County off the hook for utilities at old hospital

County off the hook for utilities at old hospital

ACC assumes responsibility of former Crittenden Regional facility

news@theeveningtimes.com

The county is officially off the hook for paying the costs of keeping the utilities on at the former Crittenden Regional Hospital building.

The utilities were officially swapped over to Arkansas Department of Community Corrections (ACC) on Friday, saving the county about $30,000 a month.

“As of Friday we won’t have any more obligations for utilities on that building,” said County Judge Woody Wheeless.

ACC is in the process of renovating the former hospital into a rehabilitation treatment center which will house 350 non-violent female offenders and bring 138 new jobs to West Memphis.

Wheeless said the county spent $1.2 million to keep the utilities, insurance, and security on at the hospital, which closed in August 2014 and declared bankruptcy.

However, Wheeless said those costs did not dig into the county’s finances as much as they thought.

Those costs were offset by revenues of $835,556 which came from a .4 hospital millage already on the books, and money from an insurance claim from the fire which damaged the building.

Wheeless said they collected $500,000 from the millage and about $350,000 from the insurance claim, leaving the county only responsible for picking up $434,862 for the 14 months the building was empty.

“Don’t get me wrong.

That’s still a lot of money,” Wheeless said. “But it hasn’t ended up costing us near as much as it could have. It was only about $24,000 a month. That’s a lot better than $100,000 a month.”

Wheeless said Bank of the Ozarks, which owned the revenue bonds on the hospital building, also paid half of the utility costs for the first two months.

“We worked really hard to keep those expenses low,” Wheeless said. “And contrary to what people are saying in the coffee shops, we’re not in bad shape at all. I would never as county judge have allowed that building to ever hurt the county’s finances.”

Wheeless said the county is still responsible for the utilities at the Schoettle Center.

However, the county may soon shed those costs as well.

Delta Arts has expressed an interest in leasing the building from the county for its headquarters.

“Right now all we have is the Schoettle Center,” Wheeless said. “And we expect that to be resolved this month.”

Wheeless said he also expects to have a measure for the voters on the ballot in November to eliminate the hospital millage.

“I’ve talked to (County Attorney) Joe Rogers about doing that,” Wheeless said.

“We wouldn’t need to hold a special election for that.

We have time to get that on the ballot for the general

election.”

By Mark Randall

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