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Council gives unofficial nod to second Downtown Live

June 13, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown developer received the city council's unofficial approval on Tuesday to stage a party this October in the downtown.

Only Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she was opposed to developer Mike Deming's plan of closing the square Oct. 20 to hold Downtown Live.

South Potomac Street would be closed to Antietam Street as well.

This would be the party's second year if the council officially sanctions the event during a June 19 voting session.

By blocking off the streets to traffic, Nigh said public safety vehicles would have a more difficult time responding to emergencies.

"I don't want to have it on my head if someone should die," she said.

Her concerns were backed up in a memorandum that Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary R. Hawbaker drafted last Friday.

The memorandum said, in part, "It would be impossible for the (fire department) to fully support any activity that could delay our normal response time."

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After the council's Tuesday work session ended, a handful of downtown business owners confronted Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II concerning the city's stance on the issue.

Valerie Minteer, owner of Bones & Cones Dessertery at 2 S. Potomac St., told the mayor that he was putting the well-being of Deming and other developers before established business owners.

Late last month, she informed the council that Downtown Live is nothing but a drunk fest that disrupts downtown business.

On Tuesday, Minteer said she would be participating in a more family-friendly festival in Frederick the day of Downtown Live.

Carlen Loy, owner of Piedmont Gifts, said she also plans to close her store during Downtown Live to avoid the hassle.

Both were frustrated that the mayor and council would allow the square to be closed so Deming, a private businessman, could reap the profits.

Deming said during the meeting that he lost several thousand dollars last year by hosting Downtown Live, but such events are needed to promote the city.

"My whole life is invested downtown," he said.

Deming told the council that he would pay for any city safety services that are needed.

He also agreed to shorten the length of the party by one hour, and hold it from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he supported Downtown Live.

"(It's) important for council to show investors it won't pull the rug out from under them," he said.

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