Riverland Medical Center public hearing canceled

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

FERRIDAY — A public hearing that would have discussed a possible future location of Riverland Medical Center had to be canceled after the hospital board didn’t achieve a quorum.

At the start of the hearing, only two hospital trustees — Chairman Jim Graves and trustee Rena Pitts — were in attendance.

Graves said two of the trustees had family emergencies they had to deal with, while another board member had a previous engagement.

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The recent resignation of trustee Al Ater also left the board down another person, Graves said.

Addressing the crowd of approximately 20 in attendance, Graves said the trustees would likely call a special meeting in early July to conduct the public hearing.

“I apologize for this,” he said. “I’ve been on the board for 15 years, and this is the first time this has happened.

“I appreciate everyone coming out, because in the end, this is the people’s hospital.”

Talk of renovating, relocating or rebuilding the aging hospital has been on the table since 2014. Since that time, two feasibility studies have been commissioned, as well as a third-party opinion about the feasibility study.

Some officials — notably Ferriday’s Board of Aldermen and some members of the Concordia Parish Police jury — have opposed a possible move to a new location, saying it could negatively impact people with limited transportation options.

In a previous public presentation, Ater — who was still on the board at the time — said 66 percent of those polled in Ferriday said they did not mind if the hospital was built outside the city limits, but 85 percent of those polled across the parish said they want a new hospital

If the hearing had gone forward, the meeting’s agenda included discussion and review of the hospital’s steering committee’s recommendation and the selection of an architectural firm.

It also would have included discussion of entering into a real estate contract with Dan Renfro for 20 acres and the employment of bond counsel for the proposed issuance of $35 million in hospital revenue bonds.

Resolutions authorizing the execution of a real estate sales contract, the engagement of bond counsel and negotiation with architectural firms after the discussion were also on the agenda.

The property in question is located between Ferriday and Ridgecrest, near Camelot Nursing Home on U.S. 84.

Graves said the public hearing planned for Tuesday was part of the pre-application process for a loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Once the pre-application was approved and the hospital commission applied for the loan, it would still have to go to the Concordia Parish Police Jury for approval.

“This is progressing slowly at times, but this is part of that,” Graves said.

The police jury declined to pass a resolution supporting the bond application Monday, tabling the matter until a later date.

RMC opened in 1964 as Concordia Parish Hospital. It is partially funded through a one-fourth-of-one-percent sales tax, which typically generates approximately $660,000 annually.