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City mulls reallocating park money

July 12, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday discussed reallocating $40,000 of Program Open Space funding to an electrical project at Fairgrounds Park, rather than going with the original plan to buy playground equipment and park benches.

According to a city memorandum, the issue to reallocate the money started in June, when a Washington County Commissioner told Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer that the commissioners preferred the Fairgrounds Park project, which involves running electrical wires to the park's softball fields so night tournaments could be held.

Program Open Space is a public program that, in part, awards funding for cities to make park improvements.

Cromer could not be reached for comment.

But the memorandum said that the commissioner, later identified as James F. Kercheval, allegedly told Cromer that the Fairgrounds Park project should get more consideration because softball tournaments would bring money to the county.

Kercheval said Wednesday that he wasn't trying to sway the council on how the city should spend its share of Program Open Space money.

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"I just thought (Fairgrounds Park) was a stronger project," he said. "(The commissioners) try to be respectful to the towns and what they want."

The city requested $365,000 earlier this year from Program Open Space to make improvements at Claude M. Potterfield Pool and a number of city parks throughout the city, according to documents from the City Planning Department. Hagerstown was awarded $213,972 in June.

When the council made its initial request for Program Open Space funding, running electricity to the ballfields at Fairgrounds Park was low on the list.

If the Fairgrounds Park project gets moved up, the city documents said that other Program Open Space projects would have to be scratched, such as buying an $18,000 playground for Claude M. Potterfield Pool and equally priced benches and tables for City Park.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she would fight reallocating the money to Fairgrounds Park.

"I'm not happy with this ... Program Open Space is for the kids," she said.

The parks need playground equipment to keep children off the streets, she said.

Nigh said she wasn't opposed to adult softball leagues holding tournaments.

She suggested softball league members should hold fundraisers to get the money - something adults could do more easily than children.

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