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Hagerstown briefs

April 14, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Planning assistant gets tentative OK


The Hagerstown City Council gave preliminary approval during its work session Tuesday to hire a new Planning Department assistant and to increase fees to pay for the position.

City officials only weeks ago recommended against new hirings because of budget constraints.

The new planning technician position would cost about $37,000 to $42,000 in salary and benefits. The job would be part of the city budget.

City Planning Director Kathleen Maher outlined a series of fee increases to pay for the position. The increases would be in addition to more than two dozen fee increases already proposed in the fiscal year 2005 budget, which was released March 31.

The 10 new fee increases related specifically to planning procedures would raise as much as $25,000, Maher said. The department would give up a part-time position, saving about $7,000, and would need another $6,000 to $10,000 to pay for the position.

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Maher said the need for the position stems from the increasing number of homes expected to be built in the area.

"We haven't seen anything like this in decades," she said.

City mulls offer on wireless Internet


The Hagerstown City Council took steps during its Tuesday work session to begin looking at a way to bring wireless Internet and other high-speed data services to Hagerstown.

A representative from the New York City firm Electric Broadband pitched a plan to the City Council to lease some city-owned electric utility lines in exchange for bringing the data services to the city.

Lance Rosen, an Electric Broadband partner, said the service would allow residents and businesses to receive the Internet through their electric outlets. Internet and other digital services are more commonly transmitted over telephone, cable or fiber-optic networks.

The council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to ask Electric Broadband to start developing a plan to bring the service to the city. Officials said the service could foster economic development and benefit educational facilities such as the University System of Maryland Education Center at Hagerstown, which is planned to open next January.

Those plans would be presented to the mayor and council at a future meeting. City Light Department staff members would request proposals from competing companies before the city selected an option, department manager Michael Spiker said.

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