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Hagerstown Council goes public with Suns negotiations

City's latest draft of a lease agreement provides for five additional one-year terms - 2013 through 2017

April 10, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

After months of closed-door sessions, talks about a lease extension with the Hagerstown Suns finally went public Tuesday night.

The Hagerstown City Council was about to adjourn into executive session to discuss “a business or industrial organization” when Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, who has been adamant about making negotiations with the Suns public, spoke up before the motion.

Metzner questioned the need to continue having private talks about a lease extension with the Suns and a potential new multiuse stadium.

“To me, the biggest impact on this project is the failure to get strong public support, and I think the biggest reason we can’t get strong public support is we don’t discuss it in public,” Metzner said.

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The five-member council, which tabled its motion to go into executive session, proceeded to discuss the lease extension publicly.

Based on discussions Tuesday, the city’s latest draft of a lease agreement with the Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals provides for five additional one-year terms — 2013 through 2017 — that could be added onto the existing lease, which expires Dec. 31, 2012.

Since the talks are now out in the open, Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said the council didn’t agree to every demand set forth by the Suns in previous negotiating sessions.

“They presented us with a lot of demands that get up into the $100,000, $200,000 range — when you total them up — that this council did not agree to,” he said. “We’ve got what we think is a fair agreement in order to extend the lease and keep them here, and negotiate with them. But what they proposed to us was in much excess of what this latest draft is.”

The draft of the agreement — which does not include an exclusivity clause for rights to the club — states that the city would incur all utility costs, as well as the costs for fire, police and security, and ambulance and paramedic services at home games.

Utilities are expected to cost an additional $20,000, and security coverage would run another $15,000, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

Fire service would remain the same, but ambulance services, which were requested to be provided by the Community Rescue Service, raised the eyebrows of Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood.

“The Community Rescue Service is not in a financial position to provide services without cost,” said Haywood, who also sits on the CRS board of directors.

The annual cost for providing paramedic services for all Suns homes games is around $8,000 per year, Haywood said. Her concern was that officials from CRS haven’t been consulted in the negotiation process about their services.

From 2006 to 2011, CRS only transported 10 cases from Municipal Stadium, mostly from injuries suffered from people being struck by foul balls, Haywood said.

Haywood said that they should check with the Suns' insurance policies to see if the nearby city ambulance service would suffice rather than keeping personnel on-site.

“Perhaps we need to negotiate or at least present that information to the Suns because regardless one of us is going to have incur these costs,” she said.

Zimmerman said city officials have budgeted about $50,000 for increased costs in next year’s budget to account for the lease extension.

The mayor and city council expects to receive the results of the stadium study from The Ripken Group by the end of the week before meeting with county and state officials on Tuesday, April 17, at City Hall.

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