No new occupant found for desolate Henryton Center Schaefer, officials tour site, find it too big, decrepit

January 26, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer and about 20 state officials traipsed through falling plaster at the Henryton Center in Marriottsville yesterday and all but decided they couldn't do much with it.

The officials planned to review their findings, but most agreed that little could be done with the 18-building facility, which has been vacant since 1984.

The governor said he may look to the private sector for ideas.

In many windowless rooms and hallways, the group fumbled in the dark with only narrow beams from a few flashlights to light their way.

Mr. Schaefer scheduled the tour with nine department heads to see what, if anything, the state could do with the 18-building facility, which has been vacant since 1984.

"This is a perfect example of what happens when buildings are not maintained," he said. "It is so sad to see these buildings sit year after year."

Some buildings date to 1923, when Henryton opened as a hospital for tubercular patients. It was altered for the developmentally disabled in 1962. Its patient load was down to about 100 when it closed in 1984.

"After it closed, we winterized everything and have maintained the grounds on a 24-hour basis," said Glenn Jaeger, administrative officer at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

The maintenance does not go much beyond the prevention of vandalism, he said.

Robert L. Walker, secretary of agriculture, said "it was a shame" to see empty buildings on the "beautiful" 70-acre site.

"The governor asked all the different agencies to take a look and see what could be done, even partially," said Mr. Walker.

"Could you use this building?" the governor asked several departmental secretaries. Most shook their heads and replied "too big" or "too much money to renovate."

After an hour canvassing three of the largest buildings, the governor said he was not surprised when he could find no takers for the 228,000 square feet of space.

"There isn't any state agency that could take all of these buildings," said the governor. "It is hard to get purposes for these buildings. They are so massive."

Taxpayers' demands to downsize also influence any decision, he said.

"We immediately think of the budget," he said. "Where would we get the dollars?"

Mr. Schaefer said he knew his staff felt the same. Each department is faced with tightened budgets and a demand for increased services.

Although Mary Ann Saar, secretary of the department of juvenile services, needs a detention facility immediately, she too ruled out Henryton. Ms. Saar has proposed renovating a building at Springfield Hospital Center into a 74-bed detention center for youths awaiting disposition of their cases.

"We must be close to courts, and this place is too far out and just too big," she said.

Nelson Sabatini, secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the cost of heating the facility would be prohibitive.

Henryton's central power plant is beyond repair, said Mr. Jaeger: "The underground lines for heat and hot water are in bad shape. All utilities would have to be upgraded. There is no handicap access, and we couldn't meet safety codes."

Nearly all the buildings also have asbestos problems, said Frank Bolton of the general services office.

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