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Delegation seeks grant to entice armory renovation

February 19, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS -Washington County lawmakers are seeking a $100,000 state grant to entice a construction trade organization to renovate the old Hagerstown Armory building.

Associated Builders and Contractors of the Cumberland Valley already is slated to get $200,000 in the state's proposed 2004 capital budget.

ABC asked lawmakers for more money because the state-owned building has deteriorated in the two years since the group struck a deal to fix it up, said John Barr, immediate past chair.

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"It's sure to help the project move off dead center," Barr said.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, filed legislation seeking an extra $100,000 for ABC through the state's so-called bond bill program, under which the state borrows money on behalf of nonprofits.

On Wednesday, the Washington County Delegation voted to cross-file the legislation to improve the grant's chances.

Two years ago, ABC inked a deal with Hagerstown to rehabilitate the asbestos-laden building, which is at 328 N. Potomac St., and use it for its administrative offices and a training center.

Under the plan, the city would have turned over the building to the nonprofit ABC for $1.

But the Maryland Board of Public Works refused to give the building to the city, citing the need for public bids.

ABC did not bid on the project. In fact, the state received no bids on the 77-year-old building.

Since then, ABC has rekindled its interest and is waiting for the state to give its approval, said Barr, who is the brother-in-law of Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Allegany/Washington.

The armory building, which has been vacant for more than six years, has further deteriorated in the last two years because of a leaky roof.

"The roof leaks like a sieve. The poor gym floor is all buckled and warped," Barr said. "The disrepair has just compounded."

Barr estimates it would cost between $750,000 and $1 million to renovate.

ABC will be able to do it for less money with volunteer help from the contractors who are its members.

In addition to using the old armory as a training center, Trinity Lutheran Church nearby might use part of the basement for a food pantry in exchange for allowing ABC to park in the church lot.

ABC will be competing with $850,000 in Washington County bond bill requests along with millions across the state.

Washington County lawmakers have also agreed to seek $500,000 for an arts school in Hagerstown, $200,000 for a homeless shelter in Hagerstown and $150,000 to expand Boonsboro's Shafer Park.

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