City hits road block in hospital funds

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The city of Troy’s plan to issue loans to hospital owners isn’t going as smoothly as planned.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford announced Tuesday securing favorable financing isn’t happening as quickly as he thought, and right now, the lowest interest rate the city could find for the Health Care Authority to issue loans is 8 percent.

“We need some time to see if there’s a better opportunity out there,” Lunsford said.

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Part of the reason it is important to the city to find a favorable rate is that they would be locked in under that same rate if the doctors could no longer afford the payments.

However, if the city was seeking a loan themselves to take ownership, the rates would be lower and tax free.

In Tuesday’s council meeting, members voted to extend the current agreement with hospital owners at least until Dec. 31. Under this agreement, the city is guaranteeing to pay $10.5 million for the real estate, $452,000 for an air conditioner repair loan and cost of issuance if at any time doctors can no longer afford to make payments until that time.

This vote comes after spending a year and a half supporting and extending support of Troy Regional Medical Center owners.

The city was set to end that indefinitely with an agreement between the two entities when the hospital board voted last month to allow the city to purchase the hospital real estate and in turn lease the building back to doctors until the debt is paid in full.

Lunsford said he does anticipate finding a favorable interest rate and issuing bonds through the Health Care Authority before the end of the year.

“We knew we were going to have to extend it to issue the bonds,” Lunsford said.

He originally thought the loans would take two months to secure, but Lunsford said he feels it will be longer.

Also in the meeting, councilman agreed to apply for a stimulus grant to seek funds for a sewer project. The project has already been approved to fund with a revolving loan that would pay a portion of the costs.

But, if the city secured this funding, it would not have to pay any money out of pocket, Lunsford said.

The council also approved a business license to allow a wildlife exhibit to make its way to the parking lot of the Southland Shopping center in June.

Jungle Safari will feature animals from petting zoo creatures to exotic animals that are caged from June 3 to June 7.

Lunsford also announced that while a new traffic light at Spradley Drive and Highway 87 was set to begin operating Tuesday, weather will delay the process some.

“We can not turn it on at this time because we have to wait on the state to paint stop bars,” Lunsford said. “Until that is done, the light will stay flashing.”

District 3 Councilman Jason Reeves, who was a key player in bringing the new light to Troy, thanked Carol Dunn with the state road department in working with him to bring the light.