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Mayor asks for university help

March 06, 2002|BY JULIE E. GREENE

By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Saying Hagerstown's University System of Maryland education center has reached a "critical stage," Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner asked community leaders Tuesday morning to put their support for the project in writing to state legislators.

Breichner and Suzanne Hayes, a well-known community business leader, each made pleas Tuesday to business and civic leaders at the State of the City Address to urge state legislators to keep funding for Hagerstown's University System of Maryland education center intact.

"I believe we have now reached a critical stage and it is time for the community to show their support for this project," Breichner said.

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"This is way too important to let it slide," said Hayes, immediate past chairwoman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Parris Glendening's spokesman said last Thursday that the project was in danger of being cut from the state budget. Glendening is urging the legislature not to delay the $12.4 million education center, spokesman Mike Morrill has said.

Hayes kicked off the breakfast address at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center Antietam Creek by asking the almost 150 attendees to write letters to state legislators expressing their support for the education center.

A list of state legislators and government officials, a suggested letter format and a list of "talking points" were provided to attendees.

Hayes said the project "is so important it deserves no less than a full-court press ... We are asking each one of you to help."

"We are asking you please to join the Government Affairs Committee and the (Chamber) Board to contact as many legislators as you can and as quickly as possible," Hayes said. The chamber's Government Affairs Committee provided the letter format and addresses.

Hayes asked specifically for people to write to State Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore, chairwoman of the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee. That committee is expected to start cutting the proposed budget this week. Then it will be the House of Delegates' turn to make cuts.

Breichner said there has not been a more important project to the community since the 1920s, when the city undertook construction of the water plant, sewer plant, City Light plant, Market House and central equipment building.

Calling the education center "a critical project" and a "centerpiece for downtown," Breichner said it could attract new business and industry to the area that could result in higher-paying jobs and expanded opportunities for existing businesses. The Baldwin House complex in the first block of West Washington Street is slated to be renovated to house the education center.

In Annapolis on Tuesday morning, Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the letter-writing campaign "gives the community a good opportunity to participate and I think that's healthy."

The State of the City Address was sponsored by Wright-Gardner Insurance Inc. and hosted by the chamber at the Clarion, formerly known as the Ramada Inn and Convention Center, on Dual Highway.

Staff Writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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