Sep 082008
 
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I
n a move that could be best described as “reconsidering our options”, but more accurately as stepping away from the edge of the precipice, the County Commissioners voted to pause in Alan Baucom’s headlong effort to give away Union County’s premier asset, the Union County Medical Center.

Carolina Healthcare Services (CHS) had petitioned for a 18 year contract contract extension, initially negotiated and recommended to the commissioners by the Citizens Trustee Council (CTC), a carefully selected and very loyal assemblage of the old guard luminaries, and expected little resistance to their gambit. Not only does the contract gives CHS the milk, they want the milking machines, the cow and and the farm too. In the end, the taxpayers are financing CHS in a rent to own, contract extension.

At Monday’s commissioners meeting, it was decided to 1) hire a law firm to review the contract and conditions and 2) hire an accountant to assess the value of the hospital complex, with a report to be produced and presented to the County Commissioners within 45 days.

County manager Al Greene stated the legal and asset review was in lieu of having a competitive bid process in place.

Why The Rush

The reader should consider the following facts; 1) the current contract still has 12 years to go (expires 2020), 2) the contract extension as submitted, will pay Union County a $25 million ‘signing bonus’, $2.75 million per year lease payment and a $200 million dollar investment over 10 years, and two 20 year extension options that would allow CHS to lease the property to 2088.

A few alarm bells went off in the heads of our county staff when they realized that the $200 million of investment that CHS promised included credit for investments of all types the corporation made anywhere in Union County. Building bonds, interest expense and every kind of ancillary costs to CHS’s Union County operations would be plowed into $200 million dollar lease compensation figure.

Remember this is supposed to be part of a lease package for only the hospital property. Wouldn’t it be nice if your home mortgage holder would give you credit towards your mortgage payments for all the money you spend on electricity, water and natural gas?

What a deal for CHS, no competition, fronted by Union County’s good ole boy elite and Commissioner Baucom.

Just as an aside, in case you were wondering, the rush to approve the contract may have more to do with who gets to spend the $25 million lease down payment, than what it is spent on.

VIEW CONTRACT & REVISION:

Original Lease – 1995 {click}

Lease Change – 2008 {click}

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