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Cabinet members visit city

January 07, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

It isn't often that three state cabinet members visit Hagerstown at once.

But on Tuesday, the secretaries of Housing and Community Development, Planning and Human Resources gathered downtown to hear about projects planned or already under way, and to explore how the state could help complete them.

The visit was arranged by Del. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, in part as a follow-up to a visit by Lt. Gov. Michael Steele last fall to tour a construction project at Christ's Reformed Church on Franklin Street.

The church is renovating a portion of the former Cannon Shoe Factory as a permanent home for the REACH cold weather shelter and office space for other nonprofit groups. Steele used that visit to tout Gov. Robert Ehrlich's faith-based initiatives program.

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This time, Shank was attempting to help the church identify what state aid might be available to finish the project. So far, the church has invested about $1.4 million, according to project director Wayne Winebrenner, and needs about $3.2 million to finish the work.

The state officials visiting Tuesday heard a presentation on the project and agreed that it fit Ehrlich's criteria for a faith-based project, but they didn't promise any state funding.

"We don't have any money," said Planning Secretary Audrey Scott, but she said her department may be able to give technical assistance.

"It's heartwarming to hear the commitment you've made," Scott told church members. "There may be some way to broaden your base to include other churches."

Housing and Community Development Secretary Victor Hoskins said his department had some money, but added that "our money is heavily competed for." He did, however, encourage the group to apply.

Following the meeting at the church, the state officials met with the Greater Hagerstown Committee to discuss the city's newly formed community development corporation, created last year to help developers pursue projects in downtown Hagerstown.

They also heard from Washington County Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan about plans for a new school for the arts to be located in the former Henry's Theater on South Potomac Street.

Again, state officials didn't promise funding, but said the group could apply for funds for both programs through the Department of Housing and Community Development.

"We're trying to develop a spirit of cooperation rather than the intervention of the last administration," Scott said.

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