By Beverly Gadson-Birch
I try not to bother trouble unless trouble bothers me. So, trouble bothered me last week after reading Brian Hicks’ article in the Post and Courier regarding the old Naval Hospital.
This is not the first time I have tackled this issue. It troubles me that taxpayers are willing to allow this matter to be swept under the rug. Do we have to get run over by a bus to know that we have been hit? Is there anyone besides me kicking a bucket down the street?
Here are some key points regarding the Naval Hospital (Post Courier and Internet Research/Resources):
• North Charleston bought the former Naval Hospital from the Federal Government for $2 million.
• City of North Charleston sold the hospital to a group of developers, which included Donald Trump’s son for $5 million. The developers did not meet their six month projected deadline for renovating three floors in the hospital; so, Charleston County let them out of the deal. Then, County Council Chair, Teddie Pryor, signed an open-end document without establishing project deadlines. It somehow got pass the County’s Attorney as well (Check out who was thrown under the bus!)
• The developers’ deal depended on the County leasing space once partial renovation had taken place. The Chair and Council approved and signed off on a 25-year lease agreement. With the 25-year lease in hand, the developers could now apply for a loan to further renovate and develop the hospital.
• The County would sell two properties to MUSC and use the funds to relocate staff and pay their lease forward for many years. That didn’t happen.
• The Chicora Group, developers, filed bankruptcy and the Judge ruled the county lacked standing because the amendment to the lease Pryor signed did not provide a deadline for renovation to be completed.
• Charleston County offers to settle the case for $33 million.
Now, yours truly is no rocket scientist or mathematician but the figures speak for themselves. North Charleston initially bought the hospital from the Federal Government for $2 million and settled the lawsuit from developers for $33 million. Let’s see, $33M+$2M=$35. Given the number of years this debacle has played out and before the economy turned north again and drove up building costs, the County could have renovated more than half the building and secured long term leases.
With long term leases in hand, the county could borrow monies to complete the renovation and/or the funds derived from the leases would help offset the costs of renovated space for use by Lessees and the County.
Before the County got entangled in this mess, the original intent and purpose was to transform the old Naval Hospital into County Offices and lease out space. This deal with Trump’s son and investors smelt like rotten fish from the very beginning.
Think about what $35 million would mean in changing not only the landscape in North Charleston and the County’s poor and blighted neighborhoods but in providing minority contracts as well. Y’all know that did not happen in the initial renovation. The good ole buddy system was used to renovate the hospital and their work was less than satisfactory.
The reason the deal went sour is the main use for the old Naval Hospital should have been for housing and training vets, setting up clinics and resources. Additional office space could be leased to help defray renovation and operational costs. One of momma’s sayings was “when you don’t do the right thing, it comes back to haunt you.”
Mayor Keith Summey and County Council have a lot of explaining to do. They should be held accountable for an egregious error in handling the hospital’s renovation and wasting taxpayers’ money. How do taxpayers make sense out of nonsense? You do it at the polls!! Are y’all listening?