Quorum Court passes Bapist development plan

County signs off on new hospital

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

An all-new $25 million, 50,000-square-foot hospital passed another hurdle Monday morning during a special Quorum Court meeting. During the called meeting, justices were looking for some answers to very detailed questions raised during previous Quorum Court meetings regarding the new hospital. The same leadership delegation that pitched for Baptist Memorial Hospital System was on hand again, including CEO Jason Little to field questions from the court. The agreement paves the way for citizens to vote on a measure that would redirect funds from the one-percent sales tax to build a new facility. The tax is expected to a $30 million revenue stream and sunsets after five years. “Providing details to get a positive vote is why we are here,” said BMH Special Legal Counsel for Baptist Dick Cowart. Cowart told the court they had secured an option for 20 acres of land at the northwest corner of 7th Street along the Interstate 40/55 interchange at $87,500 per acre. The hospital building and parking lot will occupy ten acres with the remaining half available for development for physicians and medical services. “The sight is under option, has not been purchased,” said Cowart. “It has 39 feet of frontage along 7th Street.” Ultimately the purchase hinges on voters redirecting the one percent sales tax to BMH-Crittenden during the March 1 primary election. Justices then heard details about a development agreement, ground lease for land arrangements and the hospital building lease. Ultimately the resolution considering preliminary agreements passed but not without cross examination from justices Ronnie Sturch and Vicki Robertson. “There were good questions,” said Justice Ronnie Sturch after the meeting. “There were concerns. The main thing is I wanted the public concerns addressed. There is a lot of value to a hospital operation here, but the option at 10 years for them to buy the hospital is something people need to be aware as they vote. I am not opposed hospital coming in at all.” Justice Vicki Robertson said she is ultimately for the hospital but felt rushed on some of the details and voted “pass” on the resolution between the county “BMH-Crittenden.” “I thought the only thing we were approving today was the development agreement but sections two and three cover leases,” said Robertson. “The lease documents are exhibits to the development agreement,” explained Rogers. “We are satisfied legally with these documents.” As the measure went to vote, Judge Woody Wheeless encapsulated the process and justices expressed there satisfaction with positive votes. “What the citizens of this county are going to get is quality health care for at least for a 15-year time frame,” said the judge. “There are options here to extend it out to 35 years.”

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