Jackson Co. supervisors pass agreement with SRHS, say can't affo - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jackson Co. supervisors pass agreement with SRHS, say can't afford to wait

Jackson County supervisors have agreed to pay Singing River Health System $13.6 million that will help with expenses for indigent care and bond payments. (Photo source: WLOX) Jackson County supervisors have agreed to pay Singing River Health System $13.6 million that will help with expenses for indigent care and bond payments. (Photo source: WLOX)
JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Jackson County supervisors have agreed to pay Singing River Health System $13.6 million that will help with expenses for indigent care and bond payments. The debate was whether the supervisors should wait until two new board members begin serving next month to cast a vote, but the board said there was too much to lose if the settlement was not passed on Monday. The deal calls for the money to be paid installments starting in 2016.

From tearful pleas to bursts of anger, Singing River retirees tried to convince Jackson County supervisors now is not the time to make a deal with Singing River Health System.

"We've asked them to wait because we have two new supervisors coming in and everybody will be fresh in January," said Wanda Street.

Supervisors said attorneys advised them that waiting could cause them to lose the agreement they now have with Singing River Health System.

"My question was if we wait until January to decide this, what's the worst that thing that can happen? The attorneys told us if we don't take this agreement and put this forward, then a court could order something. We might lose out on having a turnaround firm and we might lose out on having five resignations from the board of trustees," Troy Ross said. "To me, that was a game of chicken I wasn't willing to play. If the hospital were to go bankrupt, then the pension would go with that bankruptcy, and the county would inherit the bonds. And we don't want any of those things to happen." 

Supervisor Melton Harris said, "What we're facing is the pension nest egg is slowly being depleted. The longer we wait, the less they're going to get. If we did not vote on this today there is a great possibility, probability that this could go on for maybe another three to four years. Meantime, that pension plan is slowly diminishing. As Billy Guice pointed out, just a few months ago it was roughly $148 million to $149 million and it's down to $139 million now. So there's nothing going in it. Just pulling out of it." 

Supervisors worried if they didn't make a deal now, the courts could possibly issue a different order. However, others feel there was little chance of that happening between now and the next board meeting when new members come in. 

"Nobody is doing anything over the Christmas holidays," said the plaintiff's attorney, Harvey Barton. "I don't see what two or three weeks is going to matter or is going to make any difference. I don't know what the hurry is." 

Supervisor-Elect Randy Bosarge agreed that the vote should have been postponed.

"I wouldn't have voted for it. Not today, I wouldn't have. There's more to it that needs to be done and it's just too quick right now," Bosarge said. 

The Singing River Board of Trustees must also vote on the agreement and county leaders say that group is slated to meet Tuesday. Meanwhile, Singing River attorneys say they are pleased with the supervisors' decision, which they say will help them move forward with resolving the pension lawsuits.  

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly