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Breichner likes the idea of new French sister city

April 09, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner on Tuesday said he favors a proposal by the city of Saumur, France, for the two municipalities to become sister cities but he wants to see if the idea has community support.

Breichner and a Saumur official said they see no problem with the two cities forming a partnership at a time when the leadership of the two countries have taken different positions on the war against Iraq.

In correspondence sent to Hagerstown last week, a Saumur association said it and the mayor would like Saumur and Hagerstown to form a relationship and have a school exchange program.

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A Saumur official said Hagerstown and Saumur are similar in number of residents, quality of architecture, economic activities and natural environment.

Kathryn Sindell, a Hagerstown native who moved to Saumur in late 2002, is helping the Association Saumur Relations Internationales in the attempt to create the bond with Hagerstown. The association promotes international relations by organizing exchanges with foreign delegations.

Sindell said both cities are built along rivers, have an agricultural focus and have residents who like to fish and hunt and own horses.

Saumur has a population of 30,131. Hagerstown's population is 36,687.

Saumur was considering becoming a sister city with Frederick, Md., but Sindell said she convinced Saumur officials that Hagerstown would be a better match.

"If any two towns were meant for each other, it was Saumur and Hagerstown," said Sindell, whose parents, Jim and Evelyn English, live in Hagerstown.

Hagerstown and Wesel, Germany, have been sister cities since 1952. Breichner said Hagerstown could have more than one sister city, provided there is community support for the idea.

The German government, like the French government, opposed the United States' military attacks on Iraq and that has not - and should not - hurt the sister city relationship between Hagerstown and Wesel, said Breichner, who has visited Wesel as part of a sister city contingent.

"The best way to promote peace in the world is on an individual citizen-to-citizen basis," he said.

Hagerstown has a citizens committee that coordinates events with Wesel. If residents are interested in working with the French city, Breichner said he would suggest a new committee with community volunteers be formed.

If the community supports the idea, the Hagerstown City Council would be asked to endorse approval of a relationship, Breichner said.

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