Monsour hospital properties sold at free-and-clear sale
The rise and fall of Monsour Medical Center, a story that spans nearly half a century, reached a conclusion on the auction block Friday.
The Westmoreland County Land Bank purchased the former Monsour hospital property in Jeannette for $15,712 at a free-and-clear judicial sale in the courthouse.
Two other properties owned by Monsour Medical Center, in Hempfield on the opposite side of Route 30, also were sold after a bidding war. A vacant office building, house and garage stand on those properties.
The county’s purchase of the hospital property positions the land bank to demolish the abandoned, deteriorating hospital and redevelop the site.
Jeannette solicitor Scott Avolio called it an opportunity “not only for the city, but also the county, to prosper along that corridor.”
For two years, county officials have persisted to purchase the property at a free-and-clear sale.
“It was a team effort,” said Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp., which is serving as project manager.
The land bank now controls five properties, which include the hospital and adjacent structures, totaling 6.7 acres.
Officials await approval of an application for about $1 million in state funds to demolish the buildings and remediate the property. The project is anticipated to cost about $2 million.
Rigone said he hopes work can begin within 60 days.
Built for $1.5 million by the Monsour family, the hospital opened on Jan. 1, 1958. Court records show the original owners were Eva Monsour and her sons Robert, Roy, William and Howard, all physicians. Howard Monsour is the only survivor.
The hospital, originally owned by Monsour Hospital and Clinic Inc., opened as a for-profit venture. The Monsours sold it to the Monsour Medical Foundation in 1975 and converted it into a nonprofit.
The hospital was closed in 2006 for failing a series of state inspections. Left behind were patient records, furnishings, medical waste and years of legal entanglements.
Members of the board of directors who were in office when the hospital closed have either died or moved.
The abandoned facility was targeted by trespassers, vandals and arsonists until city officials used grant money this year to erect a barricade and secure the structure.
In August, a judge ordered that the properties be put up for bid at a free-and-clear sale after no owners, creditors or lien holders showed up at a hearing to object.
The winning bid of $45,000 for one of the Hempfield parcels was made by Robert Dauer, an attorney representing Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. That company and the federal government are the hospital’s two main creditors. Bidding started at $10,362.
Dauer said Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has agreed to allow Smith Johnson LLC of Mt. Pleasant to purchase and rehabilitate the property. County tax officials said Smith Johnson represents Delallo’s Italian Marketplace, whose store is located nearby along Route 30. The corporation owns several contiguous properties there.
“We’re going to work with (Smith Johnson) to keep the property and fix it,” Dauer said.
Bidding on the second parcel started at $4,698. The winning bidder for $10,500 was real estate attorney Joshua Farber of Pittsburgh law firm Clark Hill. Farber represented Smith Johnson at the auction. He declined to comment. Smith Johnson has the same office address listed on state records as Delallo’s Italian Foods Inc.
Francis DeLallo, president of the business, was seated with Farber during the bidding process. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Two county residents also bid on the two properties. Rockie Dean of Jeannette and Brian Carey of Latrobe said they sometimes attend tax sales to find redevelopment opportunities.
“We wanted to fix the buildings up and get them in functioning condition again,” Carey said.
The commissioners established the land bank to target abandoned and tax-foreclosed properties that threaten public health and safety.
Some demolition has taken place. Two outlying buildings at the site were razed earlier this year.
Requests for proposals from engineering and consulting firms for the demolition and remediation projects are due early next month, Rigone said.
The county has committed $500,000 toward the project, and Jeannette has about $43,000 in grant money to contribute. Officials are awaiting word on a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, in addition to $1 million in funds from the state, Rigone said.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or [email protected].