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City must compute hospital site's costs

July 29, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

The Washington County Hospital's search for a new site got more complicated last week, when Washington County's Director of Public Works estimated that putting a new hospital on a tract near the Robinwood Medical Center would require $20 million or more in road improvements. That fact could help the Hagerstown city government make the case that keeping the hospital downtown is an affordable choice.

The sobering news on road costs came from Gary Rohrer, the county's public works director, who said that using the 230-acre site near Hagerstown Community College would require a new road between Robinwood Drive and Md. 64, an extension of Professional Court and a bridge over the Antietam Creek. And the intersection of U.S. 40 (Dual Highway) and Edgewood Drive would need to bhe rebuilt, he said.

How much of that cost would be borne by the hospital is up to the county commissioners, Rohrer said. The county's Adequate Facilities Ordinance usually mandates some developer participation toward needed upgrades of roads and other infrastructure.

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The other two possible sites have some road problems of their own. Allegheny Energy's Friendship Technology Park only has an entrance road at this point, while the proposed city site, at the entrance to downtown, would require some road improvements to keep traffic moving on U.S. 40 so that ambulances, doctors and visitors could get in and out.

Mayor William Breichner says the city hasn't developed an estimate on necessary improvements that would be needed if the hospital builds downtown. We suggest that job be a top priority, with Rohrer's department lending a hand, in the spirit of city/county cooperation.

In its quest to keep the hospital downtown, the city already faces the possibility of having to acquiring 59 downtown properties for demolition. Now the city needs to enlist Rohrer and anyone else it needs to estimate what other costs would be associated with the downtown site.

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