Letters to the editor - 11/17/02

November 18, 2002

Downtown makes most sense for new hospital

As I am sure you are aware, the Washington County Hospital Board of Directors is in the process of selecting a site to construct a proposed new hospital. To accomplish this task, they have established a site-selection committee to review proposed locations and make a recommendation to the board members for their consideration. My purpose in writing this letter is to encourage the community to request that the board retain the hospital in the downtown area of the city.

Since this process began in January of this year, the City of Hagerstown, with the support of the City Council, has been dedicated to retaining this facility within the urban core of our city. To demonstrate our support of this project, we have:

1. Submitted a number of sites, two of which are considered to be in the downtown or urban core.

2. Offered the use of the city's power of eminent domain to assist in the acquisition of property.


3. Agreed to transfer water and sewer benefit charges from the current facility to the new site, an estimated $3.24 million in savings.

4. Been working with the Governor's Office of Smart Growth to seek any available state assistance.

The city has agreed to assist the hospital in this manner because we feel that, aside from the new University of Maryland facility currently under construction near Public Square, the Washington County Hospital located within our downtown is paramount to the future of our city.

Furthermore, we firmly believe that the hospital has had unprecedented success in serving the health care needs of the citizens of Hagerstown and surrounding areas at its current location for well over 150 years. Over its tenure, the community has rendered significant support for its progress through contributions and leadership. As the community progressed, so has the hospital. It is our belief that to relocate the hospital outside of our urban core will reverse the progress that we are seeing from the renewed interest in Hagerstown.

In addition to the support that the City Council has shown, there are a number of other advantages which are available within our city:

1. It is centrally located to provide needed health and emergency service for the citizens of the metropolitan area of Hagerstown and the region.

2. Our downtown area presents an exceptionally strong utility service area which includes water, sewer and electricity.

3. City services include a highly reliable police and fire department staffed by paid professionals capable of meeting hospital emergencies.

4. It has excellent existing street and highway access, thus eliminating the need for major road construction. It is noted that the county estimated $20 to $25 million for utility and road improvements to provide access of the Robinwood site, not to mention a multi-year timeline to accomplish this work.

5. The need for emergency medical services within the city has not been incorporated into the hospital's cost projection should the board decide to locate outside the city.

6. It is estimated that the hospital could save an estimated $400,000 in water, sewer and electric costs if they remain at our downtown location.

7. The proposed sites in our urban core presents a high degree of visibility.

Another factor that one must consider is the economic impact that the hospital directly and indirectly provides to our city. They are a major employer with approximately 1,500 individuals working at the existing downtown facility. A large majority of these workers are citizens who enjoy the advantage of living near their workplace and live in the city. In addition, it serves as the center of our health care community, which attracts private medical-related offices and businesses that represent a significant part of our tax base, both from real estate and personal income tax. Should the hospital abandon the city, it is reasonable to expect that many of these health care businesses would also leave.

Another economic factor will be the benefit of $160 million to $200 million in construction costs to build a new hospital and the business benefits derived by the thousands of visitors to our city.

We do not believe that the health care needs of this community can be better served by relocating the hospital outside our city. In fact, we are able to offer some very compelling justification and a suitable site for the hospital to best serve our citizens, both now and for the long term.

As a municipal government, we believe that we have worked to serve the best interest of our city and the whole metropolitan region serviced by our hospital. Therefore, we feel that now is the time for our citizens to voice their opinion that the hospital must remain in the downtown area of our city. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

William M. Breichner is mayor of the City of Hagerstown.

Republicans were all good

To the editor:

Reading the comments of the losing candidates has finally prompted me to write this letter.

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