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Letters to the editor - 8/11

August 11, 2002

Nigh: Where I stand on Hagerstown issues



Recently I completed my first year as a councilwoman for the City of Hagerstown. With that, I would like to begin my evaluation by thanking all the individuals who have responded to me, either pro or con, in person or in print. While my campaign slogan was "A Voice of The People" my secondary goal was to bring awareness to the numerous issues affecting our lives. The multitude of replies I have received clearly indicates that I have achieved my goal.

Throughout this year, council has been confronted with a wide range of issues ranging from water and sewer to Hope VI to a new hospital. I would like to take this opportunity to address a few topics.

New Hospital: After meeting with Jim Hamill, CEO, Washington County Hospital, in February 2002, I believe I have a clear understanding of what he is looking for. A new hospital should be a regionally recognized facility featuring the best equipment, technology and staff possible. While the concept holds merit, the obstacles are simple - cost and inconvenience.

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What will the cost be for the city to build a new parking deck? In all probability it will be financed through a bond at an annual rate of $250,000-$500,000 for 20 years and with the financial picture of the city not looking good this may be a cost we do not need to incur.

My vote against eminent domain was for the benefit of those property owners who do not understand what "fair market value" means. If you think a property owner will get two or three times more for his property because government is involved, think again. The reverse is much more likely.

Trauma Center: Approximately six years ago this facility attained the status of being a "Top 100 Trauma II Center." Six years later we have no trauma center and what is even worse is that cases normally handled by WCH for years are now being directed to the Baltimore-Washington area. Why did this change suddenly occur? Why was more thought not given to becoming a Trauma III Center? Why was the community at large not informed of the protocol for patients being transferred?

Unfortunately, I have been informed of a series of situations whereby citizens have had to go on a "seek and find" mission to find friends and family. To date there is still no plan or timeline to reinstate the trauma department and community resources are needlessly being financially drained. Somewhere in this picture there is a piece which connects to poor management and/or poor communication.

Hope VI Gateway Crossing: In a recent press report regarding this development the reporter indicated this area would become a "more pleasant, class-integrated neighborhood . . ."

First, research indicated that Hope VI projects have failed in other communities. Second, if one wants an example of class-integration, one only needs to reflect on the area of Noland Drive and Noland Village.

While Noland Drive was developed by a reputable lumber company that built quality homes that sustained their value, the construction of Noland Village brought changes to the neighborhood which resulted in crime, violence and decreased property values.

Why would one think this new plan will be any different? Associated with this project was the recent property exchange of Elgin Park which passed 4-1 with my vote being the dissenting one. Why? With space being limited for our children to play safely, why would anyone want to destroy a park to have it replaced by a community center?

Police, Parole and Probation: Of all the issues I deal with, this one occupies at least 50 percent of my time. While members of this administration continue to deny the extent of the problem I continue to present the opposite.

I have said before and I will say again "This town is filthy dirty!" Not just trash and dirty streets and sidewalks but dirty with the dealers and the hookers. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing battle which will take longer than my term in office to correct.

An overview of the situation is one continuous cycle. Criminals sentenced to jail serve time in the Maryland Correctional Facility six miles south of town. Wile serving, criminals' families seem to "land" in Hagerstown. Upon release, instead of going back whence they came, the criminal stays in Hagerstown. At last count there were close to 900 parolees in Hagerstown. When confronted, the Department of Parole and Probation will say that they are instructed to go through a series of procedures and urine test before someone is again convicted for violating probation.

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