City offer could delay campus project

May 26, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Hagerstown City Council's offer of the Baldwin House Complex as a free site for the proposed University System of Maryland, Hagerstown campus, could delay the project by weeks or months, a System spokesman said Wednesday.

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In order to avoid delays, the University System must know by July whether the county wants to proceed with a plan to put the campus on a site donated by Allegheny Power south of Hagerstown or to accept the city's downtown offer, said Chris Hart, System spokesman.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook has scheduled a June 16 public meeting of the steering committee that selected the Allegheny Power site for the campus. He called the meeting to give the city a chance to outline its proposal.

A June 16 meeting date is cutting it close, and could result in delaying the planned September 2002 date for classes to begin at the one-building campus, Hart said.


"We want a decision to be made as soon as possible," Hart said. "That's pushing it."

"We are very concerned about that, but we also want to make sure time is available to hear about the latest possible offer," said County Administrator Rodney Shoop.

Snook has asked the steering committee, of which he is co-chairman, to reconvene and determine whether the city site or the Allegheny Power site is the better offer.

The June 16 steering committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Frostburg State University Center in downtown Hagerstown.

Snook said he will leave it up to the steering committee to decide whether to make a decision that night, he said.

On June 17, the day after the public meeting, the System Board of Regents Finance Committee is scheduled to hear a presentation on the time line and plans for the proposed campus at the Allegheny Power site.

It is not known whether that presentation will be delayed, Hart said.

The project is scheduled to go before the full Board of Regents at a July meeting.

The city proposal was developed by former Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager, who is now a state employee. He said Wednesday he does not know if he will make the presentation. That decision is up to Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, he said.

Bruchey could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Since February, the County Commissioners and University System officials have planned to build a campus on a donated 20-acre site at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park, about five miles from downtown Hagerstown. Estimated cost of the project is about $12 million.

That site was endorsed by the steering committee.

The county paid for a $25,000 site-specific document detailing the need for the campus and some of the building plans.

Switching the campus site at this point would mean a delay of at least four to six weeks while a new document was prepared, Snook said.

Commissioner John L. Schnebly said the county needs to make a clear decision if it wants money from the Maryland General Assembly, he said.

"If we send a mixed signal to Annapolis, it could spell disaster," he said.

The timetable and plan for the campus calls for $10 million in state funding for building construction in fiscal 2001 and $1.2 million for equipment in 2002.

Sager and Bruchey said the city's proposal is better because renovating the Baldwin House site would cost $4.5 million to $7.6 million less than constructing a new building at the Allegheny Power site.

The downtown site fully meets the intent and goals of the Smart Growth Act, unlike the current county plan, Sager and Bruchey said.

Sager is working on the project as a private citizen, former mayor and as state employee. The work is being done on paid state time, said Sager, the Western Maryland community manager for the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Sager was mayor from 1985 to 1997 when he was defeated by Bruchey. He was Hagerstown's Community Development planner/supervisor from 1975 to 1982.

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