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Railroad museum funding request derailed

June 10, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - Hagerstown Model Railroad Museum Inc. officials' hopes that Sharpsburg Town Council members would bail them out of a financial crisis were derailed Wednesday night.

The Town Council voted 4-0 on Wednesday night not to give the museum group the $31,000 it needs to finish renovating the former Antietam railroad station west of town into a model railroad museum, Mayor Hal Spielman said in a telephone interview.

"I just can't justify it," Councilman J.W. Eichelberger said in a telephone interview after the vote.

Eichelberger was one of the four council members who indicated at Monday night's regular monthly council meeting that they would not support the funding request.

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By the end of Monday's meeting the group had agreed to tour the station on Wednesday night and meet back at Town Hall to discuss the funding request.

The other three council members opposed to the request then and Wednesday were Vice Mayor Ralph Hammond and Council members Patti Hammond and Marjorie Jamison, Spielman said. The Hammonds and Jamison could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.

Councilmen Russ Weaver and Jeffery Saylor, who voted in favor of the funding request on Monday, did not attend Wednesday's vote, Spielman said.

Museum Vice President Denise Troxell said she understood council members' concerns about the amount of the request, but was disappointed the council didn't give the group some more money. The town owns the station.

The town had already contributed $10,375 to the project, which should have a final total cost of around $160,000, officials have said.

Troxell said the museum, which has spent its savings on the project, has enough money left to cover its bills.

The group needed the $31,000 to do work necessary to get the occupancy permit, Troxell said.

There was some discussion Monday night that the museum has a meeting room that could be used by community groups, but Eichelberger said the room is too small.

"I think we have to look at it in the whole spectrum of things. Where did this rank among the town's priorities? It's a large amount of money and, to me, it's not one of our major priorities," Eichelberger said.

Troxell said council members spoke Wednesday of getting calls from constituents saying the museum request was an outrageous expense and other things, like the fire station, needed money.

"We're not going to give up. We're going to keep trying and find a way to do this somehow," Troxell said.

Troxell asked that anyone with ideas about grants or people who could help the museum call her at 301-432-6856.

Museum President Blair Williamson could not be reached for comment.

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