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Council cruises city

Officials get a look at 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' during bus tour

Officials get a look at 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' during bus tour

October 05, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

Through bus windows, Hagerstown officials on Tuesday peered at development, road improvements and related issues throughout the city.

Hagerstown City Council members Alesia D. Parson-McBean and Kristin B. Aleshire, Mayor Richard F. Trump and 19 other city officials rode Hagerstown's streets for about two hours in a rented coach.

Council members Kelly S. Cromer and Penny M. Nigh followed in a car.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner was absent because he was observing Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday.

The itinerary took the municipal group from an alley off North Locust Street to a Haven Road parcel that's been the subject of an annexation request, as well as several places in between.

The coach passed the spot on Robinwood Drive that could become the new home of Washington County Hospital, near a planned development of more than 1,400 homes.

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Elected officials and department heads looked at the Howell Road land a developer has asked to rezone from light industrial to residential.

They stopped at Hagerstown Business Park, where all of the lots have been sold.

"Our role is done," said Kathleen Maher, the city's planning director.

Maher, Economic Development Director Deborah Everhart and City Engineer Rodney Tissue took turns at the microphone at the front of the bus, explaining projects as the group rolled past them.

The idea for the street-level, firsthand look at city issues came during an Aug. 30 council meeting.

The expedition was far lighter and more relaxed than regular meetings and work sessions, which have lately been punctuated by clashes between the Republican Trump and the all-Democrat council.

Nothing of that sort happened Tuesday.

"Kristin's house is close," Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker called from the back of the bus at one point. "We can stop."

"The fridge is full of beer," Aleshire called back.

When the tour ended, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the city paid $684 to Wolf's Bus Lines of York Springs, Pa., for the coach and driver. He said Atlantic Coast Trailways of Hagerstown didn't have a bus available.

The first stop was North Locust Street, where the city has agreed to buy a house for $95,000 and resell it under a community development program.

After the bus turned from Potomac Avenue onto Eastern Boulevard, Everhart pointed to the Cortland Manor development, which is to include more than 138 town homes, 62 duplexes and 432 apartments.

She said the developer has settled on 11 duplexes, with prices ranging from $450,000 to $1 million. There are contracts for eight others. Everhart said most were purchased by Washington County residents.

Tissue told the group that work might start in the spring on widening part of Eastern Boulevard from two lanes to four. The project is expected to cost $3 million to $3.5 million, he said.

Tissue pointed out other city projects during the trip, such as a plaza at Municipal Stadium and the completed reconstruction of Memorial Boulevard.

In the city's north end, Maher said, the Fairchild Heights development - 36 town house units - was a project with at least one flaw: the backs of several homes face Pennsylvania Avenue.

"Perhaps we could do better next time," she said.

Everhart said nine units sold for about $250,000 each. Another eight were under construction, with prices ranging from $220,000 to $260,000, she said.

The bus pulled into the parking lot by City Hall at 6:15 p.m., as scheduled.

"This concludes the good, the bad, the ugly tour for today," Maher said.

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