Tim's 2008 year in review

January 03, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND
(Page 2 of 5)

As the citizenry returns to the status of hunter-gatherers, the Washington County Commissioners go on a spending spree, buying nearly $5 million worth of downtown property from sellers whom they initially refuse to name, and agreeing to pay nearly $1 million for a wall that would prevent inmates entering the county courthouse from being seen by the public. On the upside, the commissioners announce they have no immediate plans to mail anyone any light bulbs.

Annapolis is not as tone-deaf to the economic plight of Marylanders, however, and steps up to introduce multiple bills against schoolhouse bullies. The bill is supported by Washington County lawmakers after a Southern Maryland delegate strips the Hagerstown university campus of funding. At a committee hearing, the bullying bills are opposed by Joey Brill, Nelson Muntz and Bill O'Reilly.

Speaking of fictional characters, an independent film company selects Hagerstown for filming of a movie that features "superheroes and villains" in a world where "superheroes and villains are commonplace." Producers say Hagerstown was chosen due to its abundance of alleys and parking lots. The Hagerstown City Council calls an emergency meeting to determine whether or not this is a compliment.


In a related matter, Hagerstown residents are initially excited when they hear that City Hall is closing for good, Friday. But the glow fades when they learn that the city is merely closing for Good Friday.


But not all was good in April, as the Washington County delegation reacts angrily to being bossed around by a Southern Maryland delegate. In an inspired response to this abuse, the delegation agrees to boss around the Washington County Commissioners by forcing them to perform an "impact study" before repairing a one-lane stone bridge in Funkstown. A short time later, a Southern Maryland lawmaker beats up the Washington County delegation and takes its lunch money.

If lawmakers were spinning their wheels, developers were not. Major shopping centers are proposed on either side of Interstate 70 on Hagerstown's East End. Council members voice concern, saying it likely will be an added burden for them to have to complicate two projects at the same time.

Complicating the public school transportation policy would prove somewhat easier as the Board of Education moves to limit students to a single bus stop. The move is designed to curtail the epidemic of one student who had been dropped off at the wrong place last year. Discussion of the policy is tabled, however, as the board urgently moves on to the more pressing question of whether board member Donna Brightman's name should appear on a dedication plaque at a new school.

That argument is mild compared to one that breaks out at City Hall, where Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer accuses fellow council members of meeting behind closed doors to discuss the I-70 shopping center projects. A review of the minutes, however, shows it was Cromer who moved to go into the closed-door session in which the matter was discussed. Remarking that "superheroes and villains are commonplace, with the exception of the superheroes," an independent filmmaker scraps plans to make a movie and instead decides to market tapes of local City Council and School Board meetings.


Shooting for the film begins in May, when the City Council -- concerned that the old City Light plant has become a dilapidated eyesore -- decides that a solution is to build a fence around it. In other electrical news, Allegheny Energy says it plans to make up for the light bulb fiasco by building a high-voltage transmission line within sight of Antietam National Battlefield.

Local issues take a back seat when Gov. Martin O'Malley announces that Hagerstown will be the "State Capital for a Day." The governor and his cabinet secretaries meet at the University System of Maryland-Hagerstown campus, where they unanimously vote to build a fence around Peter Angelos. The fence comes complete with a plaque dedicating the fence to the O'Malley administration and school board member Donna Brightman.

In celebration, the school board approves a new transportation policy requiring students to walk six miles through a heavy snow to a one-room schoolhouse.

Transportation also was on the minds of dozens of Funkstown residents who protested the closure of the Funkstown bridge for repairs, saying it would prevent access to businesses to the south, especially for the many county residents unfamiliar with Interstate 70. But their concerns are drowned out by a troop of confused lobbyists who, in town for Hagerstown's "Capital for a Day" program, offer cash campaign contributions to Little Heiskell.


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