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Removal of former light plant a bright idea

February 07, 2013

There has been talk of revitalizing Hagerstown’s East End for better than a decade. Instead, the southeast quadrant of the city has continued to suffer more than its share of blows — a lost hospital, a paper recycling plant that never worked out and a rusting ballpark that seemingly has flooded more often than it’s been upgraded.

Perhaps symbolic of all this disappointment is the decaying electric plant with broken glass that stands behind a chain-link fence. It’s pretty safe to say that this neighborhood will never flourish so long as the old Municipal Electric Light Plant continues to stand.

So we strongly support the state bond bill filed by Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, this session that would fund demolition of the plant. Much as we might wish for renovation or reuse of the massive brick monolith, it seems that it’s probably filled with too much in the way of toxic materials to make this a viable option.

As Donoghue and Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts have indicated, this is an exceptional piece of property that accesses Antietam Creek and would fit nicely into any plan to renovate the East End. Even without those plans firmly in place, demolition of the plant likely would boost property values in the immediate area.

And as Donoghue says, this is not just an aesthetic issue, it’s an environmental issue. Demolition and mitigation of hazardous materials above and below ground would have a positive impact felt as far away as the Chesapeake Bay.

MELP served the city well in its day, and provided city residents with plenty of cheap electricity. But it’s been a monkey on the back of the community for some three decades, and the time has come to address the eyesore once and for all.

We support Donoghue’s bill and encourage the General Assembly to assist in the plant’s removal.

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