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Four on council want hospital meeting public

April 29, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Plans call for a meeting scheduled next Monday between the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Hospital officials to be closed to the public, but that may change.

The meeting follows months of sometimes contentious public exchanges over plans by the hospital's parent organization, Washington County Health System, to move the hospital to a site near Robinwood Medical Center.

Hospital officials have claimed the site is the best option for a new hospital, while city officials have said they are not convinced by the plans submitted to state agencies.

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The city has spent $292,630 in fees to a law firm and two health-care consultants to fight the move.

Four City Council members said this week they would like Monday's meeting to be open, but cited existing ground rules between the city and the hospital administration that could keep that from happening.

City officials allowed the hospital to decide whether the meetings would be open or closed. Hospital officials chose to meet privately this past Monday, but some city officials believe that could change.

"It's imperative that we stay closed right now," Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said. "This is such a complex issue."

He said future meetings could be open after "we can ... define the issues."

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said Wednesday he believed hospital officials might be ready to meet publicly, and that he believed meetings with the hospital should be open because "we're making a sincere attempt to discuss the public's business."

The mayor and council plan to meet in closed session Saturday to prepare for Monday's meeting.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner and Councilwomen Carol N. Moller and Penny M. Nigh said they would like the meetings to be open. Moller and Nigh said it would be up to the hospital to decide.

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