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City's costs in battle were nearly $300,000

April 08, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The City of Hagerstown spent $284,735 on legal and consulting fees between July 15, 2003, and Feb. 29 to fight the proposal to move Washington County Hospital to a site along Robinwood Drive, City Finance Director Alfred Martin said Wednesday.

In June 2003, Washington County Hospital officials filed a proposal to move the hospital from its current location on East Antietam Street to a site along Robinwood Drive.

City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said Wednesday he thought there have been results from spending the money, although he said he wasn't pleased by the dollar amount.

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"You have to factor that into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in rate increases that would be incurred by the citizens, the businesses and the city over the course of the life of the project," Aleshire said.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said, "I have no regrets about doing that. ...You have to remember, the city is self-insured."

Martin said that because the city is self-insured, its budget is affected by the hospital's rates.

Martin said the city spent about $1 million last year on health care payments to Washington County Hospital.

On July 15, Martin said, the city hired Baltimore law firm Funk & Bolton P.A. as well as two health care consultants to begin disputing claims made by hospital officials in their filings.

Martin said the money was spent on the services provided to the city by Funk & Bolton, and by consultants Hal Cohen of Baltimore and Andrew Solberg of Columbia, Md. Martin said the numbers do not reflect any bills for March.

City officials said Tuesday that the attorneys and consultants have been asked to stop work on the case.

Martin said Cohen once worked as the director of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, and Solberg once was the director of the Maryland Health Care Commission. Those are the two agencies considering the hospital's proposals.

The two consultants were hired at the request of David Funk, the lead attorney in the hospital fight and one of the partners in Funk & Bolton, Martin said.

Martin said Funk & Bolton billed $200 an hour for attorney fees - a discounted rate - and somewhat less for clerical services such as copying, faxing and mailing. The firm billed $160,800 through the end of February.

Cohen charged $250 an hour, and his subcontractor, Solberg, charged $165 an hour, Martin said. Together, the men charged the city $123,935.

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