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SAN DIEGO COUNTY DIGEST

Escondido : Escondido Says 'No Thanks' to Repurchasing One-Acre Site

November 19, 1987|--NANCY RAY

Escondido City Council members decided Wednesday to write a no-thank-you letter to the Palomar Pomerado Hospital District after hospital directors offered to sell back to the city the one-acre site on which the City Hall and former city fire station stands.

The city land and buildings adjacent to Palomar Hospital were purchased by the hospital district for $720,000 five years ago as a site for a future administrative annex. The district offer, delivered to the city Wednesday to sell back the property for $782,982, was greeted with anger and criticism by council members.

The council voted to inform hospital officials by letter that the city had no interest in buying back the entire property, but to add a postscript expressing interest in negotiating a deal to acquire the small firehouse and to preserve it as a historic site. The 47-year-old adobe building is now being used as a City Hall annex until the new City Hall is completed early next year.

Councilman Doug Best scored hospital officials for their "total arrogance" in dealing with the city.

"If they want to play hardball, we'll play hardball," Best said in recommending rejection of the hospital's all-or-nothing offer to sell the parcel of land to the city.

The city finds itself in the center of a controversy over the old firehouse because the Escondido Firefighters Assn. has completed an apparently successful petition drive that would require the City Council to place the issue of preserving the structure on the ballot or to pass an ordinance preserving the building. Validation of petition signatures is expected to be completed by the county Registrar of Voters next Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Rady criticized the firefighters' organization for pushing efforts to preserve the firehouse as a museum "after it was sold to the hospital for expansion," and trying to force the city "to take it back without paying for it."

Escondido City Atty. David Chapman told council members that the hospital district's action Tuesday approving application for demolition permits for the two public buildings was "premature" because, although the hospital bought the structures in 1982, the city still has leasehold occupancy rights in the structures for another seven or eight years.

Chapman said he had not yet investigated the legal ramifications of the firefighters' initiative petition.

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