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New hospital sites suggested

March 14, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown's mayor, city administrator and planning director met with the Washington County Health System's top administrator on Wednesday to suggest sites within the city for a new Washington County Hospital.

Mayor Bill Breichner would not say exactly how many sites were suggested or exactly where the suggested sites are. The sites suggested Wednesday came from a list of 10 sites city officials originally considered, he said.

All of the suggested sites are within the city limits, and are not on government-owned property, he said.

Breichner said he worried that announcing the suggested sites could "start a land rush" on the privately owned property the city recommended as possible locations for the hospital.

Councilman Lew Metzner, who was not at the Wednesday meeting but was briefed on the presentation during a March 5 closed-door council meeting, said two to four sites probably were suggested Wednesday.

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Councilwoman Carol Moller said possibly four or five sites were suggested.

Metzner, Moller, and Councilwoman Penny May Nigh would not say where any of the suggested sites are.

Breichner said he would not say exactly how many sites were suggested because hospital officials might choose none of the suggested sites for a new hospital.

Breichner, Moller and Metzner said that ideally, a new hospital would be built on or near the hospital property at 251 E. Antietam St.

"Not exactly on that site, but within the downtown core," Breichner said. "We think the hospital's a very important part of this community."

If a new hospital is built outside the city, hospital jobs and the doctors' offices around the hospital also would move outside Hagerstown, he said.

"It would be a drain on the urban area," Breichner said.

The mayor, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman, City Planning Director Ric Kautz, and Washington County Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Hamill met privately for about an hour Wednesday at City Hall, Breichner said.

The Health System is the parent company of Washington County Hospital.

Hamill said the city requested the Wednesday meeting. He would not comment further on any aspect of the meeting.

A decision on a site for a new hospital is expected to be made this summer, Hamill said.

Hamill previously said potential sites for a new hospital include the parking lots near the existing hospital, land at the Robinwood Medical Center, somewhere in downtown Hagerstown, or sites not yet identified.

Hamill said it is too early to say whether a new hospital would be built in Hagerstown.

"We have yet to have a meeting of the (Health System's) site selection committee," he said.

Even after a site is chosen, there will still be a chance a new hospital will not be built.

"If we stay on schedule the (Health System) board will make a final go, no-go decision in fall 2003," he said.

If the Health System's board of directors votes to move forward with the project, construction could begin soon after, and a new hospital would be open and taking patients three years later, Hamill said.

Hamill has said the current hospital would probably be demolished after a new hospital is built, and the land probably turned into a park.

A new hospital would be more efficient, would address space constraints and would allow the Health System to implement new medical technology and equipment, he has said.

Hamill said there is no cost estimate for a new hospital.

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