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Parts of hospital debate must be clarified

February 28, 2007|by Kristin Aleshire

While approval of a new hospital continues to be a passionate debate generating opinions from all sides of the public spectrum, I would only reiterate my previous attempts at ensuring that the information being provided is done so in a manner that accurately reflects the details. This includes correction of recent columns from Joe Lane and Linda Dwyer.

Several of the more important errors in Lane's letter include the fact that there is no $60 million in identified road projects created by this development, nor does the hospital agreement with the last set of commissioners include a cap. Also incorrect was the fact that no elected body promised a hospital would never be built at Robinwood in 1991 - and Harold Boyer was the board of zoning appeals chairman, not a planning commission member. Further, there is no evidence that a text amendment will keep projected costs down, and state approval of the certificate of need confirmed that renovation was not less costly.

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As for Dwyer's errors, the most important point to correct is the fact that the original $165 million hospital project proposal was turned down by the State Health Care Commission due to deficiencies in the application, not community opposition. Also, the hospital project could have been completed only upon zoning approval, thus the real delay has been created by the hospital waiting for four years to actually file for zoning approval. As noted in an editorial just a week ago, the proposed ER capacity will not be greater than the current ER capacity, nor will its bed space.

I applaud both letters for their enthusiasm toward the largest "public" project this community will have to pay for. In that same effort, during this process I have met with the The Herald-Mail, Chamber of Commerce, Greater Hagerstown and other organizations that have taken positions without reading all of the available information. This I thought would aid in the evidentiary discovery for public review by decreasing assumptions provided to the public on mere emotion.

One instance that reflects the obvious escalation in opinions is the new text amendment currently before the county for consideration. In this instance Commissioner William Wivell's recent column makes assumption of those officials in support of this act simply by what was reflected in the local media. However, fact is nothing has been determined by the County Commissioners because it has not come before the board for decision.

Where I disagree most with this letter, is his belief in the importance of the county remaining "independent and impartial" on the matter. This is exactly where it has "remained" for far too long, and I personally believe it is of the utmost importance to exercise our leadership roles in becoming fully involved in understanding all of the issues of how this project will affect our citizens for future generations.

After studying the site selection information, providing comment on both CON applications, testifying at the board of zoning appeals hearing, negotiating sewer service, addressing transportation needs, and ultimately speaking with all sides for compromise it would be near impossible to remain impartial. Instead of taking sides, I have attempted at each step to make decisions I felt appropriate, based on in-depth review of the public information available.

I would only call to the attention of my fellow commissioner the county's letter of support of the hospital CON application in 2002, taking a position in favor of the failed application without ever reading the information and before it ever had a chance to "run its course."

Kristin Aleshire is a Washington County Commissioner.

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