City-County sniping just gets better

December 05, 2002|BY TIM ROWLAND

You have to wonder when it is going to end. And you have to pray that it doesn't.

The Washington County Commissioners, the most litigious roomful of humanity since Rosie O'Donnell, filed another lawsuit against the City of Hagerstown this week.

The suit involves the city and county's respective sewer systems, but that's irrelevant, since the only thing we as right-thinking and entertainment-seeking Washington Countians care about is the total breakdown in city-county relations.

The good tidings of great joy that I am happy to bring to you today is that, as bad as city-county relations were as of Tuesday morning, by Tuesday afternoon they had the potential to be much worse.


After all, we're replacing Commissioner John Schnebly, a former councilman who maintains ties to the city, with new Commissioner John Munson, whose first pronouncement on the eve of taking office was "There's no talking to a couple of City Council members."

And a couple of City Council members have already grumbled in private that there appears to be no talking to John Munson. Could it possibly get any better than this?

Yes. Yes it could.

It might get to the point where they do not talk at all. Heck, last month the outgoing commissioners blew off a feeler put out by Councilman Lew Metzner for a meeting to settle their differences. Commissioners President Greg Snook said such a meeting "is not going to happen" because "there is not enough time to schedule" a joint meeting.

Fortunately, I was able to hack into the commissioners' Palm Pilots and discover they do indeed have too many scheduling conflicts, most of them involving court dates. After all, two of the commissioners are already suing themselves, so there is no reason to think they would stop with the city.

For all the legal paperwork, you would think this was the Unites States Justice Department vs. Microsoft. The first move the new commissioners ought to take in the interest of greater efficiencies is to move their offices from the County Administration Building to Circuit Courtroom No. 3.

The commissioners say they do not WANT to sue the city, but they have to do so - get this - for the city's own good.

Those City Council members, they're such children. You just have to take them to court or they will never learn.

(Reminds me of the whippings I'd get as a boy where the teacher always said, "This hurts me more than it hurts you." To which I would usually say, "Well, then give me the paddle and YOU bend over and let me bear the brunt of your pain." 'Course that just made them double my spanking, often as not.)

The question remains though, if the commissioners are really such reluctant filers of lawsuits, how come Greg "I'd Love to Get Together, But I Have To Grout My Tub" Snook can't even be bothered to talk things over before the county drops the L-bomb?

Sure, let's create some good, old fashioned animosity first, and THEN we'll have a nice, cozy meeting where we'll all have a good laugh and settle things pleasantly. Man, Dale Carnegie they're not.

Commissioner Bill Wivell, with much seriousness, says this is about more than simple wording of a proposed agreement, this is about whether the City of Hagerstown is a regional or a municipal sewer provider.

Ooooo-kay. And that is important - why?

There is a solution that's so simple that I am surprised I am the only one who has thought of it, and I am thinking here of artificial intelligence.

I got the idea watching "Battle Bots" on cable, where two highly evolved machines hack each other to death in a boxing ring. Same could be done with the respective city and county sewer systems, it seems to me. Arm the lines and pumping stations with circular saws, metal plates, battering rams and computer chips and let them have at it.

Snook and Mayor Bill Breichner could sit in a glassed-in skybox with their joysticks and it would be a fight to the death. May the better sewer system win.

Crazy? Perhaps. But no crazier than 40 million lawsuits.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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