Health & Medicine

HealthFirst board ties up loose ends for Southland clinic

A sign on the building at 480 Southland Drive. The board of HealthFirst Bluegrass voted Thursday to begin construction at the site.
A sign on the building at 480 Southland Drive. The board of HealthFirst Bluegrass voted Thursday to begin construction at the site. Herald-Leader

After years of waiting and months of negotiation, the HealthFirst Bluegrass board unanimously approved a motion that ties up the last financial loose ends on a $11.7 million clinic on Southland Drive.

HealthFirst executive director Dr. Steve Davis said that by the end of July a promised neighborhood meeting would take place and construction would begin.

"We've reached a point where we can move forward," said board member Geoff Reed.

Reed said an "incredible amount" of work had gone into negotiations with the owners of the property, the federal government and HealthFirst officials, which began in earnest in December.

The approved contract allows HealthFirst to buy the property instead of lease it, reducing the cost of the original deal by $709,300, Davis said. The $2.5 million purchase price will be financed by the landowners, Greg McDonald and Ted J. Mims, Davis said. There will be no down payment, and HealthFirst's monthly payments are reduced by $23,475, to $15,000, said Davis.

There is also a savings of $15,000 a month because as construction contractor Congleton-Hacker takes over, the services of Mims, as project manager, aren't needed. Mims has been paid $15,000 a month.

The long-awaited construction project stalled in January 2013. At that time, then-executive director William North said an anonymous complaint forced HealthFirst to create a historic and environmental assessment of the property. State Auditor Adam Edelen issued a report raising questions about the original land deal, the hiring process for Mims and the financial viability of HealthFirst. North and four members of the HealthFirst board resigned in September, and Davis took the reins.

HealthFirst, a nonprofit, serves about 15,000 patients a year, many of them poor, at a clinic at 650 Newtown Pike. A clinic will remain on the north end of town, Davis said, but HealthFirst officials are looking for a new location, which should be made public within a few weeks.

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