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Veterans nursing home delayed again

March 06, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County veterans are disappointed that a decade-long quest to have their own nursing home in Hagerstown has been delayed once more.

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"As far as I'm concerned, all we get here in Western Maryland is the run-around," said Ray Linebaugh of the Washington County Joint Veterans Council.

The council would like a veterans home to be built on state-owned land near the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Gov. Parris Glendening told local veterans in November 1998 that he would request a study.

The study is not in his proposed budget this year, although it could be added before the legislative session ends April 10.

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"They've all got broken promises down there," said James L. Sprecher Sr., who chairs a committee of local veterans lobbying for the home.

A representative of the Maryland Veterans Commission could not be reached for comment.

Members of the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly said they were disappointed the money was not included in the budget.

" I was surprised. If the governor doesn't put the money in, it can't be put in by the legislature," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Last year, Glendening added $100,000 for the veterans home study to his budget late in the session, along with $150,000 in planning money for the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center.

But the Maryland General Assembly cut the veterans home project, saying it wasn't in the correct section of the budget.

Sprecher accused lawmakers of trading the study for the university.

Munson said that's not true.

The study's downfall was its misplacement in the budget. It was cut by the House Appropriations Committee.

"I fought really hard to keep it in the budget on the Senate side," Munson said.

State budget analysts urged the legislature to cut the study because the state's only veterans home in Charlotte Hall, Md., has 120 empty beds.

Munson argued that Western Maryland veterans don't use the Southern Maryland home because it is too far from their family and friends.

An effort to open a veterans home in nearby South Mountain, Pa., has met with similar roadblocks.

State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, told that group in November that they were fighting a losing battle. Despite the need, such projects are seen as being costly and, in a short time, obsolete.

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