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Hagerstown Housing Authority seeks to help West End businesses

As families move out of the Westview Homes housing complex, the authority would like to get training for some residents to work

As families move out of the Westview Homes housing complex, the authority would like to get training for some residents to work

September 05, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Sales at some West End businesses are dropping as families move out of the Westview Homes public housing complex, but a Hagerstown Housing Authority official said he hopes to provide the companies with some assistance.

Westview Homes will be demolished later this year and replaced by a class-integrated neighborhood that Hagers-town Housing Authority officials hope will reinvigorate the West End community and better the city at large.

The Housing Authority has asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay a few of the affected businesses to train Westview residents to work at those businesses, Hagerstown Housing Authority Executive Director Ted Shankle said Tuesday.

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HUD is helping to fund the $73.5 million demolition and replacement project.

The Housing Authority also is asking the federal department to pay part of the residents' salaries for a temporary period of time, Shankle said.

He estimated the cost would be in the "six figures" range, but could not be more specific.

All but about 40 of the 210 families living in the public housing complex have moved out in recent months, Shankle said. The remaining families have until late October to leave, he said.

Some local business officials say they are feeling the pinch as some of their customers move away, taking with them friends and families who also used to spend money in the area.

Daily sales at the J&C Deli and Market, adjacent to the complex, are 50 percent to 65 percent lower than they were last year at this time, Clarence Rudisill, store vice president, said Wednesday. He and his wife have run the business for about five years.

Blaine Brodka, vice president of Merlin's Tavern Inc. at West Washington Street and Buena Vista Avenue, said business dropped by 12 percent in July and an additional 15 percent in August. The tavern, which is about one block from the complex, opened in February after 15 months and $200,000 of renovation work, he said.

The Housing Authority had not anticipated the problems with the existing businesses but wants to help them, Shankle said. The earliest that people are expected to move into the first phase of the replacement project is next summer, he said.

In response to concerns expressed by Rudisill and others, it was decided to spend about $9,000 to publish fliers and coupons advertising the businesses, Shankle said. The advertising, which is being designed by a local company, is expected to be distributed within about 60 days, he said.

The advertising will be helpful because much of the community does not realize the problems the businesses are having, Rudisill and Brodka said.

Rudisill said he liked the idea of HUD helping pay for training and salaries.

"That would sure help us out," Rudisill said. "They are suggesting good ideas. I would like to see the things happen instead of just talking about them."

Rudisill has said at least 20 area businesses are feeling the pinch, but Shankle said representatives from only two or three businesses have regularly attended meetings with the Housing Authority, the City of Hagerstown and the businesses to talk about the problem.

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