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Drop hospital fight now and keep new facility economical

January 12, 2007

Time is running out, Washington County Hospital officials said this week, and unless opponents of the move to Robinwood drop their court challenge, the project could be delayed for a year to 18 months.

That could add millions to the cost, according to James Hamill, CEO of the hospital, who said that the price guarantee negotiated with the general contractor will soon expire. There is no guarantee that the next price will be as low as the current one.

In addition, Hamill said, in a year's time, simple inflation would add 7 percent to the cost of the project. And in the meantime, money that could be spent on new construction is being spent to patch up the current hospital.

That work includes a $1.5 million renovation of the emergency room and other projects on upper floors.

In October, Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III ruled in the hospital's favor on a variance needed to complete the move.

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Shortly before that, several of the eight who originally appealed the zoning withdrew from the case.

At the time, J. Michael Nye, one of the three who withdrew, said that "Continuing with this fight, without the probability of success, serves only to drive (up) our costs, and delays the final zoning decision unnecessarily, which does not serve the public interests."

That Nye, one of the most persistent critics of the move, concluded that it was pointless to proceed should have been a signal to the five who remain.

At this point, they can only hope to delay the inevitable approval by Maryland's appeals courts. But that delay could add millions to the project and force the expenditure of millions more on the old facility.

We ask them to consider the health-care needs of this community - and its costs - before continuing their fight.

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