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Maryland Theatre's Hatcher asks Hagerstown to close street for final Wind Down

Board of directors surprised by request

Board of directors surprised by request

October 21, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council is scheduled to discuss during a work session today whether to close the first block of South Potomac Street on Halloween at the request of The Maryland Theatre's interim executive director, Jenni Hatcher.

The president of the theater's board of directors, however, suggested Monday that Hatcher might have overstepped her authority by failing to consult the board first. Ronald L. Bowers said he was unaware that Hatcher made the request.

"The acting director should be talking with the board," Bowers said. "... I am an extremely strong supporter of downtown Hagerstown, but collectively, as a board, there should be a discussion."

Hagerstown Community Affairs Director Karen Giffin said the street closure would be from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. to celebrate The Maryland Theatre's final Wind Down Friday concert of the 2008 season. If the council approves the request, people who attend the event would not be permitted to drink alcohol in the streets, Giffin said. All alcohol consumption would be confined to bars and sidewalk cafes.

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Hatcher said Monday afternoon that she was too busy to comment.

In a letter to Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and the council, Hatcher wrote that Wind Down Friday "has been a huge success for the Arts and Entertainment District, downtown businesses and The Maryland Theatre. The event builds in size each week and has a loyal and appropriate following of music and downtown enthusiasts."

In addition, Hatcher wrote that "this particular Wind Down has the potential to draw even more visitors and patrons with their friends to downtown Hagerstown ... and downtown businesses and merchants."

Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said he would not attend today's City Council work session to discuss the proposal, but he opposes closing the street because it would hinder the passage of emergency vehicles.

"I'm opposed to all street closings," he said.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she supported Wind Down Friday, a weekly event at the theater from 5 to 8 p.m. that featured food and live bands, but she would not support blocking off South Potomac Street until 2 a.m.

She said she was concerned that drinking at the event could get out of hand and increase the amount of drunken drivers on Halloween - the same night the city is to hold its annual trick-or-treat from 6 to 8 p.m.

"I don't want the city promoting DUIs," Nigh said.

Bruchey said he anticipates no problems because the trick-or-treat will end long before the Wind Down event gets into full swing.

"It would be a great opportunity to promote the Arts and Entertainment District," Bruchey said.

Giffin said closing the street would cost the city about $850 to hang detour signs and provide security. The money likely would come from the Public Functions Account, she said.

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