Over $261K owed on back taxes at Mercy Center

The old Mercy Hospital in Benton Harbor has been abandoned for years and the county has officially foreclosed on it. The county treasurer estimates the back taxes have now accumulated to $261,082.32 and local taxpayers will have to pay it if they don't find a buyer.

The deadline is around July 21st to sell it and neighbors said leaving the abandoned hospital building there has turned into more than just an eyesore.

Vera Singleton said, “I've lived across from this hospital when it was thriving, when it had all types of people in it. And for a person to just walk off and leave this for the community, Benton Harbor does not have the money.”
Singleton walks outside her home and she sees a building with tattered windows, broken glass, and trash all around.
Singleton said, “So yes that frustrated me very much. This is across the street from my home. This is where I live. This is a haven for critters right now!”

Bret Witkowski, the Berrien County Treasurer, is hoping an investor will see ABC57's story and make an offer on the building.

Witkowski said, “Then we have to do what's called charging back which means we'll have to charge back the City of Benton Harbor, count interest, the water fund, the library, the dial-a-ride a little a little over $100K.”

Witkowski gave ABC57 the estimates below for how much money each government entity would owe in back taxes to support the Mercy Center if the auction falls through in July:
  • RESA: $6,970.83
  • Lake Michigan College: $5,251.29
  • State of Michigan Education: $17,648.49
  • Benton Harbor Schools: $58,828.32
  • Berrien County: $17,374, 98
  • City of Benton Harbor: $100,401.98
Witkowski said the above amount does not add up to the minimum bidding amount because it does not include interest and foreclosure fees.

Captain James Turner, the treasurer for the school board in Benton Harbor, said this is astronomical when you take the district's debt into account.
Turner said, “We already had $15M plus deficit and we're under consent agreement with the state so that is going to add even more to us!”
Turner said the tragedy in this is that it could affect children in the classroom.

Turner said, “The children are suffering every single day based on the things that adults are doing. And all this is another burden on top of the burden that we're already dealing with.”
If you are interested in buying the old Mercy Center you can contact the Berrien County Treasurer's office.

On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. there will be an emergency legislative meeting at City Hall to discuss other options.

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