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Plan to address code violations at old Hagerstown light plant expected soon

September 26, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown officials are awaiting a plan to address code violations at the dilapidated former Municipal Electric Light Plant, which is now surrounded by a chain-link fence.

The hulking plant across from Municipal Stadium has been closed for decades, but the city recently took steps to make it safer and to pressure the owner to do something with the property.

John Lestitian, Hagerstown's chief code compliance officer, said Wednesday that the city has been talking with Partners Marketing LLP of Staunton, Va. - which has owned the property for 12 years - and anticipates getting a proposal from Partners' attorney, Bruce Poole, soon.

"We're working on it," H.D. Thompson of Partners Marketing said Wednesday, deferring to Poole for more details.

Poole was out of his office on Thursday and couldn't be reached for comment.

In May, the Hagerstown City Council agreed to have an 8-foot-high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire put around the property, at the owner's expense, under a provision that lets the city create a "temporary safeguard" when a structure or property could be hazardous.

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Lestitian said the fence cost $23,147, of which Thompson has paid $700 and owes the rest. If it isn't paid, the city will attach a lien to the property, he said.

Thompson has reimbursed the city $1,213 to cover the cost of welding metal grids over the building's windows so no one can get in, Lestitian said.

For years, homeless people have entered the building and stayed there.

There have been occasional fire calls there, including one in May, when a smoldering wooden shack was found inside.

Since the chain-link fence went up several weeks ago, there have been no reports of fires or anyone getting in, said Doug DeHaven, an assistant city fire marshal.

On Aug. 20, a report that youths were on or in the building was unsubstantiated, he said.

Three citations alleging fire-code violations at the building have not been resolved, but are on hold as the city waits to hear from Thompson and Poole, DeHaven said.

The Hagerstown Fire Department issued a citation April 6, alleging that three people had trespassed in the building.

Two more citations were issued April 24. One doubled the fine for the April 6 citation. The other was based on an allegation that combustible materials were in the building.

The fines for the second and third citations were due by May 19.

The municipal power plant shut down decades ago. A $20 million plan emerged in the 1990s to turn the plant into an energy provider in conjunction with a separate proposal for a paper-recycling operation nearby. The plan was not carried out.

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