Judge grants 10-day order to halt demolition

Published 12:21 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2016

BELHAVEN — The old hospital building in Belhaven will remain standing — for now.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Cy Grant granted a 10-day temporary restraining order, thus halting demolition proceedings of the old hospital building, according to Mayor Adam O’Neal.

Seven members of Pantego Creek LLC, which owns the hospital property, filed a complaint Monday against the four managers of Pantego Creek. The four managers are Deb Sparrow, Brantley Tillman, Lynn Ross and Darren Armstrong.

The seven LLC members who filed the complaint feel as though they were misled when voting for the hospital’s demolition and given false information in an effort to convince them to vote in favor of it, according to attorney Geetz Kapur.

Pantego Creek LLC’s membership voted to proceed with the demolition earlier this month after a $1 million deal with Strategic Healthcare LLC fell through a couple of months ago. Pantego Creek also recently rejected two other offers, as its four managers said the offers were too low for what the property is worth.

One of the rejected offers was presented by Pungo Medical Center, the nonprofit created to oversee the reopening, in the amount of $500,000.

“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,” Pantego Creek said in a statement. “Since the old Pungo District Hospital closed more than two years ago, 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.”

Asbestos removal began Nov. 14 on the property.

O’Neal has called into question the value of the property, referencing an IRS form, which listed $490,600 as the land value and $250,000 for the buildings. He said he has been told the property is worth more than $1 million.

In response to the discrepancy, the Town of Belhaven filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service and North Carolina Bar Association last week.

“If they want a fight, we’re going to fight to the end,” O’Neal said Monday night at a Board of Aldermen meeting.

After Vidant Health closed Vidant Pungo Hospital on July 1, 2014, Belhaven officials and some residents have fought to reopen the facility. However, their efforts to obtain the property have failed to date.

“We need the judge to see that the people of our area need a hospital,” O’Neal said. “If you want a hospital, you’ve got to get in your car. You’ve got to drive to Washington and go to the court proceedings.”

A complaint hearing is expected next week in Beaufort County Superior Court.

A previous version of this story listed the Town of Belhaven as lodging the latest complaint. It is actually the seven LLC members who filed the complaint.The Associated Press contributed information to this report.