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Hagerstown briefs

October 20, 2004

City unhappy about hospital statements


Hagerstown city officials on Tuesday took aim at statements by Washington County Hospital officials in a set of answers to some questions raised by state health-care regulators.

At least one portion of a document sent to the Maryland Health Care Commission on behalf of Washington County Hospital is "an outrageous lie," Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said during a comment portion of the council's Tuesday work session.

The dispute is over the procedure the hospital would follow in gaining proper zoning for the project, which has been a hot topic in City Hall. Officials have asked the hospital to seek zoning approval through the county, while hospital officials have indicated they would like to seek it through the city.

The document submitted to the state indicates the city is willing to grant the zoning.

"That is not true, and (hospital officials) know it," Metzner said.




Council may forgive visitor's bureau's rent


The Hagerstown City Council gave preliminary approval on Tuesday to forgive $7,800 in rent to the county's lead tourism advocate, which is financially strapped.

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The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau has rented space at the city-owned Elizabeth Hager Center on North Potomac Street for several years. When the CVB first opened its welcome center there, the city allowed the CVB to hold off paying six months rent, or $7,800.

The CVB spent $51,000 more than it earned last year, and the value of its liabilities outstripped the value of its assets by $180,000. The city is scheduled to vote on the matter next Tuesday.




City gives preliminary approval for loan


The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval of a loan of $41,700 to St. John's Shelter, which is affiliated with St. John's Episcopal Church, to help refurbish an emergency shelter for homeless families.

The shelter is at 14 and 16 Randolph Ave.

In 1998, the organization completed the first phase, which cost $198,000. At the time, the city loaned St. John's Shelter $74,000.

The new loan would come from the city's Community Development Block Grant program, which is money given to the city by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, although the city will have to hold a public hearing before officially authorizing the loan.




Council considers change in language


The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to change some language that governs elections in the city charter.

The changes would allow city election judges to live anywhere in the city. The current charter says a judge can only serve in the precinct in which he or she is registered to vote.

The proposed amendment also removes a clause asking the Board of Elections Supervisors to strike names of voters who "have not voted at least once at any primary, general or special election within the five preceding calendar years."

City Attorney Mark Boyer said that clause is unconstitutional.

Those changes likely will be scheduled for a vote in November, sometime after the council discusses schedule changes for future city elections, a proposal raised during Tuesday's work session. The election schedule changes would not affect next year's city elections.




Signs on poles could be illegal


Those who post signs for yard sales, work-for-hire or other things that show up on telephone and electricity poles could be the target of a new city campaign.

City Attorney Mark Boyer said Tuesday he has looked into the city's codes, at the request of the mayor and council, to see what methods are available to keep those signs off the poles.

Officials have complained about the unsightliness of the signs, but Boyer said it is also a problem that can pose a safety hazard to utility workers who must climb the poles.

Boyer said the city could change its codes - including levying fines - but he suggested an educational campaign might work better. One suggestion is for a city worker to visit the addresses left on yard sale signs and have a chat with the residents who left the sign.




Bank donates funds for camera system


Chevy Chase Bank donated $9,100 to the City of Hagerstown to aid the downtown police camera system, city officials said.

The city installed its second police camera along Franklin Street and other areas downtown after success in deterring street crimes with the first camera system along Jonathan Street.

The cameras run 24 hours a day and are monitored by police.

Chevy Chase Bank's donation will aid in the installation of more cameras, including one in front of its 33 W. Franklin St. storefront.

- Gregory T. Simmons

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