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Committee wants coordinator for education center project

August 12, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Greater Hagerstown Committee wants the City of Hagerstown to designate someone to be project coordinator for the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center, but Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner on Monday said that's a "luxury" the city can't afford.

Greater Hagerstown Committee Chairman Bill Barton said Monday that while he understands the city has a tight budget, the organization believes that having one employee supervise all campus-related work would help guarantee the project will be completed, and on time.

"Just having one person focus on it and be responsible for coordinating every aspect, it just maximizes the probability that will be accomplished," Barton said. "We think the focus of the city ought to be on doing everything it can to make the project become a reality."

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City Engineer Rodney Tissue and Planning Director Kathleen Maher currently share responsibility for campus-related work, Breichner said. Tissue monitors the building and permits aspect of the project and Maher does planning for an open space project next to the education center site, Breichner said.

"It is everyone's responsibility to be on the top of that project, not just one person," Breichner said.

When members of the Greater Hagerstown Committee discussed the issue with Breichner this winter, they were left with the impression he considered creation of a project coordinator position a priority, Barton said.

Breichner said his comments came before the city realized it faced a potential budget deficit of $2 million.

Ideally, Breichner said, the city would hire a consultant or a part-time employee whose sole job would be to monitor the progress of the education center and to spend time in Annapolis to ensure the project is not stopped or delayed because of the state's budget problems.

But the city, facing a budget crunch of its own, can't afford to fund such a position at a time when it is leaving some posts unfilled to keep costs down, he said.

"It would be a great luxury if we could afford it," Breichner said. "It would have been nice."

When the city hired John Budesky, the city's administrative services director, the plan was to have him serve as a campus project coordinator, Breichner said.

As it turned out, the city needed Budesky to address other issues, including labor negotiations, so that plan was dropped, Breichner said.

University System of Maryland spokesman Chris Hart said the system has no preference in the matter.

He said he has not heard anything to suggest the education center, scheduled to open in January 2005, will be delayed or killed.

The city has not heard anything to indicate the project is in danger, Breichner said.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he has been telling Breichner for months that the city should appoint someone whose direct responsibility is to work on downtown projects, most notably the campus.

Munson said that while he thinks having such a person would be "helpful," he is confident the education center will be built whether or not that is done.

Breichner said Munson's idea is a good one, and one he thinks the city will pursue.

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