I can’t tell you how dismayed I was to learn in the Daily Light last week that the Waxahachie City Council voted to accept a “gift” of property from Baylor Scott & White Health. The property is a 3 to 4 acre site located adjacent to Getzendaner Park. The problem with the property is that there is an old outdated hospital there, which not only makes the property worthless but actually makes the property value negative, perhaps a negative $1 million.

Hospitals are special purpose buildings. They have one purpose and that is to provide hospital care. The hospitals are designed specifically to provide this care. For instance, patient rooms are designed around nursing stations, and ancillary treatment rooms designed for patient rehabilitation and have also diagnostic testing areas such as laboratories. These areas cannot be renovated or redesigned for another use such as office buildings or apartments, at least not without a great expense. This great expense makes it not feasible to convert the old hospital because it’s less expensive to tear the building down and haul it away and then build another building for another use.

I doubt very much that the hospital has any value for use such as for a hospital operator. The building is old and would likely require a significant investment to bring it up to modern hospital design standards. Again this makes the property valueless to anyone including a hospital operator because it would be cheaper to tear the building down and haul it away than it would be to renovate.

For the property to have any value to a developer, or anyone else, the hospital will have to be torn down and hauled away first. This will have to be incurred at the taxpayers expense, $500,000 or more. The 3 to 4 acres or land, if the hospital was not on the property, would be worth only around $60,000.

It’s hard to say at this point how much it will cost the citizens of Waxahachie for this boondoggle. Baylor Scott & White Health has a sophisticated real estate arm. It is quite likely and typical in gift transactions for the real estate contract to have a waiver of liability to benefit the gifter for anything that is wrong with the property. This waiver of liability would include hazardous materials improperly stored or dumped as well as things like asbestos removal. There is a likelihood that asbestos is on the property because that particular building was built in the time of the heavy use of asbestos in construction. Asbestos remediation would greatly drive up the demolition cost of the building.

I hope that our City Council and our City Manager will assess this situation more closely and carefully and then give the property back to Baylor Scott & White Health. Or, require that Baylor Scott & White Health remove the building as a precondition to the gift. Our City has already spent all of our money. We don’t have another million dollars more to just waste (or give) away.