Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

December 9, 2012

Tearing down hospitals ‘insane’

There’s a perfect word that describes the school board’s efforts to tear down the former Sacred Heart Hospital for a site for a new Allegany High School ... and that word is insane! Likewise ... Cumberland’s efforts to tear down Memorial Hospital should be described as insane as well!

Considering the sad state of our economy, these wonderful buildings should be used to stimulate our economy by attracting jobs and businesses into them. They could be used as business start-up buildings, call centers, technology, college-affiliated businesses, or many other possibilities. Our congressional representatives should be contacted to explore the possibility of establishing a badly needed Veterans Administration hospital in Sacred Heart ... a perfect use for the building!

But alas ... wisdom is in short supply in Allegany County ... so Cumberland will waste more than $3 million to demolish a building that is worth many millions more ... because they think they can’t afford the maintenance until they acquire a paying tenant for the building; and the school board will demolish Sacred Heart; which is worth in excess of $60 million at best guess — and waste $2 million in demolition cost to be able to use the site for a small high school!

I find absolutely no sense in either of these efforts. Our county has borrowed millions (the taxpayers must pay back) to build business start-up buildings that can’t come close to comparing to the asset quality of the two hospital buildings that are recklessly scheduled for demolition! The truth is, if the county did not have these buildings in the first place ... and there was found a way to acquire them for economic development ... it would be perceived to be the blessing of the century!

Everywhere I go in our county I hear citizens openly express (especially about the school board decision to spend $2 million to demolish Sacred Heart to use the site for a new Allegany) that it is ridiculous, crazy, insane! Perhaps it’s time for someone to form a citizens’ movement, and for the citizens to speak out and let their feelings be known before it is too late ... and these beautiful buildings are recklessly gone forever!

There are more than 1,500 acres of beautiful development land near Rawlings that would work perfectly as a site for a new Allegany, and it wouldn’t cost $2 million, but, oh, I’m sorry, I forgot ... someone would say that is too far from Cumberland — Allegany is a Cumberland school — right? Notice that I did not say that the decision to build a new Allegany was a wrong decision; only the site is the wrong decision. I am not a hypocrite ... I believe in small high schools. Allegany and Fort Hill combined into one high school would be a school of about 1,600 students ... and that is too large, and the students would be harmed by it.

The current school board, with its decision to listen to the community reports about a new Allegany, is the first elected school board that we have ever had that actually exercised its prime directive of being answerable to the desires of the citizens. Now get this ... a past school board actually forced the Westernport community to endure four different attempts to close Westernport’s Westmar Middle School; accepting and ignoring four different community reports, until the finally got enough votes to pull off the closing of the school against the wishes of the community!

They used the excuse for closing the building as being that they needed to save just over $200,000 by closing it; then they spent $42 million to build the new 1,000-student sized Mountain Ridge High School ... a huge mistake ... and a blatant injustice to the community of Westernport.

Our current school board, with the hypocrisy and double standard of now building a new Allegany, will have no honor unless they have enough courage to address and revisit the injustice and educational discrimination that was so blatantly inflicted on the Westernport community and its residents and students!

Thomas R. Marsh

Taxpayers Alliance for Fair and Honest Government

Westenport

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