Residents give input for future of Hamburg State Center

Residents give input for future of...

HAMBURG, Pa. - More than 100 people turned out at Hamburg Area High School Thursday evening for a session sponsored by Pennsylvania Sen. David Argall on forming ideas on the reuse of the Hamburg Center.

The center, which houses people with intellectual disabilities, is targeting a closure date of June 30, 2018. The pending closure was announced in January by the Pennsylvania State Department of Human Services.

At the time of the announcement, 80 people lived at Hamburg Center. It was revealed Thursday night that number has decreased to 78. In that same time period, the number of employees has been reduced from 350 to 314.

The evening began with an introduction from Argall and state Rep. Jerry Knowles. Argall explained that the purpose of the evening was "to hear what you, as the local residents, want to see this property become in the future."

Knowles added that he and Argall are "sincere in hearing what you have to say."

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania began by giving everyone a brief history of the location, noting that it originally opened in 1914 as a tuberculosis hospital. Its current mission as a state center for the intellectually disabled began in the 1960s.

The makeup of the campus was reviewed. There are 39 buildings, 10 of which are residential. The property also contains a cemetery, a pool, and a daycare. It also serves as a branch of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

A short question and answer segment brought to light the fact that a congressional request has been made to have the Veterans Administration take a look at the facility. Many of those in attendance were decidedly vocal in their support of the possibility of the VA taking ownership of the property.

The discussion then broke into four subsessions, each focused on a different core idea for the future of the center.

They were education, economic and industrial development, recreation and healthcare. Attendees could choose to attend whichever session they pleased. The overwhelming majority chose healthcare.

At the healthcare breakout session, other ideas were tossed such as having a regional health system purchase the center as a branch location and turning the grounds into a retirement community and nursing home.

Following the breakout sessions, everyone regrouped to communicate the biggest pros and cons that they were able to identify. While many are in favor of pursuing a purchase by the VA, the noted con would be vanishing local tax revenue.

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