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Hagerstown City Council members: Proposed stadium not a done deal

'This administration is not going to push through a stadium with the last two meetings on this agenda'

October 23, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

With Election Day now less than two weeks away, Hagerstown City Council members on Tuesday reminded citizens that the proposed multiuse sports and events center is in no way a done deal, although it may be the one issue that sways voters one way or the other on Nov. 6.

A long-term lease with the Hagerstown Suns still needs to be inked to keep the team in town and a private donor who has verbally pledged $15 million toward the project still needs to be firmed up.

Additionally, state funding still needs to be confirmed.

Whether or not the project — estimated to cost about $37 million, according to city officials — is going to move forward remains a mystery.

But one thing is for sure, council members said Tuesday, it’s going to be up to the incoming administration to decide where it goes from here.

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“This administration is not going to push through a stadium with the last two meetings on this agenda,” Councilman Forrest W. Easton said. “We’re not going to push through purchasing a bunch of property so it forces the next administration to go with this idea. This issue is going to be up to whoever is going to be sitting in these seats come Nov. 27.”

Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said the mayor and council have been “very prudent” in examining the proposed project and have “spent countless hours” weighing its financial feasibility, keeping taxpayers in mind. Council members have said they won’t support a tax hike to finance the project.

“And it’s not that we don’t hear the public,” he said. “We hear them loud and clear.”

Several public information sessions have been held on the issue and citizens have taken turns voicing their opinions, both for and against the project.

City officials and proponents say the project would be a great investment in Hagerstown’s struggling downtown, and hope to see economic redevelopment as a result.

“We have the opportunity of a lifetime. We truly do,” Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said. “We can either take that opportunity to do what we’re doing, which is our due diligence, or we can just say no. We can do that, too.”

Opponents say they don’t agree with the proposed location near the corner of West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue or using public money to fund a private business. Others say Municipal Stadium should be renovated or don’t believe it will bring the redevelopment that city officials envision.

A couple opponents to the project spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, prompting Easton’s comments.

Another 552 signatures of people who oppose the project were presented, bringing the overall total to 2,655.

City council members urged voters to consider all the issues when they vote.

Brubaker said the current administration has done well enduring one of the worst fiscal crises in history of the city, and the stadium project should only be considered as one piece of the puzzle moving forward.

“I think what we’ve done is kept an open mind, and I think that’s what everybody needs to do,” Brubaker said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner stressed the importance of getting out and voting next month.

“No matter how you vote, your vote is important,” he said. “And as many people say, one thing you can buy when you vote is your right to complain.”

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