W. Feliciana Jury OK’s Burnett Road land sale to hospital

In a split vote, the West Feliciana Police Jury agreed Monday to sell 7.3 acres of land on Burnett Road to West Feliciana Parish Hospital for $770,000.

The hospital board plans to build a new hospital and a medical office building on the site.

Police Jury President Ricky Lambert and Juror John Kean voted against the sale. Police jurors Otis Wilson, Lea Williams, Mel Percy, Melvin Young and Heather Howle voted for the sale.

Mark Samples of Prime Healthcare LLC, which is advising the hospital on the development, said the parish will have first right of refusal to buy back the land if the hospital decides not to build and instead elects to sell the property.

The letter of intent approved by the jury is valid until Dec. 7, by which time the parish and the hospital should come to an agreement about the exact terms of the sale, Samples said.

The hospital board would evaluate alternative uses for the current hospital building, which they hope to make part of a “health care campus,” Samples said.

In April, the Police Jury voted to sell the land at “fair market value” rather than donate it to the hospital. The 14.8 acre tract of land was appraised at $1.93 million in June and at that time Parish Hospital Board Chairman Leonard Sullivan said that the hospital could only pay $500,000.

An appraisal conducted by the hospital in August valued the land at $100,000 per acre and declared nearly seven acres of the property as unusable for building.

The proposal calls for the parish to retain 7.5 acres of the “unusable” land to serve as a park.

Parish Parks and Recreation director Megan Andrews said the money from the sale of the land should be used to replace sports fields that are on the site and will be lost to the buildings.

In arguing against the sale, Lambert expressed concern that taxpayer money could be tied up in the hospital.

“If the hospital becomes self-sustaining (no longer needing the sales tax dedicated to the hospital board), if they don’t need it for expansion anymore, then what happens to the money?” Lambert asked, suggesting that the jury consider leasing the land to the hospital.

Hospital board member Melvin Harvey said, “If we own the property, we will get the best terms (on the loan). It makes no good business sense to build on leased property.”