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Steele comes to area to tout state programs

May 11, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

HANCOCK

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and an entourage of state officials paid an afternoon visit to Washington County's westernmost municipality on Wednesday, visiting local parks and a business, and talking over municipal and economic issues with town officials and business owners.

And while Steele and the four cabinet secretaries who accompanied him were quick to tout the policies of the current administration, not once, at least officially, was the word "election" mentioned.

Steele, who is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes, was a little late for his Hancock appointment, having stopped in Hagerstown to address the Rotary Club's weekly luncheon. He toured Rayloc Industries and local parks before checking in at town hall for a chat with the mayor and council.

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It was the 85th of such "municipal visits" he has made in the state, according to the lieutenant governor's office.

"We call them 'municipal visits' in our office, but in yours, it may be a day from hell," Steele quipped as the legion of state officials took seats in the council chamber.

The stated purpose of the visit was to spread awareness of state programs designed to aid local governments with various issues. Secretary of Housing Victor Hoskins told council members about the various options in place to help with home ownership.

"We're really serious about trying to reinvest your resources," Hoskins said. State programs to aid with obtaining mortgages would see $500 million this year in single-family mortgages, he said, and "32,000 housing opportunities have been created" during the administration of Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

Hoskins added that his office also handled the state's Community Legacy program, which offers money for public projects.

"The money can be used for anything," he said. "The only requirement we have is that you match it."

By then, Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, already had tapped Hoskins for a way to help the YMCA in Cumberland, Md., with its finances.

But it was Secretary of Planning Audrey Scott who had Mayor Daniel A. Murphy's ear.

Scott said her department was ready to help municipalities with growth issues, and Murphy said Hancock had a few.

"We didn't know we had building lots, but developers are finding them," he said.

Scott encouraged town officials in their pursuit of a zoning ordinance - otherwise, she said, "you would lose control over your destiny."

Also with Steele were officials from the Departments of the Environment, Natural Resources and Business and Economic Development, as well as the state highway administration.

After meeting with town officials, they set off for Weaver's Restaurant for a meeting with business leaders.

But a lieutenant governor's work is never done. After that meeting, he was headed back to Hagerstown to give the keynote address at the Republican Club's Lincoln Day Dinner. There, at least, everyone could expect to hear the word "election."

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