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'State of the County' questions

February 05, 2008

This morning at 7:30 a.m., the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce will host the county's annual "State of the County" meeting at the Four Points by Sheraton on Hagerstown's Dual Highway.

Such meetings usually involve a report on government's recent progress and upcoming projects.

For example, in 2007, Commissioners President John Barr reported on upcoming school construction, a new emergency communications system and the redevelopment of the former Fort Ritchie Army base.

At that meeting, Barr also warned that revenue for new schools would likely be hard to find, given the shortfall in the county's excise tax.

This morning's meeting is likely to bring more of the same, as the housing slump and the sub-prime mortgage mess continue to be drag on the national and local economies.

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Such meetings usually put aside time for questions. Here are a few we would like hear answered:

· The announcement that Hancock's Rayloc plant will soon close, putting more than 200 out of work, seems to have come as a surprise to many. Is anyone in county government assigned to work with existing companies and was Rayloc's parent company offered any incentives to keep the plant open?

· Hagerstown's City Council just voted to hire nine new firefighters. Since the city's fire companies often assist on mutual-aid calls outside the city limits, can the county help pay for those workers?

· A new round of property assessment notices went out recently and, despite falling house prices, assessed values for many homes have increased. Are the commissioners prepared to offer citizens relief by cutting the property tax rate?

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