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Washington County commissioners take heat over West City decision

Panel votes to lease land for $2 million aeronautics school at Hagerstown Regional airport

September 25, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

MAUGANSVILLE — The Washington County Board of Commissioners was criticized Tuesday night over the purchase of 16.5 acres for a new West City Elementary School, heard concerns about a proposed downtown stadium for the Hagerstown Suns and voted to lease land for a new $2 million aeronautics school at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

During an evening meeting at the Maugansville Ruritan Club Building, a group of area residents criticized the commissioners for their purchase of the school site in the Hager’s Crossing housing development west of Hagerstown.

The county recently paid nearly $1.6 million for the property. That price was three times what the land sold for in November.

That riled Ringgold-area farmer Sam Hunter.

Hunter said he could not imagine the county buying the land for that price without some “sincere negotiations. There’s something very stinky about this,” Hunter said.

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Maugansville resident Denny Martin said he was “appalled” over the price the county paid for the land. He likened the situation to ordering a car, then finding out the price is three times higher when it is delivered.

Martin told the commissioners not to allow the school to be built.

“Please, be more judicious with our dollars,” Martin said.

Commissioner William B. McKinley defended the commission’s decision to buy the land, saying it was the “lowest cost option” by about $1 million.

Jim Coyle of Maugansville expressed several concerns about the proposed downtown stadium for the Suns. Coyle said he gets the feeling that the Suns don’t have a “warm and fuzzy feeling” about the project, and he is worried about taxpayers being forced to finance the project.

At the end of the meeting, County Administrator Gregory Murray announced details of a new $2 million educational facility that Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics plans to build at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The commissioners agreed to lease about 93,000 square feet of space at the airport for the facility for about $25,000 a year.

The school will use the facility to design safety systems for airplanes, said Murray, adding that construction activity at the site could begin in a month or two.

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