Group to offer ideas for property’s use
Efforts are under way to determine the future of the sprawling Greenwell Springs hospital site, northeast of Baton Rouge, now that it’s being vacated by the state health agency.
A newly created advisory group will look into “proper utilization” of the 108-acre campus, and report back to the Legislature no later than Feb. 1.
“We hate to see our state assets just sitting there and going down. Hopefully with the task force we can come up with some good ideas,” said state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, whose resolution created a group tasked with coming up with a way to use the facility.
“Let’s do what we can to put this facility to a good use for the people,” Erdey said.
The state Department of Health and Hospitals closed its mental health facility there and transferred 48 patients to its East Louisiana State Hospital at Jackson in late March as part of budget cuts. The unit provided inpatient care for adults experiencing acute psychiatric problems.
The cost-cutting move was estimated to save $2 million annually.
On May 31, Pathways Adolescent Substance Use Treatment vacated the space it leased. By Friday, the special school district that operated on the property will be gone with all its books and equipment.
After that, DHH will be in a maintenance mode as decisions are made on use of the property.
Greenwell Springs has an interesting history as a resort with mineral springs, a water bottling plant, a tuberculosis hospital and a mental health facility at various times.
Erdey said a constituent — Gerald Ried, of Central — has a dream of establishing a veterans memorial museum.
“Obviously the vets would not be able to fill the whole facility,” Erdey said. “The city of Central may want to build a new administration building. Maybe BREC would develop a park. It could be a site for Baton Rouge Community College to have some classrooms. They might want space for a branch out in the Central area,” Erdey said.
Erdey said there may also be some economic development opportunity that will present itself along the way and bring some additional tax revenues into the area.
DHH Deputy Secretary Kathy Kliebert said her agency can use the property or turn it over to the governor’s Division of Administration as surplus property.
“Dependent on any recommendations received, there are a number of options to consider such as a sale, lease or cooperative agreement for use of the property. Those processes won’t get under way until the property is completely vacated,” Kliebert said.
If the property is deemed to be surplus land, the state Division of Administration’s Office of State Lands would prepare a report making a recommendation on the best use or ultimate disposition of the property, said Christina Stephens, a DOA spokeswoman.
Under state law, the Legislature’s Natural Resources committees would have to approve the sale of any surplus property.
The administration division is aware of the legislative resolution creating the work group to look at alternate uses for the land, Stephens said. “We certainly can take a look at any ideas this group has to determine if they are feasible as part of the legally required surplus process,” she said.
Under Erdey’s resolution, the task force must have its first meeting by Sept. 15. The 11-member advisory group is established within the Department of Veterans Affairs.