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Commissioners endorse HCC site for Md. campus

November 16, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners Tuesday unanimously endorsed the Hagerstown Community College site for a university center after the campus project director told them his "gut" says Gov. Parris Glendening is no longer considering an Allegheny Power site.

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Commissioner William J. Wivell, an Allegheny Power accountant, asked if the utility's Friendship Technology site off Interstate 70 has been withdrawn as a possible site for the University System of Maryland center.

"The only one who can answer that is the governor," Campus Project Director Robert Sweeney said. "My gut tells me it has been."

"I think that's the reality of this whole thing," Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger agreed.

Allegheny Power has not officially withdrawn its site as a proposed location, a spokesman said.

While some had speculated that Glendening wouldn't pick the utility's site because of concerns it did not follow his Smart Growth Act initiative, county and campus officials had never before stated publicly that they didn't think the governor would choose it.

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A Glendening spokesman has said the governor had a preference between the Allegheny Power site and the downtown Baldwin House complex, but refused to say which one he liked better. Glendening has promised to choose a site in December.

Wivell questioned whether it would be a conflict of interest for him to vote on the endorsement since his employer, Allegheny Power, had offered one of the proposed sites. But he said he decided to vote after Sweeney said the utility's technology park site was no longer in the running.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said he did not think Wivell's vote broke conflict-of-interest rules.

Two weeks ago Washington County's legislative delegation and four members of the steering committee shifted their support to the HCC site, saying it met Glendening's Smart Growth Act Initiative more closely than the Allegheny Power site. Some had previously criticized the community college site because of road and utility costs.

Sweeney said road improvements, including future widening of a section of Robinwood Drive, would be done whether the campus is built or not.

The University System of Maryland center would offer mostly third- and fourth-year classes and would benefit from being next to HCC, which offers first- and second-year classes, he said.

They also might be able to share faculty, he said.

"This seemed to make sense from the very beginning," Commissioner Paul L. Swartz said Tuesday.

Steering committee members, including Swartz and HCC President Norman Shea, say the site was initially the leading candidate for their endorsement. The site is on 116 acres next to the college.

The steering committee endorsed the Friendship Park site after the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, turned down a request to buy the land and Allegheny Power offered its 20-acre site for free.

The college has since bought the land with a $1.4 million loan from the county. The campus plans for the land to serve as a buffer against encroaching development, Shea says.

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