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Bill Martin, Charlie Hiner compete for Havre de Grace mayor seat

There's going to be a new mayor in town come May, and the battle for the future of Havre de Grace is on.

As Mayor Wayne Dougherty prepares to step down, Bill Martin is hoping to move on from his seat on the council, which he has held since 2008, to the mayoral post.

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Martin is squaring off against longtime business leader Charlie Hiner, who has led BCH Real Estate since 2004, in the battle for the mayor's seat.

Residents will get to cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 5 at St. Patrick Hall.

'Big plans'

Martin, 41, has a grand vision for the city's waterfront, in which the council recently invested in by buying Councilman Steve Gamatoria's property on Concord Street.

"We have big plans for [Millard] Tydings Park," Martin said Tuesday, explaining he wants to move the park's playground, potentially move the gazebo and build a bandshell with stadium seating near the existing parking lot for concerts in the park.

"We really want to make it like Merriweather Center North," he said, alluding to Columbia's 40-acre Merriweather Post Pavilion concert venue.

Martin, a city resident since 1992, said he wants to make Havre de Grace the cultural center of the region, noting the city continues to work on renovating its historic opera house.

Married with three children, Martin has been active in spearheading the War of 1812 commemoration in 2013.

Regarding property taxes, Martin, an Aberdeen Middle School history teacher for 16 years, said he has voted for seven consecutive tax cuts.

"Until Fund 9 is solvent, I think it is prudent that we not lower it any more," he said of the property tax rate, referring to the water and sewer fund that has continued to plague city officials with its steep debt.

Martin, the council president, said he plans to introduce a 25 percent reduction in capital cost recovery fees, which he hopes will spur development, but will include a "sunset clause" of two years to encourage developers to build now.

Martin pointed out water use has gone down and charging people more will only continue to drive down use.

He also hopes to continue driving business and economic development, noting he helped select the city's new economic development director, Tom Lofland.

He also wants to do more initiatives like the recent commercial promoting the city on MASN, for Orioles games.

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Martin said he will submit an application to make Havre de Grace an "All-America City."

"I will do everything we can to bring people into our city," he said.

His other big plans include a beautification plan that builds on the city's recent public art plan.

"I really want to make Havre de Grace look like a beautiful city that is really unique," he said.

Smart Growth and finished projects

Hiner, 52, has been in town about as long as Martin, having moved here in 1990.

He is banking on his 20 years of experience as a small business owner, and his website says he is running because of a "deep love for this city," while hoping to "shift the way the city is engaging our citizens."

Hiner, who is married without children, said dealing with the debt in Fund 9 will take a variety of approaches.

"We have to be aggressive and we have to use more than one approach," he said.

As he got ready to leave the City Council meeting Monday night, Hiner also said: "We have to spur economic growth."

When it comes to taxes, Hiner said he is "not about" taxes, but seemed willing to consider the possibility of higher taxes "since we are in the financial situation that we are."

Hiner said the council and mayor need to brand the city and put more money into economic development, as they have into tourism.

He was also interested in re-development on Route 40 and encouraging business all around.

"Smart Growth is the way to go," he said, referring to a strategy of encouraging re-development and conserving outlying land.

Hiner said he wants to finish the promenade and "we need to finish the projects we have already started," such as the opera house.

Although Hiner would like to enhance or build out the city's waterfront, he said he is not trying to put "hundreds of thousands of dollars" into that.

Besides his role in real estate, Hiner has served as president of the Lock House Museum in the 1990s and of Havre de Grace Main Street.

Hiner continues to serve as president of the city's Economic Development Advisory Board and St. John's Commons housing board.

For more information on both candidates, visit martin4hdg.com or mayorcharlie.com.

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