MDA to take up Natchez Regional issue next week

Published 12:08am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen approved a resolution to help the sale of Natchez Regional Medical Center Tuesday, but a state economic development agency won’t discuss the matter until next week.

To facilitate the sale structure of the county-owned hospital to Community Health Systems, the Adams County Board of Supervisors applied last week to the Mississippi Development Authority for the sale to be considered a Regional Economic Development Act (REDA) project.

The move would allow CHS to prepay property taxes as part of the sales process. Those prepaid taxes would be part of an overall purchase price that would be sufficient to pay off the bankrupt hospital’s debt.

The REDA designation allows multiple municipalities to apply jointly to issue revenue bonds based on the anticipated future tax revenues of an economic development project, MDA spokesman Jeff Rent said.

The bond proceeds can be used to build or improve infrastructure needed for the project, and the taxes collected from the project are used to service the debt on the bonds.

Rent said NRMC was not on the agenda for the MDA board’s Tuesday meeting.

Hospital attorney Walter Brown said Tuesday evening that MDA officials told him the matter would not be discussed until the board’s June 17 meeting.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen adopted its REDA resolution Tuesday, which was needed before an approval from MDA.

The county hopes to convince MDA that the hospital’s sale should be considered an economic development project because it would consolidate the local healthcare market and help bring in new doctors, including specialists the area currently doesn’t have, and likely would result in the construction of a new hospital in the near future.

NRMC opened in 1960 as Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital. Its $2.4 million construction was underwritten by an $800,000 local contribution and state and federal funds.

It has been financially independent since 1974 and does not receive tax support, but is backed by a 5-mill standby tax that the Mississippi Development Bank required the hospital to get in 2006 when it asked for the MDB to reissue its revenue bond.

The hospital board of trustees announced in February its intention to declare bankruptcy, citing at the time a $3-million deficit between financial assets and liabilities.

The county supervisors appoint the hospital’s volunteer trustees. The board of trustees includes White, John Serafin, Dr. Linda Godley, Bill Ernst, Lionel Stepter, Lee Martin and Dr. Jennifer Russ.