Washington County briefs

September 12, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

County to give group $20,000 to light field

The County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to give Hagerstown Fairgrounds Softball Association $20,000 to light one of its fields.

The money will come out of taxes collected on local hotel and motel rooms.

Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, lobbied in favor of using lodging-tax revenue for the project.

He said softball tournaments often draw large groups of players and their families, who stay at local hotels and motels.

For a tournament held in Washington County in July, teams from the East Coast rented 155 rooms, a memo from Riford says.

Visitors spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the community while they're here, he said.

Lights will allow a local tournament to be bigger and attract more teams, Riford said.

The softball association raised $40,000 on its own, association representative Mike Kelbaugh said.

It also received $36,000 in state Program Open Space money from the city of Hagerstown.


Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said the City of Hagerstown usually doesn't benefit from the lodging tax fund, even though it has a majority of the county's hotels and motels.

University System reports growth

In about 2 1/2 years, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown has doubled the number of schools it houses and increased its programs from 12 to 19, Executive Director C. David Warner III said Tuesday.

In an update for the Washington County Commissioners, Warner said the regional center's budget has doubled since it opened in January 2005.

After starting with no scholarship money, the center has reached a milestone by getting cash and pledges of more than $212,500, triggering a $212,500 match from the John M. Waltersdorf family and the Richard A. Henson Foundation, Warner said.

County to issue bonds for nursing home

Washington County has agreed to issue $14 million in bonds as a loan to finance a nursing home construction project.

Homewood Retirement Centers of the United Church of Christ is putting up an 80-bed nursing home on Virginia Avenue near Williamsport, replacing a current 140-bed building that will be torn down.

Conrad Peachey, Homewood's vice president of operations, said the new building will be about 72,000 square feet, or 8,000 square feet larger than the building that now stands. It will give patients more privacy.

Homewood will be responsible for the costs of the bond issue, according to a memo by County Attorney John M. Martirano. The county will have no liability.

The commissioners approved the bond issue, 4-0. Commissioners President John F. Barr abstained from the vote because his business is working at Homewood.

In the hallway afterward, Peachey said the estimated cost of construction and financing of the new nursing home is $15.2 million.

The demolition of the current nursing home will be a separate project.

He said he expects the grading of the site to start in October. It will take about 18 months to build the new nursing home, he said.

People speak out at 'false alarm' hearing

Several people spoke Tuesday during a public hearing on a proposed "false alarm" ordinance.

The county is considering levying fines for false alarms and requiring people to pay $30 for permits for residential or commercial alarms.

A draft copy of the ordinance says false-alarm offenders would be warned the first two times in a calendar year, then would have to pay a fine.

At least one person who spoke Tuesday objected to the appeals system and other logistical aspects, while others didn't like paying the permit fee.

Col. Randy Wilkinson said people wouldn't be charged with a false-alarm offense if the call was canceled before police responded.

"This is not an anti-alarm law," said Norma C. Beaubien, director of the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department's False Alarm Reduction Section. "This is an anti-false alarm law. There's a huge difference."

County Attorney John M. Martirano said the commissioners have to wait at least 10 days before taking any action on the proposed ordinance.

911 operations to move to Williamsport

The county's 911 fire and emergency services system is moving out of Hagerstown.

The County Commissioners agreed Tuesday on a $1.5 million contract to renovate the former public works annex building on Elliott Parkway near Williamsport.

The operations now at 33 W. Washington St. in Hagers-town will move to the renovated building.

The contract was awarded to Palmer Construction Co. of McConnellsburg, Pa. A memo referred to Palmer as the low bidder.

The commissioners voted to approve both the contract and a budget transfer that will increase state funding for the project by $175,000.

Joseph Kroboth, the county's public works director, said he expected the fire and emergency services operations to stay on Elliott Parkway for at least 10 years.

Group pitches idea of transportation lobbyist

A plan to spend $25,000 to hire a lobbyist for transportation funding was pitched to the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday.

Representatives of the Greater Hagerstown Committee said they are hoping to collect $50,000 through a cooperative effort of the county, the city of Hagers-town, other municipalities in the county and local business people.

Business people have committed $10,000, Greater Hagerstown Executive Director Art Callaham said.

The city council hasn't made up its mind about contributing $10,000.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said he opposes hiring a lobbyist.

But Commissioner James F. Kercheval said a lobbyist could help the county aggressively go after federal transportation funding.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire questioned why a lobbying firm already working for a coalition that includes the county government couldn't work on transportation issues, too.

The commissioners tabled the request.

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