City prepares for demolition

Photo by John Bryant
Preparing for demolition
The city recently placed fencing around the old Carter County Memorial Hospital to prepare for its demolition.

    By Thomas Wilson
star staff
  As the Carter County Memorial Hospital building nears the beginning of its end, the city of Elizabethton is clearing the surrounding area of vehicles and truck trailers once stored on the property.
  City Manager Charles Stahl said on Monday removal of most personal property stored on the site had been completed. He said the owners of several truck trailers parked for storage on the property had complied with city requests to remove them.
  "We have not opposed the storage of tractor trailers since we've acquired the property in February," Stahl said. He said with the upcoming removal of asbestos from the building and its subsequent demolition, the need to clear the property became a priority.
  "When we acquired the property in February, we didn't raise any issue because the status of the use had not changed," Stahl said. "Since we are now entering a new phase, just for the safety of those vehicles we are asking them to be removed."
  Stahl said at least three trailers have been removed in recent days.
  Elizabethton City Council voted in September to approve the low bid of $535,800 submitted by the D.H. Griffin firm to tackle the hospital deconstruction project. The project includes removal of asbestos-containing materials from the hospital, clean up of a grease pit, demolition of the building, and removal of an underground diesel fuel tank once used to power the hospital's generator.
  The asbestos removal should be completed by late January or early February. The entire project is expected to be finished within six months of the bid award date.
  The J & S Fence Company has been at work since last week installing a chain-link fence around the building.
  The city paid just over $71,000 to purchase the property at a public auction in November 2002. The bid price recovered delinquent real property taxes owed the city and Carter County governments. Legal filing of ownership did not take effect until Feb. 14, 2003. A one-year right of refusal agreement allowing former owner Wayne Graybeal to pay off the taxes and reclaim the property passed without challenge with the city taking unconditional ownership in February 2004.
  The estimated combined city and county taxes due plus penalty totaled over $91,000.
  The property, located on the corner of West G Street and Rogosin Drive, includes the 96,000 square-foot hospital building and several parking areas. The City Council passed an ordinance in April 1999 authorizing the city manager to initiate the demolition of buildings that are not consistent with health and human safety guidelines in the city. The hospital building will be the first structure demolished under that ordinance.
   The hospital building was constructed in the late 1950s and underwent a $1.4 million expansion in 1971. The county hospital administration entered into a management agreement with the Hospital Corporation of America in 1979.
   When the Hospital Corporation of America proffered the idea of building a new hospital in Elizabethton, the city and county relinquished their existing certificate of need (CON) on the municipally-owned hospital. In that agreement, the company paid the city and county $3 million each, according to a county official. Sycamore Shoals Hospital was constructed in 1983.
   The city and county still owned the property, however, and ultimately held a closed bid auction for the property with a selected bid of $1.5 million being placed. However, the closed bids were conditioned on getting a certificate of need to establish a nursing home on the site. The city and county were unable to secure the CON for a nursing home.
  The hospital has been abandoned since 1986.