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Letters to the editor for 8/18

August 18, 2002

A plan to pay for schools and lower property tax



To the editor:

This letter is intended to serve two purposes. One of the purposes is to clarify my position regarding the baseball stadium. The other purpose is to offer a financial plan to lower the Washington County property tax rate while increasing funding support for education, fire and safety issues, agricultural preservation and the preservation of the agriculture industry.

Many of our candidates for county commissioner have called for lower taxes and increased funding for education. However, they fail to produce a plan explaining how they would do it. It's typical political rhetoric as I interpret their position. In this letter I will offer a plan that is not political rhetoric.

First, allow me to clarify my position on the baseball stadium. At no time have I ever claimed that we would use taxpayer money from our county general fund to build a stadium. The county's only contribution would come from the hotel-motel tax increase. In order to build any stadium, private funding to the tune of $5-7 million would be needed. If this private money is not raised, no stadium will be built.

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I have always favored a referendum as an avenue to give our citizens an opportunity to express their views. This is the fair way not only for our citizens, but also for the new owner to evaluate his position.

I recommend two avenues toward a referendum. One would be for our local newspaper to conduct a poll to include the entire region. Secondly, I recommend placing the stadium issue on the ballot for a November vote. After the election, a fair and clear decision will have been made. I would suggest we abide by these decisions.

As to the second purpose of my letter, I would like once again to request our state delegation to offer a bill that would allow our county to institute a one-cent county sales tax. I also would add a caveat - if our delegation would be brave and bold enough to file this request, we the county commissioners could vote to lower the county property tax rate by three cents per $100 of assessed value.

Our potential new revenue could equate to 14 million new dollars and our Washington County citizens who own property would have a reduction on their property tax.

It is the duty of any elected official to provide the necessary services while holding the tax rate as low as possible. When I took office in 1998, I vowed to protect our senior citizens, promote educational opportunities for our youth, and to add to the quality of life that Washington County citizens enjoy. I am proud that I, along with my fellow commissioners, are fulfilling our promises. It has been a pleasure to serve you as one of your county commissioners.

I hope when you the voters cast your ballot in September and again in November that you vote your choice based upon more than one issue, and that you vote for visionary thinkers, common-sense thinkers, and candidates with a solid educational background.

I humbly request your vote and your support. In return I promise you my sincere effort to serve you to the best of my ability.

May God bless each and everyone and may God bless Washington County.

Paul L. Swartz

County Commissioner

Candidate

Hagerstown




Search for Fort Frederick smoking gun continues



In early July there were Associated Press releases in both Hagerstown and Baltimore papers relating a mystery about Fort Frederick. The mystery concerned the absence of any known plans about the construction of certain features of the fort and the officers' quarters. It would be useful if a copy of the original plans would surface for any further restoration projects.

But there is another mystery about which many admirers of Fort Frederick are unaware. The mystery involves the repeated claim by historians that, as the reporter for the Baltimore Sun wrote, "During the American Revolution, Fort Frederick was a prison for Hessian and British soldiers." The foregoing statement is probably true but there needs to be a careful look at the assertion.

There is no debate about reports of British prisoners being incarcerated at Fort Frederick. At issue is only whether German prisoners - Hessian or otherwise - were also confined at the fort. During an intense and extensive period of research, I have discovered a letter from the Continental War Office to Colonel Moses Rawlings, who was in command at the fort, to recall all prisoners who were on work release. It was a common practice to help defray the cost of feeding prisoners by allowing them to work as laborers and craftsmen for residents nearby. The released prisoners were troublemakers who raised the ire of local taskmasters. No clue is given as to whether the unruly prisoners were British, German or both. But, the letter does establish the fact that British prisoners were at the fort.

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