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Hospital, city agree to public meeting

May 09, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon between the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Hospital officials will be open to the public, but it is not clear what can be accomplished at the meeting.

The meeting will be the third between the two sides since April 26 about the hospital's proposed move from East Antietam Street to a site near Robinwood Medical Center. The previous two meetings have been closed.

The Hagerstown Mayor and City Council discussed their plans Saturday for Monday's meeting, but there was some disagreement over what the goals of the meeting should be.

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Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he believed the city should try to get an idea about the hospital's contingency plans if the current plans fail.

Metzner said even though hospital officials have expressed confidence in gaining approval on their plans from both state and local agencies, there still could be a public fight against the hospital plans.

Metzner said it was not too early to begin discussing with hospital officials ways to help bolster arguments for zoning approval, as well as any problems there may be with utility service.

Mayor William M. Breichner advocated waiting on such discussions, citing the outcome of Friday's meeting between hospital officials and Robert Nicolay, a Maryland Health Care commissioner.

Nicolay has been working with other Maryland Health Care Commission staff on the hospital's application for a certificate of need, which was filed last June.

Nicolay said Friday he could make his recommendation on the application to the rest of the commission in the next two weeks. The recommendation would be weighed in a later hearing before the commission.

In the meeting Friday, Nicolay outlined some problems with the hospital's application and required hospital officials to decide how they would proceed by next Friday.

Breichner said it's up to the hospital to work with the Health Care Commission, and the only thing the city can do now is "give them the address of the Washington County administrative building," referring to where the hospital's application for zoning approval should go.

Washington County Health System President and CEO James Hamill said Friday that he feels confident about the proposal to move the hospital, which is owned and operated by the health system.

Hamill said any decision on what to do will hinge on the outcome of a meeting with Health Care Commission staff sometime in the next few days, but he believed construction could begin as early as this fall and no later than January.

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