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Commissioners OK Municipal Stadium upgrades

October 23, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

The Washington County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to help fund improvements to Hagerstown Municipal Stadium.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II asked the commissioners to contribute $15,500 to help replace the infield and install a bullpen phone at the stadium.

The $35,500 project is expected to be split between the county, the City of Hagerstown, the Washington Nationals, the Hagerstown Suns, and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Nationals are the Suns' major league affiliate.

The county will pay for its share of the project out of the hotel-motel tax.

The City of Hagerstown has agreed to contribute $10,000. The Washington Nationals will pay $5,000, the Suns will pay $5,000 and the convention and visitors bureau will pay $5,000.

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Bruchey asked the commissioners to pay $10,500 toward the infield repairs and the full $5,000 cost of the bullpen phone.

He said the field has not been repaired since the early 1980s.

Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Tom Riford said the Suns provide a large economic benefit to the county through hotel rooms booked for players, referees and others. He said 153,000 people attend Suns games every year.

The commissioners voted to approve the funding, but will pay for the infield repairs out of fiscal year 2008 funds and the bullpen phone from fiscal year 2009 funds.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, a former Hagerstown City Councilman, voted against the proposal.

"The city has $20,000 to $30,000 per year budgeted to pay for improvements to the stadium. The money for the phone should come out of those funds," Aleshire said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell also voted against supporting the project.

He said the Suns, who pay the city $1 per year to rent the stadium in exchange for maintaining the grounds, should pay for the work.

"The issue in this case is taxpayer money supporting a for-profit company," Wivell said. "They're paying $1 a year for rent; they should be able to find the money for this."

Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said after the City Council meeting Tuesday night that he was pleased the commissioners agreed to allocate the money.

"I think it's very positive that the commissioners saw fit to contribute hotel-motel tax to the stadium's improvements," he said.

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