A plan to offer strategically-located Charleston County-owned real estate to the Medical University of South Carolina for $17 million cleared a key hurdle on Tuesday night.
County Council gave its first vote of approval to authorizing the sale of buildings housing the Banov Health Department and The Charleston Center, which is a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
A public hearing and two more Council votes are required, said Council Chairman Teddie Pryor.
"I think it's the right thing to do. This is a good deal. It's why I'm supporting it," he said.
Pryor said that the county has a "gentleman's agreement" with MUSC offering it right of first refusal on the purchase of the properties.
Councilman Joe Qualey cast the lone dissenting vote. He said that the county should accept competitive bids for the property rather than offering it to MUSC under a lease/purchase agreement.
"There is no harm in putting it out to bid," he said.
Councilman Henry Darby said he was voting in favor of the plan to sell the properties to MUSC but he agreed with Qualey.
"Mr. Qualey is right," Darby said.
Other Council members voted in favor of the deal with MUSC. Colleen Condon was absent.
Tuesday night's Council vote mirrored a vote on the issue last week at a meeting of the Finance Committee, which is comprised of all Council members.
The vote authorizes county staff to proceed with leasing space in the old Naval Hospital for the county health department and The Charleston Center, which are located off Courtenay Drive.
The move to the old Naval Hospital, which will happen by October, will include other county departments such as the Coroner's Office and Vital Records/Statistics, which are now at the county Perimeter Center on Bridge View Drive,
County Administrator Kurt Taylor has said the deal is the culmination of two years of planning and negotiation.
MUSC President Raymond Greenberg approached the county about acquiring the buildings, Taylor said.
To make the move possible, the county will lease 92,521 square feet at the former Naval Hospital from Chicora Gardens/Chicora LLC, a partnership that purchased the property from the City of North Charleston. The landlord will pay for a $1.6 million renovation of the space. The county will cover its moving costs and installation of voice and data networks, Taylor said.
The county changes are envisioned as part of an effort to create a new hub for medical and social services in the North Area. Long-term benefits of the plan include consolidation of services and reduced operational costs, officials said.
Others considering making the move to the hospital include the Franklin C. Fetter Health Clinic and unnamed agencies of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, according to a county presentation at last Tuesday's meeting.