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City answers callers' questions on TV

May 15, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown city officials Wednesday went on live TV to answer questions that were phoned in about the proposed budget and related issues.

Questions posed by nine callers on the citizens information program on the cable access channel were about Potterfield Pool, recycling, and other topics.

After the event, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the program - intended to provide another way for the city to get information to its residents and answer their questions - was a success.

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The city will air similar programs focusing on other issues, he said.

The city last week said it would televise a citizens information program on a cable access channel. Residents were asked to call a phone number before or during the show to pose questions.

The city does not have the equipment needed to put callers' comments directly on the air, spokeswoman Karen Giffin said.

Eight people phoned before Wednesday's program.

City officials, meeting for the program in the Hagerstown City Council chambers, had a list summarizing the questions phoned in ahead of time, suggestions on who should answer which question and some questions posed by members of the city staff.

Giffin served as the show's moderator. She would summarize a question and then a city official would answer.

The only question called in during the 70-minute program came from Robert Nigh, Councilwoman Penny May Nigh's husband, who asked who was paying for the program. Robert Nigh later said he knew the answer to the question but wanted the public to have that information.

Giffin said the costs were paid for by Antietam Cable Television as part of its franchise agreement with the city.

The Hagerstown City Council's work sessions and meetings have been televised live since April.

Last year Antietam Cable, which has the same parent company as The Herald-Mail, paid about $86,000 for the television equipment, its installation and training for its use.

The city had said it would not be able to answer specific questions pertaining to personnel or litigation.

Caller Florence Riedesel asked how much the city pays for the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex and how many people use it.

Finance Director Alfred Martin said the city pays a $134,500 annual subsidy to the organization operating the rink.

The average paid attendance for the ice rink is 57,000, he said.

Caller Wayne Lippy asked why the city plans to add a water slide at Potterfield Pool if the pool is already making money.

Martin said that while pool attendance has increased, some bathers have asked why the city does not have a water slide as some other municipalities do. The city checked with other governments that have purchased water slides and determined the pool could make more money if there was a water slide, he said.

Zimmerman said after the program that while the pool is not breaking even it is coming closer to doing so.

Caller David Dolinsky asked why the city's recycling program does not pick up glass and plastic.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue said it is an economic issue. The city would have to increase fees to all trash customers if it were to recycle those materials, he said.

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