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Hospital site fallout

Some property owners who would be displaced by new hospital don't mind

Some property owners who would be displaced by new hospital don't mind

July 18, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Bill Mason bought a house at 23 S. Cannon St. about four years ago as an investment, figuring that one day the nearby Washington County Hospital would want to purchase the property.

"I figure this location would eventually be developed," he said.

That day may be coming soon.

His property is one of about 60 that would be acquired under a proposal to build a new hospital downtown.

The city of Hagerstown suggests the hospital be built between East Franklin and East Washington streets, between Mulberry Street and North Cannon Avenue, three anonymous sources said. The property is across Cannon Avenue from CVS Pharmacy and McDonald's.

To meet the needs of a new hospital, the city said a parking deck could be built on the block surrounded by Washington, Antietam and Mulberry streets and South Cannon Avenue, sources said.

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Mason and Michelle Peck, who also lives at Mason's house, said they think the downtown site would be better than two sites outside of the city limit that are also being considered by a search committee.

The other two sites have been identified as Allegheny Energy's 450-acre Friendship Technology Park, south of Hagerstown off Interstate 70, and 230 acres of agricultural land just east of Hagerstown Community College and near the Robinwood Medical Center. The center is owned by the hospital's parent company, the Washington County Health System.

John Fouke, 75, and Johanna Fouke, 72, said they prefer the hospital moving to the city site even though they would have to move out of the 15 S. Cannon Ave. house where they have lived since 1959.

"It if is necessary and it has to be done, then it has to be done," Johanna Fouke said. "We would just have to deal with it ... It is something that would be good for the community."

David Russo, who owns Russo's RX at 25 N. Cannon Ave., said he has mixed feelings about the city proposal.

"I think it is a great idea to keep the hospital in downtown Hagerstown to rejuvenate the city," Russo said. But, he said, "personally it would inconvenience me."

"It's good for the hospital, good for the city and not so great for me," Russo said.

Russo is running for Republican Christopher B. Shank's state delegate seat.

Action Products Inc. President Robert McNight said he thinks the downtown site is the best one even though it would mean moving out of the 76,000-square-foot four-story manufacturing plant at 22 N. Mulberry St. the company has been using since 1977.

The company, which makes hospital supplies, has 141 employees.

If he had to move the plant, McNight said he would probably move it near a second plant the company owns at 954 Sweeney Drive in the Hagerstown Business Park.

The Hagerstown City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution offering to use its power of eminent domain to forcibly take land to help the hospital if it goes to the downtown site.

Four of the five council members - all but Councilwoman Penny May Nigh - have said they will vote for the resolution.

Under eminent domain, a public agency takes land needed for a public project and pays the owner fair market value for the property. The owner can contest the attempt and take the matter to court.

The city assumes the hospital would pay for the land purchases, Mayor William Breichner said.

Kathy Rinehart, of 32 N. Mulberry St., said she would like to see the hospital stay in the city but not at the proposed location because there is too much drug activity and other crime. She has lived at that address for about 20 years, she said.

Bud Hess, owner of Uncle Bud's Custom Cycles, said he wants the hospital to go "anywhere but here." Hess moved his business in the fall to 237 E. Franklin St. from Jefferson Street, and does not want to move again, he said.

Similarly, Gene McFalls said he moved his exterminator business, Pest Pros, into an office at 218 E. Washington St. in November and does not want to move. He thinks the site by the college is the best one, he said.

The Washington County Teachers Association would probably not object to having to move, since it needs a place with better parking, association treasurer Nina Garrett said. The association has been in property at 42 S. Mulberry St. since the mid-1980s, she said. She thinks the city site is the best one.

Jesse Bell, owner of J & B Trains at 200 E. Antietam St., also said he favored the city site and would not object to having to move as long as there was financial compensation.

The Washington County Health System owns property in the two block area, including a four-story 253-space parking deck on Antietam Street, a 128-space parking lot and a 47-space parking lot, system officials said. The hospital's 40,384-square-foot Pangborn Hall is also in the two-block area.

In a meeting with a hospital search committee, the city has offered to give the hospital financial breaks on water, sewer and electricity if it chooses the city site, Breichner said.

James Hamill, Health System president and chief executive officer, said in November that the system was considering building a new hospital.

Once a site is selected, the system can better estimate the cost of a new hospital, he said. A decision on whether the system can afford a new hospital won't occur until next summer, Hamill said.

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