Dorchester County may sell old hospital

The site of the old Dorchester County Memorial Hospital is where residents can pay their taxes, get permits and handle other official business.

BRAD NETTLES

SUMMERVILLE -- The old Dorchester County Memorial Hospital complex might be about to go up for sale.

The complex is a hub in this town, an entire block that is the county services center for the lower county, right there at the busy intersection of Main Street and U.S. Highway 78.

It's where residents in the busy suburbs can go to pay taxes, get building permits or flu shots. It also holds the Summerville chambers for County Council meetings.

But the 4-acre tract might be worth as much as $4 million on the market and could be developed as a hotel with outlying businesses, a "significant economic engine in town," in the words of Councilman Jay Byars.

Council already is looking at moving services from the space-strapped complex to another location, possibly as part of a private-public development project at the long neglected and largely vacant Heritage Square shopping center at U.S. 78 and the Berlin Myers Parkway nearby.

There also is talk of splitting up locations of those services at other buildings in the Trolley Road area.

Longtime Summerville residents, many of whom were born in the hospital, consider it somewhat historic. The facility dates to the years before World War II. It is enough of a landmark in town that residents launched a petition in the 1970s to maintain services there when the county looked to demolish it after the hospital closed, and the Summerville Preservation Society launched an effort that saved it.

But when council members first floated the idea of selling it last year, residents were mixed. Byars said residents he talked to were more concerned that they don't lose the services than they were about the building.

"If that building were built in the Civil War, that would be one thing," he said.

"We're going to pursue" the sale, said Chairman Larry Hargett after reaching an informal consensus among council members at a capital projects workshop Tuesday.

A developer already has approached the county and will pay for an appraisal, Hargett said.