Letters to the Editor - July 1

July 01, 2012

Students have received excellent health care

To the editor:

In the midst of the present crisis regarding school health services, I would urge all citizens of Washington County to keep in focus the excellent health care that our students have received from school health staff over the past 18 years.

As an employee of the county health department, it was my privilege to work with school health staff as a program supervisor from 1995 until my retirement in 2005.

The success of this program stems from the extraordinary collaboration of the health department and the Board of Education. We worked hand in hand, opening new health offices, expanding services and introducing school-based wellness sites in high schools. The focus for both groups always concentrated on optimum health care for students.

In my opinion, in recent years, the school health staff have not received this same support from their employer, the Washington County Health Department. In fact, if the staff were queried, they would tell you that the majority of support that they receive comes from principals, teachers and school staff and, most importantly of all, parents.

In recent years, school nurses and health assistants have been functioning under difficult circumstances administratively, and despite this problem have continued to provide optimum health services for which they deserve great credit.

In the days and weeks ahead, as the nurses and health assistants struggle with their joblessness, I am hopeful that the agency that assumes responsibility for school health services will consider the nursing expertise, commitment and dedication to our students that these people have courageously exemplified.

Carolyn G. Donegan

Local Republicans are victims of their own tactic

To the editor:

Del. Neil Parrott is correct that redistricting will probably cost Congressman Bartlett his seat. He is also correct that Bartlett fits in well with the current and historic demographics of our district and he has fairly and acutely represented most of the views of our voters. I also agree that it is a shame that the generally homogenous nature of our district will be destroyed and that the mostly rural and conservative population of Northern and Western Maryland will lose its voice.

But I bet Parrott would be silent and probably joyful if we were a Republican-controlled state and a Democrat was being redistricted out of his job and the liberal constituents were losing their spokesman. Who has ever heard a politician bemoan the loss of an opposition party’s member? Rare is the politician who would lobby for compact and rational districts mandated by law and drawn by impartial boards.

Gerrymandering and the conspiracy between both political parties to create safe districts has all but destroyed the essence of the American body politic as envisioned by our founders. The use of gerrymandering — the act of redistricting to try to guarantee a specific electoral  outcome by including or excluding certain groups of voters — has become the unwritten law of American politics. The result is that most of the congressional districts are “safe.” According to the Cook Report of June 14, 2012, only 33 of the 435 seats in the upcoming election are considered to be even mildly competitive. That is less than 13 percent of the House membership. Without competition, we mostly get  incumbency for its own sake and the people lose their say.

It is totally ironic and sad that redistricting will cost the voters of Maryland’s 6th District their Republican representative while elsewere Republicans are the party doing the redistricting for their advantage.

Leon L. Seidman

Rail trail proponents should look at the numbers

To the editor:

The arguments for building the Hagerstown-Weverton bike trail are economic development and a place to exercise.  Setting aside property rights issues for the moment, in order to decide whether this trail makes sense, you need to look at the numbers.

The county estimates the trail will cost $500,000 a mile plus the cost of building 23 bridges and $60,000 a year to maintain.  But the 3.5-mile extension of the Western Maryland Rail Trail costs over $1 million a mile. A fairer estimate for the 24-mile Hagerstown-Weverton trail is $30 million. 

The $60,000 to maintain is lowball, pays for one person and leaves little to maintain the trail and bridges and to buy gas to inspect and patrol the trail. Some work could be done by volunteers but much, like maintaining bridges, could not.   Published DNR data indicates maintaining this trail would be between $350,000 and $650,000. 

Rail trails are funded through the state’s Transportation Enhancements Program, which pays only half of the cost of a trail. The county would be responsible for the other half plus 100 percent of any overruns, maintenance and legal liability. 

A study of the economic benefits of the W&OD trail in Virginia shows the 1.6 million local users of that trail spend an average of less than $5 per trip. The 90,000 out-of-town users spend an average of less than $90 per person.

Those 1.7 million users generated 34 jobs — or 50,000 bicyclists for one job. 

There is no way the Hagerstown-Weverton trail would pay for itself. A few businesses close to the trail might make some money because the rest of us will subsidize them. 

Maybe the county should build this trail anyway, but then you have to say existing trails, like 78 miles of the C&O Canal, trails at Antietam Battlefield and the soon-to-be-expanded Western Maryland Rail Trail, are not enough and this trail is more important than other needs.

We need after-school programs and summer programs for our children who read below grade level. If there were more funds, Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools wouldn’t have to close. The county has a $50 million backlog in roadwork that is getting bigger. 

When you add in the property rights concerns, it is clear this trail should not be built. If it goes forward, the questions for the commissioners are: What will we have to do without to build and maintain this trail and how much will taxes have to be increased to pay for it? 

Bill Daly


Rail trail would cost property owners their rights

To the editor:

After attending the rail trail meeting, we concur that there are legitimate proponents of the trail. We do not condemn those supporters for wanting the trail, but what the proponents have to realize is that they are asking property owners to sacrifice their rights. There is no guarantee from the county or the DNR that we will be protected from liability, increased taxes, loss of privacy and, most importantly, restrictions on property use. The entire right-of-way will extend through private property. Would any of the supporters want a flea market or a pig farm suddenly built next to their property?

No participants at the meeting or writers of letters in the local newspaper have acknowledged the issue of at-grade crossings. They tell stories of close encounters with motorists in other locations, yet they never mention the potential dangers this route presents. I cannot imagine a group of children on bikes crossing the road at Roxbury Road, Md. 68 or Md. 34, especially during peak commuter times.

The Civil War connection is nothing but a marketing ploy. Yes, the Battle of Antietam occurred in Washington County, and yes, the railroad company purchased land and built a railway through Washington County, but there is no historical link. Our deed shows the railroad did not even acquire the land until 1866, four years after the Battle of Antietam.

Finally, for those who tout physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle as reasons to build the trail, should taxpayers be asked to pay in excess of $20 million for a path to bike when there are other options for safe biking in the county? In particular, South County residents have a distinct advantage because they are geographically close to both the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal.

A speaker at the recent meeting in Boonsboro reflected our opinion concisely when she asked the County Commissioners, “What were you thinking?”

Craig and Lana Moore

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