Pantego Creek votes to demolish hospital building

Published 5:43 pm Monday, November 14, 2016

BELHAVEN — Property owners Pantego Creek LLC have voted to demolish the old hospital building in Belhaven.

“Pungo Medical Center, led by Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal, has had more than two and a half years to find an alternative solution for a new hospital. To date, this effort has not demonstrated that conditions necessary for the now-expired USDA loan commitment can be met, nor have the Mayor or the Medical Center presented a viable plan with a realistic timeline,” Pantego Creek said in a statement released Sunday evening.

The decision was made after Strategic Healthcare LLC declined to go through with the $1 million deal to purchase the property to incorporate veterans care in its reopening, and the Pantego Creek membership was asked to submit votes by last Thursday.

“The aging buildings have deteriorated to the point that the buildings will have to be demolished and completely rebuilt in order for a hospital to open on the property, a circumstance that would make any plan very difficult to successfully implement,” the Pantego Creek statement reads.

Pantego Creek lawyer Arey Grady III said in a previous interview that he didn’t know the reason behind why Strategic Healthcare declined to purchase the property.

In response to the results, Pungo Medical Center, the nonprofit formed to oversee the hospital’s reopening, is planning to make an offer this week for $500,000 to purchase the hospital property.

“The offer will ask for a closing date within 60 days with one extension of 30 days if needed. The offer will stipulate that for the closing to proceed, Pungo Medical Center will have to provide evidence that the Town of Belhaven and the County of Beaufort will have no liability if efforts to reopen and run the hospital fail,” a PMC press release stated.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal declined to give the name of who is supplying the $500,000, but said it was from “a foundation that see(s) the need for a hospital in Belhaven.”

He has criticized Pantego Creek in the past for not supporting efforts to reopen the hospital after Vidant Health closed the facility in July 2014. At a special meeting last week, the Belhaven Board of Aldermen passed a resolution requesting that Pantego Creek deed the property over to Pungo Medical Center.

“If the people of this community don’t stand up and say something, they’re going to push your hospital down,” O’Neal said during that meeting. “This hospital was built not by these four people (Pantego Creek managers). It was built by this community.”

The Town of Belhaven has looked at various avenues of obtaining the property, including eminent domain claims and the recent Strategic Healthcare partnership. It has also filed claims in court, along with the state NAACP, against Pantego Creek and Vidant Health alleging fraud and breach of contract, among other things. Those claims were thrown out last year, and are now awaiting a hearing in the Court of Appeals.

Despite the pushback, the demolition process was set to begin Monday with asbestos removal, according to Pantego Creek.