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Hospital, city move ahead

May 14, 2004

Meeting in open session seemed to spur progress Monday, as officials of the City of Hagerstown and Washington County Hospital agreed to several items city officials had sought as conditions for dropping their opposition to a move to the Robinwood area.

But although hospital officials agreed to build a downtown urgent care center and resolve zoning and utility issues, they balked at helping to pay for a bridge across Antietam Creek, saying traffic studies indicate it wouldn't be needed.

Those studies were done at the request of the Washington County government. Consultants found that while a bridge might be needed in the future, its only effect in the short term would be to dump more traffic onto Eastern Boulevard from the 1,100-home subdivision that will be known as Antietam Farms.

As a condition of getting all of the necessary permits, Antietam Farms has been advised to do studies of its own, and devise two access points that don't depend on crossing the creek.

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That said, we still welcome a review of the traffic study by hospital and city staff. We'd also like to see representatives of the fire-rescue service there to talk about how ambulances will get to the new hospital.

Other items discussed at the Monday meeting included the idea of annexation. CEO James Hamill said the hospital is "indifferent" to the idea.

Annexation would have two benefits and one possible downside.

First, the benefits: Utility costs would be cheaper, since county customers of city utilities pay a higher rate. The hospital would also be served by the Hagerstown Police Department, which handled more than 100 calls at the emergency room last year.

HPD officials said they were not denigrating the local emergency room, but said that people with emotional and substance-abuse problems often end up there.

HPD has been doing the job for many years and it makes sense to take advantage of the department's experience.

The downside of annexation for the hospital is that Hamill and company would have to work with city officials on an annexation agreement.

Given that the city has already put forth 17 conditions - or proposals, depending on which city official you talk to - as the price of their blessing for the move, an annexation agreement might have many more.

Still, there has been progress made. We take note of that and hope that there's much more to come.




Tonight's downtown event will feature open-air music



If you haven't been to downtown Hagerstown lately because your job takes you elsewhere during the day, you're in luck tonight.

Starting at 5 p.m., downtown promoters will hold the latest in their series of "Thursday Night Out on the Town" events, complete with live music in the streets - and free parking, too.

In a prelude to this year's Western Maryland Blues Fest, KoKo Blue will play at the corner of North Potomac and East Franklin streets, while Pete Lancaster will perform at the corner of South Potomac and East Antietam streets.

If Public Square is where you like your music, Ronnie Ray and the Coolers will be holding forth there.

The event runs until 9 p.m., with a number of restaurants, galleries and other retailers extending their hours to give patrons a chance to see what goes on downtown.

To those who visit their shops, many retailers will provide a coupon good for a free dessert to those who order a meal at one of the participating restaurants.

Why should you care about a promotional event downtown? Because when a downtown business succeeds, it pays more taxes, reducing the burden on the city's homeowners.

And even if you live outside the city limits, a thriving downtown is in your best interests. Every time a new business checks out Washington County, one of their stops is Hagerstown, the county seat.

If those prospective companies, which have jobs to bring, see a bustling downtown, they're more inclined to conclude that this is a thriving, business-friendly community.

For more information on tonight's event, call Karen Giffin, the city's public information manager, at 301-739-8577, ext. 116.

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