PIEDMONT — City leaders voted on Tuesday to help a local nursing home reduce its debt payments to expand its building and better serve patients.

Specifically, the Piedmont City Council allowed the Piedmont Health Care Authority to refinance its debt. Doing so will free up money to add 12 private rooms, a rehabilitation gym and other amenities, helping make the facility more competitive. Also, with lower payments, the nursing home would have more cash in the years ahead to pay for other needs as they arise, like new wheelchairs, facility officials have said.

The council voted on the debt refinancing during its regular Tuesday meeting.

Preferred Health Services manages the center for its owner, the Piedmont Healthcare Authority. However, the city holds the bonds on the property and so had to grant permission for the refinancing.

The company requested the council’s help at a previous meeting, but the council postponed voting until the city attorney could review the proposal.

“We wanted to make sure all the payouts don’t hurt the city and it looks like they don’t,” Mayor Bill Baker said of the debt payment changes. “The attorney says there’s no problem whatsoever.”

The company wants to mainly use the extra money to add 12 private rooms to the building, which already has 12 private rooms. The building, located on Roundtree Drive, is licensed for 91 beds.

Also during the meeting, the council learned that a 1-cent gasoline tax it passed on Aug. 7 won’t go into effect until at least Oct. 1.

City clerk Michelle Franklin said she must make more changes to the council’s previous gas ordinance than expected to reflect the new tax, meaning more time is needed before the tax can be implemented. The earlier ordinance was passed in 1979 and needs more updates to reflect current city code.

Besides the extra ordinance changes, more time is needed to advertise the tax for two weeks and to send letters to gasoline companies, notifying them of the increase, Franklin said.

The tax increase will bolster the city’s existing 1-cent gasoline tax. The additional penny-per-gallon is expected to generate $80,000 annually and was earmarked for street paving.

The council also voted to spend $14,400 to buy 12 galvanized steel light poles for the baseball field at the city sports complex. Baker said the steel poles will replace 40-year-old wooden light poles that he described as “old and deteriorating and dangerous.”

 

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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