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Commissioners OK financing agreement for hospital expansion

By Staff
Receive funding-dispute update in closed session
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
Beaufort County commissioners, during a special meeting Monday, authorized executing a $10 million financing agreement that will pay for expanding the surgical unit at Beaufort County Hospital.
The county is not responsible for repaying the loan, but it must sign off on the loan because the hospital sits on county-owned property. Beaufort County Hospital is responsible for the debt.
The motion to approve the funding agreement passed unanimously and with little fanfare, ending the meeting’s open session in less than 10 minutes.
The loan will finance a facelift of the surgical unit that was constructed when the hospital was built in 1958. Termed a “modernization and expansion” effort, the 38,600-square-foot project includes the surgical suite and supporting space, along with a lobby.
The money is expected to be wired to the county by today or Wednesday, County Attorney Billy Mayo said. Once received, the money will be put into interest-bearing funds, and the revenues they generate will, in turn, go toward the hospital project.
The $10 million loan is expected to cover construction costs only. When outfitted with necessary equipment, the expansion of the surgical unit is expected to cost $12.8 million.
A $350,000 grant from Golden LEAF, which targets counties that are tobacco-dependent or economically depressed, also helps foot the bill. A matching $350,000 grant from the Duke Endowment, which helps fund health-care programs, among other things, in North Carolina and South Carolina, will also fund the project.
The surgical suite will include five operating rooms, an eight-bay inpatient recovery area and a 24-bay outpatient recovery area, along with surgical support areas. Its construction is expected to take about 16 months.
The unit allow patients access to better health care and will be used as a recruiting tool to bring doctors to the area, said Bill Bedsole, the hospital’s chief executive officer.
In other business Monday, commissioners met in a closed session to get an update about the ongoing lawsuit involving the county and the Beaufort County Board of Education. They had scheduled a conference call with Neil Yarborough, the county’s legal counsel in this matter. No action was taken after the closed session.
In December, Judge William C. Griffin ordered the county to pay the schools $412,457, which comes out of the $765,783 additional money a jury awarded the school system when the school board sued the county in July 2006.
The county is appealing that July verdict, though after Griffin’s decision, two months ago only $353,326 remains in dispute.
Commissioners will hold their regular meeting Thursday. It begins at 3 p.m. A joint session with the Beaufort County Board of Education begins at 6 p.m. that day.