The hospital issue

July 21, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

Can one person make a difference? Yes, especially one in public office.

The latest proof of that is the ongoing dispute between the City of Hagerstown and Washington County Hospital over its proposed move to the Robinwood area.

Consider this: This wouldn't be happening if Robert Bruchey II were still mayor of Hagerstown. That's because during his term, Bruchey consistently advocated whatever would yield new tax dollars quickly, regardless of the consequences for the long term.

In 1999, Bruchey's council voted 4-0 to approve the annexation and rezoning of 36 acres along Mount Aetna Road for a housing development most neighbors - county residents who couldn't vote against him - opposed because the two-lane road was inadequate for existing traffic.


A year later, when the Town of Funkstown said it wouldn't go along with traffic changes needed to put a Wal-Mart on Edgewood Drive, Bruchey said that "we should do the development anyway and let Funkstown live with the consequences."

The current city government is in the same position with the new hospital site's neighbors, some of whom remember the hospital's 1991 promise not to put a critical-care facility there.

Councilman Kristin Aleshire says the council doesn't want to disenfranchise those people and wants the hospital to get the county to approve zoning there before any annexation.

If history is any guide, Bruchey would spend less care on county residents' rights and more on the new revenues from the annexation of the nearby Mount Aetna Farms development - and the redevelopment of the existing hospital site.

This is not to say that Bruchey is a bad person or a bad leader. He fought to bring the University System of Maryland's new campus downtown and he would certainly be a more aggressive negotiator with county officials, who come to the table offering peanuts in exchange for elephants. He's just a different kind of person than incumbent William Breichner.

Just as Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich regrets the defeat of House Speaker Cas Taylor, a slots proponent, hospital CEO James Hamill no doubt grits his teeth over the fact that he has to deal with Mayor William Breichner instead of Bruchey.

One of the speakers at last Friday's meeting of the Hagerstown-Washington County Healthcare Coalition was Don Forcino, president of the Central Maryland AFL-CIO Council.

Forcino promised to enlist the support of every union member in the council to get the project done.

Does that mean, I asked, that the new hospital will be built with union labor?

We certainly hope so, he said, but our concern now is getting the best medical care for our members.

Now that Washington County's delegation to the General Assembly has endorsed the project, will the Washington County Commissioners be far behind?

Yes, way behind and hiding in the weeds. Expect no public pronouncement from the county board, but county staff has been negotiating with the hospital over what it will contribute to fixing the road system there, which is sort of an endorsement.

About 50 people gathered this past Sunday for the groundbreaking for "The House That Faith Built," a joint project of Habitat for Humanity and the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County.

As representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths listened, Habitat's executive director, Sherry Brown Cooper, spoke of the opportunity this presents for those of many faiths to join together in one cause.

The Islamic Society of Western Maryland pledged $5,000. Other houses of worship have made the following donations: St. John's United Church of Christ, $3,457.53; Otterbein United Methodist, $1,000; Emmanuel United Methodist, $500; and the Church of the Holy Trinity, $186.

Thanks to all who've seen the possibilities in this project. If you'd like more information, please contact Cooper at Habitat's office at 20 S. Prospect St., Hagerstown, MD, 21740, or e-mail to

A Hagerstown woman whose father, Roger R. Hull of Big Pool, served in the Seabees in World War II, called to say she hadn't gotten around to writing her father's story when I asked readers to do so.

The best stories got U.S. flags from the Exchange Clubs' "Healing Field" display at Antietam National Battlefield. Were there any who wrote and didn't get flags, she asked.

Yes, I said, because I only had 10 to give. The lady, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she would purchase flags for the other seven. So if you wrote in, you will get a flag as soon as possible after I pick them up.

Thanks so much to this generous lady.

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