Posted by: Ann Corcoran | September 21, 2012

Tea Party, others, come out to question city officials about stadium plans

The Hagerstown Mayor and Council invited critics and supporters of the $30-$47 million dollar (estimates vary!) stadium proposed for the heart of the downtown area to tour the existing stadium in hopes of making their case to critics that the old stadium is beyond repair.

It would appear they didn’t convince those who do not want taxpayer money to pay for a risky venture for which businessmen/Suns’ owners can’t seem to attract private capital willing to take a chance on this highly touted investment.

Here is the front page above-the-fold story and photo in the Hagerstown Herald Mail yesterday.  Please take a minute and click on the link to see members of the Hagerstown Tea Party holding signs declaring “No New Stadium” and “No tax money for stadiums.”

This is reporter C.J. Lovelace:

More than 100 people turned out Wednesday night to get a closer look at the challenges the city of Hagerstown must tackle if they were to renovate or rebuild Municipal Stadium and bring the 82-year-old ballpark back up to professional baseball standards.

Those in attendance — a mix of supporters as well as opponents of the city’s proposed downtown multiuse sports and events center that would be the new home of the Hagerstown Suns — were given a brief overview of the problems at the current stadium before touring the park.

Major problem areas include insufficient fan amenities, press and media facilities, administration areas, team clubhouses, dugouts and the actual playing surface, according to city engineer Rodney Tissue.

Expanding the facility to bring it up to Major League Baseball standards is viewed as just about impossible due to site constraints from neighboring properties and the field itself is prone to heavy flooding that doesn’t drain well after rain storms, Tissue said.

LOL!  Be sure to look at the video accompanying the story and take note of the dry ground.   Washington County had a deluge (2-4 inches of rain throughout the county) just one day before this tour (which was set up to try to calm the growing public anger over the questionable location for the proposed project and its largely public-funded pricetag) and attendees reported no flooded conditions.

By the way, City Engineer Tissue worked closely with county engineer Joseph Kroboth in drafting and promoting that disastrous Rail-Trail plan that was shot down in July in Washington County.  The Mayor and Council of Hagerstown were also trail pushers.   One begins to wonder if Engineers are running these shows in order to protect elected officials from voters’ ire.

Incidentally, in a companion piece on the same day as the report of the tour, the Herald Mail ran a lengthy story about that formerly announced mystery donor and the possibility that the $15 million gift for this project just might have been a fantasy.

Lynda Evans, a city resident and member of the Hagerstown Tea Party has a much more informative report of the “tour” (than the Herald Mail’s) at her blog The Liberated Conservative Woman!   Visit Lynda’s post now and see what really happened.  Evans had a pointed exchange with one of the Suns’ owners.

An even more revealing piece by Evans is her post at Smart Girl Politics, here, which actually brought out the Mayor himself as a commenter.

Grant money is taxpayer money!

At Smart Girl, Evans reported the following comment by City Councilman Lewis Metzner (a project proponent).

Evans:

 Lewis Metzner stated that there is nothing that any of us want to hide. He doesn’t “want to mortgage our children’s future with debt and we won’t do that. Grant money of $25M is not mortgaging our children’s future with debt.” Mr. Metzner you are much smarter than I am, but I disagree! Grant money IS taxpayer money! No matter how they slice it or dice it or spin it or gift wrap the financing…if it is not privately invested money it is taxpayer money. If the new Suns’ Stadium fails to support itself and has to be subsidized like other city projects, it will be taxpayer money.

The REPUBLICAN Mayor of Hagerstown then actually weighed in as a commenter and here is what he said giving voice, a Republican voice no less, to exactly why the State of Maryland and the Nation are in such deep financial trouble—everyone wants their piece of the taxpayer pot of gold.   And, even if Maryland was rolling in dough, one must ask the question, is it the role of government to fund projects of this sort, projects which private investors are not confident in?

Mayor Bruchey:

And, if using State money to fund a portion of this project, I am all for it.  After all, if we don’t take advantage of it, someone else will in Montgomery, PG or Balt. Counties. And guess what, they won’t blink an eye. Oh, one more thing before I roll out, until we can get all the answers to our questions, all the funding possibilities lined up, all the environmental issues, if there are any, worked out, everyone who opposes this project is using misinformation to spread their fear. Just like the petition I have seen, the funding part is wrong, so of course when people see that this entire project is being funded by taxpayer dollars, they will be afraid of future debt on our children.

Mayor Bruchey:  “….everyone who opposes this project is using misinformation to spread their fear.”

And, if that is so, whose fault is that!  The Mayor and the Council have made the same error that the Washington County Commissioners made in planning the Rail-Trail boondoggle, the same error previous elected officials have made in Washington County—they left the citizens in the dark for far too long.  They tried to get as much planned and set in concrete before citizens were permitted to weigh in—a practice that breeds suspicion.  In fact, this stadium plan has yet to go to a public hearing.

So now they, the elected officials, are surprised by the pent-up anger by opponents that has been let to build for months and months and months.  In fact, citizens likely will take their anger out at the ballot box in November. Opposition to the project runs from one end of the political spectrum to the other.  Like the Rail-Trail, the stadium plan is the brainchild of the Washington County Ruling Class.   Bruchey’s Democrat opponent has questioned the need for the grandiose stadium.

By the way, who are these Suns’ owners and why do they have so much power over the Mayor and Council (story for another day!)?

Mark your calendars, after months and months of backroom negotiations, the Mayor and Council are now ready to hear from the public—those who will be paying for the stadium both financially and through their loss of quiet enjoyment of their homes.  The Hearing is scheduled for October 9th at 5 p.m. (this early hour of course is to make sure fewer working people will attend) at the Clarion Hotel in Hagerstown.  We will update that hearing information as the date approaches.

Meanwhile, as I said previously, here, there are ways to weigh-in as a Maryland taxpayer.  Some proponents of the grand scheme think if you don’t live in Hagerstown you have no right to complain!  Imagine that!

See also a related post—will Hagerstown follow Harrisburg off the financial cliff, here.


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