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Wrong numbers, more retail, aid for Hancock and the arts

June 04, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

Over the weekend, a spokesman for Verizon tried to put a positive spin on his company's mistaken sale of 12,500 unlisted number to the publisher of the Washington County Phone Book.

"We provide tens of millions of accurate listings annually," said Harry Mitchell, Verizon director of media relations. "When an incident like this happens, we take corrective measures to keep it from recurring."

It's not inaccurate listings these customers are worried about. Heck, most of the unlisted customers whose numbers were mistakenly published would have been glad if their listings had been published with mistakes.

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As it is, too many law-enforcement officers and crime victims worry about who might use this snafu to get their information.

For many, it's not the phone number that's the problem, but the listing of their address, because it's a whole lot easier to change one's phone number than to move from one place to another.

As a small gesture of goodwill, Verizon should waive the monthly fee for keeping a number unlisted - forever - for those affected by this foul-up. It might not please everyone, but given the aggravation here, it couldn't hurt.

If you thought Washington County had more retail space than companies could ever fill, think again.

Two large developers are vying to be first with a new shopping center near the intersection of U.S. 40 and Interstate 70.

As a practical matter, only one of the centers can be built. There are only so many large tenants that can anchor a shopping center.

It doesn't make sense for these companies to put in additional locations in close proximity. That's because, even though Washington County's appetite for retail opportunities seems insatiable, at a certain point, there will only be so much demand. At that point, different locations of "big box" stores will begin dividing the market, as opposed to increasing sales.

Several thoughts: If these centers are approved, Hagerstown should extend sewer only if the chains agree to waive exclusionary lease rules.

In some cases, chains agree to a lease only if the developer agrees not to lease the same space to a competitor - even if the first tenant abandons the space for something larger.

The practice leads to empty buildings, as opposed to occupied properties increasing the value of the real estate - and thus property tax proceeds - and the amount of sales tax revenue.

We have enough empty buildings now without allowing companies to exclude the next generation of tenants.

The office of Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington, Allegany, sent out a note yesterday stating that Myers and state Sen. George Edwards, R-Allegany, Washington, are teaming up with the Great Hancock Area Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to create an industrial park north of the town.

Myers' office said he met with Gov. Martin O'Malley during the governor's recent visit to Washington County and emphasized Hancock's need for new jobs.

Myers' office also said that when Myers wrote to David W. Edgerley, Secretary Department of Business & Economic Development, he noted that in the past 14 years, Hancock, with a population of 1,725, has lost 860 jobs.

On June 14 and 15, Hagerstown's City Park will host "Art in the Park," a program the Contemporary School for the Arts. Entertainment will include Phamlife, King's Apostle's "Praise Dance" children's group and gospel recording artist Shannon Watkins.

Other family entertainments will include magician Dean Burkett, caricaturist David Ross, balloon sculptor Faith Crumbly and story telling.

The event runs from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 14 and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 15.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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