Wivell says county should manage its debt better

November 01, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

Editor's Note: This is the last of a series of profiles of the 10 candidates seeking election to the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

William J. Wivell realizes it may look odd to run for an office that he's suing.

But the Smithsburg Republican said he has more to accomplish as a Washington County Commissioner.

Besides, Wivell sees his lawsuit not as suing the County Commissioners, but as asking the Washington County Circuit Court to decide who is right.

Wivell's Sept. 5 lawsuit asks the court to direct the commissioners to comply with the Public Information Act and release how much the county paid former Economic Development Commission Executive Director John Howard as part of his retirement.


"I filed it as an individual, not as a member of the commissioners," said Wivell, who is paying the expenses for the lawsuit out of his own pocket.

"I do represent 20 percent of the board. I am by no means the entire board," he said.

Being in the minority when the commissioners vote is something Wivell is familiar with, but he isn't ready to give up his persistence in trying to get the county to be more fiscally responsible. That includes being fiscally accountable and managing debt better, he said.

"I've always kind of challenged my colleagues to borrow less," Wivell said. "There were projects we could have eliminated."

As an example, Wivell sites the county's purchase of the former F&M Bank building on West Baltimore Street for $1.13 million. "I don't see anywhere near that value in a concrete block building with a rubber roof," he said.

Then there's the time the commissioners awarded a one-year janitorial services contract to a firm for $186,338 and Wivell tried unsuccessfully to get the contract rebid with different requirements to bring down the price.

"It's very frustrating. I certainly am not pleased about being on the short end of a vote anytime. I always try to do my homework. If you keep plugging away at it, eventually I think you have a few successes," Wivell said.

Those successes include working with the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly on a debt reduction plan for the county's water/sewer debt, he said.

One way to improve the county's finances is to attract higher-paying businesses here, Wivell said.

That will take a more targeted economic development strategy to capitalize on the county's existing assets, he said.

Wivell said the tax revenues from new businesses, such as technology businesses, should be reinvested in technology in public schools and other technology improvements.

Often high-tech companies considering locating here voice concerns about whether there is a qualified workforce, Wivell said. That concern could be addressed by investing in technology in schools, he said.

Getting back to fiscal issues, Wivell said he wants to create a regional water/sewer service with the City of Hagerstown. That includes working out differences with the city to get a connector between the city's sewer plant and the county's Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has more available capacity, he said.

That may be an issue that will require local state legislators' assistance to resolve, he said.

Wivell, 38, originally filed to run this year for a House of Delegates seat in northern Washington County.

The manager of regulatory services at Allegheny Energy withdrew from that contest in June after a new legislative redistricting plan was unveiled that would have pitted him against an incumbent.

At the time, Wivell said fellow Republican incumbent Del. Robert McKee did a good job representing the interests of county taxpayers.

So, Wivell filed to retain his commissioners seat.

Wivell was elected to the commissioners in 1998.

Wivell is one of 10 candidates in the Nov. 5 general election for five commissioners seats.

The commissioners will make $30,000 next year, up from $20,000 this year.

The county commissioners term is four years.


William J. Wivell

- Make the county more fiscally responsible and accountable, and manage debt better.

- Have the county pursue luring higher-paying companies here, such as technology companies, and reinvest those tax revenues for technology in schools and other technology improvements.

- Focus on technology and trades in public schools to help provide trained workers to local companies.

- Create a regional water/sewer service with Hagerstown and find more ways to raise revenue and reduce expenses for Washington County Water and Sewer Department.

- Age: 38

- Address: 49 E. Water St., Smithsburg

- Republican

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