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EDC asks city to stop fighting hospital move

August 21, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission has asked the City of Hagerstown to stop fighting the hospital's plan to relocate.

The city has asked the Maryland Health Care Commission to deny the hospital's request for a certificate of need, a document the hospital needs to make the move to hospital-owned property on Robinwood Drive next to the medical center.

The letter, dated Aug. 18 and signed by EDC Chair Peggy S. Bushey, asks the city to consider not just its own interests but those of the entire region and suggests that further actions by the city could jeopardize health care improvements.

In phone interviews Wednesday, Bushey and EDC member Douglas Wright said the city should consider the hospital's November 2002 site selection decision to be final and move on.

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Wright, chair of the Hagerstown Planning Commission, was the city's representative on the hospital site selection committee.

Wright said he cast the site selection panel's sole vote against the Robinwood site but felt that once the board made the decision to pursue that location, the matter should be considered settled.

"The decision is made, and we need to look forward," Wright said.

Mayor William M. Breichner said the city disagrees with Wright's position.

Breichner, a nonvoting EDC member, said he was disappointed that the EDC voted at an Aug. 14 meeting to send the letter.

City officials have said they want the hospital to build or expand at its existing site instead of moving out of Hagerstown.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said at Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting that the city has no plans to stop questioning the hospital's planned move.

Breichner agreed with that on Wednesday.

Bushey's letter says the city's actions could delay the project and, as a result, increase the project's cost.

Breichner said that is not the case and noted the state commission, in a letter to the city, acknowledged receipt of a list of questions the city had about the hospital's application for a certificate of need.

Hospital officials have said the city's comments are coming late in the process, months after the site selection committee evaluated various city and county sites before choosing the Robinwood site. The state commission says the city's questions are premature since the state has not yet docketed the hospital's request.

"So we are not holding up that project, quite frankly," Breichner said.

Washington County Health System President and CEO James P. Hamill, who is a voting member on the EDC, was involved in the meeting discussion but abstained from voting on the matter, EDC officials said.

Hamill, through a spokeswoman, said he was pleased by the EDC decision to send the letter to the city.

Breichner said the EDC action on the hospital topic was raised and pushed by Hamill, but EDC Director Tim Troxell said the matter was raised by EDC member Gerald Hoak, a retired businessman.

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