The Greene County Government is working toward purchasing the former Takoma Hospital building from Ballad Health.
According to County Mayor Kevin Morrison, the county has negotiated a $3 million purchase price for the former hospital campus.
The purchase would require no tax increases for residents in Greene County. It would be paid for through Rescue Act funding from the federal government and bonding.
The matter would have to be voted on by the Greene County Commission.
The former Takoma Hospital building would be renovated and serve as the headquarters for the county’s government offices.
“This idea came about from the need of the Sheriff’s Department to have more space. They are extremely crowded at the department,” Morrison said.
The idea of finding a new county headquarters had been discussed informally by county leaders. The former Greene Valley Developmental Center was discussed, but it was not an option because state law requires county government offices to be located within the county seat of the county, which is Greeneville.
That led to the former Takoma Hospital, and Morrison was authorized to reach out to Ballad last month about a possible purchase.
According to Morrison, Ballad’s property group approached the county with a $5.5 million sale price. Greene County countered with a $1.5 million offer. Ballad came back with a $3.5 million price, and Greene County countered with a $2.5 million offer.
Ballad accepted the $2.5 million offer, if Greene County agreed to actually pay Ballad $3 million, of which $500,000 would be paid back to the county over three years. This would equal $2.5 million that the county would pay for the building.
The reason for the complication is that Ballad has government grant money it must spend, or it will lose the money. Ballad also wishes to continue to house the Strong Futures program on the fourth floor of the former Takoma Hospital for the next three years. Therefore, Ballad would lease the space for the Strong Futures program from the County for a price of $500,000, which would be paid using the grant money over three years. The County would pay Ballad for the building in $1 million installments over the same three years. So, after all the money changes hands, the county will have only paid Ballad $2.5 million for the building.
The 110,000-square-foot building would be the new home for most county offices. All offices that are currently in the Greene County Courthouse Annex would move to the former Takoma Hospital. The County would then look to sell the vacated Courthouse Annex building. The County would also invite the Greene County Central Office to move to the new building. Part of the current Sheriff’s Department would be converted to a minimum security prison to house mainly women. This would solve the space issue at the Sheriff’s Department, and put off the need for a new jail for at least 10 or 20 years, according to Morrison.
According to Morrison, offices that currently have a satisfactory space, such as the Election Commission, Solid Waste Department, Highway Department, and Animal Control, would not relocate.
Morrison also said the county would look to renovate the building for an additional estimated $3.5 million. In total, the finished product of the renovated building would cost Greene County $50 per square foot. In comparison, the former Consumer Credit Union building that now houses the Greene County Election Commission cost around $200 per square foot.
A budget workshop will be held with the County Commission to explain how the finances of the purchase will work. The commission will then need to vote on whether to approve the purchase of the building.
As the process moves forward the county will continue to make sure there are no issues with the building.
“We certainly don’t want to buy a pig in a poke. We will continue to do our due diligence with the building inspector every step of the way,” Morrison said.
Morrison sees the purchase of the building as a great opportunity for the Greene County Government to get some much-needed elbow room.
“This solves issues we have now, and solves issues that we may have in the future,” Morrison said.