expanding the police department.

"I was aghast that he would consider attempting to move the police department to a new building. There is no justification," he said.

If Smithsburg were to buy the building with the government's help, the town would not be able to support the incurred expenses after spending the grant money, Martin said.

He said the town may want to consider hiring resident deputies to save money.

The councilman also questioned the mayor's remarks that the two-member police department is working in cramped conditions.

"They have adequate facilities at Town Hall," said Martin.

Police Chief Ralf Berger has an office at Town Hall that he uses for paperwork or to interview suspects.

Interviews are sometimes conducted upstairs in the Town Hall meeting room.

Berger was off-duty for several days this week and not available to comment.

"The police station is a closet now," said Bowers.

He said moving the police department to its own building would increase visibility and provide a substation for Washington County Sheriff's deputies who supplement the police department when officers are unavailable.

If the town acquires the building it would be used primarily for paperwork and interviews and not outfitted with cells, he said.

Bowers said the building, which had been used as a bank, beauty salon, wireless communications business , dry cleaner and craft store over the years, is structurally sound.

The mayor said the railroad station shut down passenger service in the 1940s.

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