Federal halfway house makes offer to buy vacant Marion Hospital

Federal halfway house makes offer to buy vacant Marion Hospital
By: Carly O'Keefe
MARION, Ill. - The Marion Memorial Hospital building has stood vacant for three years, up for sale with no buyers stepping forward.
"You would think someone would come forward and say ‘hey I have an idea and want to buy this and use it,' but it's been three years and that hasn't happened. Now we have someone who is interested," said Marion Mayor Bob Butler.
Firetree, Ltd. a non-profit group out of Pennsylvania has made an offer to buy the property for $1.2 million. If the city agrees to the sale, the building would become a halfway house to rehabilitate recently released federal prisoners.
According Butler, Firetree hasn't won the Federal Bureau of Prison's contract to operate it. Another halfway house is currently operated in Marion by Franklin Williamson Human Services. Firetree has the better bid; it could mean the vacant hospital would have a new purpose. But the prospect of a federal halfway house setting up shop in a primarily residential area has some neighbors concerned.
"I would like to have something done about the hospital, but I don't want prisoners living there," said Mary Morgan of Marion.
Morgan lives directly across the street from the hospital building. She said her concern is for her daughter if 50 or more ex-convicts moving in next door.
"It just wouldn't be safe for them to be here. This is a residential area for people to raise their kids their families, their grand kids come to visit," said Morgan.
Others in the neighborhood like Carl Kimmins, who lives down the street with his four kids, say it's not such a bad idea.
"The building is sitting there, no one's in it. It's just a waste of property. Maybe if they had a place to stay they could come out and find jobs and get back to living their life," said Kimmins.
Butler says he reminds folks that it would only be a new location for something that's been around a long time.
"We've had this very same service in our community for 25 years, and now somebody's wanting to use the old hospital to do the same operation, and suddenly, oh! This is terrible in the minds of some," said Butler.
A public hearing is set for February 26 at 5:30 p.m. at Marion City Hall for public comment on the sale and use of the old Marion Memorial Hospital building.