City forum provides projects reports

November 04, 2000

City forum provides projects reports


The City of Hagerstown on Saturday hosted an Informational Forum about two major projects now under way and two ventures proposed within city limits.

About 50 people attended the forum, which outlined and solicited public feedback about the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center, Fairgrounds Park and the proposed Hagerstown Municipal Stadium and Arts and Entertainment District projects.

The event was held at the Frostburg State University campus in downtown Hagerstown.

It was the first time the city has staged a gathering to "let people know where we are right now" and get their input, Hagerstown Mayor Robert Bruchey said when he launched the forum.

Education Center

Charles Middleton, vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University System of Maryland, said plans for the System's Hagerstown Education Center at the Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street are "right on schedule."


"You can't get in any better shape in the first part of November than we're in now," Middleton said.

The final version of a plan detailing how each of the complex's five buildings will be used is being completed for review by the state Department of Budget & Management and the Maryland General Assembly, he said.

The plan meets historic preservation standards while allowing enough flexibility for the Center to evolve with changing academic programs, he said.

An environmental impact statement is nearly complete, and a survey to identify and handle the problem of hazardous waste materials will be finished by early next year, Middleton said.

He also fielded questions about planned academic programs and parking.

At least half of the institutions in the University System have already expressed interest in offering classes at the Hagerstown Education Center, which will provide courses not offered at Hagerstown Community College and other higher learning centers in the area, Middleton said.

At this point, each institution that offers classes at the new center will outline its own tuition schedules, but there is "some interest in developing a common tuition schedule," he said.

"Our goal is to be flexible and responsive" to meet students' needs, Middleton said.

Parking will not be directly addressed by the University System.

City and county elected officials and members of the Greater Hagerstown Committee recently met with Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening to request his support of a $4.4 million parking and open space plan for the Hagerstown Education Center.

University System of Maryland officials told Glendening in a letter that they generally support the open space concept because it fosters an atmosphere for learning, but "how that's done is not our business," Middleton said.

"There is no right answer to university parking," he said. "It's a uniform disaster."

Fairgrounds Park

Most of the site work at the former Washington County Fairgrounds, which the City of Hagerstown acquired for $1.3 million in 1996, will be done by March or April 2001, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

"This is a place where there's going to be a lot of activity," he said.

The $3.6 million first phase of the project includes a paved parking lot with 800 spaces, hundreds of new trees, two miles of hiking and biking trails, storm drains, an in-line hockey rink, American Little League field, center pavilion with concession stands and rest rooms and stabilization of the historic gatehouse, Tissue said.

A BMX track is already in use, and the Little League field, three softball fields and three soccer fields are being prepared to open in April 2001, Tissue said.

Various community groups will operate and maintain the fields, track and rink.

Security staff will be on-site from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Fairgrounds Park neighbors Bob and Penny Nigh, of Mulberry Street, said security was a concern, especially after an arson at the park's old stables. The stables lend privacy to the Mulberry Street neighborhood, the Nighs said.

"We don't need it torched the rest of the way down," Penny Nigh said.

Her husband added that volunteers have offered to paint the stables.

Municipal Stadium

The proposed construction of a new baseball stadium on the current Hagerstown Municipal Stadium site will be a "masterpiece or cornerstone of redevelopment" in a part of Hagerstown threatened with blight, City Treasurer Al Martin said in another break-out session.

"What took us so long to figure out that this is the best option?" asked City Councilman Al Boyer, a member of the Stadium Task Force.

The new stadium could be built at the old stadium site for $15 million, Boyer said.

The stadium plan calls for $3 million each from the city and county, $6 million from the state and $3 million in private funding. The Hagerstown Suns have pledged $500,000 to the project.

The team would also pay rent on a graduating scale.

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