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City 'great place to live' but faces challenge

March 08, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

First came a flurry of facts and figures about the city of Hagerstown's growth and financial health.

The population is rising after decades of stagnation. Property values are up. Debt is low.

"The city of Hagerstown is a great place to live, work and visit," the voice in the promotional video said at Tuesday morning's State of the City forum at Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Antietam Creek.

Then, during a question-and-answer period, pleasantries sometimes were put aside.

How would city officials work with business leaders who met with Gov. Robert Ehrlich in Annapolis on Monday?

"I think an invitation would help," Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

Will a new baseball stadium be built?

"We've not been much of a party to this discussion ...," Metzner said. "Where is the state delegation and the county commissioners on this issue?"

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The city has put "$700,000 into the stadium in the last five years," Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said of Municipal Stadium improvements. "We've seen zero put into the stadium from those other entities."

The format for this year's State of the City program - an annual event sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce - strayed from the typical.

A 15-minute whirlwind video detailed construction projects, business growth and downtown redevelopment.

In his seventh day in office in his second stint as mayor, Robert E. Bruchey II let the video tell the story.

"I'm a little bit rusty, so bear with me," Bruchey said.

The Hagerstown City Council appointed Bruchey, who was mayor from 1997 to 2001, to fill the seat after Richard F. Trump resigned about nine months into his term.

Part of the 40-minute question period focused on the business community's relationship with the city government.

Metzner said there is increasing cooperation, reversing the mood of the 2005 election, when a Republican slate accused the Democrats in office of being anti-business.

"A year ago, the folks up here didn't have a lot of support from people out there in the audience," Metzner said. "Now, there's a healing process."

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer sat at the podium between Metzner and Aleshire, but didn't speak.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh stayed at her table near the back of the room as her colleagues faced the audience.

Asked why afterward, Nigh said she figured Metzner and Aleshire would handle all of the questions, which they did, so she enjoyed the company at her table instead.

Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean did not attend. Bruchey told the audience that her father was ill.

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