City should make old hospital a priority

Published 9:51 am Thursday, April 14, 2016

The old King’s Daughters Hospital building is a dangerous eye-sore. It’s overgrown with vegetation, the windows are broken and it drags the surrounding neighborhood down. Just imagine what it does to nearby property values.

The question isn’t whether it’s a danger to the public (that’s a given), but what can be done about it.

The current owner obviously has no interest in either repairing it or tearing it down. The city says it can’t afford the costly testing necessary to see if it contains asbestos. So, it just continues to rot.

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“It is a danger, and it’s an eyesore,” Brookhaven Police Chief Bobby Bell said. “Anytime somebody is in a building in that bad a shape, it’s a danger. Our kids don’t have any business going into any building that has broken glass.”

How can the city not afford to do something about the building? Aside from concerns about blight, there’s the obvious safety concerns. Imagine if a curious child manages to get inside and gets hurt — or worse.

Brookhaven’s former inspector said the property is on the city’s clean-up list. City attorney Joe Fernald said in 2014 that the city would have to do an “environmental study of the building then decide how much to renovate.”

The city has a process for dealing with unkempt properties. Once a property makes the clean-up list, a letter is sent to the owner and a public hearing is held. At the hearing, the owner can speak and the aldermen decide what actions to take. If the property isn’t cleaned within 30 days of the hearing, the city can clean up or tear down a structure. The city then attempts to recoup its costs through a lien placed on the property.

The city owes it to its residents to pursue every available option to get the old hospital cleaned up or torn down. Last year during the budget planning process $25,000 was set aside for a feasibility study on a city pool. If the city has money to study pools, surely it has money to at least test the building to see if asbestos is present. That would be the first step in determining the future of the facility.