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County report card released

April 30, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

To read the report card, go to www.herald-mail.com/downloads/Community_Report_Card.pdf

HAGERSTOWN

Here in Washington County, there are 20,500 more people than there were in 1990, and nearly 14,400 more cars than in 2002. The average home price rose by more than $100,000 in the past five years, but is still more than $100,000 less than the state average. And despite a surge in development during that time period, nearly half of the county's total acreage still has agricultural zoning.

That's just a fraction of the information contained in the new Community Report Card released Monday by the Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation (CHIEF).

The second such report, it includes statistics in eight areas affecting quality of life for county residents. Five of them ? demographics, economics, education, public safety and health care ? were covered in the first report, released in late 2005. The new report profiles those as well as three new categories: transportation, social well-being, and arts, culture and entertainment.

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Compiling all of this information is the first step in what CHIEF hopes will be a process to improve the quality of life in Washington County, according to Merle S. Elliott, chairman of the group's board of directors.

"We started out back about 10 or 12 years ago with a movement called 'Pride' to develop an appreciation of what we do have," he said. "But we didn't really have a scorecard; a way in which we were all talking about the same thing."

So they looked at what other communities had done and assembled of list of "critical factors affecting what makes a good community," he said.

Once they knew where they were, they could talk about where to go next.

Dozens of people involved in the various categories covered contributed information and statistics. But while the resulting document is called a "report card," it's not so much about grades ? yet. "We're not editorializing, criticizing or praising; we're reporting," Elliott said.

The next step involves analyzing the information to see what's good and what needs to be changed.

"Up until right now, we've pretty much focused on developing the information rather than interpreting it," he said. "The next role will be to talk about 'what does this mean, what kinds of conclusions can we draw?'"

Included with the charts and statistics are explanations of what the numbers mean. There are fewer explanations included with the new categories because "it's hard to get your arms around what you're going to measure," Elliott said.

Overall, there were no surprises in the report, he said.

"It's pretty much the way we thought it would be."

CHIEF will make the report available to anyone who wants it, he said. For a copy of the report, contact Dee Hockensmith from 9 a.m. to noon at 301-791-4932 or e-mail a request to deeh@hagindfound.org.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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