Hospital bond refinancing approved

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Refinancing the Natchez Regional Medical Center bonds passed unanimously at Monday&8217;s Adams County Board of Supervisors meeting.

None of those in attendance raised objections at the public hearing, part of the meeting, and no protests were filed.

The amount to be refinanced was reduced from $28 million to $18.5 million, hospital board attorney Walter Brown said.

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CEO Jeffrey Wesselman said Monday the bond amount was reduced because the Mississippi Development Bank, the institution with which they are working, felt more comfortable with the smaller amount.

&8220;This is the amount they were willing to approve to get refinanced,&8221; Wesselman said.

The hospital is refinancing now because interest rates have decreased since the 1996 bonds were approved, and refinancing could save the hospital money, he said.

County attorney Bob Latham said the hospital administration had made its bond payments each year and never had to come to the county, which owns the hospital, for financial help.

If the bonds fall through, the fallback plan is raising the millage rates, increasing property taxes.

Supervisor S.E. &8220;Spanky&8221; Felter said he had confidence the hospital would continue to improve financially and that the bond refinancing would help.

&8220;It is looking a lot better,&8221; Felter said. &8220;I think it&8217;s going to get in the black with the refinancing.&8221;

Supervisor Henry Watts, on the other hand, had his reservations.

&8220;You can&8217;t borrow yourself out of debt,&8221; Watts said.

NRMC CEO Jeffrey Wesselman said Monday he was excited about the refinancing.

&8220;It is going to help our operations and help us more efficiently run our hospital,&8221; Wesselman said.

The hospital has had substantial losses over the past four years, he said.

&8220;This year we&8217;re going to make a little money, so that&8217;s good,&8221; he said. &8220;This debt restructuring is going to help because it will lower payments.&8221;

Also in the works is a loan from Rural Development, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to pay for new equipment, Wesselman said.