Board of County Commissioners' Actions: Commissioners hear hospital site reuse report

Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners hear hospital site reuse report

In its first regular meeting of the new year, January 11th, 2011, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard a report from the Hospital Redevelopment Task Force from co-chairs Sharon Disque and Andrew Sargent.
Purpose of the Task Force was to determine viable uses for the old Washington County Hospital property, identify available economic development tools for redevelopment, determine hurdles that would prevent or delay redevelopment, and create solutions.
Members of the committee included Chamber of Commerce representative Disque, Greater Hagerstown Committee representative Sargent, Hagerstown City Councilman Bill Breichner, City Economic Development Director Debbie Everhart,
Jim Hamill of Meritus Health Systems, Dick Phoebus of CHIEF and Tim Troxell, Director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Office. In addition a number of local and state experts participated in discussions held over several months to help craft a strategy for redevelopment of that site.
There are 11 parcels of land on the site covering more than 16 acres, including the 424,637 sq.ft. Main Hospital building, Pangborn Hall at 40,384 sq.ft. and the 250 space Parking Garage.
It was assumed that the main hospital would be demolished, and demolition of Pangborn Hall would probably occur. The owner prefers a sale within two years and Meritus has a fiduciary responsibility to recover value from the property. In addition, the community wants to avoid creation of a blighted area. The major goal of the task force was to prepare the framework for redevelopment of the Hospital property as a catalyst for downtown revitalization.
The current financial climate would make sale of the property difficult, and a number of uses, from retail space to recreational use were considered. Factors studied included tenant demand, competing space in the area, risk, public and private partnerships and public acceptance.
A re-use study is proposed, to include a market evaluation, interviews with community representatives, viable alternatives, financial feasibility and project management. At the same time, funds for the project would be sought from local, state and federal sources. A major factor to be considered is the current water and sewer allocation for the former hospital, and difficulty associated in reallocation of those resources in the future.
Transfer of the property to a third parity non-profit organization was recommended, along with rezoning of the land to allow mixed uses and evaluation of the feasibility of retaining the parking garage, possibly transferring its management to local government.
The group called for maximizing local government opportunities to encourage redevelopment through prioritizing site redevelopment in city and county government budgets. The task force called for the community to implement a strategy that would promote proper re-use, or face the prospect of market forces leading to development that does not achieve job creation, investment, and community revitalization goals.
The committee thought that a mix of residential and commercial uses would help revitalization of Downtown Hagerstown.

In other actions, the Board approved a change order to the contact for the Enhanced Nutrient Removal Upgrade Project for the County's Wastewater Treatment Plants in the amount of $95,872.00 to Buchart Horn, Inc.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) adopted the State's Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) Policy which requires all Major Wastewater Treatment Plants (WwTP) in the State to upgrade to an ENR treatment level. The Conococheague, Winebrenner, and Smithsburg plants are required to meet ENR treatment levels. As the first step in this process a Preliminary Design Report (PDR) was submitted to MDE outlining the proposed upgrades along with associated cost estimates. During the review process, a new technology called BioMag was introduced and MDE asked Washington County to perform a pilot study on the Winebrenner plant.
In the BioMag process, magnetite is added to the influent to enhance the ability to achieve ENR treatment levels through conventional biological treatment methods. Magnetite has a high specific gravity so the plant can operate at higher loading rate, which allows the plant to treat at higher levels and decreases the need for additional infrastructure such as reactors, clarifiers and denitrification filters. This in turn reduces the capital cost of upgrading the plant.
The pilot study was completed and determined that BioMag is a viable technology which does perform at ENR treatment levels resulting in a reduction of capital upgrade costs. Preliminary evaluations show a potential cost savings of $20 million.
In order for the County to utilize BioMag technology at its facilities, the MDE requires that the technology be evaluated for each facility and the findings included into a PDR. The County's consultant, Buchart Horn, will now need to modify the existing PDR to reflect utilizing BioMag technology at the Winebrenner Wastewater Treatment Plant as reported in the BioMag Pilot Study findings and provide an evaluation of the use of BioMag at the County's Conococheague and Smithsburg WwTPs.
The Commissioners approved authorizing the Director of Emergency Services to execute a Memorandum of Agreement with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to accept the Federal Fiscal Year 2011 Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant in the amount of $13,500.00 for use in Planning and Training activities. The funds require a 20% local match.
MEMA distributes funding to all local jurisdictions on an annual basis to
increase State and local effectiveness in safely and efficiently handling hazardous materials accidents and incidents. The funds enhance implementation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, and encourage a comprehensive approach to emergency training and planning.
Under Citizens' Participation, Robert Colvin of Hagerstown commented on the local economy. James Devine of Hagerstown commented on the Hospital redevelopment, solar energy use in public buildings, rental property inspection and need for a noise ordinance in the County.
Country Administrator Greg Murray told the Board that Commissioners' orientation sessions in the coming weeks will serve as mini-work sessions at departmental levels and will serve as precursors to full work sessions, slated to begin later in the year. The County is conducting an energy audit for 5 county-owned buildings in downtown Hagerstown, which will assess viability of solar energy as a possible cost-saving option.
In Staff Comments, Public Works Director Joe Kroboth advised the Board that a tri-state task force to study the U.S. Highway 340 corridor has been established by the State Highway Administrators of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia at the County's request. Traffic problems are severe in the southernmost part of Washington County, where U.S. 340 becomes two-lane prior to crossing the Potomac River. Meetings of those representatives are set for this spring, Kroboth said.
Last Saturday's snow event saw crews from Highways, Hagerstown Regional Airport and Parks, Recreation and Facilities plow for an eight-hour period, Kroboth reported. The stone arch bridge over the Antietam Creek on Harper's Ferry Road was reopened to through traffic before Christmas, Kroboth said.
The Commissioners approved Human Resources Director Bill Sonnik's request for advertisement of three vacant positions: A Motor Equipment Operator I in Highways' Southern Section, a Full-Time Bus Operator position in the Transit Department, and an Emergency Communications Specialist in the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center.
Following Closed Session, the Commissioners reconvened in Open Session and made five appointments to County advisory Boards and Commissions. Alfred E. Martin was appointed to a first, three-year term on the Commission on Aging Board of Directors for the period of January 1, 2011 through January 1, 2014. Edward Wurmb was reappointed to a second, three-year term on the Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council for the period of January 1, 2011 through January 1, 2014, and Timothy O'Rourke was appointed to a first, three-year term on the Board for the period of January 1, 2011 through January 1, 2014. Anthony Pruchniewski was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Disabilities Advisory Committee through June 30, 2013.