City to negotiate with Magnolia Medical Foundation for senior living apartments at old General Hospital

Published 12:51 am Wednesday, September 27, 2017


NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to move into the negotiations phase with its plan to renovate the old General Hospital into senior-living apartments, despite some opposition from two aldermen and some of those attending the meeting.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis moved to enter into negotiations with Jackson-based nonprofit Magnolia Medical Foundation to proceed with the project. Arceneaux-Mathis specifically noted a stipulation that if the group failed to live up to its end of the deal, then the property would be reverted back to the city.

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In unreadiness, Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said he disagreed with the decision and he believed the city should hold a public hearing to gauge resident’s comments on the matter.

“I just do not believe this is the rightful and best use of this property,” Dillard said.

Dillard also said he worried about the fact that the city transfer of the property would what he called a “no-dollar sale,” because the city would not actually receive any money for the transfer and the property would not go back on the tax rolls.

The board then voted 4-2 in favor of Arceneaux-Mathis’ motion, with Dillard and Smith dissenting.

Mayor Darryl Grennell initially began to proceed to the next agenda item, but members of the public called out asking for discussion on the vote.

Smith then moved to hear the public’s comments, which the board approved unanimously.

Resident Bob Adams, who said he owns two pieces of property near the old General Hospital, was the lone speaker to come forward.

Adams said the city should never have even considered the proposal, which Adams said contained no financial or business plan, as the RFP stated must be provided.

“Everyone here … knows it is a wonderful dream, but it’s not a plan,” Adams said.

Adams suggested the city return to the Attorney General and seek an opinion on the validity of the proposal.

The city has already sought the AG’s opinion because Magnolia Medical did not submit a $5,000 fee with its proposal as the RFP stipulated should be done. Latham said he asked the AG’s office if the city could waive the fee to continue with the process, but the AG did not return an opinion.

Following the meeting, Latham said Magnolia Medical had a business plan but that their financial plan was “limited,” though he said that is not unusual before starting negotiations.

After Adams’ comments, Smith made a motion to rescind the board’s previous approval, which Dillard seconded.

Dillard then asked city attorney Bob Latham to comment on Adams’ comments, and Latham asked specifically what Dillard wanted his response to address.

“Has there been an error — certainly I think there has, but (Adams) is making it that the city had not asked the appropriate Attorney General’s opinion for looking at it that way …”

Latham said the Attorney General would not address the matter any further than it already has.

“They’re not going to look at the response by Magnolia Medical line by line and say, ‘This is a complete financial plan or an incomplete plan,’” Latham said.

Latham continued that the proposal is legal.

“It’s Bob’s (Adams) opinion that it’s not a very good proposal, but it’s not an illegal proposal and it’s not an invalid proposal.”

In response to the concerns, Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier noted the clause that stipulated the property would be returned to the city if Magnolia Medical failed to adhere to its proposal and said the process must move forward.

“The property’s just sitting there,” Frazier said. “We need to do something with this property.”

The board voted on the motion to rescind, which failed by a 2-4 vote, with Smith and Dillard voting “aye.”

A few residents stood up and left after the vote, audibly displeased with the result.

Back in April, Magnolia Medical’s Dr. Erica Thompson said the foundation plans to invest $3.4 million to renovate the building and create approximately 30 one-bedroom apartments.

Thompson also said the facility would have management and security personnel on-site 24 hours a day and would also include amenities such as a game room, craft area, theater, computer lounge and fitness center.