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City's deal to transfer armory falls apart

June 19, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

An agreement for the Hagerstown City Council to transfer the vacant armory building on North Potomac Street to the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors for $1 has fallen through, Mayor William Breichner said Tuesday.

The council in June 2001 approved a contract for the property transfer but the agreement was contingent on the state giving the building at 328 N. Potomac St. to the city.

The state had planned to transfer the property to the city of Hagerstown, which planned to pass it to Associated Builders and Contractors, said Kathleen Maher, the city's senior planner.

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"We were only involved so we could help ABC," she said.

But the state was concerned about giving away the property without letting others bid on it, she said.

The state commonly transfers property to municipalities without taking bids, but not to nonprofit entities, she said.

The Maryland Board of Public Works is to vote today to declare the property surplus and to offer the 22,224-square-foot building on .56 of an acre for sale through a bidding process.

Breichner said he hopes ABC will bid on the building, which has been vacant for at least four years.

ABC officials had approached the city about the property, saying it would be a good place to move its administrative offices and apprenticeship training program, he said.

The city has not heard of anyone else interested in the property, Breichner said.

The city was pleased with ABC's interest in the property, he said.

"We were rather anxious to get the building used," Breichner said.

ABC Executive Director Joan L. Warner has said the armory needs between $250,000 and $500,000 in renovations, some of which probably would be done by ABC members if the group acquired the property.

Warner could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

ABC representatives have said they would sell their current building at 319 W. Howard St. if they could move into the armory.

ABC applied for a $550,000 state grant for the next fiscal year to pay for the renovation, but the grant was not funded.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said there's a good chance that the state won't get any other offers to buy the dilapidated building. There are few organizations that could afford the expensive renovations required, he said.

"I regret that it appears it's going to be an eyesore. It was an opportunity to have 220-some students in downtown Hagerstown," he said.

Staff Writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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