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Contractor's association would renovate old Armory

May 03, 2001

Contractor's association would renovate old Armory



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

The Cumberland Valley Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors is trying to buy the vacant old armory building on North Potomac Street in Hagerstown for $1.

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The group, a trade organization that is also known as ABC, wants to move their administrative offices and apprenticeship training program into the old armory at 328 N. Potomac St.

Joan L. Warner, executive director of the local ABC chapter, said the old armory building needs at least $250,000, and possibly as much as $500,000, in renovations. She said the group would make the renovations if it acquires the building. Some of the renovations would probably be done by ABC members, Warner said.

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Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council met with ABC representatives Tuesday and agreed to support the group's efforts to acquire the building.

The old armory is owned by the state and the ABC representatives want the council to ask the state to turn the building over to the city. Then the city could sell the building to the group for $1.

City Project Coordinator Austin Abraham, the city staffer overseeing the potential transfer of the armory, said if the ABC wanted to get the building directly from the state the group would have to go through a competitive bidding process.

But he said the state has a policy of giving away surplus property to local governments.

Abraham said a final decision on transferring the old armory to the city would have to come from the Maryland Board of Public Works.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said getting the ABC into the old armory is a "fantastic idea."

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein called it a "wonderful project."

No council members objected to the plan.

The council could vote May 22 on an agreement to turn over the building to the ABC if the city gets the building from the state, Abraham said.

Mark Boyer, a city attorney, told the Mayor and council that if the city takes ownership of the building, even briefly, the city could have some liability for environmental problems, such as asbestos.

There are also two underground fuel tanks on the armory property. Abraham said state Department of General Services representatives have said the state would dispose of those tanks before transferring ownership to the city.

The old armory building has been vacant for at least three years. During that time, some City Council members have criticized the state for sometimes leaving the grass uncut and letting trash accumulate on the armory's front yard.

ABC representatives said they would try to sell their current building at 319 W. Howard St. if they are able to move into the old armory.

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