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Commissioner: Council members acted unprofessionally at meetin

July 02, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell on Tuesday said negotiations between the county government and the Hagerstown City Council may become more difficult because council members acted in what Wivell described as a "highly unprofessional manner" at a meeting to which he was invited.

"To be treated like that is just unbelievable," he said.

Wivell said Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner invited Wivell to the executive session following the council's weekly work session so that Wivell could be present for any questions council members might have had on a proposed settlement of a water-sewer issue.

During the work session, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner and others made comments that Wivell said he considered critical of county government, including remarks questioning why a Washington County organization pulled state grant funding from the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League.

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The county also was criticized for not reimbursing the city for time that will be spent collecting money for a county excise tax that went into effect Tuesday.

After listening to what he called a "public berating" of the county, Wivell said he was surprised when Metzner told the council he did not want to meet in closed session on the annexation issue. He said he felt further discussion should be carried out in public session.

Metzner said he felt there should be public discussion before an agreement on a water-sewer issue is adopted. He said adoption could come at a joint meeting with the Washington County Commissioners next week.

Breichner suggested the issue be tabled until the planned joint meeting next week, and the council agreed, rendering Wivell's presence unnecessary. The agreement relates to a proposed connection of the city and county systems.

Reached after the meeting, Metzner said he was unaware that Wivell was attending Tuesday's meeting but he would have made his comments about the county regardless.

However, Metzner said, "It was very unprofessional and discourteous to invite a public official and to ignore his presence ... and to go forward with stuff and make him wait ... I never meant him any disrespect."

Had he been alerted to Wivell's presence he would have found a way to prevent Wivell from being kept waiting, Metzner said.

The city has delayed signing the agreement because some officials wanted it connected to a controversial annexation policy.

The county has sued the city over the flow transfer agreement and, separately, the annexation policy.

City officials are split on whether the annexation matter should be resolved through further city-county negotiations or in court.

Wivell said that until Tuesday's meeting he, too, thought the two bodies could negotiate the annexation agreement but after hearing the council comments he was more skeptical that could be done.

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