Advertisement

Report: Washington Co. in good fiscal standing

Annual State of the County appraisal given

February 05, 2013|By DAN DEARTH and DAVE McMILLION | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com, davem@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Administrator Greg Murray answers a question about funding and location concerning the proposed municipal stadium project while Washington County director of public relations and community affairs, Sarah Lankford Sprecher, right, listens during the State of the County public presentation Tuesday at Hager Hall Conference & Events Center on Dual Highway.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

Despite a challenging economy, Washington County remained in good fiscal standing last year, according to a video presentation that was given Tuesday during the annual State of the County report.

The video was shown to about 200 people following a breakfast that was hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at Fountain Head Country Club. The presentation was given again at 7 p.m. at Hager Hall Conference & Events Center on Dual Highway.

About 75 people attended the evening presentation and citizens were allowed the chance to write down questions for the commissioners to address.

Officials used the video to highlight future projects and a number of the county’s accomplishments over the past year, such as the construction of a solar farm off Roxbury Road south of Hagerstown.

Washington County Administrator Greg Murray said in the video that a new senior citizen center is to open in about two years at the former Army Reserve building in Hagerstown.

Advertisement

“We envision seniors will be using the building by 2015,” he said. “The project will cost millions less than the previously discussed site.”

On Nov. 27, the Board of Commissioners for Washington County voted 4-1 to purchase 4.6 acres of property at 21 Willard St. from the City of Hagerstown. The county used $625,000 in federal Community Block Grant money to pay for the property.

Officials previously set a $6 million budget to construct a new senior center on the Hagerstown Community College campus, but that project fell through when cost estimates were too high.

In addition to the senior center, the video said the Washington County Free Library at the corner of Antietam and Potomac streets in Hagerstown should reopen this spring. When everything is done, the library will expand from 45,000 square feet to 82,000 square feet and feature state-of-the-art technology.

The video said officials have been able to decrease the county’s operating budget despite suffering cuts in financial aid from the state government. All the while, the county has maintained a AA bond rating.

At 6.8 percent, Hagerstown Community College had the highest increase in fall enrollment among the 16 community colleges in Maryland. The campus had a total of 5,000 credit students for the 2012 fall semester, the video said. The statewide average for the same period was negative 2.5 percent.

The county’s recycling program gained 1,000 new customers and took in an additional 840,000 pounds of material in the last four months, according to the video.

The Hagerstown Regional Airport enjoyed a good year as well. In 2012, the airport logged a record of more than 56,000 landings, take-offs and training missions. The second highest number was 51,992 in 2009.

Airport officials also are discussing the construction of a new air traffic control tower and other buildings.

At the evening presentation, citizens asked a variety of questions relating to the multi-use stadium project that has been considered for downtown, how the county purchases school sites and about facilities at the planned senior citizen site, among other issues.

The commissioners were asked if $400,00 would still be available for a stadium project if it is built on the east end of Hagerstown. The stadium had been planned off Baltimore Street by The Herald-Mail building, but that has lost steam under the current city administration.

Murray said the $400,000 would not be automatic, particularly if it was built out of Hagerstown. Then it would have to be re-evaluated, Murray said.

A $1.5 million price tag for property at Hager’s Crossing west of Hagerstown that will be used for a new “West City” elementary school has caused controversy recently. Tuesday night, the commissioners were asked what assurances will be taken to ensure that “due diligence” is used in buying future school properties. The commissioners were also asked about conducting independent appraisals on properties.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said an independent appraisal could not be conducted on the Hager’s Crossing land because there was no other property to compare it too. But Callaham said the property purchase was looked into in detail and she said the fact that the school purchase was approved on a 3-2 vote shows that the purchase was closely scrutinized.

Murray emphasized that its not just the cost of a property that has to be considered. The cost of bringing infrastructure to the site is also an issue, Murray said.

The commissioners were asked if a firing range will still be available at the senior citizen center at the Willard Street site, which generated a few laughs from the audience.

On a serious note, Commissioner William B. McKinley said many senior citizens actually ask if the range will be available for them at the former Army Reserve building.

“It’s an issue for a lot of seniors out there,” McKinley said.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|