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Downtown college campus shouldn't be a political issue

May 24, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

U.S. Rep. Robert Ehrlich's suggestion that he might consider shifting the site of a college campus proposed for downtown Hagerstown raises an issue that many felt was settled.

Some who favored an out-of-town site have never been reconciled to the downtown site, but the danger in reconsidering it now is that it could put the entire project in jeopardy.

Ehrlich's remarks were published last Sunday in a Herald-Mail question-and-answer interview written Andrew Schotz. Ehrlich said that "some people here for whom I have I have great respect" had suggested that the project be moved back to the site proposed originally at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park along Interstate 70.

Here's the danger, as we see it: Given that this county has never strongly supported Democratic candidates, if Ehrlich's opponent, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, perceives that locals are trying to undermine a decision she backs, she just might decide to shift it back to Frederick County, the area for which it was originally envisioned.

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If she's elected, Townsend's support would also be needed to provide additional state funding for beautification and parking around the downtown site. That's in addition to construction cash that will be a target for budget cutters when next year's budget is presented.

This campus has the potential to give working people in Washington County the additional training and advanced degrees they need - and the community needs - to move forward. And it will also bring new residents with high-than-average incomes into the community.

The downtown location will be tougher to work with, but it will spur city officials to make some of the hard decisions that have been avoided for decades, because a half-hearted effort won't make this project a success.

There will be time enough after the election to debate this issue again, if that''s what the community wants, but we don't believe injecting politics into it now will be helpful or wise.

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