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Banking on stadium donors

December 22, 2005

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to act as "the bank" for the North Hagerstown High School stadium project.

In that role, the commissioners have agreed to provide money up front while the private group raising money for the stadium collects pledges, some of which will be paid in installments over several years.

The arrangement puts another burden on the fundraising group, because the county government is essentially guaranteeing that if the pledges aren't paid, the county will pay stadium construction costs with tax dollars.

If that happens, some of those dollars will come from citizens who didn't agree with the project. That's not to say that there aren't many expenditures made by government that taxpayers don't agree with. We are only noting that early on, the promoters of this project said that it would be funded with privately contributed cash.

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That is still the plan, for the most part. And the cash contributed by the county is much less than it would have been if the entire cost of the stadium had been publicly funded.

We have supported this project because it draws private dollars to build an publicly- owned asset that every citizen can use. We would only say at this point that the fundraisers need to emphasize to those making the pledges that county government is not taking over the financing, but providing a safety net in case cash isn't collected as quickly as anticipated.

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