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Two sports-related funding requests approved by Washington County Board Commissioners

September 16, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board Commissioners this week approved two sports-related funding requests, granting $4,000 for police overtime at the JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon and $5,000 to reimburse Conococheague Little League for regional tournament expenses.

The five commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the JFK funding, but were divided 3-2 on the Little League contribution, with commissioners Ruth Anne Callaham and William B. McKinley opposed.

Conococheague Little League President Walter Williams requested the funding to help cover expenses the league incurred when its all-star team competed in the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament in Bristol, Conn., in August after winning the state championship.

Williams said the league spent about $5,380 on fuel, a rented 14-passenger van, food for the players, tournament-mandated clothes for the coaches and state champions jackets for the players. A shirt-sale fundraiser was not profitable because the league accidentally ordered double the planned number of shirts, Williams said.

The county has previously granted similar requests, providing $5,000 to Clear Spring Little League to attend the Eastern Regional in 2010; $5,000 to Conococheague Little League for the regional tournament in 2009; and $10,000 to Federal Little League to attend the World Series in 2008.

Commissioner John F. Barr made the motion to grant the request.

"Being on the previous council where precedent was set, also I have a bleeding heart for the kids," Barr said, calling the tournament a "wholesome activity, where these folks have represented our community in an honorable fashion."

McKinley said he was concerned that if the commissioners granted the request, it would have no grounds to refuse requests from any number of other local sports leagues and groups.

Callaham suggested postponing the decision until the commissioners finalize a procedure that is being developed for evaluating financial requests from "nonprofits and worthwhile endeavors."

Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline said he did not want to punish Conococheague for a policy the county does not have in place. He and Commissioners President Terry Baker voted in favor of the contribution.

The request for overtime funding for the ultramarathon came from race Director Mike Spinnler and Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, one of the sponsors of the event.

Riford said the JFK 50 — a 50-mile run through Washington County — packs local hotels on a weekend that would otherwise be a slow time for tourism. Each year, the race weekend generates more than $15,000 in lodging tax, Riford said.

The event's local economic impact is estimated, conservatively, at $350,000 to $500,000, he said.

Spinnler said the race is also a good fundraiser for local and national charities.

This year's race on Nov. 19 will be the 49th year for the JFK 50, which is the largest and oldest ultramarathon in North America.

Participation is normally capped at 1,000, but organizers are seeking authorization to expand it to 1,500 this year, Spinnler said. That decision should be made within the next two weeks, he said.

Funds for the overtime contribution will come from the county's hotel-motel tax fund.

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