Hospital property's fate remains in limbo

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Who wants to buy the Carter County Memorial Hospital building?
   Maybe the City of Elizabethton for a future development with Elizabethton City Schools.
   "We have had two sales, but no interest in it," said George Dugger, county attorney.
   The city and county conducted an auction of properties owing delinquent property taxes to both governments in early September.
   Wayne Graybeal, proprietor of XL Corporation and owner of the hospital property owed taxes on the property dating back to 1995 that totaled $34,000, according to records provided by Carter County Chancery Court.
   "At the original tax sale, we had no bidders," Dugger added. "The county and city didn't feel like we wanted to bid on it."
   Dugger said city officials requested the initial auction be continued until Oct. 10. When no one made a bid on the property on that date, the city requested the county continue to auction again until Nov. 21, he said.
   Elizabethton City Manager Charles Stahl said Tuesday a city-issued order of condemnation remained in effect on the property.
   Whomever purchases the hospital property must wait one year before assuming outright ownership.
   State law gives an owner whose property is auctioned for delinquent taxes one year from the date of an auction to repurchase the property. The owner must pay all delinquent taxes owed to any municipality plus 10 percent of the total value to cover court costs and legal fees.
   "It is our intent and expectation that the property will remain in the public domain," said Stahl.
   "The city would not be inclined to sell the property to a third party without the assurance of recovering its full investment," said Stahl.
   The full investment would include costs for demolishing the building plus property taxes owed the county and city, he said.
   Stahl said he intends to present a budget to City Council next spring that includes the costs of demolishing the hospital building. A private company estimated the cost for removing asbestos and demolishing at $500,000 based on an environmental survey audit.
   "I think the public wants to see this addressed," said Stahl, "and from a public welfare perspective, we need to address the property."
   If the city ultimately takes ownership of the five-acre property, Elizabethton City Schools had informally spoken of a desire to develop it, Stahl added.
   The city requested the County Commission waive delinquent taxes on the hospital, on the condition that the city becomes the owner of the property. The Commission approved the tax waiver request at Monday's commission meeting.
   "The commission felt like they wanted it torn down, too, because it is an eyesore," said Dugger. "If they do bid on it and get the title to the property, it will be subject to court costs and attorneys fees with no taxes."
   If the city becomes owner and ultimately sells the hospital property for profit, the county would receive a pro rata share of the proceeds to cover it's waiver of back taxes, said Dugger.
   The property is owned by XL Corporation, which is owned by Wayne Graybeal.
   "As far as the community is concerned, it's in the best interest of the city and county, for it to be torn down," said Dugger.
   The hospital building was constructed in the late 1950s. The county hospital administration entered into a management agreement with the Hospital Corporation of America in 1979.
   The hospital was later abandoned in 1986 after the construction of Sycamore Shoals Hospital in 1983.