PROVIDENCE -- The apparent high bid in an online auction for the dilapidated former Saratoga County infirmary was $55,100, from a Texas attorney who is considering renovating the existing building.
The amount, while low, wasn't a surprise to county officials, who resorted to the online auction with no minimum bid after previous efforts to sell the hulking old building on Barkersville Road failed, despite county and federal efforts to clean up the property.
"I was hoping to hit $50,000, and we got there," said County Attorney Stephen Dorsey. "We know it's a distressed property."
The apparent high bidder was James Walk, a Dallas real estate attorney, who has posted a non-refundable $10,000 deposit. Walk had shown interest throughout the three-week auction, when the initial bidding started at around $30,000. A series of back-and-forth bids between Walk and another bidder on Wednesday morning raised the price from $52,100 to $55,100. The auction ended at noon.
The result will now require approval by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. Dorsey said he hopes the sale will be approved by two committees in early September so the board can vote as a special meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Providence Town Supervisor Sandra Winney said she's had communication with Walk, and understands he wants to renovate the building. Dorsey said he believes housing is being considered.
"Mr. Walk sent me a letter saying he was going to bid on it," Winney said. "He just wants to renovate it. I don't know if that's even possible."
The massive but crumbling former tuberculosis sanitarium built in the early 20th century sits on a remote hillside. It has been abandoned for decades, after the county stopped using it as a home for the infirm in the late 1970s and plans for a private drug rehabilitation center there failed to materialize.
The county re-acquired it for unpaid back taxes in 2014, and spent several years studying environmental issues in the building, including the presence of asbestos. The asbestos was removed as part of an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup in 2016.
It was the county's first attempt to sell real estate through an online auction, with county officials saying they were hopeful of a successful outcome.
The property includes a massive two-story, 47,000-square-foot building that resembles a historic hospital and some out buildings on 28.61 acres, just outside the Adirondack Park's blue line boundary. Over the decades, most of the building's windows have been broken, and it's been the site of numerous break-ins by teenagers and others who have heard tales of a "haunted hospital."
The infirmary opened in 1913 as a county-operated tuberculosis sanitarium. At that time it was believed fresh air in the mountains helped cure the lung disease. The development of antibiotics eventually eliminated the need for sanitariums. From 1960 to 1979. the facility was Saratoga County's home for the aged and infirm who had nowhere else to go.
Winney said she's hopeful. "It's an eyesore now," she said. "I just hope it can be turned back into something useful."
Any zoning or construction permits will be the responsibility of the town, Dorsey said.