Two deals have fallen apart so far, but Aiken County Council is getting close to reaching another agreement with a prospective buyer for the old Aiken County Hospital.

During its meeting Tuesday at the Aiken County Government Center, the panel voted unanimously to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would authorize the county to sell the old hospital and the 9.33-acre tract on which it sits on Richland Avenue West in Aiken.

County Council discussed the future of the old hospital during an executive session prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

“We have bids from interested parties, and I’m expecting by the second reading in two weeks to name the buyer that we intend to sell it to and the price,” said County Council Chairman Gary Bunker.

County Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 19.

Bunker declined to identify the parties or to say how many had offered bids.

At the request of the county, an appraiser recently looked at the old hospital, which also has served in the past as the headquarters for county government.

The brick building, which was constructed prior to World War II, has been vacant since 2014 when the $37.5-million Government Center opened on University Parkway.

“He has not completed the appraisal, and he probably won’t do a full appraisal,” Killian said. “One of the things we wanted him to look at was the value of the property with and without the building (the old hospital) on it. Some members of Council want to sell the property as a clean site, and the question is whether or not the cost of us taking the building down could be recovered in the increased value of the property if the building were gone.”

When asked if an answer from the appraiser had been received yet, Killian replied, “Not totally.”

Another reason for getting an appraiser involved was “to see if the bids coming in were consistent with what the appraiser thinks the value is, and the bids are all targeting pretty close right now,” Bunker said.

If the county decides not to tear down the old hospital, it will not require a new prospective buyer to retain or demolish the building as part of any agreement.

“Ultimately, as we discovered in the last two go-arounds on this, it is really the city (Aiken) that they are going to have to work with,” Bunker said.

In 2018, County Council approved a plan to sell the old hospital for $1.1-million to The Marian Group.

The ordinance’s language included a condition of sale stating that the old hospital must be “retained, renovated and repurposed in a manner that subjects it to real property taxation.”

Early in 2019, The Marian Group withdrew its applications with the City of Aiken to redevelop the property, and its agreement with the county ended.

A “missed financing deadline” was the reason The Marian Group backed out, according to an email sent by James Duffy, development associate with the Kentucky-based firm, to Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh.

Later in 2019, County Council passed another ordinance to sell the old hospital to WTC Investments LLC for $1.1 million.

Tom Wyatt manages WTC. His father, Weldon Wyatt, is a local entrepreneur and developer.

But the deal with WTC collapsed in January of this year.

The “first and foremost” reason “was the timeframe involved in getting the South Carolina Educational Television tower removed from the rear of the site," according to an Aiken County Council news release. "WTC expressed concern that the structure would not be removed within a timeframe acceptable to it.”

Afterward, Chip Limehouse, a commercial real estate broker and a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, told the Aiken Standard that his client, Alfred L. “Al” Saad III, had made an unsuccessful offer on the old hospital and still wanted to acquire it.

Saad is a successful commercial real estate developer in Columbia.

Limehouse confirmed Tuesday that Saad was among the current bidders.

“We’re still very interested,” Limehouse said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.