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Candidate says city should continue to cut costs and reduce tax rate

Forrest Easton says combining costs and resources with the county would be a good way to save money

March 07, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Easton
Easton

Editor’s note: This is one in an series of profiles of candidates running for office in the April 3 primary election.

City Hall staff members are working harder than ever and managing to get by with less than in previous years, but “I think there’s still a lot to do,” incumbent Hagerstown City Councilman Forrest W. Easton said.

“We’ve been able to get finances in a much better direction than where they have been historically,” said Easton, a Republican. “We have not raised taxes. We’ve been able to consolidate some of the work (and) explored different ways to get jobs done internally.”

Easton, 37, of 24 Willard St., is seeking re-election to his second term on the city council. He is one of six GOP candidates on the April 3 primary ballot. The top five vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 general election, where they will square off against five Democrats and an unaffiliated incumbent candidate for five open council seats.

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Easton, who first was elected in 2009, said he thinks the city needs to “take that to a whole new level” by continuing to cut costs and reduce the city’s tax rate, which has held steady for the past four years.

Cutting property taxes by 20 percent over the next 10 years should be the goal because it would “force us to completely change the way we do business,” Easton said.

“It would make us look at the departments that are completely necessary, which employees are completely necessary, where we can make cuts that won’t truly affect the way of life in the city of Hagerstown,” he said.

Combining costs and resources with the county would be a good way of cutting costs, Easton said.

“If we would fix the tax rate, it could take care of a lot of the issues,” he said.

Of the city’s struggling downtown, Easton said the city needs to “get out of the way.”

Sale of city-owned buildings not only should be explored, but encouraged, he said.

“The city of Hagerstown should not be in the business of being landlords,” Easton said.

City officials need to create an environment that encourages investors to invest, he said. Currently, property owners face a lot of codes and compliance issues, he said.

Keeping the Hagerstown Suns in town also has been a hot-button issue, one that Easton said he believes more parties need to support if the team is to stay.

“I think the city is the only group that’s getting beat up over the whole Suns issue,” he said. “But the city is the only (one) that has been willing to come out and commit anything. No one else is.”

All discussions about action to keep the team in Hagerstown should be public, Easton said, adding that the taxpayers need to be educated about the situation and how much it’s going to cost them.

Easton said he is not opposed to putting the issue of a stadium on the general election ballot to gauge voter support, but said private sponsors will be needed to get anything done.

Easton is a 1992 graduate of Allegany High School and has degrees from Allegany College of Maryland, Frostburg State University and Hood College. He is a senior service coordinator for Service Coordination Inc. and CEO of Frost Enterprises LLC.

Easton will face Jonathan R. Burrs, Jeffrey Coney, Chris Kelly, Don Munson and Larry Bayer in the Republican primary.

City council members serve terms of four years, earn $8,000 annually and are eligible for city health benefits. The terms of current council members are abbreviated because of the adjustment required to hold city elections with the presidential election.

Forrest W. Easton at a glance

Name: Forrest W. Easton (incumbent)

Date of birth: Aug. 27, 1974

Address: 24 Willard St.

Education: Graduate of Allegany High School, 1992; associate degree in criminal justice from Allegany College of Maryland, 1995; bachelor’s degrees in political science and justice studies from Frostburg State University, 1996; master’s degree in human science with a concentration in psychology and a master’s level certificate in thanatology (the study of death and dying) from Hood College, 2008

Occupation: Senior service coordinator, Service Coordination Inc.; CEO of Frost Enterprises LLC

Party affiliation: Republican

Political experience: Elected to City Council, served 2009-present

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