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County delegation shaky on stadium

November 02, 2000

County delegation shaky on stadium



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Maryland Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, broke the silence.

He said he supports state funding for a new Hagerstown baseball stadium, and if necessary he would go alone to the governor to ask for support.

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Donoghue's fellow members of the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly weren't as supportive.

Council Chambers in Hagerstown City Hall was briefly silent Thursday morning after City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner asked the delegation whether they would get behind a city request for $6 million in state money for a ballpark.

"Certainly there didn't seem to be strong support for it," Metzner said after the meeting. "But I didn't hear them say, 'Don't go forward.'"

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Metzner said the delegation members' nonresponsiveness tells him they will not try to block state funding for the project.

Donoghue, a consistent supporter of past plans for a stadium, said if the city and Washington County Commissioners support a new stadium then the governor will too.

"I don't know if we'll need a delegation vote," Donoghue said.

The County Commissioners have not voted on the latest stadium proposal, which is a $15 million plan to tear down most of the city's Municipal Stadium and build a new stadium in its place.

A majority of City Council members support the plan, which calls for $3 million each from the city and county.

Commissioners Gregory I. Snook and William J. Wivell are against the plan, Commissioner Paul L. Swartz is for it, and Commissioners John L. Schnebly and Bert L. Iseminger are undecided.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer told the delegation that a majority of the commissioners favor the stadium plan as long as certain conditions are met.

Boyer did not say what those conditions were.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II told the delegation that before the County Commissioners vote on the project, "questions on acquiring properties to expand parking" around the stadium would be answered.

Schnebly and Iseminger could not be reached for comment Thursday. Their support is seen as crucial for the project.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, asked about the status of the railroad museum, which at one point was part of the stadium plan.

Boyer, who is also a member of the private task force developing the stadium plan, said railroad museum supporters have "opted out of the project," primarily because of the stadium location.

Richard Phoebus, chairman of the stadium task force, said Thursday that the railroad museum supporters may still have a role in the new stadium, such as providing railroad exhibits.

Bruchey told the delegation the stadium project's costs are now estimated at between $11.5 million and $12.9 million.

The mayor later said Boyer gave him those figures.

Boyer left the meeting with the delegation early, and did not return telephone calls Thursday afternoon.

Phoebus said the project cost is still at $15 million. He noted that figure includes about $1.7 million to fix a flooding problem at the stadium, but Phoebus said he did not know where the mayor's figures came from.

Also during the Thursday meeting, the Mayor and council asked the delegation to support a $738,500 request for state funds to help pay for improvements around the new district court building.

The project would include widening the alleys around the J. Louis Boublitz District Court Building, improving lighting in the area and purchasing the McBare's Pub building on South Potomac Street. The pub building would be demolished under a plan to expand The Maryland Theatre lobby.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington County, said he liked this proposal the best. Munson suggested the city ask the governor directly for the money for that project.

The Mayor and council also asked the delegation to support a request for $40,000 in state funding to build a skate park at the city Fairgrounds.

McKee, the delegation chairman, said getting state funding for the skate park "will not be a problem."

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, and Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein did not attend the meeting.

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