Asbestos survey brings hospital's demise closer

By Thomas Wilson

   The Elizabethton City Council will consider on Thursday approving a proposal to gather information about asbestos content in the Carter County Memorial Hospital building.
   With just over two months before city government would take possession of the hospital and property, the city is preparing to evaluate the amount of asbestos in the building.
   "If the hospital does become the property of the city, we would have a contract in place to go ahead and start with the asbestos removal," said David Ornduff, city director of planning and development.
   The property's owner, Wayne Graybeal, has until Feb. 14, 2004 to pay the delinquent taxes, legal costs, plus a 10 percent penalty of the tax total to reclaim the property under the "right-of-redemption" law.
   The S&ME, Inc. based in Blountville has submitted a proposal to survey the building for asbestos-containing materials to the city. The Environmental Protection Agency requires an asbestos survey to identify interior and exterior asbestos materials in a building prior to demolition. The survey would gather roughly 370 samples from sheetrock, ceilings, mortar and other insulation materials throughout the building. Cost of the survey is estimated at $8,000, according to the firm's proposal.
   "We won't spend any money until we know the property belongs to the city," said Ornduff.
   The city government bought the hospital at public auction on Nov. 21, 2002 for $71,242.75 to pay real property taxes owed to city and county governments. The city's ownership was finalized in February.
   The 96,000 square-foot hospital building sits on a 5.4-acre tract of property located on West G Street and includes several parking areas. Construction on the four-story original hospital building began in the late 1950s. The hospital opened in August, 1959. A three-story addition connected to the hospital was built in 1971.
   The city and county maintained joint ownership of the facility until the mid-1980s when the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) approached local leaders about building a private hospital in Carter County. The hospital was effectively abandoned after Sycamore Shoals Hospital was completed in 1986.
   The city government budgeted approximately $500,000 in its fiscal year 2004 budget to demolish the hospital building.
   In other business, the council will consider whether to triple its original monetary contribution for a stream bank stabilization project along Buffalo Creek.
   The city was asked to contribute $6,500 to co-fund an estimated $14,900 stabilization project on a portion of the stream bank near the National Little League Field where Buffalo Creek frequently floods. The Boone Watershed Partnership proposed funding the project with $8,500.
   However, when city staff opened bids for the project, the one bid received came in at $32,162 - more than $17,000 above the cost estimate originally prepared by the National Resource Conservation Service. Council members are now faced with the decision of pulling city funding, or kicking in an additional $17,162 to fund the stabilization project.