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City might return Alms House grant

February 15, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown is considering whether to return an $85,000 state grant that was awarded in 2006 to help attract a developer to renovate the historic Alms House on North Locust Street.

Community Development Director Larry Bayer said city officials planned to give the grant to a developer to help renovate the house, but no one showed interest. As a further incentive, Bayer said, the city would have donated the property.

Bayer said renovations to the house, which was built in the late 18th century and served as a hospital during the Civil War, were estimated to cost about $600,000.

The city purchased the house in 2004 for $90,000.

Bayer told the City Council last week that it would be in the city's best interest to voluntarily return the grant before the state "comes and takes it." The state is less likely to award grants in the future, he said, if a municipality fails to use the ones that already have been issued.

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The council, however, told Bayer to look for other ways to use the grant before giving it back.

One of the suggestions was to determine whether the grant could be used to convert the house into a museum.

Another proposal from Councilman Martin E. Brubaker involved using the grant to attract a developer who would restore the Alms House solely for residential use.

"I would like that question answered," Brubaker said.

The original plan would have required the developer to restore the upper floor for residential use and the lower floor for commercial use.

Bayer said Friday that he left inquiries with state officials to determine whether the grant could be used as the council suggested. The city could have an answer later this week, he said.

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