After attempts to convert the former U.S. Army Reserve Center in Westminster into a veterans services center failed, the long-empty building will be sold.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously voted to approve the public sale of the center at no cost to the county, at the request of the U.S. government. The proceeds of the sale will go to the federal government.
The facility at 404 Malcolm Drive in Westminster was built in 1961 to house and support Army members. The federal government declared the center as surplus and asked Carroll County if it was interested in the property in 2013 or 2014, county attorney Tim Burke said Thursday, unsure of the specific year. The sheriff at the time thought the property could serve law enforcement, and the center was conveyed to Carroll with a provision in the deed that it be used for law enforcement purposes, according to Burke.
After Jim DeWees became sheriff, he did not share the same interest in the center, Burke said, and the new goal became to convert the center into a place for veterans.
Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, lamented the unsuccessful effort by the county and local veterans to find a new purpose for the center.
The Carroll County Veterans Independence Project or CCVIP, established in 2017, attempted to secure the federal government’s approval to use the building as a veterans services center that would have included a homeless shelter, according to the organization’s website.
After CCVIP applied twice to change the use of the building from public safety to homeless assistance and was denied each time, the nonprofit voted unanimously to seek commercial opportunities for the center instead.
“We tried for other opportunities,” Rothstein said. “We couldn’t get there. We did try. ... Unfortunately, it’s an albatross that we need to cut away.”
Now that five years have passed since the building was given to Carroll and it remains unused, the federal government wanted to sell it.
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“They’ve asked that instead of just handing the property back to the federal government — which would require them to declare it surplus again and go through the process all over again — that we conduct a public sale of the property at their expense," Burke told the commissioners. "There will be a settlement on the property. It’ll go to a third party without the law enforcement condition in the deed.”
Any expenses related to the sale, including advertisement and settlement costs, will be the responsibility of the federal government, Burke said.
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, and Rothstein indicated Thursday that there is already commercial interest in the property, though they did not elaborate.
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, asked whether the county should consider buying the property.
“If our staff would come up with something that they think would be suitable for that location or think that perhaps we could acquire it, especially if it’s cheap, I would ask that they kind of just keep their thinking caps on through this whole process,” Wantz said.
Burke said the county would have to compete against other bidders, along with anyone else interested in the property.
The board took no action Thursday regarding the former Army Reserve Center other than the commissioners voting to approve its sale.