Friday, June 4, 2010

Former Mayview State Hospital Land Sold

The state has found a buyer for the land Mayview State Hospital sat on. It’s a coal company. They‘re paying a half million dollars for nearly two hundred acres - that includes a coalmine.

Early estimates of what the land would go for were in the multiple millions. After all, it covered South Fayette and Upper St Clair townships - two of the more affluent communities in the area.

That it would go for less than what it was worth was expected- this was good land but old buildings filled with asbestos and lead paint that would most likely be demolished.

But the agreement the state made to sell the land for $505,505 dollars to Aloe Brothers LLC of Mount Washington has left members of the mental health community deeply disappointed. State Senator John Pippy who co-chaired the Mayview task force said he was also let down by how much the land sold for.

Advocates wanted the land to be sold at a fair market price and for the proceeds of the sale to go into a trust for community based mental health services to benefit those the hospital had served. The more money for the land –the more in the trust.
Mayview State Hospital opened in the late 1800’s and housed and treated thousands of people for mental illness. It closed in 2008.

The state- ordered appraisal valued the land at 7.8 million. But the buildings were a 13 million liability. That left the land at an appraisal of negative 5.2 million.
John Paul Jones is Director of the Governors Southwest Regional Office.

The appraisal was not made public and the land was put on the market. They received two bids- the losing bid was for 130,000.

The state will retain mineral rights.

Concerns of Marcellus shale oil drilling were raised at a public hearing held in St. Clair Township on Thursday night. State Senator John Pippy who co-chaired the land task force said as legislators they would try to prevent that from occurring.

Disappointment was expressed repeatedly by many of those attending the meeting who said the land should have sold for more. They said the sale could have been a great source of revenue for services potentially strained by state budget cuts.

Rev. Sally Jo Snyder, with the Consumer Health Coalition has been helping organize members of the mental health community to advocate through this process. The task force was set up to talk assess the environmental and economic use of the land. Their advocacy shifted the discourse. So, aside from the disappointment in the assessment and sale of the land, she says there have been victories. A memorial for what the hospital was and the thousands of people that passed through it will be on the property. And it has been empowering for those that have come out to speak at the meetings.

Last month, Senator Pippy introduced Senate Bill 1339, which would place the net proceeds of the sale into a mental health and retardation services account that would be handled by the state Department of Public Welfare. With the sale of the land, after accrued state costs that would be about 350,000 thousand dollars.
Listen to the full report by DUQ's Erika Beras.

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