Mayor: City is financially stable despite having lost $7.3 million in revenue
50 jobs have been eliminated since July 1
Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, center, answers a question from the audience Tuesday during the annual State of the City address. (By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer)
To help offset the shortfall, the city has slashed more than 50 positions since fiscal year 2011-12 began July 1, Bruchey said.
The city started this fiscal year with 485 budgeted positions.
"We're working leaner," Bruchey told an audience of about 100 people at the Hager Hall conference center off Dual Highway. "Our employees are doing more for less ... This administration has refused to raise taxes to cover shortfalls in revenue."
Before Bruchey spoke, a 14-minute video touted the advantages of living in Hagerstown, such as the availability of curbside recycling and trash pick-up.
The video also mentioned that the water rate is 58 percent cheaper and the sewer rate is 43 percent cheaper for city customers than for customers who live outside city limits.
After Bruchey made his address, he invited the five members of the city council on stage to answer questions that were collected from the audience. Many of the inquiries focused on downtown development.
Bruchey, who fielded several of the questions, repeatedly said he wants to hire someone to work in the Hagerstown Economic Development Department to recruit businesses. That employee would assist Economic Development Director Deborah Everhart.
"As great as she is, she can't do it alone," Bruchey said of Everhart, who is the sole employee in the economic development office. "She needs help. She's only one person."
City officials did not grant a request Tuesday that was filed earlier that morning to obtain the salary information for the new economic development position. The job posting on careerbuilder.com, however, said the annual salary range was from $50,877 to $80,600.
Some members of the council gave their opinions on what the city should do with the former Washington County Hospital, which was closed in December when Meritus Medical Center opened.
Councilman Martin Brubaker said he believed the best solution would be a mixture of office, commercial and residential use.
Responding to a question about how the city is helping downtown businesses to succeed, Bruchey suggested businesses stay open past 6 p.m. to prevent residents from shopping elsewhere.
Councilman William Breichner said he believed that business owners should come to city officials if they're having problems.
"We normally don't find out about that until we pick up the newspaper," he said.
"If a business is failing, it's failing," Councilwoman Ashley Haywood said. "But if it's borderline ... We'll bend over backwards (to help)."
Bruchey and Councilman Forrest Easton said the answer to economic development problems can't always be traced to City Hall.
"There's only so much the City of Hagerstown can do by themselves," Easton said. "Ultimately, it's going to take other entities to step up to the plate."