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County commissioners spar over new hospital sewer vote

November 15, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - A Washington County Commissioner accused his fellow board members Tuesday of playing politics with the county's sewer fund over the proposed hospital off Robinwood Drive.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said late Tuesday afternoon that Commissioners James F. Kercheval and Doris J. Nipps held up a vote on whether to waive a $1.1 million sewer allocation fee for the new Washington County Hospital, because they likely would not get a favorable vote.

Kercheval said Tuesday that wasn't case. He said the commissioners haven't yet been asked to waive a fee.

"That's news to me," Kercheval said. "It wasn't my understanding."

Wivell said the commissioners were scheduled to vote on the waiver Tuesday after hospital officials gave an update on the project's status. Kercheval and Nipps wouldn't vote, he said.

He said he thought Kercheval and Nipps supported waiving the fee but that he and Commissioner John C. Munson would have opposed the waiver, bringing the vote to a 2-2 tie.

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Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook was absent Tuesday, therefore unable to break the tie. Wivell presided over the meeting in Snook's absence.

County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop suggested that a vote be put off until all five commissioners are present.

Although Munson insisted that the commissioners vote at the meeting, he said by phone later in the day that he hadn't made up his mind on waiving the fee.

At the meeting, Munson motioned to bring the matter to a vote, but neither Kercheval nor Nipps seconded the motion, killing it.

Wivell said after the meeting that, as the presider, he was unable to make a motion or second it.

"They're playing politics with water and sewer funds," Wivell said. "It's just absolutely ridiculous."

Kercheval said the commissioners haven't seen any request from the hospital about a waiver. He said he didn't second Munson's motion because "I don't know what they're voting on."

"I have to see what the actual request is when it comes in to us," Kercheval said.

It is his understanding that the hospital will request a waiver, he said.

Should a waiver be rejected, Kercheval said it's likely that residents would absorb the costs through health fees. That probably wouldn't happen if the fee isn't waived, he said.

Nipps and James Hamill, president and chief executive officer of Washington County Health System, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Munson said after the meeting that he hasn't made up his mind about the waiver, but that he thought the commissioners should have voted Tuesday.

"I think we should've voted and got it over with," Munson said. "They knew where they stood then."

Wivell said he opposes the waiver because he thinks the money belongs in the county's sewer fund. The four-member water quality advisory board voted unanimously Monday night to recommend that the commissioners reject waiving the sewer allocation fee. Wivell is the commissioners' representative on that board.

He said the advisory board felt the county shouldn't be giving away revenue.

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