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Selling OVMC Property Quickly

Wheeling taxpayers are about to become the owners of a hospital, or at least a complex of buildings that served that purpose until last fall. The question now is what to do with the facility.

City Council members voted Tuesday night to proceed with acquisition of most of the old Ohio Valley Medical Center property, owned by Medical Properties Trust of Alabama. It is expected the transaction will cost the city about $1.11 million, including closing costs and payment of property taxes due on the buildings and land.

Municipal officials already have a good idea for part of the property. They may use the Valley Professional Building, located across Chapline Street from the main OVMC campus, to house a new headquarters for the police and fire departments. That would be cheaper, at about $12 million, than the original $14.5 million proposal to build such a facility.

That would leave the city in possession of a sprawling complex of buildings, some of which need to be repaired and others razed.

Council members have said they went into the deal with full understanding of potential benefits and pitfalls. One challenge is the cost of needed repairs and demolition. Another is the ongoing expense for insurance, utilities, maintenance and other “carrying costs.”

It appears some potential buyers already have expressed interest in the complex or pieces of it. If so, the sooner the city can sell part or all of the property to new owners interested in putting it to productive use, the better.

Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday — who did not run for re-election and leaves office June 30 — put the situation well: “From my perspective, a really important word here is stewardship, because the city doesn’t want to own these buildings. The idea here is to steward them through a transition process so that they can continue to have a successful life into the future and to be an asset to the community on the whole.”

Mayor Glenn Elliott seems to agree. “Our goal going forward is not to sit on these properties any more than we have to,” he said Tuesday.

Good. Too often, government officials in such situations decide to use them for social/economic engineering — that is, deciding property can be used for some purposes but not for others.

That is not a proper function of government. It carries the risk of passing up some offers, then never receiving others. The sooner the city can sell as much of the OVMC property back to the private sector, the better.

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