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Commissioners to give $5,000 to Conococheague

August 26, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday night to contribute $5,000 from the county's hotel-motel tax fund to help reimburse Conococheague Little League for its travel expenses during the Mid-Atlantic Regional Little League tournament in Bristol, Conn.

Tuesday was the first time the commissioners had met since Aug. 4, when Conococheague Little League President Walter Williams asked them for funding to help the players' families pay for gas and lodging. At that meeting, Commissioner James F. Kercheval was absent and the matter never made it to a vote.

The full board was present for Tuesday's evening meeting in Boonsboro, and when Williams again requested funding, Commissioner Terry Baker suggested a $5,000 contribution.

That amount is half of the $10,000 contribution the commissioners made last year to the Federal Little League team that competed in the Mid-Atlantic regional and advanced to the Little League World Series.

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Baker said he suggested $5,000 because Conococheague advanced only to the regional tournament, not to the world series.

The contribution will help reimburse the league for the money it spent to pay for lodging for players' families during the six days the Conococheague 11-12 All-Star team spent in Connecticut for the tournament in early August, Williams said. The league paid for nine or 10 rooms at more than $100 per room per night, he said.

Kercheval, who voted in favor of the contribution, said it was an appropriate use of hotel-motel tax funds because the team's participation in the tournament brings positive media attention to the county, which in turn supports local tourism.

State law authorizes the county to use its hotel-motel tax allocation to fund the local convention and visitors bureau, administer the tax, develop tourism attractions, enhance economic development, and support cultural and recreational projects in the county.

Commissioners Kristin B. Aleshire and William J. Wivell voted against the contribution. Wivell has said he does not think lodging for players' families is a good use of public funds, while Aleshire has argued the county should not support Little League teams unless it is prepared to give the same support to other youth activities, such as academic teams.

Aleshire said he asked that the commissioners wait to get the county attorney's opinion on whether the contribution is an authorized use of the hotel-motel tax fund, but they voted to use it anyway.

County Attorney John M. Martirano, who was not at the meeting, said Wednesday he would need more time to discuss the matter with other county staff before he could give an opinion on whether the use of the funds was authorized.

Kercheval said Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau President Thomas B. Riford told him in an e-mail if the CVB had purchased the amount of media exposure generated by Federal's success last year, it would have cost a half-million dollars or more.

"You've got ESPN doing little spots on the team's hometown," Kercheval said. "You're talking about a worldwide stage where the games are followed by people in Japan."

He said that level of publicity distinguishes the Little League World Series from other youth activities and justifies the use of the hotel-motel tax fund.

Aleshire said he disagreed with Kercheval's reasoning and planned to suggest contributions to other types of successful youth teams whenever possible.

"I guess 99 percent of our children that participate in a huge number of other, applaudable activities aren't deserving of being brought up for a vote, let alone getting funding, because they're not on television playing baseball," Aleshire said. "There's nothing right about that whatsoever."

How they voted



The Washington County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday night to contribute $5,000 from the county's hotel-motel tax fund to Conococheague Little League.

John F. Barr -- Yes

Terry Baker -- Yes

Kristin B. Aleshire -- No

James F. Kercheval -- Yes

William J. Wivell -- No

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