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PenMar legislation has officials hopping

March 09, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - There has been a flurry of activity by local officials recently regarding state legislation that would affect the PenMar Development Corp. board of directors and more closely monitor its actions.

The PenMar agency was created by the state to redevelop the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base in Cascade.

At a board meeting Monday morning, PenMar executives and board members said they plan to attend a Wednesday hearing on the legislation to speak against it, arguing it would create too much upheaval and should be set aside for further study.

Lawmakers propose dissolving the current board, which has 10 members appointed by the Washington County Commissioners, and replacing it with a new nine-member board.

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The commissioners could reappoint five of the members and state lawmakers would make the other four appointments.

On Monday, PenMar Executive Director Richard Rook and Commissioner William J. Wivell, who would lose his PenMar board voting privileges if the legislation passes, went to Annapolis to lobby against the bill. The two also went to Annapolis last week.

Meanwhile, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce has changed its position on the legislation after hearing from both sides, Executive Director Fred Teeter said Monday.

On March 1, PenMar persuaded the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce to oppose the bill. Later that day, the board decided to reconsider its position.

On Friday, the Chamber's government affairs committee had a conference call with Delegation Chairman Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, Teeter said.

Shank largely authored the legislation after consulting with other local lawmakers. The local delegation unanimously supports the legislation, Shank said.

On Monday, at the recommendation of the Chamber committee, the Chamber board of directors decided not to take an official position on the legislation, Teeter said.

The PenMar board met briefly in public and then went into closed session. The board was to reconvene in open session but did not because several members left and a quorum no longer was present, Chairman Ron Sulchek said.

Sulchek said the Washington County Commissioners, the local delegation, the PenMar board and community members should meet to hash out concerns.

But Shank said that because PenMar was created by state legislation, changes to its structure must be made at the state level.

Wivell said nothing prevents PenMar from revising its bylaws and addressing concerns raised in the bill, such as providing for more oversight by the county commissioners.

Shank said some changes still would require state action,

The legislation was altered to relax a proposed residency requirement for board members.

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