Council approves city's right to bid on old hospital

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The City of Elizabethton moved one step closer to taking ownership of the Carter County Memorial Hospital on Thursday night. Elizabethton City Council members voted to give the city administration authority to bid on the property when it comes up for auction on Nov. 21.
   "We are asking authority from the council to bid $71,232 -- the combined total of taxes owed the city and county," said Roger Day, city attorney. "We've attempted to get the owners to bring it up to standard."
   The hospital campus was initially bid at two public auctions held in August and again in October, but no citizens bid on the property at the auctions, Day said.
   Total delinquent taxes owed by the property owners to the city and county were $37,826 and $33,406, respectively, he added.
   He also informed the council that Carter County commissioners had voted to waive the property taxes owed the county if the city agreed to purchase the hospital property. The county did not waive court costs of $275 and $1,765 in county attorney's fees, which would fall to the city if they were successful bidders.
   Councilman Richard Sammons questioned the city's rights of ownership if they won the bid.
   "We would have the property after the one year right of refusal by the owner," Day replied. "What we will probably be able to do is secure the building."
   The hospital property's owner Wayne Graybeal would have one year from the date of auction sale to pay the delinquent taxes, legal costs, plus 10 percent of the $71,232 tax total to reclaim the property, Day said.
   The council voted 5-0 with Diane Morris and Janie Smith McKinney absent to approve the city's right to bid on the hospital on Nov. 21.
   Council members also heard from citizens in the Happy Valley community who expressed their concern about noise and safety issues at a local business in the neighborhood.
   Patrons of the Creekside Cafe on the Milligan Highway frequently kept the music rocking into the wee hours of the morning, according to some citizens.
   "We have all got children in the neighborhood, and you can't sleep at night," said Mary Davis who said she resided near the business on the Milligan Highway. "The police responded but no reports were made."
   Robert Szabo said he previously owned the Creekside building for five years and added that he experienced the same type of noise problems.
   "It's horrible," said Szabo, who added that noise frequently kept his two small children awake.
   Police Chief Roger Deal said he had spoken with Davis regarding the noise reports. He added that police had responded but had not filled out lengthy reports because no findings of activity had been made when police arrived at the scene.
   "We're not going to tolerate that in a business area or a residential area," Mayor Sam LaPorte told citizens.
   Fifty-one percent of sales must come from food for businesses that have beer permits, according to City Financial Director, Brad Moffitt. The businesses must also be a minimum distance from churches and schools and have a sit-down seating capacity of approximately 100.
   "We check the 51 percent food sale ratio every year," said Moffitt, who added that the Creekside Cafe received their beer license earlier this year. "We haven't reviewed them yet because they haven't had their license that long."
   Moffitt said the city held a public hearing about the license, and he did not recall hearing any opposition to it.
   In other business, the council voted 5-0 to waive the $1,200 sewer tap fee for the Workforce Development Center in the former Great Lakes building to be provided with sewer services.
   Stahl advised the council that Center officials had informed him that septic systems currently serving the facility were having problems, and they were interested in tapping onto the city system as soon as possible.
   The council also voted 5-0 to appraise three tracts of property offered for donation in downtown Elizabethton by the East Tennessee Railway (ETR).
   In a letter to Stahl, ETR General Manager Keith A. Holley stated that since the Elizabethton spur was being retired, the company wished to donate to the city three parcels of land that lie in close proximity to the new War Memorial at Elk Avenue and Pine Street.
   Holley wrote that the company did request the city appraise the value of the parcels and share those results with the Railway.
   The council voted 5-0 on second reading and public hearing to annex Emmanuel Village and 1302 Broad Street Extension properties. The council also voted 5-0 to approve a resolution adopting a plan of city services for both properties, per state annexation law.
   A scheduled resolution was deferred to consider approving $25,000 in matching funds to finance the preliminary engineering services to reconstruct a portion of Lynn Avenue into a five-lane highway from the Elizabethton Connector to East G Street.
   A resolution transferring ownership of the Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County from the club to the city of Elizabethton was also deferred, according to LaPorte.