Hagerstown faces a year of change

January 02, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

Hagerstown will start to see some changes in 2003, including construction of the new university and the expected implementation of a law affecting city rental units.

University work continues

Renovations to turn the Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street into the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center are scheduled this year.

A state board voted Dec. 18 to pay Whiting-Turner Contracting of Baltimore $11.25 million to design and renovate the historic structure.


Callas Contractors of Hagerstown has performed about $1 million worth of work for the state at the site, removing hazardous material and shoring up the structure.

If there are no construction delays, the building will be open for classes in fall 2004, University System officials say.

The City of Hagerstown plans to use more than $1 million in state grants to tear down the former McCrory's building next to the Baldwin House, Mayor William M. Breichner said. Work will begin in February or March.

Eventually, the city will develop an urban park on the former McCrory's site, Breichner said.

Hospital moves?

The Washington County Health System Board of Directors is scheduled to decide by summer whether to proceed with plans to move Washington County Hospital to land the system owns near the Robinwood Medical Center outside Hagerstown.

The health system is the hospital's parent company.

In mid-November James P. Hamill, president and CEO of the hospital and the health system, announced the system had chosen the Robinwood site over two other sites considered by a search committee. The sites are Allegheny Energy's 450-acre Friendship Technology Park, south of Hagerstown off Interstate 70, and a two-block area in downtown Hagerstown.

Hagerstown officials say they will continue to fight to keep the hospital in Hagerstown.

If the hospital moves, it would keep its administrative offices downtown along with some other clinical and support services, Hamill said.

Rental registration

Hagerstown plans to start a controversial rental registration program around May. The city is hiring four new code inspectors and a program manager to implement the program which was unanimously approved by the Hagerstown City Council on Oct. 22.

The program will charge landlords $45 per year per rental unit to finance regular inspections. City rental properties currently are inspected only in response to complaints.

A landlord group's petition to take the law to referendum fell 39 signatures short of the number needed, Washington County Board of Elections Supervisor Dorothy Kaetzel said Tuesday.

The Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County has asked a Washington County Circuit Court judge to review the counting of signatures on the petition. The group hopes a judge will decide it had enough valid signatures.

Had the petition drive succeeded, the city would not have been able to implement the law unless it was approved by voters.

Tight budget

The Hagerstown City Council will face another shortfall this year as it balances the budget.

Finance Director Alfred Martin said the city will probably have a shortfall of about $1.2 million. At a Sept. 28 meeting, the council reached a consensus to consider imposing a fire impact fee on new residences and raising the real estate tax rate to address the shortfall.

The city has had to tighten spending this year to make balancing the budget easier, the mayor has said.

The city usually adopts the budget in May or June.

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