Cumberland Times-News

December 2, 2012

Money pits

We have our share of costly ‘white elephants’

Cumberland Times-News

— Depending upon which definition you use, a “white elephant” can be either a valuable but burdensome possession for which a new owner cannot be found — and the cost of keeping it is impractical — or simply a nuisance object that you don’t want. In either case, Cumberland and Allegany County have their share of them.

Few of us could have anticipated a day in which our officials had to contemplate the demolition of the city’s two (former) hospitals at the same time they were planning to build a new high school.

Estimates are that it will cost $2 million to tear down the former Sacred Heart Hospital — which includes a relatively new wing that saw little use, if any — to make way for a new Allegany High School. The total cost of the school is estimated to be about $35 million.

Also, the city of Cumberland is asking for about $5 million to tear down the former Memorial Hospital, a property it owns.

The two hospitals were merged to create the Western Maryland Health System, which has a medical center on Willowbrook Road.

Also, Allegany County is facing the issue of what to do with the former Footer Dye Works at Canal Place. Estimates are that it will take $2 million to renovate or stabilize the place, including a cost of $1,500 each to fix its 146 windows to the point where the building can be “mothballed.”

Efforts to find new owners for the above properties have met with no success.

There is considerable sentiment for razing the Footer building, except that it is considered a historical site that for now must be left standing.

Controversy has surrounded the demolition — or proposed demolition — of many of our historic buildings, which are too numerous to list here.

As to how to finance or otherwise deal with these issues, we have no good answers. Good luck to those who must find them.

We do, however, have one question: What’s to be done with the old Allegany High School after it becomes empty?