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Wellmont project derailed in Hawkins County

Jeff Bobo • Nov 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — By a single vote Monday, the Hawkins County Commission voted not to waive its reversionary rights for a piece of property on Locust Street, a move that would have paved the way for Wellmont Health System to sell a medical building.

Wellmont attorney Bill Argabrite explained to the commission that Wellmont’s intention is to sell one of its satellite medical buildings on the Hawkins County Memorial Hospital campus for approximately $2.5 million and then lease that building back from the buyer.

Argabrite told the commission the purpose of the sale is to raise capital that would be invested back into the facility, although he didn’t offer specific uses for the funds except to suggest it might go into equipment purchases.

In 1995, the Hawkins County Commission approved a quitclaim deed to HCMH for the 9.8 acres that constitutes the entire hospital campus but included a reversionary right in the deed, which states that the property falls back into county possession if at any time it ceases to be used as a hospital. The waiver sought Monday night was for a medical building set on 1.7 acres but didn’t include the main hospital facility.

Argabrite assured the commission that the building would still be used for medical purposes, although he conceded that the waiver of the reversionary right by the county would give the new owner the right to make any use of the property within the city of Rogersville’s zoning guidelines. That seemed to be the biggest concern for commissioners who voted against the waiver.

Commissioner Shane Bailey noted that with the waiver the new owner could turn the building into apartments if it desired. Argabrite acknowledged that was legally true, albeit highly unlikely because the hospital planned to lease the building back for the same medical uses.

The waiver failed by a vote of 10-9 with one abstention and one commissioner absent. A total of 11 votes, or a majority of the full 21-member commission, was required for the waiver to be approved. Argabrite said that failure to secure the waiver was probably a deal-breaker for the sale of the building because any bank financing the purchase would want that reversionary right removed from the deed.

In other business Monday the commission:

• Denied approval of a bid for a Xerox copier for the juvenile court judge’s office by a vote of 8-12. For several years the commission has had difficulty approving copier contracts from businesses outside of Hawkins County, and this copier contract was no different.

County Mayor Crockett Lee explained to the commission that the only bid for this copier that came in by deadline was from Hungate Business Services based in Jefferson City. Lee said that Rogersville Office Supply sent the county an e-mail on the date of the deadline stating it wasn’t interested in bidding but later submitted a bid after the deadline.

Lee said the Hungate bid was still lower than the Rogersville Office Supply bid, but that didn’t sway a majority of the commissioners to approve it.

Juvenile Court Judge James “Jay” Taylor told the commission prior to its vote that he would prefer to do business within Hawkins County, but his office is without a copier and needs one badly. With the commission’s decision Monday, Taylor will have to wait at least one more month before his office gets that copier.

• Voted unanimously to reappoint Chris Christian as county coroner for a two-year term ending Oct. 25, 2010.

• Voted unanimously to reappoint Jim Rogan to the Hawkins County Industrial Board for a sixyear term ending Dec. 31, 2014.

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