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County pledges more for stadium

August 03, 2005|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to contribute an additional $300,000 toward a stadium at North Hagerstown High School.

The amount is about half of what a committee raising money for the project requested.

The money is in addition to $150,000 in Maryland Program Open Space money the commissioners have pledged toward the stadium. Open Space dollars are used for park, recreational and conservation projects.

Tuesday's vote prompted concerns from two Board of Education members who questioned the County Commissioners' financial commitment to the project.

The commissioners met with the school board to talk about the $3.5 million facility. Stadium plans include a field, a track, bleachers, a concession stand, a press box, lights and restrooms.

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After the vote, a pointed discussion ensued among some school board members and county commissioners, causing Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook to abruptly end the meeting.

Snook raised his hands in the air and said, "We're finished."

The stadium committee asked that the county contribute an additional $500,000 for the stadium and pay financing costs.

The county estimated interest would be about $98,000, for a total request of about $600,000, the commissioners said.

The $300,000 agreed upon Tuesday, subject to the availability of state Open Space money, would be split between fiscal years 2007 and 2008, meaning $150,000 in each of those fiscal years would be contributed.

The money is to be used for the track portion of the stadium project, the commissioners said.

The contribution is also subject to a review by the county's Parks and Recreation Board.

Three commissioners - Vice President William J. Wivell, John C. Munson and Doris J. Nipps - questioned whether the project was a priority, while School Board members Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner questioned the commissioners' decision to allocate $300,000 toward the stadium.

Ober weighed the county's level of funding for the stadium with past contributions made by the commissioners for other projects, leading Wivell to say he was offended by the comparisons.

Snook said the commissioners try to treat each school fairly in funding requests.

"We are not going to be able to compare apples to apples every single time," Snook said.

Wagner asked the commissioners to reconsider the $300,000 contribution.

Nipps said she resented hearing comments that questioned whether the commissioners were meeting their responsibility for the stadium.

Wivell said he didn't know why school board members were "minimizing the commitment from government."

The state has agreed to contribute $150,000, the City of Hagerstown has pledged $100,000 and the commissioners previously agreed to $150,000 in Open Space money before Tuesday's vote.

Wagner said she has "yet to hear the commissioners say thank you" to those who support the project. Private donors have pledged most of the money for the project.

Of the $2.3 million the stadium committee raised for the stadium, $1.9 million is coming from private donations.

"I apologize if that's the case, but thank you," Wivell said.

The committee plans to raise another $700,000. A $500,000 contribution from the commissioners would have given the group the $3.5 million it needs for the stadium.

Without a home stadium, North High's home football games are held at South Hagerstown High School, and other North High teams are prevented from having home games and meets.

Earlier in the meeting, Wivell said he was willing to use only Open Space money for the project. He said the school system had greater needs than the stadium.

"Beyond that, I'm not ready to contribute general fund money to the project," Wivell said. "Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I can't put an athletic field above classroom needs."

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