Bruchey plans another run

March 03, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Former Hagerstown Mayor Robert Bruchey, who was ousted from office in a tight race in 2001, said Tuesday he intends to run in the 2005 race because he thinks the current city administration suffers from a "lack of leadership."

In a telephone interview Tuesday, hours after Mayor William M. Breichner's videotaped State of the City address, Bruchey said he intends to file his candidacy in August.

"The people I talk to on the street, OK, feel that the city isn't moving forward. ... We're kind of standing still and we've gotta become aggressive on certain parts of economic development and annexation," Bruchey said.


In a brief exchange before the Hagerstown City Council work session Tuesday, Breichner reacted to Bruchey's announcement.

"It's an open field," Breichner said.

Breichner, 72, later responded to Bruchey's attacks saying, "if he wants to throw his hat into the ring, more power to him. ... That's what the process is all about."

Breichner, a Democrat, said he remembered county-city strife during Bruchey's administration, and Breichner's administration has continued to look at the tax differential, which he said Bruchey's administration was unable to fix.

Regarding the city's snow-removal efforts this year, Breichner said, "if there was a failing there, I think it was inherited" from previous administrations that did not address the issue.

Bruchey, 45, said his biggest concern is the relationship between the city and the county. He said that, in his administration, "The line of communication was always open. They haven't been able to have that, well, in the last three years."

That lack of communication, he said, has in part stalled a more beneficial agreement over the tax setoff, or differential, that is refunded to Hagerstown and other municipalities in the county.

Since 1986, the county has used a formula that distributes a portion of the county's tax revenues back to Hagerstown and the county's eight towns for services the county does not provide within city or town limits. In Hagerstown, the money is used to pay for parks, recreation and police services.

Bruchey, a Republican, said the current administration has stalled in "recouping" more money from the county, money he said belongs to city residents and should be spent in the city.

Specifically, Bruchey said the agreement should include an offset for sewer rates. He said residents don't get any benefit from county sewer upgrades, although they pay for it when their taxes go to the county and are used for upgrades to the county's sewer system, which is separate from the city's.

In a related issue, Bruchey said the city needs to be more aggressive in its annexation of neighboring properties.

The city's policy is if a property abuts the city line and the owner wants city water or sewer service, the owner must agree to be annexed into the city. That means the property and anyone living there or operating a business there would be subject to city taxes.

Bruchey said the city's efforts to begin enforcing a snow-removal policy this past winter were a "fiasco," and he said the city did not make a good enough effort to maintain its police force.

While Bruchey praised the Hagerstown Police Department's efforts, he said the city waited too long to come to agreement with the police union. The department went without a contract for 21/2 years.

He said a four-officer cutback in patrol officers should have been avoided.

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