County wants campus issue reviewed

May 21, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Four of the five Washington County Commissioners say they want a reconvened steering committee to decide whether Hagerstown City Council's free university campus site offer is better than Allegheny Power's.

If the University System of Maryland doesn't want to choose between the two sites "we will be glad to do it," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Friday. A University System spokesman said Thursday the system is not going to decide which offer is better.

The fifth commissioner, Paul L. Swartz, has been out of town and unavailable for comment. Swartz and Snook are co-chairmen of the committee, which includes business and government leaders.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said he will ask the steering committee to meet again as soon as possible to hear the city's proposal.


Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II has repeatedly expressed his anger over not being made part of the steering committee until its final meeting, which was Feb. 1.

At that meeting the committee endorsed a plan to build the $10 million to $15 million single-building campus on 20 donated acres at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park. Since that time, a $25,000 program plan has been developed specifically for that site, which is off Downsville Pike about five miles southwest of Hagerstown.

The City Council decided in a closed-door meeting Tuesday to offer 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 five-story former Baldwin House, the former Routzahn's department store and the former Grand Piano warehouse.

The site was not considered by the steering committee, Snook said.

"The prospect of locating it on a downtown site was never on the radar screen," Commissioner John L. Schnebly said Friday.

The county needs to be careful how it handles the city offer, he said. It is a sensitive issue and the County Commissioners must be careful not to damage relationships with city officials and other government and business leaders, he said.

"I am concerned if we start playing politics with this project then we will lose it," said Commissioner William J. Wivell, who works for Allegheny Power and prefers his company's offer.

Bruchey and Steven T. Sager, the former Hagerstown mayor, say the city's offer would reduce construction costs by at least $2 million. Sager, who now works for the state government, did much of the work on the city proposal.

Sager says the city offer is clearly in the spirit of the state's 1997 Smart Growth Areas Act and a January 1998 executive order issued by Gov. Parris Glendening whereas the Allegheny Power one is not.

"This optional location would assist the state in achieving the goals of its Smart Growth vision and assist the city in its continuing effort to revitalize downtown Hagerstown," Bruchey said in a May 18 letter to the governor.

The city proposal was partially sparked by word that Frostburg State University Center would pare back operations at its downtown location, Bruchey said.

The Herald-Mail Articles