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State of the city's sidewalks

March 04, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

Proposals to help Hagerstown residents pay for sidewalk repairs were a few of the talking points Tuesday during the annual State of the City address.

About 110 people spotted the vast Maryland Theatre to have some of their questions answered by Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and four of the five City Council members.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh did not attend because she was sick.

Bruchey said curbs and sidewalks that are ripped up in front of homes when the city resurfaces streets have to be replaced at the expense of the property owner.

One of the proposals to help ease the financial burden would involve adding a $6 quarterly fee on the water bills of residential customers and a $15 quarterly fee on the bills of commercial customers.

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Residents who are older than 65 and have limited incomes would be excluded, he said.

Bruchey said after the address that an alternate proposal would charge residents a $20 annual tax that would be earmarked for sidewalk repairs.

He said the proposals, if implemented, would prevent residents from getting hit with an unexpected repair bill that could cost thousands of dollars.

"I would rather pay $20 a year for peace of mind so I'm not putting out $3,000 for a sidewalk repair," Bruchey said. "That's one of the things we have to look at."

One audience member asked the mayor and council to explain how they were dealing with some of the city's biggest challenges.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said city officials work tirelessly to obtain federal funding to help maintain Hagerstown's infrastructure.

Because of those efforts, Metzner said, the city is on the verge of being awarded $4 million from the office of U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., and about $685,000 from other sources. None of that money is from the federal stimulus package, he said.

The city also has asked for $3.8 million to help small-business owners, Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean said. That money would include paying for initiatives to market the city.

The address, which included a 20-minute video that highlighted the city's progress over the past year, lasted about one hour and 15 minutes.

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