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Hospital OKs some of city's requests

May 11, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Washington County Hospital's top executive agreed Monday to requests by Hagerstown city officials that the hospital administration resolve zoning and utility needs at the site of a planned new facility and build an urgent care center downtown.

However, Washington County Health System President and Chief Executive Officer James Hamill said he could not agree to a request that the hospital help pay for a bridge over Antietam Creek.

The Health System is the hospital's parent company.

Monday's meeting was the third since April 26 at which the two sides have discussed the hospital's proposed move from East Antietam Street to a site near Robinwood Medical Center, outside city limits. Monday's meeting, unlike the previous two, was open to the public.

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Hamill addressed the hospital's position on five issues: zoning, water and sewer services, annexation, the urgent care center and the bridge. The items are on a list of 17 requests the city gave to hospital officials during a May 3 closed meeting.

Mayor William M. Breichner has said he considers most of the items on the list requests or proposals, not demands.

Hamill questioned that characterization, noting that the title of the document is "City of Hagerstown Requirements For Relocation Of Hospital to the Robinwood Site." Breichner later said the title gave the wrong impression and should have stated "proposals" instead of "requirements."

The hospital's first priority should be to submit a zoning request to Washington County for the site of the planned new hospital, Breichner said. Hamill said the hospital will do so.

Hamill also agreed to a suggestion by Councilman Lewis C. Metzner to have city and hospital staff members meet to determine the hospital's water and sewer needs since the city would be providing those services.

Hamill said Monday that the hospital has always planned to establish an urgent care center at or near the current hospital site for patients who need non-emergency care.

"I don't want the expectation that there will be an emergency room there," Hamill said.

He said he would support having an urgent care center open one or two years before the new hospital opens.

Hamill said the hospital remains "indifferent" to whether the property where the hospital wants to build is annexed into the city. Hospital and city staff will meet to discuss the matter, he said.

After discussing areas of common ground, Hamill said the hospital can't agree to help pay the cost of a bridge over Antietam Creek that would allow motorists to travel easily from Eastern Boulevard to the new hospital site. Hamill said traffic studies conducted for the hospital indicate the bridge is unnecessary.

Breichner countered that there would not be a need for a bridge in the near future if the hospital wasn't planning to move.

The cost of the bridge, not including road extensions, has been estimated at $3.6 million, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

Metzner and Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said the hospital should help pay for a bridge.

Hamill said he would prefer to have city and hospital staff meet to discuss the findings of the traffic study.

After the meeting, Hamill and Breichner said the talks were productive and demonstrated that they have some common ground.

"I think we made some pretty good progress," Hamill said.|5/11/04

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