City agrees to lease Good Sam

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Good Samaritan hospital is on its way to becoming a much-needed health care facility according to some Selma city leaders.

Others, however, said the facility is now on its way to becoming a drain on the city’s budget.

The Selma City Council, in a 5-4 vote, approved a lease agreement for the Good Sam at last night’s meeting.

The majority of the Council approved the issue, endorsing Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw’s desire to turn the space into a health center for Selma and the Black Belt.

“Now we’re going in the right direction,” Crenshaw said.

The agreement-a result of city officials negotiations with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs- says the city is responsible for payments to ADECA. Perkins said the payments would be a percentage rage: 20 percent of the net “profit” the city made.

Which, Perkins said, means the city won’t have to pay a dime until the building starts making money.

Councilman Reid Cain- who has publicly opposed the city’s involvement in the Good Samaritan since it became an issue last fall- said the agreement will cost taxpayers money.

“This is not really a lease agreement,” he said, “this is a purchase in disguise. The city is going to be looking at losing $30,000.”

The city has an option to purchase the facility for $400,000 during the life of the lease or the renewal period.

Cain said the agreement appears to be a buyout for Drs. Charles and Samuel Lett, a pair of local doctors who declared bankruptcy after buying the building with the help of a government grant.

“All this appears to be a buyout for the Letts,” he said.

Perkins took issue with Cain’s comments.

“I take exception to the Councilman’s implication that I interfered with a federal bankruptcy court and its proceedings,” Perkins said. “He’s crossing the line for slander and I’m getting a little tired of it.”

The Council first debated Good Sam in November 2004.

The same argument erupted then, with allegations that the city was “bailing out” Drs. Charles and Samuel Lett the former leaseholders.

The Letts declared bankruptcy on the space, and the state, under the auspices of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, was threatening to close the facility.

When the issue was originally brought up, the city agreed to let Mayor James Perkins Jr. pursue the lease by negotiating with ADECA.

Other Council members expressed concerns that the city was taking on more than it could bear with the project.

“If we do this we’re putting ourselves in the same possession as Mr. Striplin is in with the St. James,” Councilman Cecil Williamson said, referring to Larry Striplin’s, leaseholder on the St. James, loss of money.

“It just doesn’t seem favorable for the city,” Williamson said.

Councilwoman Geraldine Allen was worried that the city might have to pay to renovate and maintain the building.

“I must be a good steward,” she explained to the rest of the Council.

Councilman Johnnie Leashore got impatient with the conversation and called for a vote.

“We’ve already covered the issues,” he said. “I think we’re just going in circles.”

Council President George Evans said he felt like questions had been raised in November and hadn’t been answered.

“Why can’t we get some answers?” he asked.

Perkins reassured Allen, explaining that the cost of refurbishment and maintenance would be passed on to potential tenants.

The issue passed, with a 5-4 vote.

Williamson, Cain, Allen and Martin all voted against the lease.

Perkins said that now that the lease is approved, he will immediately start working on getting tenants in the building,

ProHealth, a company mentioned for possible occupancy in November, would be at the top of his list, Perkins said.

“I don’t want any grass to grow under this,” he said.