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Hospital's move seen as windfall for county

August 04, 2005|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Building a hospital off Robinwood Drive would pump about $60 million into Washington County's economy, and the county is working with hospital officials to move the project along, County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop said this week.

"That project is so huge for Washington County," Shoop told the County Commissioners at a meeting Tuesday.

Shoop said county staff, including Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, will meet bi-weekly with Washington County Hospital officials to discuss various issues concerning a hospital move.

"The county needs to plan on what is required for the hospital to be built," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Wednesday. "It's a huge project, so it takes a lot of staff to understand the project."

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Shoop said by phone Wednesday that the county group is made up of employees who typically fast-track major projects.

"This is, in recent history, the largest economic development project ... that we've ever seen," Shoop said.

Shoop also said a new hospital is important for the health and welfare of county and regional residents.

The first meeting between hospital and county officials was last week, during which both parties talked about several issues, including excise tax, zoning and other land-use topics.

The hospital is planned to move from the City of Hagerstown to just outside city limits, near Robinwood Medical Center. Shoop said the project is estimated to cost $235 million.

Snook said ironing out a hospital move might take a while.

He said county, city and hospital officials are trying to resolve zoning and sewer capacity issues associated with a new hospital.

Last month, the Hagerstown City Council said it didn't have any available sewer capacity to issue for the new hospital and that hospital officials should begin the zoning process with Washington County, not the city.

The property could be annexed into the city under city policy.

Another issue involving land-use regulations is a 1991 agreement between the county and hospital that allowed the building of Robinwood Medical Center. That agreement included provisions to prevent a helicopter pad or hospital from being built there.

"There's still a lot ahead of us here," Snook said.

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