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The same old story:City, county arguing

October 10, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

What do sewers have to do with law enforcement? Usually, not much. But two stories on those subjects made news this week, illustrating that a lack of cooperation between Hagerstown and Washington County has cost citizens money in the past - and may do so again in the near future.

The first story concerned the commissioners' decision to revive a proposal to create a central booking facility proposed more than a year ago by the Hagerstown Board of Public Safety.

At the time, Chief Arthur Smith said it would eliminate the present system, in which city officers must process all arrests themselves, including fingerprinting and transferring subjects to hearings before court commissioners.

A centrally located facility, with space for court commissioners on site, would slash overtime costs and keep more officers on the street, Smith said.

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In February, the two governments agreed to study the idea, but according to Sheriff Charles Mades, the county rejected it in June as too costly, even though it would cut expenses for city and county departments.

On the sewer issue, the commissioners asked Maryland's Public Service Commission to study the city's sewer rates, because the city charges more to customers outside the city limits. Now City Attorney John Urner says that the review may cost each government $100,000.

The link between both the issues is that if the two governments could agree to cooperate, they might actually save the taxpayers money. Instead, they continue being adversaries, fighting battle after battle in which the taxpayers pay for the bullets, so to speak - for both sides!

Sheriff Mades suggested that the commissioners have revived the central booking issue because of pressure from Neighborhood Watch groups. If only there were a citizens' group working to pressure these two governments to work on cooperation instead of confrontation.

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