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Baldwin House is rejected

June 17, 1999

Bruchey pitches downtown campusBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




The Hagerstown City Council offer of a downtown building as the site of the University System of Maryland Hagerstown campus was rejected Wednesday night by a Washington County steering committee.

[cont. from front page]

At the suggestion of University System Chancellor Donald Langenberg, the committee instead reaffirmed its Feb. 1 endorsement of Allegheny Power's donated 20-acre site at the Friendship Technology Park.

The Allegheny Power site is off Interstate 70 on Downsville Pike, about five miles from downtown Hagerstown.

"It is not in the best interest of the University System, nor the state, to spend more money for a facility that would provide less in terms of a final product," University System Capital Planning Director Mark W. Beck told the steering committee.

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The 22-member committee took a voice vote and all but Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II voted to again endorse the Allegheny Power site. The motion was made by committee member Wayne E. Alter.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, who was steering committee co-chairman, wanted the committee to make a decision Wednesday because the Board of Regents Finance Committee is scheduled to approve a campus-related item at a meeting today in Baltimore.

Bruchey said he was disappointed by the decision but promised he would not do anything to delay work on the Allegheny Power site.

Bruchey said the decision ultimately is up to Gov. Parris Glendening.

The committee meeting began at 7 p.m. with Bruchey, the city's Economic Development Coordinator Debbie Everhart and Architect Kurt Cushwa detailing what they said would be the advantages of using the donated 60,000-square-foot city-owned Baldwin House Complex at 32-46 W. Washington St. The city offered the site following a March 18 meeting.

Those advantages, they said, included cost savings and the possible revitalization of downtown Hagerstown.

Cushwa and former Mayor Steven Sager, who wrote the city proposal, have said the city site would be at least $4 million cheaper than the $12 million campus proposal.

Beck disputed that estimate.

"We have no doubt that the cost to renovate the buildings being discussed tonight will exceed at least $12 million, which is more than the cost of new construction," Beck said.

It would take at least one year more to renovate the downtown site than it would to build at the Allegheny Power site, he said.

Operation costs also would be higher, Beck said. "This is not fiction. This is fact," he said.

The University System usually estimates 15 percent higher operational costs at renovated buildings, he said.

By 9:30 p.m. the committee had made the decision to use the Allegheny Power site, which is what the county and University System have been planning to do since Feb. 1.

"The steering committee has already pre-selected a site prior to this meeting," Bruchey said during his introductory remarks. "I hope that our presentation tonight will not be an exercise in futility."

Bruchey has said the city proposal was sparked by word the Frostburg State University Center would pare back operations at its downtown location and move to the system campus.

The city presentation included responses to concerns raised about security and parking for the downtown site. The campus would have private security guards at either site, a campus spokesman said.

Cushwa said additional officers could be assigned to the area. Response time by city police to the downtown site would be faster than Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies to the Allegheny Power site, he said.

Plans for the campus call for a minimum of about 400 parking spaces.

Bruchey said he counted 93 cars in the city parking deck at about 5 p.m. Wednesday. The parking deck, on the first block of North Potomac Street, has 444 parking spaces.

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

At a downtown site, students could eat at local restaurants instead of relying on vending machines, Cushwa said.

Bruchey says 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."

Maryland Office of Planning Assistant Director Ronald Young said in an April 30 memo that the downtown site better fits the executive order's intent, but he has said he does not think there would be any financial problem with using the Allegheny Power site

At Wednesday's meeting Young urged the committee to give full consideration to the city proposal.

"We don't believe it is inconsistent with the Smart Growth Executive Order," said Washington County Planning Director Robert Arch in a presentation he and Public Works Director Gary Rohrer made.

related story:

-- Campus chronology

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