Grant Funding, Billboard Ordinance, and Preparations for the End of the School Year – Hagerstown Work Session Recap

HAGERSTOWN – Tuesday’s work session, 12 March 2024, began with a proclamation that the week of March 10-16, 2024 will be dedicated to AmeriCorps, a volunteer organization that participates in various community projects. Mayor Tekesha Martinez and the Council expressed their appreciation for AmeriCorps workers and supervisors.

Representatives of CBIZ, Inc. gave a presentation on Hagerstown’s Police and Fire Employees’ Pension Plan. Employees currently contribute 9.00% of pay to the plan, and the City contributes 14.00%. Under current assumptions and funding policy, plan assets are set to deplete around 2044. CBIZ recommended updating the Actuarially Determined Contribution (ADC) calculation and revising the funding policy. Under the new policy, City contribution would rise to about 16.00%. CBIZ plans to work with staff to draft a written policy for Council adoption. Michelle Brandenburg, Investment Market Director with PNC Bank, then provided the Council with an overview of the City of Hagerstown Police & Fire Retirement plan and the City of Hagerstown Other Post Employment Benefit Trust.

Director of Public Works Eric B. Deike requested approval for the 2024 Summer Camp Grant Program. Four agencies will receive grant funds totaling $75,000, including: the Hagerstown YMCA ($18,500); the Boys & Girls Club ($19,500); Girls, Inc. ($22,000); and the Robert W. Johnson Community Center ($15,000).

Economic Development Specialist Christopher Siemerling presented a recommendation from the Review Committee to terminate an Invest Hagerstown City Center Redevelopment Grant amount of $250,000 previously awarded to JR Investments, LLC for 6-16 W. Washington Street. The Committee reviewed the project and determined that it was not in compliance with the guideline requirements of the Invest Hagerstown Program. A termination letter will be sent and the grant will be discontinued. Siemerling also reviewed a recommendation for use of the Forfeited City Center Redevelopment Grant Funds in the Invest Hagerstown Program. Total forfeited funds come out to $830,000. Staff recommended keeping $500,000 in the City Center Redevelopment Grant Fund for future projects and reallocating $330,000 to four selected Invest Hagerstown programs on a first-come, first-served basis. These programs include: the City Wide Redevelopment Grant; the Rental Rehabilitation Grant; the Homeownership Grant Program; and the Sign and Facade Grant Program.

Director of Planning & Code Administration Kathleen Maher and Neighborhood Services Manager Paul Fulk appeared before the Council to reintroduce proposed amendments to Chapter 204 regarding sign, billboard, and off-premises advertising regulations within the community. Over the past few months, staff sent notice to every organization who currently owns billboards in the City of Hagerstown. Only one responded, and none of them protested the amendments. The Council agreed to schedule introduction of the ordinance to update the code for the March 26 regular meeting. If it is approved at the end of April, the updates will become effective 30 days later.

Community Engagement Officer Brittany Arizmendi received approval from the Council to apply for up to $300,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Project Restore 2.0 grant program. Downtown Hagerstown Main Street and the Department of Economic and Community Development plan to apply with two separate applications, per the guidance of DHCD staff. The application opens March 13, 2024, and the deadline is April 24, 2024.

The meeting concluded with the Council supporting a proposal from the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts (BISFA) Parent Guild to decorate City Center lamp posts on North and South Potomac Street. These decorations will honor its graduating seniors. They will be put up beginning April 26, 2024 and removed by June 8, 2024. Official approval of the request will be granted at the regular session on March 26.