Shank using kids as pawns in Ritchie fight

March 15, 2004|by Carrie Gouff

The Chewsville, Smithsburg, Leitersburg Youth Sports League provides recreational opportunities to about 600 children and their families in the Smithsburg-Cascade Maryland area.

The CSL appreciates the PenMar Development Corp. board's agreement to facilitate use of the Fort Ritchie gym for a variety of sports such as basketball, indoor soccer, racquetball, and Christian aerobics.

In addition, the CSL is working with the U.S. Army to provide recreational and training opportunities.

The CSL does not support HB-1251, since it would remove community-minded board members who have accomplished so much to improve community relations and ensure access to recreational opportunities that exist at Fort Ritchie.

The CSL is concerned about recent comments made by Del. Chris Shank and former PMDC board members who have strongly inferred that the current PMDC board of directors, led by Ron Sulchek, is more focused on providing recreational opportunities than creating jobs at the former military base.


At a Cascade Committee meeting last fall with Del. Shank, Del. Bob McKee and an aide from Sen. Don Munson's office and more recently at the Feb. 11 delegation meeting, Del. Shank and/or former board members unfairly inferred that the current PMDC board should put the focus back on job creation instead of being concerned with providing recreational opportunities for area youth.

The CSL believes that such comments from Del. Shank and former board members are unwarranted, unnecessary and are sending the wrong signals to Washington County youth and parents.

The CSL strongly objects to the Fort Ritchie gym lease being used as a pawn to remove current PMDC board who were instrumental in providing critical recreational opportunities for Washington County youth and military personnel lodged at Fort Ritchie.

To set the record straight, the sublease arrangement that exists for the use of the gym was made through the Washington County Board of County Commissioners. The current board was only asked to approve a lease arrangement with the Washington County Commissioners, who in turn sub-leased the gym to the CSL.

In all, the Sulchek PMDC board spent less than three minutes discussing and voting on this matter. This was the first time since the closing of Fort Ritchie that a PMDC board and the Washington County Commissioners worked together to allow the impacted community access to Fort Ritchie.

Regardless of how the gym was subleased, we are extremely concerned that Del. Shank and some former board members would infer that it is somehow irresponsible for the current board to provide access to vacant buildings and unused sports fields at Fort Ritchie.

Surely Del. Shank and former board members realize that the leasing of the gym is providing access to vacant buildings and unused sports fields at Fort Ritchie.

Would Del. Shank and his supporters rather have our kids hang out on street corners than be actively engaged in positive CSL activities? The focus should be on what is in the best interest of Maryland citizens and communities, not trying to use kids as pawns to argue for the removal of current PMDC board members.

Finally, we note that the subleasing of the gym has been economically beneficial to Cascade-area businesses. For example business at Rocky's Pizza, right across the street from Fort Ritchie, has increased dramatically.

Two weeks ago more than 20 basketball players and family members from Williamsport's Springfield Middle School who were participating in a CSL-sponsored Fort Ritchie basketball tournament had lunch at Rocky's.

If the PenMar board hadn't agreed to the Fort Ritchie gym leasing arrangement, these opportunities for Rocky's Pizza and other area businesses would not exist today.

Therefore Del. Shank and other members of the Washington County delegation, we ask that you don't use the jobs creation vs. community recreational opportunities as an argument to remove Ron Sulchek and the current PMDC board.

It is unfair, and more importantly, this just isn't true.

Carrie Gouff is president of CSL Youth Athletics Inc.

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