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Three commissioners criticize staff

October 10, 2000

Three commissioners criticize staff



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


Washington County Commissioners William J. Wivell, Paul L. Swartz and John L. Schnebly Tuesday criticized recent "staff" actions, and two of them later singled out County Administrator Rodney Shoop.

Last week the three commissioners said they were not told of county plans to build a 3,000-square-foot addition, including a meeting room, at the county annex building. The site is less than two blocks from an existing meeting room at the County Administration Building.

However, Shoop said the plan for an addition was shared with the commissioners and the commissioners approved the capitol program, which contained $1.6 million for downtown expansion, including $325,000 for construction.

After the meeting, Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said there was never a plan to build a $325,000 meeting room. The comments he made last week were misunderstood, he said.

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There was $325,000 set aside in the budget for construction including about $230,000 for additional space, he said. Some of that space could be used for a meeting room but it would not be a formal meeting room such as the present one, he said.

During Tuesday's meeting, Swartz said it seems "county staff" is making decisions without waiting for the commissioners' approval.

Swartz later said he was referring mainly to Shoop.

"I am a little confused, basically, on who works for who. I think we need to get that established a little bit," Swartz said.

Schnebly said it seems as though the commissioners aren't given complete, accurate information and correct cost estimates on some projects. The public is not well served if the commissioners don't have the right information, he said.

Wivell expressed frustration that he called county staff Thursday to ask about the addition and his call was not returned as of Tuesday morning.

Wivell later added that the call was to Shoop. But Shoop said Tuesday he was unaware that Wivell had called and was awaiting a response.

Shoop said the county administration is always looking for ways to improve its communications with the commissioners and will review whether there are ways it can do that better, including with projects that are part of the capital improvement program.

In March, the commissioners voted 4-1 to buy the 12,500-square-foot Farmers & Merchants Bank building near downtown Hagerstown for $1.125 million. Wivell voted against the purchase.

Wivell, Swartz and Schnebly expressed frustration last week after hearing about plans for the addition, saying they did not remember approving that proposal.

County Clerk Joni Bittner said there was nothing in the minutes from public meetings indicating the commissioners approved funding for construction of an addition.

However, the bank purchase was discussed in closed session also and it could have been discussed at that time, she said.

Shoop said he knows in which meeting the commissioners were told of plans for the addition but he refused to divulge the date.

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