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Hagerstown City Council works to narrow its priorities for lobbying agenda

East End revitalization, Municipal Stadium and social services among issues discussed

July 19, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

Hoping to get city issues on the community lobbying coalition agenda for next year, the Hagerstown City Council has started narrowing its priorities.

The council did not firmly establish Tuesday what issues it plans to present to the coalition for consideration, but rather debated a few possibilities that will receive additional discussion at a future work session, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said after the meeting.

Since 2006, the coalition, consisting of public and private groups, has put forward an agenda in Annapolis each year.

Councilman Martin Brubaker said the coalition members have only begun to lay ideas on the table for the upcoming 2012 session, creating an initial laundry list that it will narrow to a final agenda.

"I think, No. 1, the stadium should somehow be on that list," Councilman William Breichner said.

Municipal Stadium and East End revitalization, two lingering city issues, surfaced again Tuesday as considerations to pursue with the coalition.

Last year the council expressed its desire to make East End revitalization, including the stadium, a lobbying priority in Annapolis, but neither made the coalition's final list presented to the Washington County delegation, according to Herald-Mail reports.

On Tuesday, Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said she would like the coalition to consider a remedy for the use of service organizations in the city by those not from the area.

Last year, the council directly asked members of the delegation to consider preventing Hagerstown from being a "dumping ground" for people in need of social services.

On Tuesday, Haywood said state-backed initiatives to revitalize the city are being stifled by the pre-existing condition of the social landscape in the urban core.

Halfway houses, shelters, housing services and social services, while all important, have been strained by clients not from the county, she said.

"We continue to import our poor and the only restriction on most people in order to achieve services as a Washington County resident is to live in the Dagmar House for 30 days," she said. "Not only are we funding the poor from outside our area, we are actually working against all the great initiatives that the city, the county and the state have worked toward."

As a remedy, she suggested residency restrictions on obtaining services.

Although he said he agreed there is a problem, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner cautioned against fixing the problem by restricting services based on residency.

"It is fundamentally unconstitutional to restrict somebody's right to travel or to live," he said.

Councilman Forrest W. Easton said the issue of social services needs a global approach through the coalition.

Release of sexual offenders into the area also needs to be addressed, he said.

"We have sex offenders finishing their sentence over at the prison, and they are being released here," he said. "We have groups in this community that will take sex offenders ... so we get stuck with them."

After Breichner questioned exactly what the city would ask the coalition to pursue in Annapolis, Haywood and Easton agreed to flesh out the issues in writing.

Bruchey said he expects the discussion to continue at an Aug. 2 work session.

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