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Cost of university center set at $15.3 million

December 11, 2000

Cost of university center set at $15.3 million



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

University System meetingThe University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center is now projected to cost $15.3 million, University System Capital Planning Director Mark Beck said Monday.

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That figure is $2.8 million above the previous estimate of $12.5 million, but University System Chancellor Donald Langenberg said "chances are very good" the project will be funded in the governor's budget.

"The governor is very behind it ... Without promising anything it looks promising," Langenberg said.

Langenberg, Beck and other university system officials were in Hagerstown Monday for the first meeting of the Hagerstown Education Center Steering Committee.

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The 27-member steering committee is an advisory panel made up of area business leaders, elected and appointed officials and top local and state education administrators.

Langenberg said the committee is strictly advisory, "but very influential."

"We need to listen carefully to the community," he said.

The committee is expected to recommend which subjects should be taught at the new Hagerstown center.

Beck said the committee may also serve "as a sounding board for some choices in construction."

During their 90-minute meeting Monday, some committee members recommended asking farmers and large and small companies which subjects they would like to see at the new center.

Members also spoke about establishing a program for students to spend their first two years of college at Hagerstown Community College and take their last two years of classes at the university center.

HCC President Norman Shea, a steering committee member, said about 60 percent of HCC students go to another college after two years at HCC. He said most of those students would probably go to the Hagerstown center if they could.

Charles Middleton, committee member and university system vice chancellor for academic affairs, said there has been some talk about having classes in historical re-enactment at the center.

Former Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers, who was in the audience Monday, suggested creating a Web page for the center.

Speaking about construction, Beck said the abatement of hazardous materials, such as asbestos, should begin in July. He said the heaviest construction will probably be done in spring 2002.

Middleton said the center should be open in time for classes in fall 2003.

The Hagerstown center is to be built at the former Baldwin House complex on the first block of West Washington Street. The buildings, which are vacant and owned by the city, once housed a hotel, department store and warehouse.

Beck said the latest $15.3 million estimate for the center came to him Friday from the state Department of General Services.

Some increase in the cost was expected because of a good construction market, which Beck said is driving up prices of projects statewide.

The steering committee also got a briefing on the Greater Hagerstown Committee's $4.4 million plan to demolish several buildings around the new education center to make room for a park, more parking and wider alleys.

Jim Pierne, president of Farmers and Merchants Bank, said the project funding now depends on whether the governor includes it in the budget. Pierne is a member of the Greater Hagerstown Committee and the education center steering committee.

Langenberg supports the $4.4 million proposal, but said the education center will happen with or without it.

"It would be a very, very nice addition," Langenberg said.

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