Hagerstown briefs

January 25, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

City to clear $800,000 in land sale

The U.S. Department of the Interior has reached an agreement to pay the City of Hagerstown $800,000 to secure easement rights to 576 acres of land the city owns near the Appalachian Trail, City Attorney John H. Urner Jr. told council members during their work session Tuesday.

The federal government made its first offer for the land in the fall of 2004. City Council could have approved the deal in October 2004, but council members at the time felt they could get more money for the land. At Urner's advice, the council instead authorized the city to negotiate for more money.

The land runs along a portion of the trail east of Smithsburg and crosses Warner Gap Hollow Road and Md. 491. Hagerstown maintains the property as wetland to protect the city's public water supply. The interior department is hoping to buy easement rights to the land for the benefit of the National Park Service, which wants it to help protect the Appalachian Trail. As part of the deal, the city would retain ownership of the land but would be prohibited from building anything on it or developing it.


"I think it's fantastic, it's been a long time coming," Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said. The council is scheduled to approve the agreement at its voting session Tuesday.

Councilwoman objects to out-of-budget hiring

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh criticized city administrators for fast-tracking the hiring of new workers before council members have had a chance to meet with staff to develop the city's budget for next year.

During a mayor and council work session Tuesday, Nigh objected to a measure that would let the city hire a replacement for former Hagerstown Recreation Superintendent Patty Edleblute at a salary of $37,000 to $54,000. Nigh also questioned a measure letting the city hire a new, unionized billing department worker. The council is scheduled to vote on both items next Tuesday.

The city expects within weeks to learn the results of a wage compensation study it commissioned to determine whether it is overpaying or underpaying workers. Nigh said the city should wait at least until it sees the results the study to determine how much it should pay the new workers. City Human Resources Director Donna Messina said the company performing the study will take the new positions into account before releasing its results.

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