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City officials still want hosptial built downtown

November 18, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown city officials said Friday they will continue their campaign to persuade Washington County Hospital officials to build a new hospital on a city-supported downtown site.

Hospital officials on Thursday announced plans to build near Robinwood Medical Center, leaving only administrative offices and some yet-to-be determined health services downtown.

The Robinwood site was chosen over two others - Allegheny Energy's Friendship Technology Park south of Hagerstown and a two-block area on the east end of downtown.

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Hagerstown Councilwomen Penny May Nigh and Carol Moller said Friday they expected all along that the hospital would be built near the medical center. The medical center is owned by the Washington County Health System, the hospital's parent organization. Nigh and Moller did not think that decision would change.

Councilmen Kristin B. Aleshire, Lewis C. Metzner, N. Linn Hendershot and Mayor William M. Breichner said they are not so sure the decision is final.

"I think it's still in question," Hendershot said.

The health system board of directors voted Wednesday night to move forward with plans to build near Robinwood. The decision was announced Thursday by James P. Hamill, president and CEO of the hospital and the health system.

Council members said the city and members of the private sector will proceed with a campaign to keep the hospital downtown.

The city has sought to enlist public support. Breichner, at an Oct. 31 press conference, asked citizens who want the hospital to stay in the city to write the board of directors.

Hendershot said he plans to meet individually with each board member to explain why the hospital should stay in the city.

Barry Nickelsberg, executive director of Development, Community Relations and Marketing for the health system, said the board has made its decision and will proceed with architectural plans and related work for the Robinwood.

The location of the Robinwood site changed during the selection process, Nickelsberg said.

The hospital was originally looking at 231 acres of agricultural-zoned land near Hagerstown Community College and the medical center. That property, west of the college and north of the medical center, is owned by RB Young Limited Liability Limited Partnership.

Between the time system officials first met the property owners and when they went back, someone else took an option to buy the property, Nickelsberg said.

Don Beaver, a local real estate agent, said Friday he represents the property owner but could not reveal who took the option on the property.

Now, the hospital will be built on some of the 200 acres the system owns adjacent to the medical center, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Hamill said there are many other steps in the process of opening a new hospital by the target date of 2007. Cost estimates are in the range of $150 million, he said.

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