Letters to the Editor - June 28

June 28, 2012

Keep Tryst Road resident supports rail trail

To the editor:

I live on Keep Tryst Road, in the former town of Weverton, at the southern terminus of the proposed Civil War Rail Trail.  Every household on my street recently signed a letter in support of this trail.

First settled more than 200 years ago, the story of our street is one of historic grandeur eroded by time. A descendant of one of the original settlers, Jacob Miller, secured the charter for the Branch Railroad from Hagerstown to Weverton. During the Civil War, his house, which still stands proudly on Keep Tryst Road, was used by Gen. A.A. Humphreys, Chief of Staff of the Army of the Potomac, as his local headquarters while his corps was camped on the surrounding farms.

The juncture of the C&O Canal, B&O Railroad, the State Highway, the Branch Railroad and the water power of the Potomac River ensured that Weverton was also once a commercial and industrial center. No longer. Fire, floods, modern highways and the demise of rail travel have left behind only a few ruins of the former factories, distillery and other businesses.

We have a crime problem on my street. For decades, people have used the site of the old distillery as an illegal dump. A few months ago, some neighbors and I organized a cleanup that netted five entire trailers full of mattresses, couches, tires, engine parts, a washing machine and even several stolen purses.  

I’ve heard people say that the bicycle and pedestrian traffic from the Civil War Rail Trail will lead to more crime. Crime can be caused by many things, but on our street it is caused by isolation, not pedestrians. Although the C&O Canal and the Appalachian Trail run along my property, those aren’t the people I worry about. I’ve never yet seen a bicyclist dump a couch.

Restoring the connection from Weverton to Hagerstown along the old Branch Railroad probably won’t solve the crime problem on my street, but it won’t hurt it either. What it will do is recognize and celebrate a part of our county’s history that, while small, should not be forgotten.

David Hunter
Knoxville, Md.

Consultants missed some of area’s strengths

To the editor:

I read the front page article “Consultants provide the good, the bad, the ugly about Hagerstown” with great interest.

My first reaction, as a professional consultant, was why did the county and city defer to CHIEF to award the contract for the consulting work? Secondly, it struck me that CHIEF could not find one qualified consultant to do the study in all of Washington County. Amazing.

Having those points out of the way, what the article did not say is equally important.

The summary made no reference to the great historical, park and recreational resources in the city and throughout the county. These, I believe, are among the area’s greatest assets and strong building blocks for future growth.

Finally, all is not gloom and doom — though according to the article the consultants made it appear as such. Washington County is ranked 12th of 24 Maryland jurisdictions (including Baltimore City) in health outcomes and 10th in overall school rankings. And yet the county is 22nd in population with a median income that ranks 17th.

So we are middle of the pack in health outcomes and better than mid-range in schools, even though we have a low population and are toward the lower end of income.

Let’s not dwell on an out-of-state consultant’s gloom and doom and together build on what we do have in Washington County. Let’s not wring our hands about being in Maryland.  We should see where we stand against other Maryland counties and cities, and strive for the upper reaches within that sphere.

George F. Franks III

Should older, nonviolent prisoners be released?

To the editor:

The ACLU is suggesting that prisoners over 50, who have not committed violent crimes or child abuse, be considered for release because it becomes increasingly expensive to house in prison this aging population. Some of the comments opposing the ACLU’s position insist that since these people have committed crimes they must continue to be punished regardless of the expense involved. Some point out that even relatively minor crimes can leave the victims suffering for a lifetime. 

I think those who ask for revenge regardless of whether it makes sense any longer are asking for other taxpayers to pay for their revenge. How many of the people commenting have said that they are willing to pay higher taxes to keep the elderly in jail?

Locally, it is possible for a person just out of jail to get a single room, with the bathroom down the hall and a community kitchen, for about $400 a month. If food costs $100 a week, that works out to about $5,000 a year for food. The rooms are on the bus line and within walking distance of most government offices.

Medical costs will be less if the person becomes eligible for the free clinic, and no one needs to be paid to supervise them while they walk to the clinic, while they are there and while they walk back to their apartment. The person cooks their own food instead of the prison system paying somebody else to cook it for them. For recreation, they can get out and walk around the streets rather than exercising in the prison recreation yard.

It certainly comes in at a lot less than the $27,000 a year I have seen as the cost for incarcerating a person for a year.

Russell Williams

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