City, county must pick site for new campus

May 20, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The University System of Maryland is not going to decide whether Hagerstown City Council's free campus site offer is better than Allegheny Power's, a University System spokesman said Thursday.

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"Our position is let the city and county work this out," said Chris Hart, director of media relations for the University System.

At least two of the Washington County Commissioners want University System officials to help them make a decision about a site for the University System's Hagerstown campus.

Hagerstown City Council this week offered the Baldwin House Complex as a campus site.

The 60,000-square-foot city-owned complex at 32-46 W. Washington St. consists of the former Baldwin House - a five-story brick hotel built in 1881 - the former Routzahn's department store and the former Grand Piano warehouse.


Since February, the County Commissioners and University System have planned to build the $10 million to $15 million one-building campus on a donated 20-acre site at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park. A site-specific program plan has been developed.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioner John L. Schnebly said they think the University System should advise them on whether the city offer is better than the Allegheny Power offer.

"Ultimately this facility needs to be in the place the System thinks is best. If that is the Baldwin, that's fine," Schnebly said.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said the Allegheny Power site is the better offer.

Commissioner William J. Wivell agreed with Iseminger but said he can't vote on the matter because he works for Allegheny Power.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz was unavailable for comment.

The city sent letters to the Maryland governor's office Wednesday and to the County Commissioners Thursday explaining the offer for the downtown site.

"I'm a little disappointed in the city going directly to the state," Iseminger said. He said he thinks the City Council should have first talked to the County Commissioners.

Iseminger said a county steering committee should decide which offer is better.

The downtown site was not considered by the steering committee that endorsed Allegheny Power's offer over three other sites at a Feb. 1 meeting.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Thursday he is still angry, three months later, that he was not part of the steering committee until the final meeting.

The complex the city is offering is on the same block and the same side of the street as Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center, which is at 20 Public Square.

Bruchey and Former Mayor Steven T. Sager said word from Frostburg officials that they would reduce their downtown presence sparked the city offer.

Sager made the presentation on the proposal during an executive session at Tuesday's council meeting. Sager, who works for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, wrote the proposal with help from other state workers.

The proposal was one of five items discussed Tuesday by the City Council during a closed session that lasted from 6:58 to 7:55 p.m., according to City Clerk Gann Breichner. The motion to go into closed session was made by Councilman Lewis Metzner and was passed unanimously.

Asked how such an important decision was made in so little time, Bruchey said, "You don't have to spend a lot of time (on it). It is good for Washington County."

The city has been trying to find a good use for the Baldwin complex for several years, he said.

Hagerstown City Council has been discussing with local developer Don Bowman a proposal to renovate and redevelop the building. Those talks have been going on for six months.

Through a secretary Thursday, Bowman said he is still talking to the city about the project but had no further comment.

Bruchey said a Bowman project remains a possibility.

"We're keeping our options open," he said.

The capital planner for the University System advised the County Commissioners at a meeting Tuesday to consider buying an additional 20 acres at the Allegheny Power site in a few years in preparation for future expansion. The site is about five miles southwest of downtown Hagerstown off Md. 632.

Under a timetable presented Tuesday, the county must get about $10 million from the state in fiscal 2001 to pay for construction and $1.2 million in fiscal 2002. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Bruchey said construction costs would be $2 million to $3.5 million less if the county chooses the downtown Hagerstown site.

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