[image-1] Charleston County will have to sink a minimum of $66 million into the old naval hospital in North Charleston just to make it safe and usable, county staff told an irate County Council on Wednesday.
[content-1] For those of you keeping score at home, $66 million is double the $33 million that the county already paid to buy the building last year and more than 16 times what the City of North Charleston paid the federal government for the building in 2014.
If the renovation plan is approved, Charleston County taxpayers will be paying nearly $100 million just to keep the lights on in the 10-story North Charleston high rise. Much of the work will be done to bring the building up to code and finish work left undone by previous contractors.
Here’s the quick and dirty rundown of who’s bought and sold this boondoggle:
2012: Federal government sells to City of North Charleston for $2 million
2014: City of North Charleston sells to development group including Donald Trump, Jr. for $5 million (+250%)
2017: Charleston County acquires the building for $33 million (+16,500%) from the development group as part of a legal settlement
The lucky county staffers tasked with tackling the now-$100 million project gave the council finance committee the details of the up-fit plan in a 40-minute presentation Wednesday. After the slideshow, Councilman Elliott Summey noted that he wasn’t involved in discussing the settlement (“I obviously had to recuse myself from all this crap”) but told council, “It makes me very angry that we own this building, and it makes me angry that we are stuck in this situation.” Summey was chair of County Council when the most recent legal issues began with the Trump group; his father is North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.
Summey and Councilman Henry Darby both reiterated multiple times that they were misled by previous council “leadership” and staff. James Island Councilman Joe Qualey, one two members of council with Dickie Schweers to vote against pursuing the 2017 settlement, also lamented that the county was now “tripling down to try to salvage a building that I think we should just get rid of.”
(The presentation starts around 20:00 and council comments begin around 1:00:00 via Ustream.)
Post and Courier‘s deep dive on the project says that Donald Trump Jr.’s involvement “wowed” local officials ahead of the 2014 sale, but that his role was mostly for show. The majority of the project was reportedly owned by others including Utah lawyer Doug Durbano and the family of Jeremy Blackburn. The county attempted to get out of a lease agreement it struck with the group and was forced into litigation that ended with the county’s purchase in a $33 million settlement.
“What do we get?” Darby asked after the presentation. “We get taken advantage of.”