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Mayor: City in a state of partnership, growth

March 16, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - "The renaissance of Hagerstown has begun and everyone is taking notice," Mayor William M. Breichner said Tuesday at the annual State of the City address, given to a packed ballroom at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center at Antietam Creek on Dual Highway.

Breichner told the crowd of local business people that he envisions private-public partnerships as key to the continued growth and development of Hagerstown's downtown area.

He cited the recent opening of the new University System of Maryland at Hagerstown as key to renewed interest and attraction to the downtown area. He invited the audience to a city gala celebrating the new downtown addition.

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"A major celebration is scheduled for April 22, and the proceeds from the event will be used to fund university scholarships," Breichner said.

During the mayor's speech, which is an annual event sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Breichner praised the ongoing development and renovation of several downtown properties. These are in the areas of South Potomac and West Washington streets, among others.

He also applauded the city's rapid growth in residential development.

"On the residential side, Hagerstown is experiencing unprecedented levels of new housing construction," he said.

In his 30-minute speech, Breichner also addressed several of the city's challenges, such as the sewage treatment plant and the city's opposition to Washington County Hospital's plans to move from near downtown Hagerstown.

"What mayor and council would sit silently by and watch the city's largest employer leave the city?" he told the audience as he concluded his speech.

Breichner's speech was followed by a video presentation highlighting the city's new residential growth, neighborhoods and low national crime rate, among other things.

A discussion followed between a panel assembled by the c`hamber and members of the Hagerstown City Council. For several minutes, questioning centered around the city's reasons for not supporting Washington County Hospital's proposed move to the Robinwood Drive area outside the city.

The mayor was asked if the city had an alternative plan in response to the hospital's proposal to move.

Breichner told the audience that the city represented the best interests of downtown citizens who depend on easy access to health care.

Downtown businessman Tom Newcomer followed with questions about what he said he believes is becoming a costly dispute between city leaders and hospital officials. "Interest rates are increasing because of the delay this is taking," he said.

City Council member Lewis C. Metzner said he is not opposed to the hospital's plans to move. He said he rejects any implication that city officials are in any way delaying the process and costing taxpayers more money.

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