BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s footprint could soon be much larger.

The Maryland Board of Public Works will vote Wednesday on transferring the Spring Grove Hospital Center campus, including 175 acres and 77 buildings, to the neighboring university in Catonsville.

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Lisa Akchin, an associate vice president for engagement for UMBC, said the school has no immediate plans for the site.

“The transfer of the property from state agency to state agency at this time would support both MDH and UMBC in long-range facilities development,” she said. “UMBC will engage with State, County, community, and other partners as the university updates its long-range master facilities plan beginning in 2023.”

UMBC has “over decades” expressed interest in the Spring Grove site as part of a long-term campus expansion, Akchin added. The university’s current campus is 500 acres.

The Maryland Department of Health operates Spring Grove, a 375-bed complex providing psychiatric services to adults and adolescents that dates back to 1797, making it the second-oldest continually operating psychiatric hospital in the country. But many of the “clinical facilities on-campus are functionally obsolete, and the cost to re-capitalize these facilities would be cost-prohibitive,” according to the board agenda.

In its 2041 Master Plan released last year, the health department suggested transitioning services at Spring Grove to other facilities in the state, starting in Fiscal Year 2032.

“The patient buildings were designed at a time when patients were often placed in rooms with four or five patients per room,” the agency said. “Patient care standards have changed over time, reducing the number of patients per room.”

In an assessment of the complex, the health department said Spring Grove’s functionality, architecture and civil engineering were all “Poor,” while the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were considered “Fair.” Some buildings on campus date back to the 1800s, the agency said.

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If the transfer is approved, UMBC would purchase the property for $1 and lease it back to the state over the next decade, with two five-year options possibly extending the lease. The health department will continuing operating Spring Grove while looking for excess bed capacity at other facilities in the region, according to the board’s agenda.

Once the health department has vacated the hospital campus, “which can occur at any point during the lease term,” the lease would terminate and the property would transfer to UMBC, according to the agenda.

Local union AFSCME Council 3 has come out against the proposal, saying it would negatively impact patients and 800 staff members.

“The need for in-patient psychiatric treatment only continues to grow and this lease creates no new beds while closing one of the state’s largest facilities,” the union said in an online petition.

The Maryland Board of Public Works, comprised of Gov. Larry Hogan, Treasurer Dereck Davis and Comptroller Peter Franchot, is next scheduled to meet Wednesday at 10 a.m.

In a statement, Franchot said that while he is still reviewing the proposal, he’s surprised by what he called a lack of community engagement. He also raised questions about the future care patients will receive.

“I am especially concerned by the impact of this property transfer on the availability of affordable access to comprehensive psychiatric health services that are currently offered at Spring Grove Hospital, which thousands depend on every year,” he said. “I look forward to getting answers to these very serious questions and concerns.”

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Franchot is a candidate for governor in the upcoming Democratic primary election.

Brandon Weigel