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As Long as We Remember...

February 1, 2012

Up The Creek to ‘Occupy FMH’

Norman M. Covert

It has come down to this: “Occupy FMH!” We can see the street riff-raff headed for Frederick Memorial Hospital.


They are bringing signs, tents and dirty laundry from last week’s Carroll Creek “camporee,” staking rip-stop nylon shelters into any grassy area on the West Seventh Street campus. Local anarchists just need room for the media to set up cameras. The sea of automobiles makes a fitting backdrop.


Ponder, if you will, the origin of this clarion call for protesters? It would seem that Chaplain of Bourbon Street Bob Harrington scores with his observation “Little Thinkers are Big Stinkers.”


We are led to believe the seeds of corporate greed in local health care took root here in 1902. That was the year Frederick City Hospital opened its doors. A plot was lurking that day to induce traffic gridlock 100 years later. Some claim we are on the cusp of that reality severely interrupting the neighbors’ quality of life and real estate value.


The vertical growth of Frederick Memorial Hospital (FMH), including its new rooftop helipad, must include the horizontal. Automobiles bring patients, visitors, vendors, doctors, nurses, technicians and hundreds of support personnel throughout each day. Neighbors object to the FMH parking deck access proposal.


Staff, patients and families complained when it was every man for himself in the quest for parking. The lot has never been more than adequate and bulges the boundaries. The city made an accommodation, allowing FMH to use the lot at Max Keene Park, almost four blocks away west of the hospital. Now they offer “Valet Parking.”


The parking deck, intended for professional and support staff, is accessed from West Seventh Street and a gate hard by the new Hood College field house.


An entrance/exit to Park Avenue for staff would significantly ease the gridlock on West Seventh. However, neighbors cannot abide the prospect of staff-driven automobiles being directed through their neighborhood and have organized their own “Occupy” zone.


Realistically, gridlock on Park Avenue and Elm Street would be brief and at speeds barely above 15 m.p.h. Residents would likely not notice the rush of cars headed home.


No one has complained that residents along Trail Avenue deal with jammed parking spaces and the strip park where the sinners go to smoke “off campus.” The road also is part of the planned traffic flow neighbors find so objectionable.


FMH has done the right things with public meetings, including the last effort in which it was smart to save the fight for another day. It has produced a large volume of information about the expansion, including its web site and use of social media.


There will be no warm fuzzies for FMH from the neighbors, whose minds are made up. They may win this flap, but there will be no better solution.


Some opposition voices are just shy of calling for a pox on Hospital President and CEO Tom Kleinhanzl. He and FMH have no cure at hand, being land locked. They must deal with the current tract of land.


Frederick – city and county – rival any area for rapid growth and potential to attract new industries, employers and their families. Our community “infrastructure” depends on FMH to meet the growing health care need.


Park Avenue neighbors have been dealing with traffic for many years. It is simply a fact of life when you live adjacent to such an important public facility.


Here’s hoping the neighbors will back off and allow this window of opportunity for doctors and staff to get in and out of the parking deck. Be part of the solution of helping them get to your bedside quickly.


Get the stink out of your thinking, neighbors!


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