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Delegation wants to help solve city-county dispute

December 19, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Some state lawmakers want to help mediate a dispute between Hagerstown and Washington County elected officials that has resulted in a lawsuit.

After meeting with both groups separately Wednesday, Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee said there may be a legislative solution to the disagreement over the city's annexation policy. He declined to give specifics.

"We're looking at it from the perspective of what's good for the city of Hagerstown and what's good for the citizens of Washington County," he said.

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Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said the disagreement needs to be straightened out for the sake of everyone in Washington County.

"I definitely think that the delegation is going to have to play some role in the resolution of this," he said.

The problem boils down to which government entity has control of the urban growth area just outside the city's boundaries, he said.

The day before they left office in December, the last group of commissioners filed suit against the city for $2.5 million over a sewer service agreement the county alleges was breached by the city.

The connection would save both governments $1.5 million over 10 years through the consolidation of services, an increase in customers and other measures, city and county officials have said.

Some city and county officials disagree on whether wording in the agreement should be changed so the city can require customers who live outside the city to be annexed into the city, officials have said.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said it's important that lawmakers are educated about the issue.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said he's not opposed to state involvement but he believes it is unnecessary.

"I appreciate the delegation's interest in this issue. I think it's admirable. I just think the two governments have got a responsibility to iron these issues out without lawsuits," he said.

At least one local lawmaker agreed with Breichner.

"I think the city and county are going to have to fight this out," Sen. Donald F. Munson said.

Munson said lawmakers should get involved only if the talks drag on too long.

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