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The county reviews its progress

December 27, 2001

The county reviews its progress



Last week the Washington County Commissioners looked back at a list of goals they approved three years ago. Some bright spots were unexpected, but a review shows that overall, progress is being made at a pace that's slower than many would like.

But who would have thought that sewer issues, which bedeviled the previous county board - and probably cost some their seats - would have moved along so well? The county has cut operating costs, obtained a state law to help pay down the debt and should soon sign a new joint pact with the City of Hagerstown.

On schools, for which this board has substantially increased funding, Commissioner John Schnebly says there's still a need to make the School Board accountable for the quality of education provided. Test scores have improved, however, and the number of Blue Ribbon schools is growing. The facilities issue is another story. The two boards need to agree on an approach to keep school size manageable and budgets affordable.

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The rewrite of the comprehensive plan is moving along, with the process due to conclude before next summer. Some tough issues remain, including proposals to up the number of rural acres needed to build a home.

Underscoring the importance of this issue is the situation in nearby Carroll County. Officials there took an approach on this matter the state didn't like and now face a loss of state funds if they don't back down.

On the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie, County Administrator Rod Shoop said progress is being made, but a ribbon-cutting for the long-promised facility of the International Masonry Institute would give us more confidence.

And then there's tourism, which with the right attractions could bring downtown Hagerstown the foot traffic it desperately needs. The plans we've heard - for the Civil War Museum and the Arts & Entertainment District - are elaborate and have multi-million-dollar price tags. Given the current economy, there must be some way to do more without breaking the county treasury in the process.

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