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Hard work by many local folks ensured campus pact approva

December 20, 2002

Maryland's Board of Public Works delivered an early Christmas present to Washington County Wednesday, approving a contract to turn a downtown Hagerstown building into a University System of Maryland campus. Congratulations to all who had a hand in making this long-awaited dream come true.

With no discussion, the three-member board awarded the job to the Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner Contracting, which bid $11.25 million to beat out Perini Construction, which bid $13.3 million. Barring major delays, the campus should be open by the fall of 2004.

Credit for this decision should go to those member of the business community and elected officials, including state Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington. This group includes many who initially opposed putting it downtown, but who pulled together to support the downtown location once Gov. Parris Glendening chose the site.

In recent months Munson in particular has been vocal about saying that the decision had been made and that it would be counterproductive to reconsider it. The senator said he worked to get it on the public works board's agenda prior to January, to ensure that it not get lost in the rush to cut expenses.

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Now Munson and others have a task that may be just as difficult - ensuring that there will be funds to operate the campus once it opens. That must be done because for Washington County to prosper, a better-educated population is essential.

As we noted in a July editorial, Washington County's median family income then was $40,617, compared to $60,276 for Frederick County.

What accounts for the difference? One possibility: Twice as many Frederick County residents have four-year college degrees, and the employers of tomorrow will be looking for employees with more education, not less.

The new campus also has the potential to reinvigorate downtown Hagerstown, by giving boosters of the center city a success they can point to. The job of making all this happen is not complete, but those who've done so much to get the campus project this far deserve every citizen's thanks.

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