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bob maginnnis - 4/29/01

April 30, 2001

Breichner, on the mayor's race



By Bob Maginnis


Early in the Hagerstown mayor's race, challenger Bill Breichner said he and Mayor Bob Bruchey attended a Maryland Municipal League meeting together. During the meeting, Breichner said, Bruchey asked him if it was true he was thinking about running for mayor.

Breichner said yes, and said Bruchey told him that, " 'If you do, I hope you and I can keep it on a level plane and that we don't get personal.' "

The two shook hands on an agreement, Breichner said, a pact he felt both kept until last week, when Bruchey made some disparaging remarks during a two-hour interview at City Hall, remarks which questioned the record of the 12-year councilman who formerly served as city administrator and superintendent of the city water department.

In the interview, Bruchey said that "I've got nothing bad to say about Bill," but questioned why it's taken so long for the councilman to promote ideas he presented in two recent letters to The Herald-Mail.

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"When you look back at the last 45 years of his history, you don't see a lot of what he tried to accomplish. His literature mentions that he was the city administrator, but it doesn't mention that he was the only city administrator fired," Bruchey said.

Breichner expressed disappointment about Bruchey's comments, but said, "I don't intended to get on that level of campaigning, but the citizens do deserve some talk about the issues."

On the matter of his service as city administrator, Breichner said that it was true that he was asked to resign, and that he did so.

The council which served in the administration of Mayor Don Frush asked him to take the administrator's post, he said, because he was low key and easy to get along with. Several years later, Breichner said, they came to him and said that the easy-going manner they'd once valued was now a detriment.

But during his years in the administrator's post, Breichner said the city built the Potomac Street parking deck, began Eastern Boulevard construction, and converted city finances to require a balance budget. Breichner also counts as achievements the creation of the Narcotics Task Force, which he said "took considerable persuasion of the city council" and his lobbying to convince the council that CASA - Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused - provided a valuable service for battered women in the city.

"If anyone wants to look at my personnel record in City Hall, I'll authorize the personnel director to allow them to do that," Breichner said, adding that they'll find that "I never took a sick day and never took all my vacation."

Asked about Bruchey's question about why it seems to have taken him so long to come up with some of his proposals although he served on the council for 12 years, Breichner said that he felt that the council he served with set a new tone for city government.

"That meant being part of a team and not trying to upstage each other," Breichner said.

Many of the ideas he's bringing out in his campaign are things that he's brought to the council during their annual goal-setting sessions, like the need for a new city business park, improving the "gateway" into downtown by buying and demolishing rundown houses on the city's east side and the need to improve relations between the city, the county and state government.

On the last issue, Breichner said, "I think we have a long, long way to go..."

It's necessary to press forward because there needs to more discussion of duplication of services, which Breichner said is "killing us financially."

Saying that we have to find "better, cheaper ways of doing things," Breichner noted that it took 32 meetings to seal a city-county sewer agreement and said he couldn't remember one "where we had a cross word for each other."

Now the city is seeking a new agreement on the money the county rebates to the city through tax differential, Breichner said, and the county commissioners who serve on the panel, Bert Iseminger and Bill Wivell, have acknowledged that there areas that need to be looked at.

In the only remark that came close to a criticism of Bruchey, Breichner said it was a mistake to withdraw a proposed sewer-consolidation agreement over annexation policy.

Earlier this month, Bruchey asked that the agreement be amended to require that those outside the corporate boundaries who get city sewer service be required to annex into the city.

Breichner said he has lived in the city all his life, believes there are advantages to doing so and would rather sell people on them than try to get the county to become a party to forcing sewer users to annex.

Asked if there were any candidates among the current crop of council hopefuls he couldn't work with, Breichner said he'd worry if the whole council were replaced, but added that "I've said before it's time for for some new blood."

"I'm looking forward to a new approach," he said.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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