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Demolition of hospital could begin in late spring

Meritus Health President and CEO James Hamill: Health system has to finish removing equipment and supplies from inside

January 18, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Demolition of Washington County Hospital could begin in late spring and is likely to take about six months, Meritus Health President and CEO James Hamill told the Hagerstown City Council at its work session Tuesday.

First, the health system has to finish removing equipment and supplies from inside, he said.

Over the past month, many items that had to remain in the building until it closed have been disassembled, moved to the new hospital and installed there, but other items remain, Hamill said.

"We're cataloging what's in there," he said. "We will probably do a series of auctions, first for our employees, then for the public and clinical areas over the months ahead."

Then the health system board will have to review estimates and proposals for demolition, putting the potential start of demolition in the spring, Hamill said.

Sharon Disque, co-chairwoman of a community task force on the hospital site redevelopment, explained why the demolition would take several months to complete.

"When demolition occurs, there will be salvage value there, so it's not going to be an implosion," Disque said. "Nobody's going to push a button and watch the hospital implode. It will be dismantled, and that's likely to start in late spring."

Meritus has an agreement with the state that it will demolish the hospital if another use has not been found by Dec. 11, the one-year anniversary of its closing. Hamill said his understanding was that the demolition process had to be set in motion, but not necessarily completed, by that date. However, a lack of success in marketing the building and high carrying costs for securing and maintaining it have made prompt demolition the best route, Disque said.

City Council members also questioned the Hospital Redevelopment Task Force's recommendation that the city and county help fund a reuse study estimated to cost $75,000 to $100,000.

"You're saying Meritus has a fiduciary responsibility to recover value from the property ... if they need full capital recovery, then why shouldn't Meritus be doing the studies?" Councilman Martin E. Brubaker asked.

Disque said half of the cost of the study could be funded through a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

"You know, if you think of it as 16 acres immediately adjacent to downtown, this is an incredible opportunity, and to not play a part in it, to not have public input, is losing that opportunity," Disque said.

Hamill said the health system was prepared to contribute to the study, as well.

"We're not a developer, but we've been consistent with this group and with the county that we want to see something positive come out of that property," he said.

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