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We need another version of reality around here

July 23, 2005|by Ruth Anne Callaham

To the editor:

I recently spoke with a successful, assertive and yet nice lady who told me that she did not start out to be a bureaucrat. She graduated from college with a degree in English lit wanting to be a writer. Great, I responded. And I noted that there are several accomplished authors in our community.

Oh no, she pleaded, she didn't want to be an author but a satirist when she grew up. Our conversation traveled the path of speculation as to whether the resident satirist of Hagerstown would soon move on or was this town big enough for two fast guns?

My opinion is that we really do need two satirists, defined as folks using caustic wit to attack or expose folly, vice or stupidity. One satirist is needed to balance the other so that we, the readers, might separate fact from fiction and find the truth somewhere in between.

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Tim Rowland's July 10 column is a good example. He gave us a satirical look at two important community projects: Extension of the airport runway and a new regional hospital at Robinwood.

Concerning the runway extension a positive perspective, not offered in his column, is our that county must also open a new landfill cell requiring a lot of dirt to be moved. The estimated cost to move the dirt was approximately $9 million. By using the dirt from the landfill to help extend the runway, the cost of the dirt move was applied to the runway project. Because the county's negotiated contribution to the runway project is $8 million, we realized a $1 million savings and got a "two-fer" bargain for the county taxpayer.

We get a runway extended and dirt moved from the new landfill for one price and saved the taxpayers of Washington County $1 million in the deal.

In addition, it is quite "possible" that the extended runway will be used for regional jets or as a hub for commercial airlines.

Notwithstanding that "possibility," a cold hard fact remains. If the runway is not extended, the current runway will be shortened as safety regulations are implemented. A shorter runway could only be used by small, mostly private airplanes and certainly not by Air Force One or other commercial carriers using jet aircraft.

A positive and realistic perspective of the hospital is that actual construction costs for a new hospital at the Allegheny Energy site and the proposed Robinwood site (or any site for a "new" facility) are essentially the same. The Robinwood site is more cost-effective because the hospital system owns that land, at the Allegheny site the hospital system would need to purchase the land.

Infrastructure improvements might be somewhat more costly at the Robinwood site but that expense would not offset the cost savings on the land acquisition. In the end, the community will have a true medical campus at Robinwood where all services can be offered.

Absent the needed balance provided by another satirist, we readers must sort through the facts, fiction and satire to find what is best for our community.

Ruth Anne Callaham
Hagerstown

(Editor's note: According to the May 28, 2002 minutes of the Washington County Hospital Site Selection Committee, the total cost for the Robinwood site preparation was $42.1 million; for Allegheny site, the total cost, including acquisition, was $17.9 million.)

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