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Questions raised about Mount Aetna Farms project

March 01, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY — About 45 people attended a Citizens for Protection of Washington County meeting Thursday night to hear former Washington County Commissioner Ronald Bowers’ plan for a different approach to developing Mount Aetna Farms.

Among those in attendance at the meeting at the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway was former Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, who talked about discussions about the land while he was a commissioner.

Aleshire said Hagerstown Community College wanted a smaller high school on the land, but he could not support the HCC approach.

Aleshire referred to discussions about the land that were “outside of the public purview.”

Current Washington County Board of Commissioners President Terry Baker and Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham also were at the meeting. Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III also was at the meeting.

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Joe Lane, the new president of the citizens group, said Kroboth has said previously that it would be tough for a private developer to make improvements to the Mount Aetna Farms site.

Lane said Kroboth’s comments are troubling to him given what is proposed for the land.

“Why is it the county taxpayer’s job to make it viable?” Lane asked.

Lane also questioned Washington County’s role in a high-tech economy, saying employers with such companies probably would be hard-pressed to find adequately trained students to take high-tech jobs.

Bowers emphasized the need to develop the site correctly and reminded those in attendance what happened when the plan for the new hospital met opposition. A lawsuit was filed over the new hospital and by the time all of the issues were resolved, there were $120 million in cost overruns for the project, Bowers said.

Sally Hatch said she opposed the new hospital based on some of the same issues that were brought up Thursday night.

Hatch likened the issues surrounding Mount Aetna Farms to “reinventing the wheel and it’s got a broken spoke.”

Bowers said a memorandum of agreement he has read regarding the development plan reads more like “memorandum of confusion.”

Former Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell questioned why the Mount Aetna Farms site is being considered for the development plan when there is land ready for development in Friendship Park.

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