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Downtown block could close for October events

September 08, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- South Potomac Street's first block can be closed three times in October for public events, the Hagerstown City Council tentatively agreed Tuesday.

However, for two occasions, the council cut the number of hours the block would be closed to vehicle traffic.

One request, by Washington County Public Schools, was to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts on Tuesday, Oct. 20. The block would close from 3 to 5 p.m. The council didn't object.

The other two requests were by The Maryland Theatre, which asked for the street to be closed Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24.

Halloween Wind Down Friday, a family event with music and children's activities, will be Oct. 23. The theater wanted the street closed from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.

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The next day, the theater will have two sold-out performances by comedian Ron White at 7:30 and 10 p.m. The theater requested the street be closed from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Some council members said they thought the requested closings were too long. Instead, they tentatively agreed to close the block from 5 to 10 p.m. for Halloween Wind Down Friday and 6 p.m. to midnight for the Ron White performances.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the longer hours wouldn't be fair to volunteer fire police officers, who direct traffic when roads are closed.

"They have families," he said. "They have a life."

The council didn't formally approve the requests at Tuesday's work session. Usually, matters that require a vote are on the agenda for the last meeting of the month, which will be Sept. 22.

The previous city council agreed to close the first block of South Potomac Street at least a few times, sometimes after debating the concept and the terms.

Responding to council members' questions Tuesday, Jay C. Constantz, the theater's executive director, said the theater wanted the streets closed for White's shows because more than 2,700 people will be coming and going as the first group exits and the second group arrives. "It would be a safety factor," Constantz said.

But Metzner and Councilman William M. Breichner named other sold-out shows at the theater that didn't require closing the block.

Metzner also challenged the theater's request to serve alcohol at Halloween Wind Down Friday. He said alcohol shouldn't be sold at a family event.

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