Hagerstown Town Council has agreed to spend up to $40,000 for activities surrounding the April 8, 2024, solar eclipse. 

Meeting in a work session on Oct. 16, council members voted to spend $15,000 more on activities leading up to the eclipse, as requested by the Heart of Hagerstown business group. Council had previously allocated $25,000 to HOH.

Heart of Hagerstown President Gary Schuette said costs include $14,000 for a concert with a Nashville musician, $10,000 for a fireworks show, $3,000 for a car show, $2,000 for a lighted nighttime parade and $3,000 for a welcome party. Other costs will bring the total to at least $40,000.

The town also is spending about $6,000 for portable bathrooms, although there was confusion about whether that would come from other town funds.

Council member Brian Longbons said he had understood when Heart of Hagerstown made its original request for $50,000 that the organization would seek financial sponsors for some of the costs. Schuette said if sponsorship money is raised, it will go back to the town.

The town will not ask vendors and others to register their business activities during the eclipse celebration. In discussion led by Fred Dill, council members agreed to ignore zoning rules during the days surrounding the eclipse. 

Fire protection

Jefferson Township Trustee Chris Lane asked the council to formalize how the town and township cooperate for fire protection. The fire department is a town agency that has contracts to provide fire protection to Jefferson and part of Dalton Township.

Lane said the township owns two of the department’s six vehicles and part of a third. The township also pays $20,000 annually to the town for fire protection.

Lane, who took office last January, said there seems to be no record of why the township has traditionally paid for some vehicles. Fire Chief Rick Cole said that originally the township bought a pumper that responded to fires outside of town. Now the township owns two trucks and paid for part of a third one. 

Fire trucks have become so expensive that neither the township nor the town will be able to afford them when a new one is needed, Lane and Cole agreed. In the most recent fire truck purchase, a rescue truck, the township paid $150,000 for the chassis and the town paid another $225,500. The township’s annual budget totals $130,000, including the $20,000 annual payment for fire protection.

Council asked Lane to return with a plan for the vehicles and a proposal for how much the township can pay for fire protection. Longbons said the town and township can agree to a month-by-month extension of the current fire protection contract, which expires Dec. 31, until a new agreement is reached.

The council’s next regular meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, in Town Hall, 49 E. College St. The public may attend.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 25 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.