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Campus cost estimate too low, University System official says

December 21, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Turning the downtown Hagerstown Baldwin House complex into a state university center probably will cost more and take longer than previously estimated.

Planning, designing, building and then furnishing the finished facility will cost an estimated $12.6 million, said Charles R. Middleton, University System of Maryland vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Middleton was one of four University System officials who gave a presentation to a joint meeting of the Washington County Commissioners and Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday.

This most recent cost estimate is $900,000 higher than the $11.7 million project cost estimate provided by the governor's office last month.

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The revised estimate includes $850,000 for planing and design, $10.5 million for construction and $1.25 million for school equipment.

Also Tuesday, University System Capital Planning Director Mark W. Beck said it is "highly unlikely" Hagerstown's university center will be open by fall 2002, the previous target opening date.

Beck said he couldn't say when the center might open. He said he will be better able to predict an opening date in six months, after more studies have been completed.

A previous comparison between a potential campus site along Interstate 70 and the Baldwin House complex projected there could be a 12- to 16-month delay if the center went downtown.

Beck said university officials are focusing on studies to determine which classes should be offered at the Hagerstown center; what environmental issues, such as asbestos insulation and lead paint, will be faced in the Baldwin House buildings; and a utility and structural analysis of the buildings, which will determine whether any demolition is necessary.

Middleton said the University System wants to organize a group of university system, local government and business leaders to advise university officials on the project.

Middleton said the University System will conduct a survey to determine what types of classes are wanted and needed by the community.

He said current plans are to offer only night and weekend classes at the center.

Last month, Gov. Parris Glendening selected the Baldwin House complex as the site for a new campus.

The Baldwin House complex is a group of vacant buildings at 32-46 W. Washington St., which once housed a department store, hotel and warehouse.

The buildings are owned by the City of Hagerstown and had been offered to the state for free by the mayor and City Council.

Glendening said the vacant buildings are the best location for a new university center with regard to the Smart Growth Act, and will be less expensive than sites along the interstate or at Hagerstown Community College, which were the other two sites offered for consideration.

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