Nothing wrong with this picture

Readers resolve issues through newspaper

Readers resolve issues through newspaper

December 05, 2009

Readers have gotten results.

Roads have been repaired. Sidewalks are safer. And a quiet zone has been made quiet.

Since late August, The Herald-Mail has published a new weekly feature called What's Wrong With This Picture? Each Monday, the newspaper reports on an infrastructure issue or other problem, who is responsible and what is being done to fix it.

So far, readers have suggested a wide range of issues, and the newspaper has shed light on some confusing situations and simple problems in Washington County.

In many instances, after being spotlighted in the newspaper, the issues have been addressed by the responsible organization or government body. When repairs have not been possible, officials have explained their processes evaluating the safety of bridges and roads.


All of it is enlightening.

We started off Aug. 24, reporting on a deep gouge across a lane of Summit Ave. in Hagerstown. It was not a big deal, but it made the ride bumpy for anyone who went over it. We found out the City of Hagerstown was already on it. The gouge would be repaired as part of a plan to repave a large section of Summit Avenue. The paving was done by the middle of September.

Several potholes have been patched after readers informed us about them.

One Monday, we reported on a set of metal cellar doors in the sidewalk along West Antietam Street. They were rusted and bent, not something I would have wanted to walk on. After we inquired about them, the City of Hagerstown notified the property owner that the doors needed to be replaced, and they were.

Another time, we heard about a family cemetery near Old Forge Elementary School that was in disrepair. After The Herald-Mail story ran, readers took action and cleaned it up.

One reader who instigated action is Wilson Shearer, who lives near a railroad crossing on Northern Avenue in Hagerstown. He suggested that The Herald-Mail look into why train horns were blowing despite signs that said "no train horn," designating a quiet zone.

CSX, which owned the tracks, did have the quiet zone on its records. The City and CSX worked it out, and now there's no more train whistle at the crossing. Shearer said a CSX spokesman even called him to express regret for the misunderstanding.

Another report led to the Maryland State Highway Administration installing a sign and rumble strips to warn motorists about a sharp curve on Fairview Road in northern Washington County.

The administration also repaired a hazard along Bradbury Avenue, near Smithsburg, after The Herald-Mail reported on it in November. Debbie Bakner, who lives in the area, tipped us to the problem.

"We appreciate the citizen bringing it to our attention," State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said.

Buck's comment illustrates the power of thousands of Herald-Mail readers. Thousands of eyes can see a lot more than a relative few. The government bodies with oversight have shown that they will fix what they can, as soon as they can, if they know about a problem.

If you see a safety issue or know of a major annoyance that one of our governmental bodies, an agency or an organization is responsible for fixing, let The Herald-Mail know. A reporter will find out who is responsible and what can be done.

Send the information -- and a photo if you have it -- to: What's Wrong With This Picture?; c/o The Herald-Mail newsroom; 100 Summit Ave.; Hagerstown, MD 21740. You also can e-mail the information to Linda Duffield at

Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at

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