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Annexation possible for new hospital

August 03, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A consideration in a proposed site for a new Washington County Hospital near Hagerstown Community College is whether the city of Hagerstown would want to annex the property, a hospital search committee member said.

The question arose during committee discussions about the site, one of three under consideration, said Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, a committee member.

The committee did not make a recommendation on whether the city should annex the 230 acres of agricultural land and has not approached city officials about the issue, Snook said.

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Since the site includes more land than the hospital actually needs, Snook expects some private businesses also would be built near it, he said.

The city does not get property tax revenue from the hospital because it is a nonprofit company, but it would receive property tax revenues from for-profit businesses on land annexed into the city.

James Hamill, president and chief executive officer of the hospital's parent company, the Washington County Health System, said Thursday he did not have a preference on whether the land is annexed.

The city only annexes land whose property owner requests annexation, Mayor William M. Breichner said.

When polled this week, only one Hagerstown City Council member, Carol N. Moller, expressed support for annexing the land if the hospital is built by the college. She would support annexation because the hospital would benefit by paying the lower water and sewer rates charged to city customers rather than the higher rates charged to residents outside the city.

The hospital would continue as a city water and sewer customer if it was built by the college but it no longer would be an electricity customer, Breichner said.

The hospital is the city's largest sewer customer, its second-biggest electrical customer and its fifth-largest water customer, paying about $868,000 in sewer, water and electrical costs in fiscal 2001, according to the city's annual financial report.

Councilman Kristin Aleshire and Lewis Metzner said they probably would vote against annexation because there would not be much benefit to the city.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot and Councilwoman Penny May Nigh said they are not sure if they would support annexation.

The proposed hospital site is just east of the college and north of Robinwood Medical Center. The Health System owns the medical center.

City land on Professional Court, off Eastern Boulevard, is next to property owned by the Health System, Breichner said.

Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer has estimated $20 million to $25 million would be needed in road improvements if the college hospital site is chosen, including $5.5 million to extend Professional Court to Robinwood Drive and build a bridge over Antietam Creek.

Breichner said it would be premature to say whether the city should annex some or all of the 230 acres if the hospital is built at that site.

"I don't want to think about it too hard because I'm still convinced that the downtown site is the best one," he said.

The city has suggested the hospital be built in the block surrounded by East Franklin, East Washington and North Mulberry streets and North Cannon Avenue, with parking facilities in an adjacent block. Doing so would require purchasing 59 properties, Breichner said.

He said an annexation request from the Health System would be more attractive if it also included the Medical Center land.

The third site under consideration for a new hospital is Allegheny Energy's 450-acre Friendship Technology Park off Interstate 70 south of Hagerstown.

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