By KAUSTUV BASU
8:52 PM EST, January 30, 2013
Members of the Washington County Community Coalition met with legislators in the state capital Wednesday as part of an effort to give the county more visibility among lawmakers.
The lobbying coalition, which includes the county government and the City of Hagerstown, also hosted a reception Wednesday evening that showcased businesses and organizations from the county.
But before the reception, which featured cheese from Palmyra Farm, a Hagerstown business, and wine from Red Heifer Winery, located in Smithsburg, scores of coalition members trooped down the alleys of the Maryland State House, the Senate and House buildings as they met with legislators.
Among those was David S. Gysberts, the mayor of Hagerstown.
“Overall there just seems to be a very large amount of enthusiasm for the opportunity that Hagerstown has in a master redevelopment effort,” he said.
During the course of the day, Gysberts met with Michael Busch, the Speaker of the House, and then Anthony Brown, the Lt. Governor of the state.
“I informed him [Busch] … that we have a much larger older urban core that is in need of redevelopment … talked about the SORA group and how we are trying to create this public-private partnership to look at a master redevelopment plan,” Gysberts said.
Among the coalition’s goals this year are getting a wealth-based grant known as the Disparity Grant that could bring as much as $7.7 million to Washington County in fiscal year 2014, securing funding to improve what is known as the Eastern Boulevard corridor and the C&O canal structures in Williamsport.
Brien Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said that the meetings during the day and the evening reception enabled members to “project a brand for Washington County.”
“Specifically, we asked for planning money for downtown … we need state money to help,” Poffenberger said about meetings with legislators in the Ways and Means Committee and the Appropriations Committee.
“Even though it is not necessarily something they would vote on, a lot of these people have influences that cross-pollinate,” Poffenberger said.
Terry Baker, president of the Washington County Board of County Commissioners, and Commissioners John Barr and Ruth Anne Callaham were among elected representatives who were in Annapolis on Wednesday.
James Kercheval, executive director of The Greater Hagerstown Committee, said that the different groups had tried to set up as many meetings they could with different legislators.
“Basically we have about 100 people from Washington County for the day walking around, talking to legislators, talking about what’s important to the community and just trying to educate the community about what we are about,” Kercheval said.
More than 150 people were expected to attend the evening reception at the Governor Calvert House, which is located near the State House.
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