By Daniel Brunty
The Choctaw Plaindealer
The Choctaw County Board of Supervisors made progressive steps in securing a new healthcare provider for the county’s hospital and nursing home after a presentation of proposals took place during a special meeting on May 19th at the Choctaw County Courthouse.
This particular meeting brought out a larger crowd than usual, who were on hand to express their concerns regarding the hospital and nursing home. The meeting began with the board meeting with Steven Flake of Watkins, Ward and Stafford that does the county’s audit. He went over the findings of the latest audit summary with the board members to give them an understanding of the results.
Flake explained the findings and stated if and how many have already been fixed and if the finding is common or not. Flake also informed the board members that he saw many improvements on this audit, and he felt that the board was moving in the right direction in regards to corrections that were needed.
Addressing the board next were Choctaw Co. Sheriff Cloyd Halford and Ackerman Police Chief Kevin Starks. Both men were on hand to explain to the board that the interlocal agreement regarding liability for Ackerman police officers who are requested by the Sheriff’s Office to enter into the county had been agreed upon by the county and city attorneys. With their blessing, they asked for the board to sign and enter into the agreement. The motion was approved unanimously by the board.
Next, the board met with Salathiel Presley, who addressed the board regarding a tax issue. Presley stated he was being taxed on a portion of land he owned which was formerly an RV Park. He was requesting to be reimbursed for the years he had been getting taxed. Tax Assessor Lori Kerr, who was present at the meeting, and the board members discussed with Presley on what they could do to resolve the issue.
After a brief discussion, the board informed Presley that they could only go back three years in conjunction with state laws to reimburse him. Presley agreed to this and exited the meeting. The next portion of the meeting was the RFP’s.
In the board’s previous March 26th meeting, it approved the Horne Group’s recommendation to accept proposals of a sell or long-term lease of the hospital with an option of interim management if needed. At the time it was suggested the county use a competitive bid process like the request for proposal (RFP) process. Also during that meeting, the board approved the RFP’s in final form; with their being two separate ones. One includes the new hospital, medical office building and the Bounds Clinic, while the second includes the nursing home, storage buildings and the old hospital.
The deadline for the RFP’s was set to April 30. After receiving all the bids Tom Kirkland, the county’s hired hospital transaction attorney, and the Horne Group scored those bids for presentation to the board. The original date set for the board to review the RFP’s was May 15. Because of delays, the review was held at this meeting.
Board President Chris McIntire explained the RFP process to all attending before they began. He first explained the confidentiality agreement that the board would vote on and sign before the RFP process could begin. Next, he explained that the board would need to vote to go into executive session to review the RFP’s.
“The reason for that process is, we have to listen to all the proposals that were given. At that time, we have the opportunity under this section of the law to negotiate. If we, in public meeting went over these proposals, and say if we meet with Group A first and get their terms, and the next day we meet with Group B. Well, Group A’s proposal has hit the paper and everything else, so now Group C can now come in with a better deal. So to keep this process on a fair playing field, this has to be done in executive session. Once we get down to the part that we are getting down to the final stages of deals on the table, then at that time the public will be welcomed to attend.”
Once he explained the process, a number of concerned citizens questioned the board regarding the process. After fielding their questions and concerns, the board made a motion to enter into a confidentiality agreement, and to authorize the signatures of the president and all board members. The board unanimously agreed to enter into the agreement.
The board then voted to go into executive session to review the proposals and chose a bidder to begin the negotiation process. During the executive session, the board members made a motion to take all the proposals into consideration. The board approved the motion. They also made a motion to enter back into executive session to place a call to contact Watkins & Eager Law Firm regarding possible litigation matters involving Pioneer. After the board’s second executive session, no action was taken.
The board then resumed their meeting, in which they tabled discussions regarding a quote on a 3,000 gallon water tank to install to a county vehicle, the ramp for the hospital ER entrance, and repairs to the old jail.
The meeting was recessed until May 27th at the Choctaw County Courthouse.