It’s new council member interviews, a parking garage and hotel problems at Hagerstown Mayor and Council work session yesterday

March 15 – Five citizens vying for a vacant council seat were publicly interviewed yesterday during the Hagerstown Mayor and Council work session. 

The five were: Sean Flaherty, Jennifer Gardner, Stacy Lynn Michael, Matthew Schindler and Stephen Schutte.

Each of the five were asked the same eight questions, including what’s the number one priority for the City of Hagerstown, why did they apply for the position if they’ve never run for office before and how do they plan to improve neighborhood stability? 

Wes Decker, Communications Officer for the City of Hagerstown, said, “My understanding is that…a decision has been made at this point. Whether that will be made public this week, I’m not exactly sure.” 

Calls need to be made before the announcement is released. 

A special session within next week’s work session will appoint the individual. 

Yesterday council also reviewed the Hub City Garage parking deck bid. The original budget was $10 million. The lowest bid came in at $11.6 million. 

Decker said, “There was some discussions about how to get that price down. The staff presented three different options yesterday, including the $11.6 option. Option number two was a $10.8 million option where there would be use of some different materials, especially for the façade.” 

The third option would eliminate one level and the price would be $9.9 million. 

Council indicated that they would like to move ahead with option two, with construction beginning the last week of April and should be ready by May 2024. 

The transient housing regulations as it relates to hotels were also discussed at yesterday’s work session. 

Decker said, “There will be more discussion on this. There are many sides to this. The staff side of this, responding to calls at hotels, issues that have cropped up. I learned during yesterday’s session that there’s actually a hotel where Code Compliance was called in for an issue, they went in and found out that kitchens had been installed in some of the rooms in that particular hotel and there had never been a permit that had been asked for, submitted, never asked to do that work and all of a sudden they go in and there are kitchens in there.” 

Other issues relate to life safety, where accountability is huge. 

Decker said, “Several council members weren’t interested in everything that was brought to the table once again so there will be further discussion on this. I don’t think you’ll ever please everyone on this, but the goal is just to keep everyone safe. I think a couple of the council members expressed that they just didn’t want government overseeing some of this as it relates to the hotels and making decisions on some of these things that would have gone into a potential new ordinance. More discussion to come.” 

The hoteliers have joined the discussion in previous sessions. 

Decker said, “There’s certainly things at stake on all sides here. The goal of staff, again, is just to insure life safety. They look at the number of calls that come in from these hotels and they say what’s excessive? Then the hoteliers say well, we just won’t call you guys if there’s an issue if you’re going to penalize us for coming out and taking care of these things because they aren’t things that we personally can control, but then I think city staff is saying if this happens in your control, don’t you have some jurisdiction over this? The questions are much greater than the answers at this point and just trying to get something that makes sense and will work and where government isn’t overstepping its bounds in terms of providing punitive measures that would infringe on a hotel being able to do with it does, which is make a profit.”