Cumberland Times-News

January 15, 2013

City: Hospital, blighted properties to come down

Police cite problems with Dodge Chargers, call purchase ‘an extreme disappointment’

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The regular meeting of City Council  members covered a variety of topics, from the $3.5 million demolition of the former Memorial Hospital and six other residential properties to a mention of the troubles police have had with their cruisers.

City Administrator Jeff Rhodes updated the council regarding the expected demolition of the former Memorial Hospital complex.

“We are expecting to have our financing in place and be able to start (demolition) in the late spring or summer,” said Rhodes.

The demolition will not include the medical buildings, which sit on the northern portion of the complex’s 8-acre tract, or the parking garages across the street from the hospital; however, the multi-level parking garage built alongside the hospital will come down with the main structure.

Rhodes said all tenants in the hospital had vacated.

There was concern regarding how to separate the utilities to keep the medical building intact.

“We were pleased that utilities were found to be largely separated,” said Rhodes.

Mayor Brian Grim hopes to see the site developed in the future.

“It’s in a great and stable neighborhood and we want to maintain the feeling of that neighborhood. We’ve had a couple of informal inquiries. I hope this time next year we are talking about developers rather than the cost of (further) demolition,” said Grim.

The city also announced that six blighted properties in the city will be torn down through a contract with Brabson and Sons Demolition.

The properties scheduled for demolition are: 446 Bond St., 321 Henderson Ave., 910 Maryland Ave., 106 W. First St., 627-629 Maryland Ave., 100 Independence St. and 451 Pine Ave.

The total cost for the six demolitions is $39,052.50.

City officials also reported that they are in the process of refinancing an older 6 percent loan of $1.7 million for use with the Memorial Hospital project, to a 4.7 percent rate that is currently offered.

They reported a potential savings of more than $400,000 with the refinancing.

During the meeting, Rhodes also mentioned the disasterous experiences the city police department has had with its Dodge Chargers.

“They have not been real road-reliable in our environment. Driving in our town with the stops and starts has presented problems. I don’t know if it’s the design or what but they haven’t performed well,” said Rhodes in an interview following the meeting.

Cumberland Chief of Police Charles Hinnant echoed Rhode’s views.

“They have a small interior and they don’t stand up well. When we put a computer and the other equipment in them, they fill up fast,” said Hinnant.

“They don’t seem to have good visibility,” added Rhodes.

Traditionally, police departments used the Ford Crown Victoria.

“The Crown Vic was a tank. The suspension was built sound. We had few problems with them,” said Hinnant.

“They were built for police work. The Crown Vics have been traditionally very reliable,” Rhodes said.

Both men indicated that the Dodge Chargers needed frequent repairs. The city has five Chargers that they obtained in 2007 and 2008.

“We started having problems with them after the first year. We have had a lot of repairs ... engines, transmissions, wiring, you name it,” Hinnant said.

“They’ve been an extreme disappointment. We’ve had to use a couple of Chargers for parts. I think a couple of the Chargers have been totally replaced,” said Hinnant.

“The suspension and everything just doesn’t seem to be as strong,” said Rhodes.

Hinnant said they began getting the Crown Victoria again recently but said he is not sure what direction law enforcement will go with vehicles in the future.

Police vehicles are bid in packages through the state.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.