Cash sweetens land swap plan Hospital, county are mum on amount

July 28, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

A planned land swap between Carroll County government and Carroll County General Hospital will also involve a cash payment from the hospital, county officials revealed yesterday.

Representatives of the county government and hospital have been negotiating an agreement for the hospital to acquire the Carroll County Health Department building and parking lot that adjoin the hospital property.

In exchange, the hospital will give the county government part of about 400 acres it owns along routes 30 and 482 at the north end of Hampstead.

The hospital will also make a cash payment, but neither side was willing yesterday to say how much.

Talks "include both a cash payment and land, but the amounts are still under negotiation," said CCGH spokeswoman Gill Chamblin.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy asked yesterday for assurances that the expected cash flow -- the timing of the hospital's payment and the county's need for money to provide new offices for health and school system employees -- won't present problems.

Steven D. Powell, county director of management and budget, said he anticipates no cash shortage. He declined to give even a ballpark figure on the amount of money and land expected to change hands.

"All that is still part of the negotiations," he said.

The county government plans to apply CCGH's cash payment toward the $3.9 million estimated cost of moving and renovating portable offices that Martin Marietta Corp. has donated to the county.

The county expects to put these portables on county-owned land in Westminster near the hospital. The 120 portable units join to create three buildings with 30,000 square feet of space apiece.

The portables are to house Department of Education administrative offices in 60,000 square feet and the Health Department offices in 30,000 square feet.

Hospital officials plan to convert the Health Department building for outpatient surgery or doctors' offices. The commissioners plan to try to market the Hampstead property for industrial development.

Commissioner Elmer Lippy said the county attorney has assured the commissioners that accepting cash as part payment will not violate the law that requires the county to dispose of its property at public auction.

Mr. Lippy said the transaction will have to be channeled through an instrument such as the county Industrial Development Authority, an entity created by the commissioners to market publicly owned industrial property.

Mr. Lippy said he is confident that the expense of moving and renovating the portables will be justified by the use the county gets from the units, based on staff recommendations.

"We could be dead wrong, but we have looked this gift horse in the mouth and everyone seems to be firm in their t recommendations," Mr. Lippy said.

He said he also looked at the potential return on investment if the county invests the savings from deferring construction of new health and education buildings. The return on that investment could cover the increase in construction costs when the county has to build new buildings to replace the portables in 10 to 15 years, he said.

Health Department staff members are eager to move into the portables. Some employees have complained for years that the building is afflicted by "sick building syndrome," Deputy County Health Officer Larry L. Leitch said last month.

The Hampstead land owned by CCGH is zoned for industry, but only two parcels have been sold in the roughly 30 years the hospital has owned it. One is occupied by Ridge Engineering Inc., one by a WGRX radio tower. The commissioners said they hope to market the property aggressively.

The county government has retained Burton Associates Architects Inc. of Baltimore to design the renovations of the portables. Thomas J. Rio, county building construction bureau chief, said the next step is to work out how best to structure the contracts to prepare the sites, move the portables and renovate them.

Martin Marietta offered the portables to Baltimore County's school system, among others. Keith D. Kelley, executive director for capital improvements, said the system turned down the offer after school officials found leased buildings where the owner would contribute to renovation costs.

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