County lawmakers to seek grants

January 29, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

Washington County lawmakers will seek $850,000 in grants this year for a local arts school, homeless shelter and park expansion.

The largest of the grants - also known as local bond bills - would go toward development of a charter school for the arts in downtown Hagerstown.

At a meeting of the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, lawmakers unanimously voted to seek $500,000 for the school.

Hagerstown property owner Vincent Groh has donated the former Henry's Theater at 9-11 S. Potomac St., and the project has received $50,000 in other grants.


The school system will study what needs to be done to renovate the building, Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said. An early estimate has placed the cost at about $4 million.

Students would audition or submit portfolios to apply to the school. School officials hope it will open in fall 2006 with about 200 students.

A second grant of $200,000 would be used to help Christ's Reformed Church in Hagerstown open a permanent homeless shelter during the winter at the former Cannon Shoe Factory on the corner of West Franklin and Prospect streets.

The church plans to spend about $3.2 million on the building, said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Other space in the building will be rented to other nonprofit organizations with social service missions at below-market rates, Shank said.

REACH, which stands for Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless, will operate the shelter. REACH now runs a program that moves throughout the city at different churches.

REACH plans to contribute about $750,000 toward the renovation, Executive Director Terri Baker has said.

A third grant of $150,000 will allow Boonsboro to develop the first phase of expanding Shafer Park.

The project includes two pavilions, two ballfields and a pedestrian bridge on land the town purchased with state Program Open Space money, Shank said.

The cost of the first phase is estimated at $300,000, he said.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich earmarked $17.7 million in his 2005 capital budget for such grants.

The legislature will decide which bond bills, if any, will receive that money.

The previous two sessions, the Senate killed all the bond bills. In an 11th-hour deal before last year's session ended, Ehrlich agreed to put those projects into his proposed 2005 capital budget.

Four Washington County nonprofit organizations are in the budget for a total of $750,000. They are:

  • American Red Cross, $250,000 for its new headquarters off Eastern Boulevard in Hagerstown.

  • Cumberland Valley Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, $200,000 toward a training center. The group may put the center in the former Hagerstown Armory on Potomac Street in Hagerstown.

  • Girls Inc., $200,000 toward a new gymnasium at its West Washington Street facility in Hagerstown.

  • Boys and Girls Club, $100,000 toward a new gymnasium at Noland Village in Hagerstown.

Those projects, along with the new proposals, will have to withstand legislative scrutiny this session, which ends in April.

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