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'Two plus two' formed to help communication

February 09, 2006|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

About two years ago, two Washington County Commissioners and two Hagerstown City Council members joined forces to improve the relationship between the governments.

In the process, the group - known as the "two plus two" committee - has discussed topics such as annexation, sewer capacity, growth and revitalizing downtown Hagerstown.

Hagerstown City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said the meetings aren't held in secret a smoky back room, rather, they often involve city and county staff members to assist their discussions about public matters.

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"The things we've discussed are the public's business," he said.

Aleshire, a member of the group, was one of five elected officials to talk about cooperation among the county and municipalities Wednesday in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Washington County.

The forum was held at The Village at Robinwood, near Robinwood Medical Center. About 15 people attended.

County Commissioners Doris J. Nipps and James F. Kercheval, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner and Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers also were at the forum.

Metzner, who had been part of the group, said even though the committee doesn't agree on everything, they usually walk away understanding the views of the city and county governments.

The meetings, he said, have improved communication and eliminated "nasty" comments that might have otherwise been aired publicly by city and county elected officials.

He expects the cooperation to continue "as long as intelligent people hold these positions" (on the committee), Metzner said.

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer has since taken Metzner's place on the two plus two committee.

"I have a much better understanding of the City of Hagerstown than I have ever had," Nipps said.

Metzner said he believes the committee also is working because of its size. He said including all five commissioners and five council members in the group wouldn't be productive.

"Put 10 politicians in a room with all supportive staff, the media and rules of order, and you get nothing done," Metzner said.

An issue the group hasn't been able to work out is the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), which helps ensure schools, roads and other public services are adequate to handle growth.

The county has asked municipalities to adopt an ordinance similar to the county's, mainly in an effort to keep schools from becoming overcrowded, Kercheval and Nipps said.

Metzner and Aleshire expressed concern that adopting the ordinance would bring growth in the city to a halt.

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