Group withdraws ship museum plan

January 30, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

Havre de Grace will not be home to the USS Forrest Sherman, a retired Navy destroyer that volunteers had hoped to convert into a museum for the Harford County city on the Susquehanna River.

The head of the USS Forrest Sherman DD-931 Foundation Inc., a nonprofit group formed to preserve the ship, said the organization has withdrawn its proposal. Kurt Wagemann, foundation president, said city officials had not kept an open mind on the concept.

The Navy has placed the ship on "donation hold status" and made the gift of the Sherman contingent on the foundation finding it a permanent home. The group had raised about $500,000 of the anticipated $7 million needed to refurbish and maintain the ship, which would have been hauled to the city from the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

Wagemann had made a presentation to city officials in October and another to residents last month. Expecting a large crowd, the City Council had moved a second public hearing on the issue Monday to a church hall. Officials said they were likely to vote on the proposal immediately after the hearing, which has now been canceled.

"There seemed to be a lot of support outside Havre de Grace and a lot of concern within the city," said Councilman Joe Kochenderfer.

Taking the vote after what promised to be an emotionally charged meeting, and before any review of comments, seemed unfair, Wagemann said.

"We asked for a fair and complete hearing of the facts," said Wagemann. "Unfortunately, that has not happened."

City officials bristled at the criticism.

"My council is professional and meticulous," said Mayor Wayne Dougherty. "They do their homework and absorb as much as they can, whether it's an annexation, a charter change or this ship project."

Officials were bowing to pressure from residents who feared the 420-foot-ship would detract from river views, Wagemann said. A petition, circulated by opponents, had about 100 signatures from among the city's 15,000 residents

"It may have blocked the American Legion's view a little, but they had voted to support us," Wagemann said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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