Could take $3.5M to level Memorial

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Bond for former hospital's demolition could be used to pay for other projects, including fire station repairs

Cumberland Times-News, September 12, 2012

Matthew Bieniek

CUMBERLAND — Cumberland City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would authorize a $5.25 million bond issue designed to pay for demolition of the former Memorial Hospital building and other city projects during Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

The bonds will be issued under the Maryland Local Government Infrastructure Financing Program, said Joe Urban of the city’s finance department. “We can capitalize on the strength of the state ... and the more favorable interest rate,” Urban said.

It’s estimated the cost of the demolition may be as high as $3.5 million, but if it turns out to be lower, the money can be re-allocated to other needs, Urban said. The cost estimate is based on the recent demolition of a similar-sized hospital in Hagerstown, Urban said.

The other projects to be paid for with the bonds include water main replacements, the repair of the East Side fire station roof and replacement of the Fort Hill Reservoir valve.

The hospital buildings, at 250,000 square feet, have cost taxpayers an estimated $2.5 million over the past 2 1/2 years.

The demolition plans would not affect the campus office building.

The “sheer size” of the hospital makes it difficult to maintain, City Administrator Jeffrey Rhodes has said.

The valves at the Fort Hill Reservoir are in poor shape and don’t close completely. It will be an expensive project, since the valves are deep in the ground, Rhodes said. The job is expected to cost around $200,000, city officials have said.

In other action, the council approved a final requirement for a property swap involving the city, Western Maryland Health System and the Allegany County Board of Education.

Plans are to build a new Allegany High School at the site of the former Braddock campus of WMHS, which is transferring the property to the board. The city will give WMHS around 27.76 acres of land near Constitution Park as part of the deal.

The land had to be declared surplus property by the city before the deal was finalized.

“It’s a housekeeping item,” said City Solicitor Michael Cohen. Cohen said the main agreement was the Memorandum of understanding, which had already been approved.

Council members Mary Beth Pirolozzi and David Kauffman recused themselves from the vote.

The council also approved a tax credit for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in the amount of $11,586.32. City officials said it’s a renewal of a tax credit that’s granted each year.

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