Property sale to expand mental health services halted

NOW: Property sale to expand mental health services halted


A property sale in the works for three years has come to a screeching halt for a building in Cassopolis that some hoped would expand mental health services in Cass County.

The building on State Street is owned by Midwest Electric and Communications. It’s sat empty for three years since MEC relocated to a different spot in the county.

In those three years, MEC planned to sell to Woodlands Behavioral Healthcare Network, but county commissioners shut down the deal in its final days.

“In this situation everybody’s a loser,” said Patty Nowlin, the vice president of corporate communications for MEC. “It could have been a win for Woodlands, a win for the Village, a win for the county, certainly a win for MEC and our customers, now we’ve got all losers.”

Woodlands currently works out of multiple locations in the county to provide mental health services. This building, Nowlin says, would help Woodlands to grow.

“Their goal was to really be able to enhance their service delivery system, be more effective and efficient in their operations but also grow to meet the increasing mental health needs in Cass County.”

With plans for the sale, MEC has invested in upgrades on the building. The Woodland board has voted and approved the move multiple times according to Nowlin, and was also approved for a USDA loan.

But then the county commissioners caused all of that to come to a halt.

“The county, in what we considered a breach of democratic principles, met as the county board of commissioners and unanimously approved to rescind Woodlands authority,” said Nowlin. She added this vote was after multiple passing votes for the purchase by the Woodlands board.

Rescinding authority means Woodlands can’t apply for money or purchase property. The company won’t be able to get the USDA loan, and the decision was made just days before the August 1 deadline for that loan.

“If there’s concern by the county we’re just wondering why it came at the 11th hour,” said Nowlin.

There is concern from the county, according to Cass County Administrator Jeff Carmen.

“We were uncomfortable with the process that had been followed and how the price was actually achieved,” said Carmen. “This is a real estate deal that involves a building an a county agency. The county has been more than willing to engage with anyone who would talk about it or shed light on some of the questions that we have about how things have come to be.”

He says the county still doesn’t have a reliable answer to how the price of $2.4 million was achieved.

So still with an empty building and empty parking lots, MEC is disappointed.

“We’ve had three years now of lost opportunity to sell this building,” said Nowlin.

Nowlin says she isn’t worried about finding a new buyer; she’s just upset about lost potential.

“Our next step is to put the building on the market. We’re sure we’ll find a buyer for that building, but won’t necessarily rise to the opportunity of Woodlands in terms of being able to turn that structure into a one stop shop for quality mental health services in Cass County.”

Both Nowlin and Carmen stressed the importance of mental health.

Carmen says in wake of this they’re looking into mental health services in the county and where they might need to add resources.

To read a blog post by MEC in response to the property sale fallout, click here.

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