Candidates spar over campus site

November 04, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

Work has already begun on the renovation of a downtown Hagerstown building for the University System of Maryland, but the debate about its location raged on Friday night at a candidates forum.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he still believes the Hagerstown Education Center belonged outside the city in a technology park being developed by Allegheny Power off Interstate 70.

It will end up costing more to finish rehabilitating the former Baldwin House building on West Washington Street, Shank said.

But David Russo, his Democratic opponent in the race for District 2B, said he supports the downtown location.

Another House of Delegates candidate, Republican Robert E. Bruchey II, said he fought for the downtown location when he was mayor of Hagerstown and it's too late to change the plan.


"I think it's a dead issue," he said.

Locating the university downtown helps revitalize the area and saves city tax money that would have been spent demolishing rundown buildings, he said.

State Senate candidate Mary Newby, a Democrat, said the most important thing is ensuring the community has access to a four-year higher education program.

"It can be taken from us at any time. That would be my priority. To make sure it stays here," she said.

The issue was one of many discussed at a candidate forum sponsored by Hagerstown Community College's American government class and the League of Women Voters, which drew about 40 people to the college's Valley Mall site.

When the audience had an opportunity to ask questions, one person asked Shank what he would do to revitalize downtown Hagerstown since he does not support the university location.

Shank said he would encourage private investment through tax credits. In addition, the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly fought for a grant to develop an arts and entertainment district downtown, he said.

Shank was one of two incumbent lawmakers who were asked to defend their record at the forum.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly is not effective.

McKee said the lawmakers have worked well as a team and have brought back money for important local projects.

McKee's opponent in Tuesday's election, Democrat Peter E. Perini Sr., said his experience raising a family, running a business and being involved in the community gives him the know-how to serve in the legislature.

Newby was asked what she can offer to the job of state senator when her opponent, Sen. Donald F. Munson, has 28 years of experience in the legislature.

"He has called me a neophyte, but I assure you it's not a four-letter word," she said. "Sometimes we need to have a change."

Munson did not attend the forum.

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