County considers replacing loan with hospital authority funds

Published 6:41 pm Sunday, November 12, 2017


The Beaufort County Hospital Authority Board voted to dissolve itself and now county commissioners are weighing what to do with the remaining funds left in the trust the board oversaw.

The Hospital Authority Board was set up in 2011, when Vidant Health took over the lease on the hospital in Washington, and a $6.8 million fund was created for use in settling any of the hospital’s outstanding liabilities. As of Sept. 30, the amount left in the fund was $4.5 million.

At the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting on Nov. 6, Commissioner Ron Buzzeo reported on the hospital board’s vote to disband, as well as the board’s 7-1 vote not to pursue an additional $300,000 owed to the board by Vidant.

Once dissolved, the $4.5 million would roll over in the county’s “rainy day” fund, unless otherwise designated or restricted by county commissioners, according to Chief Finance Officer Anita Radcliffe. Though county commissioners voted last year to restrict the use of any leftover funds to healthcare-related expenditures once the money comes back to the county, last week commissioners were reconsidering.

Commissioner Hood Richardson pointed out that the county could use the $4.5 million to lend itself money instead of taking out a $3-million loan commissioners approved during the 2017-18 budget process. The $3-million loan is intended for infrastructure improvements and maintenance on several county properties, including the Oakland Building that houses the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and a new roof for the Beaufort County Courthouse.

Radcliffe said the county could loan itself the money for the improvements and not have to pay interest on the loan.

“We think that’s a good idea from our standpoint. We didn’t have the funds (for the projects) when we did the budget,” County Manager Brian Alligood explained about the decision to pursue a loan. “If you’re going to pull (the $4.5 million) over, we can set it up as a repayment, and we can pay ourselves back.”

Richardson recommended the Hospital Authority Board not be disbanded, but remain in place and make the $3 million loan to the county — according to Richardson, the board and the fund it oversees serves as a protection from Vidant walking out on its hospital lease.

County commissioners will likely take up the vote to disband the Hospital Authority Board at next month’s regular meeting.