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Bruchey: My record as Hagerstown mayor speaks for itself

February 20, 2005|by Bob Bruchey

Recently in the paper, a question was asked of the people: "What qualities should the next mayor and council possess?" I believe the mayor needs to possess the following qualities:

Community oriented:

I believe that the mayor should respond to the citizens' needs. In 1998, I instituted the Street Crime Unit, a special unit formed to combat crime in high-crime areas. To date, this unit has been responsible for countless arrests for illegal drug dealing, illegal drug buying, prostitution, search and seizures and general nuisance-related crimes. I instituted the Neighborhoods First Program, a program that combines city employees with citizens to better their communities.

This program has been responsible for such projects as the mural "Roses for the Wild Mary" that was painted on the Burhans Boulevard underpass, the park on Ridge Avenue and the park in Carroll Heights. I instituted an anti- cruising policy that enhanced the quality of life for our citizens on East Franklin and East Washington streets.

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I fought to get something as simple as "Welcome to Hagerstown's West End" emblazoned on the water tower at Interstate 81 and U.S. 40, to tell of the pride those citizens in that area have in their community. I participated in National Night Out programs in the West End, East End, South End, North End and Bethel Gardens.

A mayor needs to be out around the people, a idea that I embraced while mayor from 1997-2001. In some areas, there are special needs that have to be responded to. When state Sen. Don Munson called me and asked that a four-way stop sign be placed at the corners of Hamilton Boulevard and West Magnolia Street, I responded.

The engineering department, along with the Board of Traffic and Parking, studied the intersection and concluded that there was no need for a four-way stop there. After many trips at different hours of the day to that intersection, I persuaded the council to override the decision because it seemed impossible to pull out safely from Magnolia onto Hamilton. The four way stop was installed.

Business friendly:

In 1998, I instituted the Sign and Facade Grant Program for the C3 Zoning district (downtown). The program provided up to $300 in matching grants for downtown businesses to install new signs and up to $1,000 in matching grants for building facade improvements. The program provides a 50 percent match for the cost of approved projects. To date, more than 80 sign and facade grants have been used by downtown businesses.

While I was mayor, Dick Trump and Ben Hart came to me from the Convention and Visitors Bureau and asked me to lobby our state delegation to acquire funds from the hotel-motel tax so that the CVB could have a continuous revenue source without begging the county for a portion every budget year. I did so, and today they have a continuing revenue source to help promote tourism in our area.

While I was mayor, we purchased and demolished the Unikote building on Antietam street to create parking for downtown businesses and The Maryland Theatre. We bought and demolished the Town Tavern, creating the ability for future development on that site.

We purchased McBare's pub and it is now being used by the Maryland Theatre, which enhances the theater's lobby. I pushed to repeal the Downtown Assessment District - this was a tax that hurt small business. I instituted the revolving loan fund, a fund designed to retain, expand and recruit small business. Being business friendly is a quality that did exist from 1997 to 2001.

Vision:

Fairgrounds Park is an example of continuing vision. While mayor, I lobbied the state of Maryland for increased Open Space funding for Fairgrounds Park. Today, Fairgrounds Park is a jewel for our citizens to enjoy.

Activities such as soccer, softball, ice skating, concerts and even fireworks are just a few of the community activities that our citizens enjoy at the park. The University System of Maryland-Hagerstown education center is a building block in our inner city. In 1999, I lobbied for the placement of the university in the downtown.

During the decision process, Doug Wright and I had lunch at the Broad Axe and I outlined on the back of a placemat my vision of the University and the surrounding area. I drew the open space park and a two-way alley running behind the university. During this time numerous people and organizations were against the university being located in downtown.

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