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Delegation backs HCC for campus site

November 03, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Washington County's legislative delegation and two members of a steering committee that had endorsed a location for a University System of Maryland center said Wednesday they were publicly switching their support to a site at Hagerstown Community College.

The steering committee and delegation had endorsed land Allegheny Power offered to donate at its Friendship Technology Park site off Interstate 70 over the Baldwin House in downtown Hagerstown offered by the city.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said endorsement of the HCC site removes a major obstacle posed by the technology park location: Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth Initiative, which is intended to stop sprawl and focus growth in urban areas.

Supporters of the Baldwin House site have said it more closely meets the initiative than Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park site.

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Munson said it would be hard to argue that it would not be in keeping with smart growth to put the center next to the community college.

"It fits the governor's Smart Growth Initiative like a glove," agreed Malcolm Davis, a Maryland Economic Development commissioner and a private engineer.

Davis, Wayne Alter Jr. and William Reuter met with the governor last Wednesday, showed him a map of the HCC site and encouraged him to put the proposed college there, Alter said.

That may have prompted the governor's Wednesday announcement that he would delay site selection until December to allow time for the HCC site to be studied, Reuter said.

"I think our meeting truly did make a difference," he said. "I think our meeting went a long way to helping him decide to revisit the site locations."

Alter and Reuter are on the steering committee that twice endorsed the Allegheny Power site. Alter was an early chairman of the committee and Reuter is president of the HCC board of trustees.

They said that while they think the technology park site is a good one, they now prefer the HCC site.

Munson, Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington and Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington, speaking at Munson's office Wednesday afternoon, also endorsed the HCC site.

Del. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, did not attend but said in a telephone conversation that he supports the HCC site.

"This is the most important decision to be made in this county in 200 years," Munson said.

Munson said the delegation switched its endorsement in part because, after their own meeting with Glendening last week, they felt he was no longer considering the Allegheny Power site.

"This site is off the table and out of consideration," he said.

Allegheny Power Vice President Jim Latimer and Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill said that was news to them.

Latimer said, however, the utility's main concern is that the University System center be built in Washington County.

When Glendening visited the Allegheny Power and Baldwin House sites on Sept. 15 he asked about the HCC site but he did not visit it.

When asked during that visit why he was not considering the HCC site, Glendening pointed to Munson. Munson said that even though the college bought the land with a $1.4 million loan from the county, utility and road costs would be too high.

Ownership of the site and those costs had been cited by steering committee members as the reason the committee endorsed land at the technology park over the HCC site.

Munson acknowledged Wednesday that such costs, including widening an intersection and parts of Robinwood Drive, probably will be high.

"We will simply have to deal with that," he said.

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