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Ehrlich visits county with cash in hand

October 25, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY

daniels@herald-mail.com

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich took part in a number of ceremonies and lavished praise on several Washington County groups during a five-stop tour Monday that included Hagerstown City Hall, R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, Saint James School and the Boonsboro Trolley Station.

"Unbelievable. Congratulations," Ehrlich told a crowd of about 270 registered guests during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the FedEx Ground facility on Hopewell Road in Hagerstown. "Thanks to FedEx for bringing about the latest success story in an incredibly hot county."

FedEx Ground spokesman David Westrick said before the ceremony the $53.5 million facility became fully operational in late August and processes about 100,000 packages daily. About 400 mostly part-time workers are employed at the facility earning between $10 and $11 per hour.

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He said the company expects to expand the number of workers to at least 600 in the coming years.

Scott L. Ray, vice president of the eastern division of FedEx Ground, said the company received a significant amount of assistance from county and state officials in the site-selection process, therefore, decided to build the hub in Washington County.

"It's very exciting for the community and a very exciting time for FedEx Ground," he said.

The hub is one of 29 built or planned by the company as part of a $1.8 billion upgrade to the company's service network.

From FedEx, Ehrlich traveled to Boonsboro, where he rode to the Boonsboro Trolley Station on a trolley as part of a parade that included the town's fire department, police department and members of the high school band.

Members of the school's football team presented Ehrlich with a commemorative football jersey as residents and students craned their neck to get a glimpse of him.

At the station, Ehrlich presented an $800,000 Community Development Block Grant to the Town of Funkstown to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant and a $50,000 Maryland Historical Trust Capital Grant to the Town of Boonsboro to restore the station and create a museum highlighting the role the trolley played in the economic development of the region. The station was built in 1902 and operated until 1938.

"It's extremely important, it's something we really want to promote, the history of Washington County," said Wanda Heuer, past president of the Boonsboro Historical Society. "(The trolley) brought people, people who could not otherwise get to Hagerstown or Frederick. It helped with the employment, people who needed to get to work."

Ehrlich said small towns and cities across the country are confronted by development issues, and preserving pieces of history is also about preserving the nature of those small communities.

"I love history, and history, in and of itself, is something we have to preserve," Ehrlich said. "Besides an appreciation of history, it's also tourism."

Ehrlich went to the campus of Saint James School, where he announced plans to buy two separate easements totaling 828 acres surrounding the Antietam National Battlefield for $3.3 million in order to protect the areas from future development. The initiative will be funded from a mix of sources, including a $1.6 million federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant from the Maryland Highway Administration.

"That stands alone, the importance of historical preservation," Ehrlich said, noting tourism generates about $10 billion in revenue for the state and about 125,000 jobs. "When you combine history and tourism, it doesn't get any better than that."

O. James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, said preserving the land will help maintain the larger feel for what it looked like during the Civil War instead of risking its development as a shopping center or other commercial use.

"It contributes to a critical mass that, when somebody who cares about history comes here, or just a tourist, they've got something special," he said. "We're preserving Maryland the way it was and the way it always will be."

Ehrlich rounded out the day by visiting Hagerstown City Hall and R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, where he praised Tom Newcomer as a small business owner who is helping to fuel the region's and state's economies.

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