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Local representatives lobbying in Annapolis

February 04, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- There were about 100 lobbyists waiting to speak with Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr. outside of his office Wednesday afternoon.

After standing, mingling and pacing for about 20 minutes, one of them asked what the delay was.

"Washington County is in there," someone responded.

It was an important meeting with a General Assembly leader during a day filled with brief discussions with state lawmakers - educating them on Washington County issues and lobbying for money for local projects.

Wednesday also was Lobby Day in Annapolis - a day set aside for lobbyists to meet with lawmakers and attend a reception to push their issues.

The Washington County group included County Commissioners President John F. Barr, County Commissioner James F. Kercheval, Hagerstown City Councilman Martin E. Brubaker and School Board Vice President Ruth Anne Callaham.

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The Washington County Coalition's hired lobbyists also attended, along with at least two dozen others representing local interests.The primary project being pushed Wednesday by Washington County officials was the expansion and renovation of the Washington County Free Library in downtown Hagerstown. More than $10 million has been requested from the state for the project. About $800,000 was included in the proposed 2010 capital budget for the library construction, said Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Brien J. Poffenberger.

Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library, also attended.

Officials also asked that a legislative task force be created to study and define the parameters for reusing vacant buildings. Poffenberger said there are many vacant buildings in Washington County that could be purchased and adapted to meet other needs.

The coalition is suggesting tax credits and other incentives for officials to reuse old buildings, rather than build new ones. Documents provided by the coalition name the former Sears building in the North End of Hagerstown as an example of a vacant building that could be used.

Callaham said Washington County Public Schools now houses its maintenance operations and some administrative staff in a building along Frederick Street that was once a car dealership. She offered that as an example of adaptive reuse.

Poffenberger said the coalition learned Wednesday that even forming a task force would cost money the state does not have this year because of the need to provide staff oversight. Lawmakers suggested that the issue could be taken on by an existing group - eliminating the need for extra funds.

Washington County officials also lobbied Wednesday for funds to continue the Eastern Boulevard expansion project. The project calls for the widening of Eastern Boulevard from Md. 64 to Antietam Drive, and other improvements, including the construction of a bridge and two-lane connector highway from Eastern Boulevard to Robinwood Drive.

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