An impending foreclosure sale of the Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick property is being viewed as a boon by Patrick County and economic development officials.
“While a foreclosure … may seem detrimental, the county considers it an opportunity for a purchaser to come in and offer a clean start for the hospital,” according to a release from Debbie Foley, director of the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA).
The hospital closed in September, after filing bankruptcy in 2016.
At a Nov. 15 Stuart Town Council meeting, Town Attorney Chris Corbett said bids to buy the hospital while in bankruptcy had fallen through. He said Virginia Community Capital (VCC), which held a large first lien on the property, asked the bankruptcy court “to abandon the property so that they can exercise their options on it and their options are basically foreclosure.”
Corbett also noted representatives from the VCC said “they have gotten calls from entities interested in the building.”
“We are forging ahead with the anticipation that we will have a new operator for the hospital at the conclusion of the foreclosure proceeding,” Foley said in a release following a Nov. 20 closed session meeting that included the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, EDA, Foley, Jeanette Filpi, hospital administrator, and others who met in closed session to hear a report prepared by Robert Diesel, a forensic accountant hired by the county to comb through the hospital’s financial records.
Before going into closed session for Diesel’s presentation, Bill Clark, vice chairman of the EDA board and Roger Hayden, Dan River District, raised concerns that some of the information presented in closed session is public information and should be presented in open session.
“The financial information we’ll be presented with is available online. I see no reason” for it to be presented in closed session, said Clark.
He added that if the county then wanted to discuss the financial information that was presented, those discussions could then be done in closed session.
Lock Boyce of the Mayo River District said a lawsuit could be possible.
“There may be some recriminations involved” in the report, including details concerning what prompted the hospital to file bankruptcy, Boyce said, and advocated for the information to be presented in closed session to allow Diesel to speak freely.
Diesel’s presentation was “very impressive. I had a preview,” Boyce said.
Hayden asked why he and other supervisors had not been privy to the report, and again asked why the report could not be presented in open session.
Because “somebody might sue you,” Boyce yelled.
County Attorney Alan Black said strategy issues could be discussed in closed session. “To the extent we discuss our options, that should remain in closed session.”
“If we don’t do this in closed session, he will not come and give you this” report, Boyce said of the consultant that is being paid $10,000 per month for working on the project, according to previous reports.
“He will not explain himself,” Boyce said, and added Diesel also did not want the EDA board present when giving his presentation.
Karl Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District, said he did not know what the report contained, and made the motion for the board to go into closed session for the presentation. Weiss’ motion also stipulated the EDA board would be included.
Aside from the supervisors approving to subsidize a new position with the Virginia Corporative Extension office, no action was taken following closed session.
Weiss directed Tom Rose, county administrator, and others, to provide any public information from the presentation to The Enterprise on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
The Enterprise also requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) any public information derived from the presentation.
The county responded, in part, “The presentation is the work product of the consultant hired by the county for the purposes of marketing a business to a potential buyer.”
Officials declined to comply with the request due to “discussion concerning a prospective business or industry or the expansion of an existing business or industry where no previous announcement has been made.”