To the Editor:
In the July 26, Times-News, an opinion from Colleen Burke was printed (“They could care less about us”), suggesting that local officials should do a better job of hearing citizen concerns.
To Mrs. Burke, who for decades demonstrated a commitment to youth in the classroom, and who still today exhibits a great love of community, I welcome your input.
However, on the many publicly announced occasions in which the City Council has met to discuss the demolition of Memorial Hospital, I recall only one citizen attending to speak on the issue.
Fewer than half a dozen letters or emails have been received. And only one citizen has asked to meet with me to discuss the demolition; that citizen was not Mrs. Burke.
Many opinions in Mrs. Burke’s letter are stated as facts that are inaccurate. On Sept. 12, 2012, Times-News article, “Could take $3.5M to level Memorial,” notes that the demolition costs would be in the vicinity of $3.5 million, not the $7 million cited by Mrs. Burke.
The article notes that the borrowing would do exactly as suggested, and include a focus on infrastructure, and would refinance other city debt, thereby saving money, as well as fund fire station roof repairs, water valve/main replacement, and street repairs.
Claims that the hospital should be repurposed, citing an article from 2007, ignore the history of the building between then and now.
The city listed the property for sale. Nobody bid. The city communicated with the Veterans Administration to locate a VA facility on the site. The VA has declined to do so.
The city offered the property to a company for lease. That company was unable to fill the space. In the end, as cited in the Sept. 12, article, “The hospital buildings, at 250,000 square feet, have cost taxpayers an estimated $2.5 million over the past 2 1/2 years.”
The city cannot continue to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into a property that is not drawing interest for sale, reuse, or redevelopment.
This reality is overlooked by pie-in-the-sky letter writers who fail to recognize the financial burden of the property, including in the Dec. 9, 2012, opinion piece printed, in which Thomas Marsh refers to the demolition of the hospital as “insane.”
Mrs. Burke does ask an important question about environmental impacts of the demolition. In fact, those questions are required components of the demolition and precautions are also required and will be fulfilled in the demolition contract.
Mrs. Burke suggests, however, that there is an ulterior motive and that a developer is behind the scenes. That is also inaccurate, as the city is not coordinating the demolition with any developers.
A Sept. 10, 2012, article spelled out the reality: “The city has received no offers on the hospital building property, which was vacated in November 2009 when WMHS moved into the new Willowbrook Road campus.”
That money is much better spent on city streets and the creation of a new plot of buildable land in the city of Cumberland, that could result in new residents and job creation. Responsible use of citizen tax dollars is the plain and simple reason for proceeding with demolition.
My door is always open. My home phone is publicly listed. I accept appointments at City Hall. I maintain open dialogue and access by social media including Facebook and Twitter. I am available by email. And, City Hall operates with a City Council dedicated to transparency.
Had Mrs. Burke utilized any of these means, she might have been better informed and her letter, riddled with inaccuracies and distortions would have been unnecessary.
Instead, she has chosen to hide behind the pen instead of participating in the many open forums she claims necessary.
Brian K. Grim
Mayor of Cumberland