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Two firms amass $32K in parking debts

February 23, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A Hagerstown city councilwoman is wondering how the city staff let two downtown businesses accrue more than a combined $32,000 in parking debts.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said Award Beauty School, at 26 E. Antietam St., and Demcore Development, at 6 W. Washington St., should have started paying the parking costs several years ago.

Demcore Development owes the city $16,394.70 from parking debts that accrued since 2005 in the North Potomac Street parking deck, according to city documents. Award Beauty School owes the city $15,778.50 from fees that began to accrue in 2007 at the parking deck in the Arts and Entertainment District.

The combined bill is $32,173.20.

"Why are they still allowed to use the parking garages?" Nigh said. "If you have a bill, the normal thing is you pay it."

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Community Affairs Director Karen Giffin said Demcore Development and Award Beauty School are the only two Hagerstown businesses that have parking debts with the city.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Demcore Development and Award Beauty School had their privileges revoked at the garages earlier this month.

About two months ago, the city shifted oversight of the collections from the Finance Department to the Public Works Department, Zimmerman said. Shortly thereafter, Public Works Director Eric Deike met with representatives from Demcore Development and Award Beauty School to set up a $2,000-per-week payment plan.

Demcore Development's first check was due Feb. 13, but the company failed to pay, Zimmerman said. The first payment from Award Beauty School is due within the next week.

Mike Deming, president of Demcore Development, said Thursday he was aware that the money was due.

"It was oversight on our part," Deming said. "We'll pay it as soon as possible."

An Award Beauty School employee who refused to give her name said the business didn't know anything about the debt until about five weeks ago.

The business was providing the parking spaces for students.

"We just found out," the employee said. "We're trying to remedy the problem."

According to city documents, Award Beauty School received three invoices in 2007 and two more in 2008 that said the business owed the city money for parking.

Zimmerman said city officials haven't decided what would happen if the bills continue to go unpaid.

"We need to strengthen our collections," Zimmerman said. "It's unfortunate when these things happen, (but) we're dependent on these revenues ... Up to two months ago, we let these collections lag too long."

Zimmerman said the city also is trying to collect about $4,180 that Demcore Development owes the city for providing security for Downtown Live!, an annual one-day music event that Demcore Development stages in the fall on and around Public Square.

Deming said last year's revenue from the event didn't meet expectations because of bad weather.

Three other members of the City Council -- Martin E. Brubaker, Lewis C. Metzner and Alesia D. Parson-McBean -- said the city should try to get its money back.

"It's not acceptable," Parson-McBean said of the delinquent payments. "What's equally important is to find out how that happened."

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer did not respond to two telephone messages seeking comment.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he believed the sluggish economy was the reason the two businesses were having a hard time paying their bills.

"I don't think it's a matter of whether or not it's acceptable," Bruchey said. "We're working to find a solution for them and us."

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