Is relocating Riverland out of Ferriday best?

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

FERRIDAY — While Riverland Medical Center board members say they understand how Ferriday officials feel about the hospital potentially relocating outside of the town’s borders — that might be what’s best for the facility.

Board president Jim Graves said a final decision has not yet been made on the hospital’s location, but he said the board favored a location on U.S. 84 between Ferriday and Vidalia. The location would be within Ferriday’s ZIP code, but out of the city limits.

Ferriday mayor-elect Sherrie Jacobs and Alderman Johnny Brown have objected to the idea of moving the hospital outside of Ferriday town limits. Brown claims that “Ferriday has been misused enough in our parish.”

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Graves said he understands why Brown would feel that way, but said the board’s duty is to the parish as a whole.

“I wish the new mayor well — I think she will do good things for the town,” he said. “What it boils down to is we have done a lot of research, and our main goal is to do what is best for the hospital to make it profitable so that it is always there for the citizens of the parish.

“We are going to have to put it where it has its best chance to survive, wherever that happens to be.”

Concordia Parish owns Riverland and ultimately the Concordia Parish Police Jury will make the final decision on any relocation plans. Jury President Jimmy Jernigan has said as long as the hospital board can show Riverland will pay for itself, the police jury would likely go along with whatever decision was made with no preference for where it is located in the parish.

Graves emphasized no location has been set in stone, and multiple sites are being considered. He said those details are still being worked out between attorneys and landowners. He said the board is also working to meet requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture, since 90 percent of the loan to pay for the new building will come from the federal agency. The final 10 percent of the loan would come from a local bank.

Other locations have been mentioned, including E.E. Wallace Boulevard near the old hospital, which is land already owned by the parish and on the west side of town to help attract business from Jonesville.

The cost estimate for building a new hospital is approximately $40 million, but Graves said no final design plans have been approved.

Hospital administrator Billy Rucker said any decision is a waiting game from here until a final decision is made.

“I’m just waiting on the board,” he said. “Something could happen tomorrow, in two weeks or in months.”

Graves said the parish is still likely two years out from any construction beginning.

“We are not going to make everybody happy — there have been things I have been frustrated with in the process,” he said. “But I just have to be patient. In the end, we will be able to say we have done what is best for the hospital and for the people of the parish.”

The next meeting of the hospital board is at 6 p.m. June 28 at Riverland.