City to consider sewer capacity for hospital

October 18, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER


It's been a bumpy ride, but plans for a new Washington County Hospital off Robinwood Drive could clear another hurdle if Hagerstown officials approve a proposal to provide sewer capacity for the building.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook wrote to the Hagerstown mayor and City Council last week asking them for a flow transfer agreement that would allow the city 150,000 gallons per day of sewer capacity at the county's Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant in return for granting a new hospital the same amount of capacity in the city's system.

The 240,000-gallon capacity currently allotted to the hospital at its Antietam Street site would remain at that site for redevelopment after the new hospital is built.


"The county's solution meets (the hospital's) sewer requirement and also provides a significant benefit to the city," Snook wrote.

Hagerstown Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said Monday he had not yet seen Snook's letter, but that he and Commissioner James F. Kercheval had worked together on the proposal.

Aleshire said city ordinance prevents property owners from transferring sewer capacity from one site to another. Even if the hospital could have transferred capacity from the Antietam Street site to Robinwood, he said, that would mean the old hospital site couldn't be redeveloped because it would be left without any sewer capacity.

While Aleshire expects the council to discuss the proposal at today's council meeting, it could be a while before the council may vote on whether to approve it.

"We have to make sure it's feasible and legal," he said.

The city must limit its sewer capacity under an agreement, known as a consent judgment, with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The consent judgment was a result of months of negotiations between MDE and the city after failures over several years by the city's sewage treatment plant, in which the plant did not fully treat all of its sewage.

One of the main requirements of the consent judgment is the city cannot issue more than 120,000 gallons of new sewer capacity per year until it completes certain projects to improve its ability to treat wastewater.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said, as he understands it, he would be in favor of a transfer agreement for the hospital - but cautioned that it must pass the legal test under the consent judgment first.

"We have such legal problems, we have to make sure our litigation is taken care of," he said.

Snook's letter to the council said "our staff has discussed this approach with the Maryland Department of the Environment and has been assured that the City Consent Order does not preclude such issues through flow transfer."

Despite previous contentions between the city and the hospital over the hospital's proposed move, Metzner insisted Monday that "it's never been my intention to stop the hospital. I just want to make sure it doesn't negatively impact city taxpayers."

His understanding, he said, is that the agreement proposed would not cost the city anything.

And if it is deemed to be legal, "it certainly flies with me," he said.

Both he and Aleshire contended that council members support the hospital project. Despite what people may hear, Aleshire said, "we all on the council believe that a new hospital is necessary. This is one of those details that has needed to be worked out."

Metzner added that assumptions the city wants to stop the hospital project have been "frustrating."

"All we have to do is say 'we're not gonna give you sewer' and we could stop the project," he said.

Hospital officials have scheduled a public meeting to discuss the hospital plans Wednesday at Robinwood Medical Center.

Public meeting

What: An informational meeting on plans for a new Washington County Hospital building

When: Wednesday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m.

Where: Robinwood Medical Center, Suite 142. Use the silver or blue entrances.

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