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HCC back entrance in county capital improvement budget

May 26, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

After an hour and a half of wrangling Tuesday, the Washington County Commissioners nailed down a compromise capital improvement budget that includes starting a back entrance to Hagerstown Community College next fiscal year.

The capital budget approval had been stalled amid debate over whether to buy part of the land between HCC and Robinwood Medical Campus, known as Mount Aetna Farms, and how to approach building a road system through that area.

The compromise plan, approved by a 3-2 vote, does not include the land purchase and leaves much of that road system to be developer-driven.

Commissioner William J. Wivell, who proposed the plan, said he felt the county's obligation was the $4.4 million portion connecting HCC to the end of Varsity Lane, a new developer-built road off Robinwood Drive. He said the rest of the road system should be funded by whoever develops Mount Aetna Farms.

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"I'm not going to commit taxpayers to $20 (million) to $30 million of a road network and then have the developer, who then has a much-improved value of his property, reap the benefits of that," Wivell said.

Wivell's plan moves up that HCC-Varsity Lane connection project to start in fiscal year 2011 instead of in 2016, as it was listed in a capital improvement plan draft.

His plan also includes reducing borrowing by an additional $1.05 million, for a total of just less than $11 million in tax-supported borrowing in fiscal year 2010.

Commissioners James F. Kercheval and John F. Barr voted against Wivell's plan.

Kercheval argued the HCC entrance project would not do enough to reduce congestion in the Robinwood area.

"The road into HCC just connects it to Robinwood Drive, so you have a backup on Robinwood Drive," he said.

Kercheval wanted to connect HCC all the way to Professional Court, which is off of Eastern Boulevard, and proposed a list of funding shifts and potential grants that he said would come close to paying for that full connection.

Kercheval said he would like to see the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation (CHIEF) continue its negotiations to buy the Mount Aetna Farms land. CHIEF is interested in developing a biotech park or other high-tech use on the site, CHIEF President Richard Phoebus has said.

Kercheval said CHIEF officials might be open to sharing some of the profits from the land with the county and saving the county an option to buy part of the land for a high school.

Wivell and Commissioner Terry Baker previously argued for the county to buy the land for a high school site, saying its price tag of about $18,000 an acre was the best deal the county would get. The other three commissioners were against a school at that site.

Wivell said after the meeting he still thought it was a "huge mistake" to pass up that deal, but it was clear he could not get a majority of the commissioners to support the purchase.

Wivell's plan for reduced borrowing included some key adjustments that Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire wanted, including cutting back county funding for the library renovation project to a level approved previously.

Funding for the $4.4 million HCC-Varsity Lane project and approximately $1 million borrowing reduction came from the following sources:

o $2 million taken from a Robinwood Drive widening project that has been delayed a year due to land acquisition and utility issues. This funding will need to be replaced in future years.

o $1.6 million reduction in school land acquisition (cut from $2.6 million to $1 million)

o 800,000 from two stream restoration projects, replaced by stimulus funding grants

o $600,000 potential grant from Appalachian Regional Commission

o $270,000 reduction in library renovation project funding

o $250,000 from extra funding for land acquisition for a realignment of the northern portion of Robinwood Drive




How they voted...

John F. Barr No

Terry Baker Yes

Kristin B. Aleshire Yes

James F. Kercheval No

William J. Wivell Yes

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