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What Do You Think?

September 30, 2007

Editor's note: Each week, The Herald-Mail invites readers to answer poll questions on its Web site, www.herald-mail.com. Readers also may submit comments about the poll question when voting. Each Sunday, a sampling of edited reader comments will run in The Herald-Mail.

There were two poll questions last week. The first question was: Is the redevelopment of the former Fort Ritchie Army base important to the economic growth of Washington County and surrounding areas?

"Nope, too far away and who wants to drive to town in winter on those roads."

"Redevelopment as what, I wonder?"

"Fort Ritchie could play a major role in the federal government's continued operation in the aftermath of a terrorist attack or other catastrophe in Washington. The former military base in Washington County is undergoing a $300 million renovation, and could soon house various 'shadow' agencies that would serve as bases if a disaster incapacitated the agencies' primary headquarters. The agencies are part of the government's 'Continuity of Operations,' or COOP, program."

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"Total waste of money! But that never stops our government from wasting our money!"

"When COPT bought Fort Ritchie, they promised to reinvest and bring jobs back to the base and community. 4500-plus jobs are estimated over the next 10 years. They are just beginning to install high-security fence and develop the area to include both general and restricted businesses, as well as residential housing and a community center to the area."

"COPT has final site plan approval for 191,707 square feet of floor area for professional business offices and plans for 1.7 million square feet of new office space. Some of the buildings would be for defense or intelligence agencies and contractors, with SCIF space available as needed."

"Just another Maryland business that will employ Pennsylvania residents, like Mack/Volvo."

"My sources tell me that Fort Ritchie is going to be a combination business park and residential area. The military was looking at it for some type of connection to the other military bases in Maryland, but that isn't going to happen. I do not have any data on the businesses they have lined up or if they have to advertise for the businesses to set up in the park."

"And if they do turn it into the next big condo-type shindig, are people going to want to live up in the boondocks, where Fort Ritchie was? I mean, it's not like that area was a booming metropolis. Or is that a secondary goal? Take a perfectly good area and turn it into suburbia?"

The second question was: Air Midwest will stop service at Hagerstown Regional Airport Sunday, Sept. 30, the third airline to leave the airport in the last five years. Can an airline make a profit flying out of Hagerstown?

"It only takes an hour and a half to drive from Hagerstown to BWI. So you're not going to save any time by flying there. How much more does that hop add to your plane ticket? It seems like no matter if you fly or take the train from Hagerstown, you have to go east to Baltimore or Washington before you can go west. It adds a lot of time to your trip."

"You have to add several hundred dollars more to fly out of Hagerstown. To fly to the West Coast, for example, you can get a ticket with a stopover for around $350. Add flying from the Hagerstown airport, which would mean another stopover, and you have over $500 in expense. I do not think it flies to BWI anymore. I think the tickets are too high to make a profit."

"Many of the former county commissioners MAY have thought so when they voted for the airport runway expansion. The true cost to the county of this project will NEVER be told to the county's residents because the county government and the rest of the establishment around here don't want this information known. This is just one project - let's add to it Washington County Public Schools, the emergency communication system, the hospital, the downzoning of rural areas, the $5 million tax rebate at the same time the county was borrowing another $15 million, etc. If we get home rule, we will have more of the same."

"I used the Hagerstown airport quite a bit to fly to visit my sister in Pittsburgh. It only takes 45 minutes and if I bought the ticket early enough, I would only pay about $130 for the round trip. That was worth it to me!"

"I fly a lot and it isn't just 1 1/2 hours to BWI (or National or Dulles), there's the hour-plus for security, parking, etc. In the last year, my average time just sitting on the plane waiting to take off is an hour. I now only fly if the drive is over four hours and will often even drive five. If Hagerstown could offer reasonable rate flights to just Philly and N.Y., it would change my travel life for the better."

"The price for flying out of Hagerstown is insane ... I recently flew to Raleigh, N.C. ... the flight out of Dulles (nonstop) was $210 round trip. The flight out of Hagerstown (stopover in Pittsburgh) was over $400. Which one would you choose ... And I was booking over a month in advance."

"The airport is just another GREAT example of government WASTE!!!! Most of Hagerstown could care less if we had an airport, only a small privileged few use it and it is totally unnecessary to have. Wake up Hagerstown, anyone who thinks an airline can make a profit is either lying for their own personal gain or extremely ignorant of anything that goes on concerning the airport! It is more expensive and yet the airlines still can't make a profit running out of Hagerstown. What does that tell you????"

"Every airline gets help from the government to operate. There is no reason why it should not occur here. The extension was to allow larger craft to land, including planes that the president might use. I see no reason why that should not occur. I have flown to Pittsburgh three to four times and it is a lot easier than driving. Going into Washington I would probably do just to eliminate the hassle of traffic, paying an arm and a leg for parking and getting past security."

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