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Md. senator announces grant

August 09, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., came to Hagerstown Friday bearing gifts - a $1.58 million check for the Newgate Industrial Park and a commitment for a new Veterans Administration clinic by May 1998.

"We in the United States Congress should fight as hard for you and your health care as you fought for the United States of America," Mikulski told a group of veterans at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1938 on East Washington Street.

"It's going to be open in May 1998, and you can bank on it," she said.

Mikulski said she hoped it would open by Memorial Day.

She said the clinic should serve 2,500 veterans in its first six months, 5,000 in the second year and 10,000 in the third year. It will be staffed for primary care, psychiatry and will have van transportation to the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg.

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A location for the new clinic hasn't been finalized yet, she said. The goal is to have the most convenient and cost effective location, she said.

Pete Callas, a member of the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County, said the location would be the third floor of the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue. Callas said the center could ultimately be transformed into a veterans' home.

Mikulski said Hagerstown was chosen for the site in part because Washington County has the largest concentration of Class A veterans - those who have permanent wounds of war.

Mikulski said she had to fight "wingtip warriors" whose hardest battle "is getting water out of the cooler" to get more money for veterans programs.

She said she will work hard to bring a veterans home to Western Maryland, but said it would take some time.

"Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was built eventually," she said.

At the 245-acre Newgate Industrial Park off of Hopewell Road and Halfway Boulevard, Mikulski presented a $1.58 million check for road, water and sewer extensions.

Mikulski said she'll be able to help out with job training funds once new companies move in.

Mikulski said the grant meant jobs today and jobs tomorrow.

"The best social program is a job," she said.

Federal officials estimated eight new business facilities and 370 jobs would come out of the project.

The Washington County Commissioners had their chance to ask for federal money from Mikulski Friday morning, but didn't ask for much.

When Mikulski asked them about their $56 million water and sewer debt, County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners had a long term solution in place to reduce the debt and didn't ask Mikulski for help.

Mikulski said former commissioner Linda Irvin-Craig asked her for help on the debt.

"Even though I'm no longer in office I'd like to find a way to solve the problem," Irvin-Craig said. She said it would make sense for the state and federal governments to kick in more money because their unfunded regulations drove up the cost of the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Mikulski also said she was pushing for complete restoration of the C&O Canal and said she would like to see Antietam become more like Gettysburg as a tourist destination.

The commissioners asked for continued support of the Fort Ritchie transition to the private sector and future support from the Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The commissioners also thanked Mikulski for supporting an increase in airport funding.

Sheriff Charles Mades told Mikulski that the federal grant program for more police on the street has paid dividends and informed Mikulski of the new Hotspots program to address crime in the Jonathan Street neighborhood.

Mades also said a proposal has been sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration for the creation of a Tri-State Drug Task Force to deal with increasing trafficking along the Interstate 81 corridor.

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