Board pushes BRHS land buy

Published 2:51 pm Thursday, September 9, 2010

Staff Writer

Some local medical practices are about to get a new landlord in the form of Beaufort County government.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to let county staff close on purchasing a chunk of real estate from Beaufort Regional Health System.
The vote came Tuesday evening during the board’s regular monthly session.
The county is buying 15 parcels — or 19 “tax parcels” — for $4.8 million.
The county is borrowing the money for the purchase.
Sought from First-Citizens Bank &Trust Co., the loan is payable over 15 years at an interest rate of about 4.6 percent, according to County Attorney Billy Mayo.
BRHS is a “governmental entity,” and, as such, didn’t pay property taxes on those parcels, so the county won’t be losing tax revenues as a result of the vote, County Manager Paul Spruill said in a short follow-up interview.
“Borrowing the money for the purpose resulted in a one-penny increase in the property tax rate as of July 1st,” Spruill said.
The current Beaufort County property-tax rate is 50 cents per $100 valuation.
The commissioners opted to pursue the real-estate purchase so the county would own all hospital property, and the hospital would have sufficient proceeds to pay the money it owed the county for construction on the hospital campus, Spruill said.
BRHS will continue managing the properties, Mayo said.
Some of the properties are vacant lots, and others host existing medical practices purchased by BRHS in recent years, Mayo related.
“These parcels do not include the main hospital at all because you already own that,” he told the commissioners.
The purchase paves the way for the reimbursement of $1.57 million BRHS owes the county for a debt payment on hospital construction, according to previous reports in the Washington Daily News.
The property buy also provides operating capital for the health system as it seeks a merger with another, as-yet-unchosen health-care group, the Daily News has reported.
The vote to approve a resolution authorizing the closing was set in motion by Commissioner Al Klemm, who won a second from Commissioner Jay McRoy.
The board’s action followed a previous commitment made in July, and the expected vote was taken without debate by the commissioners.
In another unanimous vote, the board authorized County Manager Paul Spruill to borrow no more than the statutory limit of $30 million.
The county has no intention of approaching its borrowing limit, but had to obtain the commissioners’ authorization as a formality, Spruill explained.
Mayo said it had been suggested the final closing date for the property purchase could come by the end of the week.
“I’m not sure about that,” the county attorney advised the commissioners, adding the bank’s attorneys wanted time to research the properties for any possible exceptions.
One parcel in Aurora has a deed restriction stipulating it can’t be used as bank property in the future, Mayo said.
A bank donated that land to the hospital, hence the stipulation, said McRoy.