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Plan to sell firehouses to aid hospital draws ire

(Published July 12, 1999)

Mayor Anthony A. Williams is proposing that the city turn over control of four buildings, assessed at $10.3 million, to the financial control board in exchange for a $3.1 million "grant" to help bail out financially troubled Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

The properties include two vacant firehouses -- at 439 New Jersey Ave. NW and 1626 North Capitol St. NW -- including one that is currently involved in negotiations as a site for a city fire museum.

The New Jersey Avenue firehouse, known as Old Engine Co. 3, is listed on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and is assessed at nearly $4.5 million, according to proposed legislation before D.C. City Council.

"While we appreciate the importance of finding a financial solution to the needs of the Greater Southeast Community Hospital, we believe there are better ways of doing so than by disposing of the city’s historic property through a sole source arrangement," wrote Richard Schaffer, chairman of the Capitol Fire Museum, in a July 9 memo to council members.

According to the memo, Fire Chief Donald Edwards met with Schaffer’s group June 21 and "informed us that Old Engine Company 3, which still belongs to the fire department, is not considered by the fire department to be surplus property."

City officials could not be reached for comment.

Other city-owned properties included in the proposed swap are the former women’s prison at 1010 North Capitol St. NW and the former Recorder of Deeds Office at 515 D St. NW.

Mayor Williams pledged $8.5 million in a city loan, loan guarantee or cash advance to Greater Southeast on May 27 but, at that time, acknowledged he was unsure where the city money would come from. Council and city officials were expected to meet July 12 about the mayor’s plans involving emergency legislation to swap the properties and approve a $3.1 million loan for the hospital.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator