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Candidates address local issues

October 13, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Many of the 10 candidates running for Washington County Commissioner said at a forum Thursday morning they support a change in the county's government to charter home rule.

The candidates also expressed their views about agricultural land preservation, water and sewer capacity, education funding, economic development and other issues affecting the county.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce sponsored the forum held at the Four Points Sheraton.

Speaking on charter home rule, Democrat N. Linn Hendershot said a change would allow the commissioners to create local laws faster than under the current commissioner form of government, because they wouldn't first need state approval to do so.

Incumbent Republican Commissioner John C. Munson said he doesn't support charter home rule, because he likes the state oversight. He said the decision to change governments is up to the voters.

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William J. Wivell, also an incumbent Republican commissioner, said he could support charter home rule as long as the charter gives ample power to residents to challenge laws and have a voice in the government.

Incumbent Commissioner James F. Kercheval, a Republican, said he fully supports charter home rule and that state oversight is still in place for some matters, such as taxing authority.

On another matter, Democrat Paul L. Swartz, a former commissioner, said he thought the county should put its annual budget surplus toward providing county graduates with free tuition at Hagerstown Community College.

Republican John Barr said he would take 50 percent of the surplus and put it in a "rainy day fund" should the county need it in difficult financial times, and he'd put the rest toward educational needs and economic development.

J. Herbert Hardin, a Democrat, said he supported private/public partnerships as a way of increasing funding for school construction projects, using the North Hagerstown High School stadium project as an example.

Democrat Donna Brightman said she didn't think the county would have the ability to increase sewer and water capacities because of state and federal regulations, which could send growth into rural areas.

Democrat Kristin B. Aleshire, a Hagerstown city councilman, said he does not support the county hiring a lobbyist to push for local issues in Annapolis. He said the county has plenty of qualified people who could volunteer to do the lobbying.

Republican Terry Baker said he supports offering incentives to local people, such as a small compensation, to lobby state lawmakers and bring about positive results for the county, but that he does not favor a full-time lobbyist.

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