Swartz wants hotel tax money put in stadium escrow

January 03, 2001

Swartz wants hotel tax money put in stadium escrow

By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

Stadium plans may be stalled, but that doesn't mean proceeds from a hotel tax increase intended for a new stadium should go to other projects, Commissioner Paul Swartz said Wednesday.


Swartz, the most vocal stadium supporter in county government, has suggested a new option: Put all or most of the tax hike proceeds into escrow for up to three years.

If the money were placed in escrow, it would be available in a few years if stadium plans get back on track, Swartz said.

As plans for a new stadium have faltered in recent months, supporters of other projects have expressed interest in having some of the proceeds from the lodging tax increase go to their projects.


The county expects to receive about $350,000 in new hotel tax proceeds to develop tourism attractions, enhance economic development or support cultural and recreational projects.

Of that amount, Swartz said he thinks about $250,000 to $300,000 should be placed in escrow.

He defined escrow in this case as depositing the money in a bank account from which it cannot be removed except for use for a stadium.

If it becomes clear the stadium project cannot be revived, then the money could go to other projects, he said.

Commissioner John L. Schnebly said there should be some community discussion before any decision like that is made.

Swartz said he might make exceptions for some remarkable projects, such as the planned 140th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam in 2002. That event would bring in money as tourists visit, he said.

Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, who wrote the tax increase legislation that is generating the money, has denied the tax hike was intended to pay for a new stadium.

But some stadium supporters, including Swartz, have said they believed the increase was intended to help fund the stadium project.

"As far as we are concerned, it was a stadium bill," Swartz said.

In May 2000 the commissioners conditionally agreed to spend $250,000 a year for 20 years on construction of a stadium.

Shank was unavailable for comment Thursday.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said in December that a slice of the tax hike money could be used to widen alleys and add parking near the new District Court building in downtown Hagerstown.

But Shank said at the time that if the county were to spend almost all of the additional $350,000 annual hotel tax revenues on the court project, "it would very much disturb me."

Shank has said he thinks the money from the tax should be used for projects throughout the county. He said he had been meeting with local municipalities to discuss projects that might be worthy of funding from the lodging tax funds.

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