HEFLIN — The Cleburne County Hospital Board voted unanimously Thursday night to take ownership of the Cleburne County Department of Public Health building.
Board Attorney Patrick Casey said the question of ownership will be finally cleared up once he and Cleburne County Commission Attorney Jason Odom finalize the details of the building’s transfer to the board.
Originally the building, built in 1997, had been deeded to the now-defunct Cleburne County Health Care Authority; according to a letter from Casey to a hospital board member, the title was transferred to the Cleburne County Commission at some point and there are “minutes to reflect that,” Casey said, “but I have not verified legal authority to transfer the property but it seems logical and will research statutory authority.”
Casey said during the meeting that the commission transferred the building to the county public building authority at some point.
Casey said the only purpose for the existence of the Cleburne County Health Care Authority was to issue the bonds to finance the Health Department building in 1995-96.
Currently the Hospital Board pays $18,000 per month to Regions Bank for the debt; $145,000 is principal outstanding on the bonds. The debt is in the form of bonds issued by the Cleburne County Health Care Authority. According to Casey the Health Care Authority still technically exists and has never been dissolved.
“It just doesn’t have any currently appointed members,” Casey said.
According to Odom, on April 8, 2002, the Cleburne County Commission passed a resolution to “consolidate the Cleburne County Health Care Authority into the Cleburne County Public Building Authority.” Odom said that it appears the transfer of the building was never completed because the deed to the building was never transferred from one to the other.
According to Casey, the State of Alabama pays rent of $4,505 to the “Authority” per month and that money is directed to Regions bank for payment on the bonds.
Odom said that the bonds and interest on the bonds are paid pursuant to a collaboration between the Hospital Board and the State of Alabama. The only fluctuations in what gets paid is due to changes in the interest rate.
The bonds will be paid off in December 2021, at which time the lease agreement will end, however the state has an option to rent the building when the lease ends on Nov. 30, 2021, for 10 one-year periods at $1 per year for 10 years.
When the hospital board takes ownership of the building the lease between the state and the defunct Cleburne County Healthcare Authority specifies that the hospital board will be responsible for the systems controlling lighting, heating, air conditioning, sanitary and water facilities. The state will be responsible for paying utilities, casualty insurance and janitorial service according to Casey.
The question of ownership of the building came to light during the course of transferring property for a garbage convenience center according to Odom.
Odom said that he and Kim Brown, Cleburne County chief finance administrator did a comprehensive review of all county boards and commissions.
Odom said that the Public Building Authority “will likely also be dissolved in the near future, but we have to resolve the remaining property ownership issues.”
Cleburne County Commissioner Emmett Owen said Friday that the service provided at the health department will not change.
Before the meeting, members of the Hospital Board and Owen along with Fred Cain, maintenance director for the county, toured the Health Department building.