The year 2012 begins in splendid fashion in Washington County, as thousands of people line up to sign a petition that would make this our Best Year Ever. The only caveat is that this proposition would have to be approved by Maryland voters, although organizers do not see this as too much of an obstacle.
Making this year extra special will be the 150th anniversary of pretty much every noteworthy historical thing to ever happen in Washington County, beginning on Jan. 4 with the Bombardment of Hancock, in which Union and Confederate soldiers fought each other to the death over where to put a new library.
This joins a growing list of statewide petitions brought by Del. Neil Parrott to fight against gay marriage, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, 6th District gerrymandering and ESPN’s decision to discontinue Hank Williams Jr.’s rendition of “Are You Ready For Some Football.”
In other political news, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett develops a dry cough, leading every registered Republican in four states to suffer second-degree concussions as they slam into each other in a rush to run for his seat. But Bartlett’s career isn’t the only thing in ruins, as the former Washington County hospital is demolished and FirstEnergy announces plans to abandon the old R. Paul Smith generating plant in Williamsport.
Taking their place, however, will be new and exciting ideas for Washington County, including a new baseball stadium in downtown Hagerstown, a sparkling new senior center and a bicycle trail that will become a signature tourism attraction in South County. Bracing for the applause they will receive for these innovative ideas, local politicians hold a secret meeting at Fountain Head to divide up the credit.
There is credit to be taken for recycling as well because after years of wrangling over the issue, Washington County proudly announces a new program designed to encourage recycling by asking people to pay extra for the service instead of being able to drop recycling off in their neighborhoods for free.
But not all was fun and games for local government, as the Hagerstown City Council gets down to the serious business of naming City Alley 5-30 and 5-32 after veteran WHAG weatherman Lou Scally. On air that night, Scally repays the compliment by naming a tropical disturbance after Councilman Martin Brubaker.
More disturbance is at hand when more than 100 shoppers waiting in line for a pair of Nike sneakers turn into an unruly mob at Valley Mall. Order is not restored until the riot is quelled by a countermob of seniors in line for name-brand support hose.
In further alley news, the Hagerstown City Council boldly votes to change the name of Gerber’s Alley to Gerbers Avenue. Potomac Avenue immediately starts a petition drive, urging state voters to prevent undocumented alleys from gaining mainstream acceptance.
Gerber’s Alley/Avenue gets the last laugh, however, when South Potomac Street is shut down as police break up two deer that are holding a secret meeting at the Washington County Free Library construction site. Fortunately, no one is injured, but the episode causes mild embarrassment for the Washington County school board when the deer place higher than county fifth-graders in a Maryland state reading assessment.
But a bigger story arises in Hagerstown at the annual State of the City address, during which Mayor Robert Bruchey announces plans for a new baseball stadium in the downtown at the corner of Summit Avenue and Baltimore Street, and saying “unlike the 1,487 stadium announcements that have come before it, this time we mean it.”
“I want something downtown,” Bruchey continued. “I don’t care if it’s soccer. I don’t care if it’s baseball. I don’t care if it’s pro wrestling. I don’t care if it’s cage fights. I don’t care if it’s concerts — as long as something is happening that creates excitement in our core. ... You’re going to see those businesses crop up.”
And it is funny that he should have mentioned cage fights, since this is an election year that will pit pro- and anti-stadium forces against each other. City council members stake their jobs on the notion that Hagerstown is finally ready for progress. In other City Hall news, council members agree that this is the year to buy some beachfront property on the Jersey shore.
Hopes for progress in Washington County soar even more, as administrators unveil plans for an exciting new rail trail that would connect the city of Hagerstown to the Potomac River by way of an old South County rail bed. Full of optimism, the commissioners say they feel sure that county residents will support this worthy project. The meeting is then adjourned, at which point the commissioners retreat to their private offices and enthusiastically answer Nigerian emails promising untold wealth.
In other recreational news, a “renaissance sporting group” that is “dedicated to the recreation of the Sword and Sorcery genre as well as educational aspects of both Medieval and Ancient cultures,” asks the Funkstown Town Council for permission to do battle in the community park using swords made of foam-wrapped plastic pipe. After a brief discussion, the council declares war on Middle Earth.
After refusing to take any action during the just-ended legislative session in Annapolis, local lawmakers return to town and refuse to meet with the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber holds its post-legislative forum anyway, even though lawmakers’ chairs remain empty. This shameful display of disrespectful sarcasm is hailed as “a stroke of genius” by Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood.
A study in development