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Council members clash on coalition's course

August 03, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

Hagerstown City Council identified Tuesday four issues it will introduce to a community lobbying coalition.

East End revitalization, hotel-motel tax legislation, highway-user revenue and income-tax revenue were all identified as issues the city would like to see lobbied to the state delegation.

Disagreement about how to introduce its priorities to the coalition slowed the discussion, which lasted about 45 minutes.

As the council debated how it should approach the coalition, the four issues floated to the surface.

Concerned that an undeveloped idea would not progress, Councilman Martin Brubaker said that whatever the council brought to the coalition should be backed by a proposal.

The city should not propose an issue until it was well thought out, shaped and tangible, he said.

"I just hesitate to put the cart before the horse," he said.

Councilman Forrest Easton said he questioned the efficiency of drafting proposals versus allowing the coalition to be the forum for detailed discussion.

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"I don't understand why we cannot just put it on the board," he said, referencing a list generated by the coalition of potential issues. "I thought we were discussing what our priorities were to send to the discussion for the next (coalition) meeting."

Despite caution from Councilman William Breichner that the coalition has asked that issues be sensitive to the state's fiscal situation, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II suggested asking the coalition to lobby for a bond bill to help fund projects in the East End, like a new or renovated stadium.

"How can we ask for a bond bill for a stadium when the owners (of the Hagerstown Suns) have not said what they want?" asked Councilman Lewis C. Metzner.

The city owns the current stadium and Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said hotel-motel tax legislation should be addressed before suggesting funding for a stadium.

Haywood argued that as it was written, the state's enabling hotel-motel bill was prohibitive to projects like a stadium and that it needed to first be updated so it doesn't create a roadblock.

Metzner said the city has a significant East End development issue, with the hospital moving and the stadium in limbo.

He also said he felt the solution to how to introduce an idea to the coalition rested somewhere between Easton's and Brubaker's positions.

He said that if the council identified one of its priorities as East End revitalization, then an appropriate discussion would follow.

"If we don't get that as a project for the lobby this year, if all we get is discourse about what we are going to do over there, isn't that what we are trying to achieve?" he asked. "If we don't bring it up now, we will be having (this) same discussion next year."

Haywood also suggested that the council use the coalition as a forum to discuss East End revitalization with people she says are part of the coalition and part of a group meeting privately to talk about such development.

She continued to emphasize the need to address enabling revenue legislation now to avoid funding obstacles later.

The coalition should also fight to recuperate highway-user funds the municipalities recently lost to the state, Easton said.

Likewise, the city should also propose the issue of protecting its state income tax revenue reimbursement, Bruchey said.

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