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County candidates focus on growth issue

October 07, 2006|by TARA REILLY

Candidates running for Washington County Commissioners on Friday answered questions at a forum that primarily focused on how to deal with growth in the county, and also included questions about school security and how often the commissioners meet.

The Pen Mar Regional Association of Realtors sponsored the forum at the Plaza Hotel.

Eight of the 10 commissioners candidates - Republican incumbents James F. Kercheval, John C. Munson and William J. Wivell, and Democrats Kristin B. Aleshire, Donna Brightman, J. Herbert Hardin, N. Linn Hendershot and Paul L. Swartz - attended.

Republican candidates John Barr and Terry Baker did not attend the forum.

There are five open seats on the board. The general election is Nov. 7.

Swartz called for managed growth, and pitched his plan for free tuition for county residents who attend Hagerstown Community College, saying a free education would be a boost for the housing market.

Munson said developers not only should give the county land for new schools needed as a result of growth, but also should pay to build the schools. He said taxpayers were tired of picking up the slack.

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For years, the county has left state dollars on the table for school projects, said Hendershot, a former Hagerstown city councilman. He thinks the county needs to be aggressive in securing federal and state dollars to help out.

On sewer capacity, Kercheval said the flow transfer agreement with the City of Hagerstown can be expanded to help with growth. He also said the county's transfer tax and rural rezoning has helped maintain the agricultural heritage.

Wivell said over the next four years, he would like to continue a conservative, "no-frills" approach to government, and help maintain a good quality of life. He said growth best is managed by the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and not through zoning laws.

Hardin said he wanted the county to be a "safe, secure, community." He also called on the county to help people on fixed incomes meet basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing.

Responding to a question about how often the County Commissioners should meet, Aleshire said their once-a-week meetings were adequate. Aleshire, a Hagerstown city councilman, said commissioners' meetings typically run all day, and that the commissioners also serve on several boards and committees, which also meet regularly.

Brightman said she supports the county's rural rezoning plan, saying the county could lose a lot of state funding if it changes it. She also said, "It's imperative that we have a way of keeping schools safe," but that it becomes difficult to do so when the county has so many portable classrooms that might be difficult to secure.

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