Council makes offer to FMH

Liens, Other Conditions Pose Threat to Sale

WINNSBORO – In a 6-1 vote Tuesday, council members voted to negotiate a purchase agreement with Fairfield Memorial Hospital to acquire select properties, including doctor offices and the rehab center.

Councilman Mikel Trapp dissented.

“[The hospital] knows if they don’t have an infusion of cash by ‘X’ date what that means to them,” Council Chairman Billy Smith said after Tuesday’s meeting. “That was one reason for putting this out tonight, to put the ball in their court to show the citizens that the county is willing to work something out.”

The motion from Councilman Dan Ruff and approved by council Tuesday night authorizes the Fairfield County administrator and attorney to enter into negotiations with the hospital for purchase of some of its property.

It also requires a conveyance of clean title and other conditions before any deal is reached, and also for a contract to be brought back for council member review.

The vote came following a lengthy executive session that also included discussion of a legal update on the county’s lawsuit against SCANA, another legal matter concerning a former employee, and an economic development update of potential contracts.

Council members only voted on the hospital negotiations. There was no discussion from the dais regarding the measure.

Tuesday’s vote comes two weeks after the rehab center’s director spoke openly about problems employees face at the hospital.

“We question and don’t quite understand decisions made by administration, such as finances, priorities at this stage of the game and treatment of employees,” Laura Willingham, the hospital’s rehabilitation director, said. “Of course we’ll do what we’re asked to do. But it’s still disconcerting.”

“We’re interested in the two medical office buildings – the one housing Fairfield Medical Associates and the John Martin Primary Care facility,” Smith said. “The appraisal for those two is right at $1.6 million. If we add the rehab facility, that appraisal jumps up to about $1.9 million.”

Smith said there is no timeline, nor a specific dollar figure the county has in mind.

“We discussed a price, but don’t have a solid number yet,” Smith said. “We’re not settling on a dollar figure.”

Money, however, isn’t the only issue.

Smith said the hospital is facing several liens, including one he said was in the neighborhood of $400,000 from the S.C. Department of Revenue.

The Voice couldn’t independently verify late Tuesday the extent of liens the hospital faces because that information wasn’t available on the Fairfield County Clerk of Court/Register of Deeds website.

Smith said the immediate concern is ensuring the hospital can get its liens removed. He hopes a deal can be made as soon as possible to preserve general practitioner offices and the rehab facility.

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