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Campus site workneeds local funding

It's time to pay up.

It's time to pay up.

August 01, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

That's the message Hagerstown and Washington County officials need to hear when it comes to the expense of siting a University System of Maryland campus in downtown Hagerstown.

Waiting for the state to kick in for the site work would be a mistake, even if Maryland weren't facing a billion-dollar budget deficit. Students coming to this campus for the first time need to be impressed, not repelled, by its surroundings.

What will it take to do that? In June of 2000, a task force of the Greater Hagerstown Committee identified four major projects which it said would cost $3.9 million to accomplish.

These include:

- the purchase and demolition of the old McCrory's building to create open space around the Baldwin House complex, which will be rehabbed into classroom space,

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- the acquisition and demolition of a number of properties on West Franklin Street to create a 153-space metered parking lot,

- the transformation of McCardell Alley, on the northwest side on Potomac Street near Public Square, into a pedestrian walkway, and

- the widening of alleyways behind and around the campus to allow two-way traffic.

The state budget includes $13.3 million to renovate the Baldwin House complex, but as of last month when Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend toured the Baldwin complex, state officials weren't promising anything else.

The latest revenue estimates don't make it likely the state could kick in much more, even if the next governor was so inclined. If anything, the state will probably push some of its expenses back onto local governments.

So what we have here is a new campus that city officials are counting on to revive downtown and county commissioners who say they're committed to that revival.

If they mean what they say, they must start looking for ways to fund these projects, either through a capital campaign or a bond issue. The new campus, set to open in January 2004, is poised to do one of Hagerstown's crown jewels, but like all good jewelry, it needs a proper setting.

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