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Governor considering a third site for campus

November 02, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Gov. Parris Glendening's decision on a location for a University System of Maryland center in Washington County may be delayed until December because he is considering a third site, his spokesman said Tuesday.

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Although spokesman Michael E. Morrill wouldn't confirm the location of the new site, Glendening expressed interest in a Hagerstown Community College site when he visited two other prospective sites in the county on Sept. 15.

While in the area to check out the city-donated Baldwin House complex and the Friendship Technology Park site donated by Allegheny Power, Glendening asked about the land adjacent to Hagerstown Community College.

Washington County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz and Merle Elliott, president of the Washington County Industrial Foundation known as CHIEF, said Tuesday they prefer the HCC land for the campus.

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Both are on a steering committee that twice endorsed Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park site outside Hagerstown off Interstate 70.

"I've always said it was the ideal spot," College President Norman P. Shea said. Placing the campus at the college would be "a home run for the county," he said.

Glendening had promised a decision on the campus site by late November.

If Glendening does not made a decision by Thursday, then it won't be made until December because the governor leaves Friday for a two-week trade mission overseas, Morrill said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey said Tuesday night he talked to Glendening on Friday and the governor told him the decision would come this week.

Discussion about the campus site's location arose during a joint meeting Tuesday between the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown Community College Board of Trustees at the college.

"Frankly this is where I think it ought to be," said Elliott, a board trustee.

Some steering committee members say, however, it was a decision by Elliott that resulted in the steering commitee endorsing Allegheny Power's site over the community college site.

Shea and other steering committee members, including Allegheny Power Vice President Jim Latimer, have said HCC was their first choice for the university center.

The steering committee instead endorsed the Friendship Technology Park site after CHIEF turned down a request to buy 116 acres next to the HCC campus and Allegheny Power offered its 20-acre site for free.

Elliott said his position changed because the circumstances have changed: HCC bought the property in question from Jack Young with a $1.4 million loan from the county. HCC wants the land to serve as a buffer against encroaching development, Shea has said.

Supporters of the HCC site say it is the best location because HCC and a University System center could share facilities, including a library and parking lots.

But putting the center at the college would require expansion of the intersection at Edgewood Drive and U.S. 40, as well as expansion of Robinwood Drive between the Robinwood Medical Center and HCC from two to four lanes, Washington County Planning Director Robert Arch has said. Edgewood becomes Robinwood at Mount Aetna Road.

In addition, a flood plain runs through the middle of the HCC land, which might cause problems or additional expense, Arch said.

When Glendening asked during his visit why the steering committee hadn't endorsed the HCC site, committee member William Reuter, president of the HCC board of trustees, said it was rejected because of high utility, road and land costs and because residents on Robinwood Drive think traffic already is excessive on the road.

Reuter could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

After the steering committee's endorsement of the Friendship Technology Park site, the city offered the Baldwin House complex for the center.

The cost of a University System campus at the Allegheny Power site is estimated at $14 million and Bruchey says the state could save at least $1 million by placing it downtown instead.

Bruchey says the campus should go in the Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown because it more closely meets Glendening's Smart Growth initiative, which encourages downtown revitalization. Supporters of the other two sites say they also meet that initiative.

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