Opponents of sports/events center present signatures against project to county commissioners

September 11, 2012|By DON AINES |

In August, opponents of a new multiuse sports and events center presented to the Hagerstown City Council a petition with 910 signatures in favor of stopping the project.

On Tuesday, the Washington County Commissioners also got a set of the signatures from city council candidate Penny Nigh and Barbara Hovermill of Williamsport.

“We are looking at over $51.5 million” for the stadium, Nigh told the commissioners during Tuesday’s public comment period.

Nigh listed that as including $8 million from both the city and county, $15 million from an anonymous donor, $6 million from the Suns baseball team and $4.5 million more from the city, half the proceeds of a $9 million bond issue.

City officials have said the stadium would cost about $30 million.

“That’s the first I’ve ever heard of $51 million,” Commissioner William McKinley said later in the day.

“I think they’re just aggregating all the funding possibilities,” County Administrator Gregory Murray said.

The county’s contribution is relieving the city of a $400,000-a-year cost for county 911 operations for 20 years, The Herald-Mail has reported. Hagerstown is the only municipality in the county that pays toward 911 service outside of tax revenues, Murray said during the public comment period.

“It frees up money for (the city) to invest downtown,” Murray said later.

The cost of land acquisition has also not been figured into the project, Nigh said.

“If I were a resident living in the county I would be offended” by the Suns’ offer, Nigh said.

The team offered to pay $10 million to Winchester, Va., if a stadium were built there, she said.

Nigh also said the issue could not be placed on the November ballot for referendum because the city plans to allocate money for the project in its budget.

“No matter what the election is, the taxpayers will not forget this,” Nigh said.

Hovermill said she doubted a stadium would revitalize the downtown, in part, because of crime.

“People are afraid for children to walk in the streets,” Hovermill said.

“I just think (it’s) more money down the drain,” Hovermill said.

Opponents of the stadium will continue collecting signatures and, because the project is relying on $10 million in state funds, the petitions will be sent to state officials, Nigh said.

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