Hospital Leaders Explain Their Point Of View
Richmond, VA (1140wrva.com) - Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital leaders got an earful from an overflow crowd in the hospital auditorium Tuesday night. However, St. Mary's CEO Toni Ardabell told the crowd these types of meetings when they enter into plans is what they've been doing, and will continue to do so through the Redskins training camp project. Ardabell says Bon Secours has made it clearly known since 2009 they want the old Westhampton School site -- which is behind their existing property on Monument Avenue between Libbie and Maple. She says the city came to them with this deal, and it's a deal they wanted to take.
Speakers from neighborhood associations around the Westhampton School area lambasted the city mostly. Some were upset that Bon Secours said there was no deal in the works for the Westhampton School during the time meetings were held for approval of the Guest House. That's a 12-to-14 room facility for families with loved ones in St. Mary's that will be built on some land between the current hospital complex and the Westhampton property. Many residents criticized as "non-transparent" the negotiations arriving at the current deal.
Ardabell says Bon Secours had to sign a "non-disclosure" agreement during negotiations with the city. City representatives said it's standard practice during real estate negotiations not to be transparent. Ardabell and city leaders both say there has been no final decision, and recent meetings at City Council and at Bon Secours begins the public process.
Others criticized the city for "circumventing" the law by extending a lnog-term lease deal to Bon Secours at the Westhampton policy -- a rate of $5000 a year for 60 years. City staffers said while there are certain entities that might pay them more than what they're getting out of this deal... none of them offer the jobs and potential tax revenue Bon Secours will with a new facility at the school. Ardabell says they'll also improve and maintain playing fields at the property,while maintaining as much of the building and/or facade that they can. Ardabell says they've enlisted the help of the Historic Richmond Foundation toward this.
The concern about the law involves an ordinance passed by city council in 2008 which requires proceeds from any sale of the surplus Westhampton property to go to the school construction and capital projects. City Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall told a City Council committee meeting Tuesday afternoon that he does not see this deal as "shortchanging" schools. He points out that when this ordinance was passed... the city was committing some $14.7-million to school capital projects between 2005 and 2009. However, he says from 2009 to 2014, the city is committing nearly $150-million to school capital projects, which includes current construction of new school buildings. However, Councilman Marty Jewell argued that a 2003 study commissioned by council showed at that time there wer $400-million in capital needs for city schools, and every penny possible needs to go toward that problem where current council and administration has only begun to fix.
Click here to hear a report from WRVA's Jay Hart.
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