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Snook says county in 'great shape'

February 06, 2002

Snook says county in 'great shape'



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Washington County is faring better than some counties across the country because of its

diverse economy and low unemployment rate, Washington County Commission President Gregory I. Snook said in his State of the County address Tuesday morning.

"We feel this county is in great shape," because of planning and finances, Snook said.

He said the nation has been going through a difficult time because of economic problems and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

About 150 civic and business leaders attended the 10th annual breakfast event, sponsored by Allfirst and hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. The event was held at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway.

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After Snook's speech, members of the audience asked questions of the commissioners.

One person asked about a Board of Education request that the county increase its annual contribution for capital expenses for schools from $4.5 million to $5 million.

"We'll see if we can find that money somehow," Commissioner Paul L. Swartz said.

The commissioners were asked about the relationship between the county and the City of Hagerstown.

Commissioner John L. Schnebly, a former city councilman, said the relationship between the two bodies is better than it has been in years. The commissioners know the success of the county is connected to the success of the city, he said.

He said the city and county in March will discuss how to resolve an impasse over a sewer agreement and a proposed city annexation policy.

The commissioners were asked whether they would use hotel-motel tax revenues to help pay for a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns.

Swartz said if Suns owner Andrew Rayburn succeeds in plans to increase game attendance, then Swartz thinks most of the commissioners would agree to allocate some money for a new stadium.

In his address, Snook said the Hagerstown Regional Airport has two airlines offering scheduled flights. The airport has five daily flights on USAirways Express to Pittsburgh.

In late December, Boston-Maine Airways of Portsmouth, N.H., a division of Pan American, began taking passengers from Cumberland, Md., to Baltimore-Washington International Airport with a stop in Hagerstown.

Planning continues on the extension of the airport's runway, Snook said. Construction is anticipated to start in 2003 and finish in 2005, he said.

Snook said the county's total water and sewer debt continues to drop. It is down from a peak of $57.7 million in 1996 to $47.8 million this year, county officials say.

Snook listed other accomplishments, including:

- Creation of the Department of Emergency Services.

- Construction of the Clear Spring Library, to which the county gave some money.

- Opening of the Forty West Landfill, which Snook said will last a minimum of 70 years.

- The filming of the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals" in the county, which provided an economic boost to the region.

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