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Ground broken for Boonsboro Habitat home

July 19, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - The difficulty with which shovels were plunged into the hard earth during a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of a Habitat for Humanity interfaith project in Boonsboro Sunday seemed symbolic of the struggle it took to even celebrate the new house.

Members of Habitat for Humanity and the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County, including representatives from local Islamic, Jewish and Christian groups, were among 50 in attendance at 47 and 49 Saint Paul St.

Among them was the family selected for one of the two residences inside the duplex, the Sirbaugh family of Garis Shop Road. Junior "Dick" Sirbaugh and Katie Sirbaugh said they were happy to be among many who helped work on the house by laying blocks, carrying concrete and even putting up foundation walls for their soon-to-be home.

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"It's a great opportunity," Junior Sirbaugh said. "You still have to pay the mortgage, but they just make it affordable to working-class people."

The Sirbaughs said they hope the house is completed in time for Christmas.

However, this Habitat project differs from many others because substantial work on this duplex started before the groundbreaking and before even one-third of the $55,000 needed for completion was raised, said Sherry Brown Cooper, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.

Cooper admitted the ceremony was "a bit out of sequence," but was necessary because of a Boonsboro ordinance change last month that could have squashed the project completely. She lauded the efforts of many volunteers who helped the group overcome several obstacles, including a new town ordinance.

"All good things are worth fighting for," Cooper said.

On June 11, Karen Shifler of 128 Lakin Ave. obtained a temporary injunction from a Washington County Circuit judge and filed for a permanent one. The temporary injunction was lifted three days later, but a decision on the permanent injunction request is pending.

Shifler said she objected to the project, which received final approval from the Planning Commission in July 2003, because it fronts a narrow alley, posing a hazard for emergency vehicles and other motorists.

Three days later, the Boonsboro Town Council passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting houses from fronting alleys that became effective 10 days later.

Habitat quickly rallied volunteers to speed up the construction so a substantial amount of building was complete prior to the ordinance going into effect.

The next meeting for the House That Faith Built project is scheduled to be held Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.

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