Knox commissioners mull over land sale to nursing provider

Knox County commissioners mull over land sale to nursing provider

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Hillcrest Health Systems operates the facilities and was in talks to buy them in a similar deal in 2008. Hillcrest Health Systems operates the facilities and was in talks to buy them in a similar deal in 2008.
"We need to provide the care that those residents deserve," said Hillcrest Health Systems President Jim Murphy. "We need to provide the care that those residents deserve," said Hillcrest Health Systems President Jim Murphy.
Commissioners passed the first reading of a resolution that would sell three pieces of property. Commissioners passed the first reading of a resolution that would sell three pieces of property.
"If we don't take care of those folks, they're going to fall through the cracks and we as a taxpayer are going to pick it up on the other end, and that's usually much more expensive," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said. "If we don't take care of those folks, they're going to fall through the cracks and we as a taxpayer are going to pick it up on the other end, and that's usually much more expensive," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -  Knox County commissioners considered the future of three county-owned nursing homes Tuesday and what to do with the money if the homes are sold.

Commissioners passed the first reading of a resolution that would sell three pieces of property to Hillcrest Health Care Communities, which the nursing home currently leases for $5.3 million.

Hillcrest Health Systems operates the facilities and was in talks to buy them in a similar deal in 2008.  

On the site of Hillcrest's location in North Knoxville sits a 60-year-old building, the home of the former Tuberculosis Hospital, which currently houses the county's medically indigent population. 

Seventy percent of Hillcrest's more than 500 current residents are TennCare patients.

Knox County owns the three properties and leases them to Hillcrest to operate for $1 per year. The current lease expires in 2016. The county got the land for free, with most of it coming from the state in the 1940s.

The facilities need millions of dollars in repairs and the county does not want to pay for them.

Hillcrest has poured $2.3 million on maintenance costs at various buildings they did not own over the last three years . More work is needed.  

"It's important to us. Our mission has always been to take care of the county's indigent residents. We need to provide the care that those residents deserve," said Hillcrest Health Systems President Jim Murphy.  

Hillcrest Health Systems is offering the county $5.27 million to take the properties off its hands. The properties were recently appraised for $11 million.

Despite being offered less than their appraised value, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett believes the price tag is still right.  

"If we don't take care of those folks, they're going to fall through the cracks and we as a taxpayer are going to pick it up on the other end, and that's usually much more expensive," Burchett said.  

Some commissioners spoke out at Tuesday's meeting, saying the sale price is too low.    

"I don't care to sell it all, I'm just uncomfortable at this price," said Commissioner R. Larry Smith. 

If the sale goes through the money would go back into the county's general fund.

Burchett said he would like to see that money pay off the remainder for the Carter Elementary School project. The county has paid off about $9.7 million of the $13.8 million project.  

"We're going to pay it off and we're not going to make our kids and our grandkids pay it, which unfortunately the federal government seems to be kicking it down the road. And we're not going to do that in Knox County. We're going to pay for it," Burchett said.  

Commissioners will hold a final vote during their regular session next week.

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