BATH, Maine — Five months after Provident Corp. announced that it would vacate the former Bath Memorial Hospital building and move its school for children with autism to a new facility at Brunswick Landing, the three other major tenants in the Bath building have said they will be leaving or are evaluating their presence there. But officials say the decisions are not a result of recent controversy surrounding the sale of the building.
The sale of the former hospital building by the city to a Phippsburg developer has been the subject of much scrutiny in recent months as some residents have complained that the sale price of $799,000 falls far below the property’s $6.5 million assessed value. City Manager Bill Giroux has said the building only recently began to turn a profit, and he told the Bangor Daily News that he had been notified that “most of the major tenants there were going to be leaving.”
Earlier this month, the City Council voted to appoint an independent investigator to examine the sale. The council is scheduled to hold a special meeting Wednesday to determine how to implement that investigation, and consider whether to disclose what councilors have previously discussed in executive session about the sale.
Ron Cantor, president of SMCC, said Tuesday that college officials will “think carefully” about continuing their lease for approximately 10,000 square feet at the former Bath hospital when it expires in June 2014, now that most students are opting to take classes at a new campus at Brunswick Landing, the former Navy base.
Cantor said the college’s evaluation of the location has been underway “for a long time” and has “absolutely nothing to do with any of the politics surrounding the sale of the building.”
Rather, he said, enrollment at the Bath center has dropped from 500 students to 100 in the past few years, as the Brunswick campus gears up to enroll 2,000 students. The campus there is slated to include five large buildings — two and a half of which have already opened — and will soon include biology labs, which Cantor said are “the one concerning factor” about leaving the Bath facility.
After SMCC’s lease in Bath ends next June, he said, a community college presence there “depends on the trends, but to be truthful, we are seeing students beginning to move to the [Brunswick campus],” he said. “If that trend continues, we will have to make some decisions. We don’t have unlimited funds, and we are going to have to think carefully when the lease is up.”
University College, operated by the University of Maine at Augusta, notified the city in January that the college would leave the building in June 2014, according to Sheri Stevens, executive director of administrative services at UMA. University College leases approximately 13,000 square feet in the building.
Stevens said University College officials anticipated moving to the SMCC campus at Brunswick Landing, but that the availability of buildings may be in question and the college may have to “reconsider its position at [the Bath facility].”
The fourth major tenant, Mid Coast Medical Group, operated by Mid Coast Hospital, is “evaluating all space options” as the hospital opens a new medical practice in Topsham, spokesman Steve Trockman said Wednesday. Their lease for about 10,000 square feet in the Bath building expires this October.
“While we prepare to break ground in Topsham, we are just starting to evaluate how we can create a similar medical home model for our successful Bath practice,” Trockman said. “We are committed to staying in Bath for the long run. We are exploring all possibilities, current and new, for the practice location.”
Trockman did not immediately respond when asked if that commitment included maintaining a presence at the former hospital.
Correction: An earlier version of this story requires correction. The former Bath Memorial Hospital building has an assessed value of $6.5 million, not $7.5 million.