On Tuesday morning, Hagerstown officials hosted the 2017 “State of the City,” where Mayor Bob Bruchey and City Council members reflected on their goals and priorities for moving the city forward.
One of the big topics was the heroin epidemic, which just last week put all of Maryland into a state of emergency. Emily Keller, in her first year as a Hagerstown council member, has advocated for a detox center to aid with treatment.
“We have to treat the addicted – whether people want to hear that or not, it’s true,” Bruchey said.
“Right now, we’re handing out Narcan like crazy. But unfortunately, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” Keller added. “It’s saving lives, which is great, but we’re not getting anyone into treatment because we don’t have any treatment facilities.”
Also discussed was the safety of the Edgemont Reservoir. It’s a major source of water for the city, but has been designated as a “high hazard.”
“We have two choices – either get rid of the dam, or re-do it,” said council member Lewis Metzner. “And both of those are major seven-figure projects.”
The leaders of Hagerstown gave their priorities for the year, which included promoting economic development and business-friendly policies, as well as fostering higher education projects in downtown.
Some city residents complained about seeing trash around the downtown area, but that’s just one of the many issues facing Hagerstown in what’s going to be a tight budget year. Multiple officials said there may be tax increases or a reduction in services at the end of the fiscal year, as the city faces a $2.4 million deficit.
“We have to focus on our needs first, and then our wants second,” Bruchey said. “Having a thriving core falls right in the middle of both those. I think it’s a need and a want.”
To accomplish that, Bruchey is aiming to make it a crime-free zone – whether the danger is a reality, or just perception.
“I want to be in the top 10, actually I want to be in the top three, of the safest cities in Maryland,” Bruchey added.
The next fiscal year will begin on July 1.