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County to hear results of hospital feasibility study

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to enter into what could be a half-million dollar a contract with Healthcare Management Partners.

The supervisors will hear Monday from the Horne Group — which the county hired on behalf of Natchez Regional Medical Center — the results of a feasibility study done to determine if the hospital should be sold, and board attorney Scott Slover said HMP will solicit and analyze proposals for the sale or lease of Natchez Regional Medical Center.

Slover said the contract with HMP is based on hourly rates with a minimum payment of $300,000 and a cap of $500,000 in fees.

The vote on the HMP contract was 3-1, with Supervisor David Carter voting against. Supervisor Angela Hutchins was not present.

Carter said he voted against the contract because HMP was hired in 2008 to sell the hospital and was unsuccessful in that endeavor. Hospital officials have recently stated that the sale in 2008 did not go through even though the hospital had potential buyers — none of which were identified — because the economy soured.

“I don’t think we need to drop another half-million dollars on (HMP),” Carter said. “I think we need somebody else.”

In other news from Thursday’s supervisors’ meeting:

• The board voted to accept a 20-year, 5.4-percent interest bid for a $9.225 million bond to purchase the former International Paper property from Rentech.

The board’s financial advisor Demery Grubbs said the interest rate was slightly higher than expected but within the range of the markets at the moment.

“I recommend you take it, because if you don’t, we wait another 30 to 60 days, and it will be 6 percent,” he said.

Only one bid was submitted for the bond, by Duncan Williams, an investment-banking firm.

Because the financial instrument is arranged to be a short-call bond, the county can refinance and restructure it in five years, Grubbs said.

Bond attorney Sam Keyes said his office would start the validation process for the bond Thursday so it can be filed with the state bond attorney today.

“As soon as we get the validation date, we will know what date we can actually close on the deal for the real estate transaction; that is typically a three to four week process.”

Adams County gave a competitive bid for the IP property when Rentech put it up for sale earlier this year.

Rentech bought the site in 2008 with the announced intentions of building a coal-to-liquid fuels plant on the site, but those plans were later scrapped.

When the county announced it would be buying the 478-acre tract, county and Natchez Inc. officials said the purchase was largely to get possession of IP’s wastewater treatment facility, which they said could be used as an economic recruiting tool.

• The board met in executive session with the Natchez-Adams County Port Commission and port director Anthony Hauer Thursday because they would be discussing both the acquisition and the subsequent lease of a warehouse in the port area, Slover said.

The county recently took out a $3.5 million bond to purchase the warehouse, the sale of which is slated to close today.

The discussion also involved an industrial prospect whose interests would be harmed if all of the details were made public, Slover said.

• The board voted to approve a joint resolution with the City of Natchez to continue the partnership that forms the Natchez-Adams County Metro Narcotics Task Force.

• The board gave Slover permission to meet with the City of Natchez’s attorney to draw up an interlocal agreement for county-wide fire protection for the coming year based upon previously agreed-upon terms.

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