The county plans to build a $5.85 million senior citizen center on the Hagerstown Community College campus off Robinwood Drive.
The project was delayed for nearly a year as local officials waited on at least $600,000 in expected state funding.
But, when a budgetary snag threatened to push the project into next year, Washington County decided to use county money up front and seek state reimbursement later.
The issue came up Monday during the annual Washington County Senior Coalition senior forum on state issues.
The coalition includes the Washington County Commission on Aging, other senior citizen groups and retired employees from various fields, coalition founder Edward C. Wurmb III has said.
During Monday’s forum, a few audience members wondered if Washington County’s senior citizens actually want a new center.
Moderator Pieter Bickford of WHAG-TV asked audience members if they wanted a new senior citizen center. Most raised their hands in favor.
A few people asked why the center had to be at HCC and suggested it wouldn’t be used there.
Washington County Commissioner John F. Barr came from the back of the room to the front to address those questions. He said officials heard from many senior citizens who were upset that Washington County is the only Maryland jurisdiction without a senior center.
And many people also liked HCC as a site for various reasons, he said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, they have 240 acres,” Barr told the audience. “Accessibility through public transportation was there. (At) many of our meetings, the outcry — and I say outcry — (was from) folks that just flat-out said there was no way they were going to downtown Hagerstown.
“They wanted well lit, easy parking, free parking, security, accessibility to medical facilities. Robinwood medical facility and the new hospital is less than a half-mile away.”
Barr said a senior center at HCC “was not a flash-in-the-pan-type deal.”
The project is expected to go out to bid “shortly after the holidays,” he said.
Dels. Andrew A. Serafini, LeRoy E. Myers Jr. and Neil C. Parrott, and Sens. George C. Edwards and Christopher B. Shank attended, along with a representative for Del. John P. Donoghue.
Delegation members were asked to comment on a proposal to equalize an imbalance in tax exemptions for senior citizens, as well as an annual $200 tax credit for long-term care insurance premiums, replacing a one-time $500 credit.
Delegation members had mixed views on the tax credit. Some said it would be better to take a comprehensive look at a fairer tax system in Maryland.
Lawmakers reiterated some of the same messages that come up each year at the senior forum — that the state should rein in its spending, and it will be difficult in the coming year to make requests that carry a cost.