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Campus security concerns raised

June 07, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The co-chairman of the steering committee that will choose between two free sites for the proposed University of Maryland, Hagerstown campus is concerned about security at the Hagerstown city-owned Baldwin House Complex

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"Security would be a problem, especially for night classes. I don't know that I want my son and daughter walking the streets after dark with questionable characters at that hour," said Washington County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz.

Swartz and Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook co-chair the committee.

Traditionally, System campuses hire private security guards and the System pays for that expense, said University System spokesman Chris Hart.

"Security is a perception problem," said Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II. Campus security could work with Hagerstown police and quell those concerns, he said.

Security is one of many factors the steering committee will consider when choosing between the city's West Washington Street offer and the Allegheny Power site on Downsville Pike, Snook said. Other factors include parking, accessibility, cost and size, he said.

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Formal comparisons of the two sites have not been done by the University System and Washington County administrators but some government, education and business leaders have noted reasons why they like or dislike the choices.

Snook and Swartz want the committee to make a decision at the June 16 meeting following a presentation by the city, because the campus proposal is scheduled for discussion by the Board of Regents Finance Committee the next day.

Snook and County Administrator Rodney Shoop say they are concerned that switching campus sites could delay a time line developed by the System's capital planner that calls for classes at the campus to begin in September 2002.

Development of a new program plan specifically for the downtown site would cause a delay, they said. A plan for the Allegheny Power site cost $25,000.

Former Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager said the time line would not be affected because renovating an existing building would take less time than building a new one. Sager, the Western Maryland community manager for the Department of Housing and Community Development, developed the city proposal.

Hart, however, said a switch in sites would result in a delay of weeks or months.

The System also questions estimates by Sager that switching to the downtown site would reduce project costs by $4.5 million because existing buildings would be used. It sometimes costs more to renovate an existing building than to build a new one, Hart said.

Proponents say using the downtown site could revitalize downtown and help existing businesses.

In pushing the downtown site, Sager and Bruchey argue that the site more fully meets the intent of the 1997 Maryland Smart Growth Act and a follow-up 1998 executive order that tells state agencies to "give priority to central business districts, downtown cores, empowerment zones and revitalization areas when funding infrastructure projects or locating new facilities."

While Maryland Office of Planning Assistant Director Ronald Young agreed in an April 30 memo the downtown site better fits the executive order's intent he said there would be no financial problem with using the Allegheny Power site.

Among the benefits cited for the Allegheny Power site are interstate accessibility and room for expansion. The county hopes the campus will draw students from four states. The System's capital planner, Mark Beck, has suggested the campus eventually could expand onto a second 20-acre site at Friendship Park.

The campus is being modeled on the Shady Grove Center, a system campus in Rockville, Md. One of the most popular parts of the campus is accessibility, including parking, Harley Cloud, director of the Shady Grove Center, said.

Accessibility is one of his concerns about the downtown site, said Cloud, who is on the steering committee. He and other System officials plan to tour the building today before a steering committee meeting.

"Access is very important. People want to be able to get in and out, and not spend 30 minutes in traffic," Cloud said. He said many Shady Grove students go straight from day jobs to night classes.

Bruchey disputes the idea that the Allegheny Power site is more accessible.

"That's a misconception," he said.

Driving around from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sager did an "accessibility analysis" to determine whether one site was more accessible than the other.

That analysis showed that the downtown site is five minutes faster for students driving north on Interstate 81, he said.

The Allegheny Power site is five minutes faster for students driving west on Interstate 70 and south on I-81. The timing was the same for students coming from the east on I-71.

Students at system campuses can earn four-year degrees from colleges offering classes there. System campuses do not usually have their own restaurants, athletic fields or dormitories.

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