Thursday, February 28, 2002

County leaders back hospital

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — School and business leaders are lining up to support Middletown Regional Hospital's planned move to Warren County.

        The Area Progress Council and all county superintendents have endorsed the hospital's proposed health and technology campus in a letter to the county commissioners, according to the APC's Walt Davis. The APC will deliver the letter when the commissioners meet thisafternoon.

        “We felt it was time they hear some voices of advocacy on this thing so we can give them a true picture,” Mr. Davis said.

        The Area Progress Council works mostly behind the scenes to support education and economic development in Warren County. Some residents' vocal opposition to Middletown Regional's plans, however, has prompted the group to go public.

        The hospital has proposed a 550-acre campus that would include not only a replacement for its McKnight Drive campus but also education and research facilities, doctors' offices and health- and technology-related industry. It would sit on Greentree Road, a rural area along Interstate 75 in western Turtlecreek Township.

        “This isn't about health care, it's about opportunism and profiteering,” leading opponent Chuck Turner said Wednesday.

        Despite neighbors' concerns about encroaching development, the endorsement by county superintendents proves there's wide support, Mr. Davis said.

        Mason added its stamp of approval this week, with City Council directing staff to write a letter supporting Middletown Regional.

        Lebanon Superintendent Bill Sears said he is interested in the education and job opportunities the campus could give youth.

        “We really believe that the hospital can be an asset to our communities,” Mr. Sears said.

        The project, which falls in the Lebanon district, also could be a financial windfall. Hospitals don't pay property taxes, but most of the related businesses do.

        The county commissioners, who initially agreed not to block the project if the city of Middletown promised not to fight a Warren sewer project, have lately said they'd rather the hospital find another site.

        They have made it hard for the hospital to get a new I-75 interchange at Greentree. A regional transportation group rejected the interchange last week. They also can make it hard for Middletown to annex the new hospital site and for the hospital to get the zoning it needs.


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