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Stadium project foes air concerns with candidates for city office

October 08, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Barbara Hovermill, center, of Williamsport spoke Monday night at the Georgia Boy Cafe about issues with the proposed downtown multiuse sports and events center. To the left of Hovermill is Hagerstown City Council candidate Jonathan Burrs.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Fed up with a lack of communication from their elected officials, several Hagerstown and Washington County residents called an impromptu meeting Monday night to talk about their concerns with the city’s proposed downtown multiuse sports and events center.

A group of 10 citizens were joined by five Hagerstown City Council candidates and Hagerstown Democratic mayoral candidate David Gysberts for the two-hour roundtable meeting at the Georgia Boy Cafe.

Julie Rivett, a resident of Summit Avenue and vocal leader of opposition to the project in recent months, said that she and others have been waiting for city council members and Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II to grant them time to sit down to hear their concerns and feedback about the stadium’s planning process.

But it hasn’t happened.

“We’ve been waiting for months,” Rivett said. “Sunday I woke up and I thought ‘well, let me try the candidates. Let me see how receptive they are to responding to a call of the citizens.’”

Rivett said she called them all, and several responded and showed up for the informal meeting.

Democrats and former council members Kristin Aleshire and Penny Nigh were joined by Republican newcomers Jonathan Burrs, Jeffrey Coney and Chris Kelly at the Virginia Avenue restaurant near the proposed facility’s site at West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue.

“That speaks volumes,” Rivett said. “That type of leadership is what we need in Hagerstown. I look forward to supporting all the candidates to take over the seats this November. I think they’re going to be the best vision for Hagerstown and economic development.”

All five city council seats and the mayoral race are all up for grabs in the Nov. 6 general election.

As a way to provide updated information and more dialogue about the project, the city is hosting a public information meeting Tuesday at the Hager Hall Conference and Events Center. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. for an open house and a presentation by city officials will take place at 6 p.m.

Opponents of the stadium project have gathered about 2,300 signatures in protest of its construction for a variety of reasons, including the location, cost to the taxpayers, noise or a desire to renovate 82-year-old Municipal Stadium.

Proponents, which also have become more vocal in recent weeks, along with city officials say the multiuse stadium would become a downtown destination and could be the catalyst for redevelopment of the city’s struggling downtown area.

Many uncertainties remain with the proposed project, which city officials have said is projected to cost around $30 million to build but could end up costing more. A new longterm lease still has yet to be announced between the city and the facility’s primary tenant, the Hagerstown Suns.

Talk about an anonymous donor who verbally pledged $15 million toward the project has also went silent in the last few weeks, leaving many — including city council members — wondering if that pledge will be honored or not.

For those at Monday’s meeting, however, one thing is certain: Some citizens are unhappy about the process in which the stadium project has evolved.

“The city council and the mayor won’t listen to any of us,” said Howard Wills, a 67-year resident of Summit Avenue. “There’s an agenda there that has defied all of us. It was brought up this evening. Every person is underlined. There is an agenda at City Hall.”

City officials have said that they are not yet committed to the project and won’t raise taxes to support it.

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