The city isn't Satan

Instead of everyone pointing the finger at the City of Hagerstown and saying that it is the bad guy in this, let's put some pres

Instead of everyone pointing the finger at the City of Hagerstown and saying that it is the bad guy in this, let's put some pres

May 21, 2003|by Bob Bruchey

After reading the comments recently from Del. Robert McKee, I felt that I must speak out about the annexation policy and the sewer transfer agreement.

McKee's comment concerning the consolidation of governments is not a new concept. This idea has been floating in the background for 30 years. From time to time it is brought up when there seems to be an impasse of one sort or another. This time, however, it has to do with the city's annexation policy and an agreement to transfer sewer flow in the West End of town from the city to the county. There seems to be some discrepancies as to why there is such an impasse, I hope that I will be able to clear them up for the readers.

In the fall of 2000, the city and county governments attempted to put together a Flow Transfer Agreement that would transfer the sewer flow in the Conococheague Basin from the city's waste water treatment plant to the county's, thus saving the City of Hagerstown upkeep on a pumping station that currently pumps that flow out of the Conococheague basin to the Antietam basin then to the city's treatment plant.


This agreement was to save the city money and capacity and increase the flow to the county's plant.

During the final stages of the agreement, the City of Hagerstown asked that a word be changed in the agreement. Where it stated, "The city shall accept the flow," we wanted in its place, "The city may accept the flow." The county claimed that it was imperative to use the word shall. But we felt that by using the word may, we could maintain some semblance of control of our destiny.

I have asked over and over that someone from the county explain why it must say "shall" and it can't say "may." I have never gotten a response.

Among other reasons for an annexation policy, the main reason was the ability of the City of Hagerstown to increase its taxable base. Without an annexation policy, the city would continue to suffer the ill effects of development outside the city limit proper and just on the cusp of the city line.

Here's one example of what the city's annexation policy would do for the citizens of Hagerstown.

Paul Crampton, a developer whom I respect greatly, intends to put more than 400 units on the Marsh Pike at Leitersburg Pike. This development would have a negative impact on the intersection of Eastern Boulevard and Leitersburg Pike. The City of Hagerstown maintains that intersection and without the ability to have a developer upgrade an affected intersection like this one, the city taxpayers would have to foot the entire bill, such is the case at Edgewood Drive and the Dual Highway.

You see, where the county has its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that can require developers who negatively impact a county road or intersection to repair and/or upgrade said affected area, the city has no control over development in the county that negatively affects the city's infrastructure. Recently I have had the opportunity to discuss this policy with a former commissioner and we have since agreed to disagree on the merits of such a policy and the subsequent benefits. My friend believes that we need to grow our core base, the inner city and surrounding area, instead of annexing property to increase our tax base.

I believe in part that this is correct. However, in order to be able to offer incentives for such rehabilitation and subsequent tax base increase there needs to be monies available for such incentives. There are currently some tax credits for such rehab, but the cost alone to rehab properties does not make it a viable business opportunity.

Take the Baldwin House complex on Washington Street - if the city, which owned the building, attempted to rehab the complex, it would have been extremely expensive and there were no funds available to do so. If the city decided to demolish the buildings, due to the many code violations, it would have cost in excess of $1 million.

That is why I fought so hard to give the buildings to the State of Maryland to use for the new University System of Maryland Education Center. Instead of costing the city money to demolish or rehab these buildings, the state came in and will put nearly $14 million into this project.

Do I believe that there are some areas that can be consolidated to save the taxpayers in general money? Yes. Do I believe that dissolving the city charter to be governed by one government a solution to all the ills that we are going through? No.

The fear that the city's annexation policy will hinder economic development is not only unwarranted, it is absurd. As recently as last week there have been 56 requests for water or sewer to the City of Hagerstown since the annexation policy took effect in September. Out of those 56 requests, four have signed an annexation agreement and 25 of the 56 have signed a pre-annexation agreement. No one, I want to repeat, no one, has been denied water or sewer as of this date.

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