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Locals won't hold in fury over Sideling Hill closing

July 27, 2009

o If you like reading Tim Rowland, you'll love watching him. See what else Tim has to say

So naturally, Maryland's budget is in the red again, and naturally the state needs to enact a bunch of cuts to make ends meet, and naturally it comes to Washington County looking for something it can take away from us to help save money.

And the only thing we had of value was a highway rest area?

That's depressing. It's like the estate broker coming over to your parents' house and telling you that the only antique that's marketable is a pastry cutter in the shape of Dwight Eisenhower.

And even that's not worth much. The state will save $110,000 by closing the beautiful Sideling Hill Exhibit Center on Interstate 68, which will go a long way toward closing the state's $700 million budget shortfall. All we have to do is close another 6,000 visitor centers and we're almost there.

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The state, for now, is saying the restrooms will remain open and I'm sure they will until they figure out they can save an annual $47 on urinal cakes.

Then, I can almost guarantee it will be like our other interstate rest area on Interstate 70. They'll close the ramp, park a bunch of heavy machines in the lot and let it sit that way for 10 years. So from east to west there will be no place to go to the bathroom. Welcome to Washington County. Motto: Just Hold It.

Well, I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of the State of Maryland balancing the budget on the backs of the incontinent.

And it's not just Maryland. Any state in financial trouble -- first thing they do is close all the rest areas. They must teach this in Government School, like what they tell you about rolling on the ground if you catch on fire.

I had no idea rest areas were such an economic drain, so to speak. Until we, as a nation, get over our collective bathroom addiction, we will continue to have to sell our souls to Chinese bond holders.

Bureaucrats must have no idea how ridiculous they look when, facing $700 million deficits, they respond by locking down toilets. It's like a guy with a $60,000 credit card debt deciding that he can no longer afford cheese on his Whoppers.

But aside from that, it's hard to believe that the people responsible for the decision to close the center have ever been out to see the fantastic geological exhibit at the Sideling Hill cut. Figures, just when a highway rest area is in danger of becoming interesting, they shut it down.

Good luck with that, especially in the next election. I'm not sure that Gov. O'Malley is familiar with the thinking -- if that is the right word, which it almost assuredly is not -- of Washington Countians.

Ask us if we want a highly educational geological exhibit on the interstate and we'll say "No, no, no, harumph, harumph, harumph. Don't waste our hard-earned tax dollars on some glorified rock pile."

But try to take it away from us and your political life won't be worth a plug nickel. Next election, we'll all be shouting "Remember Sideling Hill" like it was the freakin' Alamo or something.

Since the governor is taking suggestions from the public for budget cuts on his Web site, I'd like to suggest the speed-camera program. After all, we've been told this isn't a moneymaker, it's a safety issue. In these tough times, we just can't afford to be that safe.

Unless we've been misled and the speed cameras are indeed a moneymaker. But in that case, I have another idea. Put cameras in the Sideling Hill center and if a child is caught on video learning something, send him a bill for $25.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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