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County groups request share of tax proceeds

December 28, 2001

County groups request share of tax proceeds



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


The Washington County government has received 45 applications, totaling $1.3 million in requests, for a share of county hotel tax proceeds, Planning Director Robert Arch said Thursday.

The deadline to apply for the tax proceeds was Dec. 21.

The county has committed this fiscal year's estimated $500,000 in hotel tax funds but the Washington County Board of Commissioners has not committed funds for the next fiscal year. That will be done in the spring as part of the annual budget process. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Arch said he did not have an estimate on the amount of tax funds that would be available for the next budget.

The largest request comes from the Washington County Historical Society, which asked for $312,000 to buy and renovate the vacant building at 125 W. Washington St. The building is adjacent to the Miller House, at 135 W. Washington, which houses the society museum and library.

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Buying the adjacent building would allow for expansion of the museum and the library, Executive Director Mindy Marsden said.

The society also is asking the commissioners to give them money to pay for improvements to the society's museum, including improved plumbing, roof work and interior paint, she said.

The Maryland Theatre applied for $125,000 for improvements to its lighting control system.

The Washington County Free Library System applied for $150,000 to help pay for building branch libraries in Smithsburg and Boonsboro.

The City of Hagerstown has applied for a total of about $270,000. This includes $200,000 to help pay for the first phase of development for a Performing and Visual Arts Center as part of the general Arts & Entertainment District improvements downtown. Phase One includes expanding the lobby of The Maryland Theatre.

Other City of Hagerstown requests include $16,000 to purchase portable bleachers for Fairgrounds Park; $8,000 to help pay for a new water slide for the city's Claude M. Potterfield Pool; $17,500 for district signs; $2,000 for district banners; $3,000 for decorative lighting; and $5,000 each for the Western Maryland Blues Fest, a Fourth of July fireworks display and festival at the Fairgrounds, events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city's sister city affiliation with Wesel, Germany, the Hager House 30th anniversary craft day event, and events related to the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

Although the deadline for applications has passed, the commissioners may add additional items to the list of possible tax fund recipients, Arch said.

Last spring, as groups began to approach the county about getting hotel tax money, the commissioners decided to establish a policy under which money would be distributed for projects.

Previously, there was no process in place for groups to apply for the funds. Some of the funds from last year's and this year's budget paid for joint city-county capital projects.

The Maryland General Assembly in 1999 approved legislation to increase the county's hotel tax from 3 percent to 6 percent.

Forty-five percent of money generated by the tax increase goes to the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The rest goes to the commissioners, with some of it earmarked for debt reduction.

In addition to the money it automatically receives from the Hotel/Motel tax, the bureau has made two requests to the commissioners: $5,000 for a Dairy Goat Convention and Exhibition from Sept. 12 to Sept. 15 and $10,000 for an American Junior Golf Association Tournament from Sept. 19 to Sept. 22 at Beaver Creek Country Club.

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