Council offers FMH $1.6M

WINNSBORO – Fairfield Memorial Hospital has accepted Fairfield County’s offer of $1.3 million to buy three parcels, with an option to acquire a fourth for an additional $285,000.

The vote came at the end of a special meeting of the hospital’s board of trustees Tuesday, one day after Fairfield County Council approved presenting the deal to the board.

Hospital board members were very complimentary of the county’s work in assembling the proposed deal.

“They really did a good job to pull this off in a timely manner like they did,” said board member James McGraw. “Hats off to Fairfield County.”

Board member Randy Bright agreed.

“That’s a continuation of the great job they did working with the state, Providence [Health] and us in pulling Providence into here so that we have a continuation of medical care in the county,” Bright said. “This council has done a great job in moving us forward.”

The motion the hospital board approved states the hospital “agrees to accept the county’s draft offer, including purchase price, pending legal review by the hospital’s attorneys.”

Billy Smith, chairman of Fairfield County Council, was pleased to see such a quick turnaround.

Smith noted the council thought it was important to release details of the deal after first reading, even though deals of this nature are typically kept confidential until third reading.

“It is a big deal and a big number,” Smith said. “We wanted folks to look at that and give any feedback.”

Fairfield County is offering $1.3 million to buy three parcels from Fairfield Memorial Hospital, with an option to buy a fourth for $285,000, according to a proposed contract the county released Monday.

Two parcels consist of medical office buildings. Portables occupy the third parcel, though Smith said the county was interest in that piece of property to improve access to the office buildings.

The property with the option is the rehabilitation center.

Smith has said the intent behind purchasing the properties is to preserve the general practitioner offices and rehabilitation center. He still hopes a private provider can step in and operate the rehab center.

“The purpose was not to be a real estate baron,” Smith said. “It’s to provide services in the county. We’re hoping we can get a user in there, a good provider for the citizens.”

At Monday night’s council meeting, the council approved a motion authorizing Smith to present terms of the deal to the hospital.

The council also approved first reading of an ordinance authorizing the purchase of hospital property “for public use or other uses deemed fit by the council and other related matters,” according to the measure approved Monday night.

Two more readings, as well as acceptance by the hospital, are required to finalize the deal.

Terms of the deal have been hashed out over the past several months in executive session. Monday night’s presentation of the proposed contract was the first public disclosure of the deal.

Both votes were unanimous. Council members Mikel Trapp and Douglas Pauley were absent.

Fairfield County has been discussing for months the possible purchase of property from Fairfield Memorial Hospital, which has been struggling financially. The hospital is in the process of closing.

In addition to listing a purchase price and option, the proposed deal also contains a stipulation that the county pay $250,000 to Fairfield Memorial Hospital within 10 days of execution of the agreement.

Funds would be credited toward the purchase price and used by the hospital to cover day-to-day operational expenses, the document states.

Fairfield County would pay an additional $10,000 upfront, with the money going into an escrow account. The county would pay the remaining balance to the hospital by the closing date, though that date isn’t specified in the proposed document.

In May, Fairfield County voted to begin negotiations with the hospital to purchase some of its properties. At the time the parcels appraised for about $1.6 million, and $1.9 million with the rehab center included, Smith said.

County Council approved a memorandum of understanding a month later. In that document, the council voted to purchase some or all of the property. It added a stipulation that a $400,000 lien against the hospital be satisfied before any sale could take place.