By Jennifer Lenain, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
The Picayune City Council held a special meeting Monday morning to discuss the potential purchase of the old Crosby Memorial Hospital property on Goodyear Boulevard.
A motion passed on a 4-2 vote to make an offer on the property not to exceed $210,000.
The five-acre property, owned by Southern Regional Corporation, sits on Goodyear Boulevard and has been listed for sale since December 2012.
Southern Regional Corp. is asking $237,000 for the property and has other interested buyers.
The proceeds of the sale will go back into the foundation to keep improving the Cornerstone building.
Paul Reese, representing the Southern Regional Corp. board, will bring the offer to the other members for review.
The council deliberated for almost two hours before the motion was passed.
Council member Janice Miller Stevens said this is a great investment, but questioned if the city had the resources.
“Do we really need to buy this when we have other things to buy for the city,” Stevens asked. “Do we have the capital right now to do the projects we need in our precincts?”
“From a financial situation, the cash is there,” Mayor Ed Pinero said. “The cash would not limit us from doing other capital projects.
“I do support to purchase and tear down (the old hospital) to make green space,” Pinero said. “This is an impression,” he said. “No one comes into Picayune without going down Goodyear Boulevard.”
The building on the property will be demolished if the city makes the purchase. The cost of demolition, as it stands on the table now, is not to exceed $45,000.
“The unofficial value of the land is $600,000 to $700,000,” City Manager Jim Luke said. “We’ve done quite a bit of research, gathering all the information so the mayor and council can make an informed decision.”
Council members Larry Breland and Lynn Bogan Bumpers voted against the motion to make an offer to purchase the property for $210,000.
“Our constituents deserve what their tax dollars are paying for,” Breland said.
“We need to look at the needs of the people here in the community before we go and do something we may or may not regret,” Bumpers said. “I’m not for it. All I’m thinking about is the need of the people,” she said.
“If you’re looking at facts,” said Eric Morris, public works director. “It’s a tremendous purchase.
“The ultimate goal is to use it as a way that puts funds back into the city,” Morris said. “This has potential to add to the quality of life,” he said.
“I’m looking at perpetual green space in the city,” Pinero said. “It’s not to be anything to put additional costs on the city.”
“If someone buys the property,” Councilman Wayne Gouguet said, “we have little control over what they do with it.”
A downtown business owner chimed in on the discussion and said, “Now that the hospital is gone, the business is gone.
“If that building sits there and gets purchased from someone out of town, are they going to follow through with what they say?” he asked. “The city doesn’t always make money by what they do.”
Father Jonathan J. Filkins of St. Barnabas Anglican Church said, “The calling of any great city is its culture and green space.
“I would suggest to you that Goodyear (Boulevard) is the core of Picayune,” Filkins said.
Former three-term Picayune Mayor Woody Spiers recalled when he was in office and there was opposition to the new airport, “Three council members opposed it because they did not want to spend the money,” he said.
“There is no way to concisely prove how much money has been returned on that airport,” Spiers said.
In his opinion, it’s very valuable, said Spiers. “A hundred years from now, the city will still be receiving a return on its investment,” he said. “Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.”
The city’s offer will be brought to the Southern Regional Corp. board and a decision will be made. If they accept the price offered by the city, Luke is authorized to sign the agreement making the purchase.