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County Commissioners agree to help pay for new Hagerstown water line

January 09, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - In an effort to get one of the county's most important road projects under way, the Washington County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to help replace an aging City of Hagerstown water line.

The water line runs along Edgewood Drive and would at least have to be partially relocated when the intersection of U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive is expanded.

But city officials said the line should be replaced, not relocated, and have argued that they cannot pay the full cost of the replacement.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue said the city had been hesitant to support a construction agreement for the intersection project - which is being divided between the county, city and state - until the water line issue was resolved.

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"I feel that we've worked through many of the issues, and I'm prepared to recommend approval of (the project's construction agreement) based on the county's actions," Tissue said.

The Hagerstown City Council will discuss the project at its Jan. 15 meeting.

The $12.3 million project, which will add extra lanes to one of the county's most congested intersections, has been delayed several months as the three governments hammer out the financial terms of the construction agreement.

Meanwhile, construction costs continue to rise, said Gary W. Rohrer, director of special projects for Washington County.

"At this point, it's kind of like Nero watching Rome burn," Rohrer said last week.

The cost of the project has risen more than $1 million in the last 18 months, according to Maryland State Highway Administration estimates.

Rohrer said while he thinks replacing the water line is the city's obligation, he recommended that the county help pay for it just to get the project moving.

"The longer we wait, the more costs are going up for all of us," Rohrer said.

The county's current share of the total project is $3,632,156, according to a draft agreement.

The county commissioners voted 3-2 to pay 30 percent, or $61,501, of the cost to replace the water line. The motion also capped the county's share of the replacement at $75,000.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval, Vice President Terry L. Baker and President John F. Barr voted to approve the payment, saying it was worth it to get the project under way.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire agreed but voted against the motion, saying the cap was unnecessary.

"Once this hurdle is passed, the project begins. I'm not looking to sit here and create an additional ax to grind with another governing body," said Aleshire, a former city councilman.

Commissioner William J. Wivell also voted against the motion, calling it "common sense" to not pay for a city project.

Maryland State Highway Administration Engineer Robert Fisher said the intersection-widening project is scheduled to start in May.

He said the state has begun acquiring rights of way near the intersection and will advertise for bids Jan. 29.

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