Friday, August 05, 2011

TOP STORY > >Allegiance asks lease to expand

Leader staff writer

With the sale of North Metro to Allegiance Management still pending, the management group had to seek a temporary lease from the Jacksonville City Council on Thursday to bring over its long-term care facility from Little Rock.

Mike Wilson, chairman of the hospital board, told the council that the sale is still on track—Allegiance plans to buy the hos pital about $8.3 million--but the group has not found appropriate funding because of the current economic conditions. “But they are steadfast in their resolve to see the sale through,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the council had to approve the short-term 50-day lease to satisfy IRS requirements since Allegiance doesn’t own the hospital yet.

He added that the sale could be completed “within weeks, possibly months and the council might have to approve the lease one more time before all is said and done. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.”

When the sale is completed, the lease will collapse or disappear, Wilson explained.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said that Allegiance has done a great job managing the hospital and recently spent $900,000 to remodel the facility.

“I say remodel, but they gutted a large section of it and rebuilt it. It looks like new. If you haven’t been to North Metro in awhile you need to see it now,” the mayor said. “It has truly become the healthy heart of the city.”

The 40-bed long-term-care facility is part of Allegiance’s plans to profitably increase the hospital’s services.

“We are close to making North Metro a full-care hospital again,” said the hospital’s chief executive officer, Jay Quebedeaux.

The council was concerned that bringing over the long-term care patients might take away from local residents.

But Quebedeaux told the council that the hospital has 113 beds and he wants to get every one of them filled. He said the long-term facility is just another service available to local residents.

The council unanimously approved the lease.

In other council business:

n In his monthly report to the council, City Engineer Jay Whisker said his department issued 17 building permits and eight business licenses during July. The engineering department also performed 160 inspections, mailed 188 warning letters to residents and businesses for maintaining unsightly or unsafe property and mowed 66 properties because the owners would not keep the property cut and cleaned.

n The aldermen approved a negotiated settlement in the case of a lawsuit filed by a fired deputy clerk. In a recent trial, the verdict went against the city and the city looked at appealing.

“We all know the verdict was wrong,” City Attorney Robert Bamburg said, adding that the settlement was the best course of action. Although no money amounts were discussed in public, the council was told that the settlement was for less than the original judgment.