Letter to the Editor - March 21

March 21, 2012

Will Mount Aetna project really lead to jobs?

To the editor:

I attended the recent Citizens for the Protection of Washington County meeting and read with great interest the excellent articles published in The Herald-Mail the following day.  (See “County official critical of Mount Aetna Farms plan” and “Questions about project discussed at meeting” published March 2). 

It boils down to the following salient points. First, there is a piece of property located between the new hospital and Hagerstown Community College that a development organization called CHIEF has purchased. Various influential people who either serve or have served in various county and county- related positions represent the development interests.

Second, the property developers will make a profit with little or no risk after county taxpayers foot the bill for several million dollars worth of new road and sewer system construction. Third, in the opinion of someone who has been forced to deal with the county’s planning system much more than any sane person would ever want, it appears that the handwriting is on the wall.

At the meeting, former Commissioner Ronald Bowers presented his proposal for development of the property. 

His idea is to include ground set aside for a new high school so taxpayers will at least get something. Now, our commissioners could simply have decided to do nothing with the property at this time and instead pursue more cost-effective projects. That idea would have cost the taxpayers exactly nothing.

Supporters of the development would argue that without this Mount Aetna project, the county would lose thousands of high tech jobs that the development will bring. Besides, there is federal money available right now that won’t be available much longer. As our elected representatives, our commissioners should have asked themselves one question. Which is more likely? Is it more likely that some sort of funding will always be available in some form or fashion, or is it more likely that there are scores of high-tech executives just champing at the bit to move to Hagerstown?

More likely, we will pay for the new roads, sewers and storm drains only to find that the high-tech firms eagerly waiting at the county line were merely a mirage.

J.E. Nichols

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