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Sidewalk discussion gets disorderly

March 24, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

The City of Hagerstown will form a task force to explore ways to ease the financial burden on residents who are ordered to repair their curbs and sidewalks.

On Tuesday, the City Council discussed the formation of the task force, which could include an elected official, one of the city's attorneys and members of the city staff.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the task force would investigate ways to raise money to pay for the repairs, such as a marginal tax or a $5 to $12 payment that would be added quarterly to water bills.

The money then would be put in a fund and used to pay for curb and sidewalk repairs, rather than having property owners take care of the problem at an average cost of about $2,500.

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According to city documents, the task force would be charged, among other things, with determining the amount of the tax or water bill increase, how to address property owners who are elderly and/or need financial assistance, and whether residential and commercial property owners should pay the same rate.

Although they agreed to form the task force, some of the council members seemed apprehensive.

Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said residents might start asking to have their sidewalks repaired if they know the city is going to pay for it.

Throughout the discussion, members of the council often spoke over each other and showed little respect to colleagues who had the floor.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the curb and sidewalk repair issue has been discussed without success since he joined the council more than 12 years ago. One of the problems, he said, is that the issue isn't as clear cut as it seems.

"A lot of people don't have sidewalks that they're required to have," he said.

Metzner said he didn't "agree with this task force being appointed by the mayor."

When asked after the discussion what he meant, Metzner said he had "concerns" about some of Bruchey's recent appointments but declined to discuss specific individuals.

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