Medical center auction gets no bidders in Polk

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 6/12/18

Polk County and the city of Ducktown own a hospital, and all its equipment and unencumbered assets. They don't want to, but they do.There were no bidders who stepped forward to match the minimum bids …

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Medical center auction gets no bidders in Polk

A SPARSE CROWD of around 10 people attended Monday's foreclosure sale of the Copper Basin Medical Center. With no serious bidders stepping up, or even registering, Polk County and the city of Ducktown, which own the notes on the property, retain ownership at the combined minimum bid price of $800,000.
A SPARSE CROWD of around 10 people attended Monday's foreclosure sale of the Copper Basin Medical Center. With no serious bidders stepping up, or even registering, Polk County and the city of Ducktown, which own the notes on the property, retain ownership at the combined minimum bid price of $800,000.
Banner photo, LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted

Polk County and the city of Ducktown own a hospital, and all its equipment and unencumbered assets.

They don't want to, but they do.

There were no bidders who stepped forward to match the minimum bids required on the Copper Basin Medical Center's real property at  a foreclosure sale minutes earlier Monday morning on the equipment on the front steps of the Polk County Courthouse in Benton.

Minimum bids  were $150,000 for the equipment, and $650,000 for  the real property, which includes  the main hospital building, three office buildings currently leased to five tenants, a storage building, and approximately 19 acres.

The Polk County Commission, in an effort (and hope) to dispose of the property, and much of the indebtedness, had approved a minimum bid of $435,000 for the property at its last meeting. The Ducktown Council, meeting last week, recommended that be increased by $215,000 to a $650,000 minimum. The Commission scheduled a quick called meeting, to go along with Ducktown officials.

Both governments agreed on the $150,000 minimum for personal property.

The bid increase may have closed out any potential bidders at the the lower minimum.  

Polk County Commissioner Mark Bishop had voiced his concerns that the property will eventually go to an absolute auction, placing the county and Ducktown at risk of losing significant funds.

Ducktown's reluctance to go with the Commission's minimum bid (on the real property) is understandable, since the hospital is appraised on the Polk County tax rolls at $8,119,100.

Polk County Attorney and Substitute Trustee Eric Brooks, who conducted Monday's sales,  said the failure to receive a bid or serious offer, places the issue back in the search mode.

He and Polk County Executive Hoyt Firestone are expected to once again search for an interested buyer, although previous searches have been in vain.

Brooks added that there is no specific timeline for disposition of the personal or real property, although they would like to find a buyer as soon as possible.

There are still some hope in the Ducktown/Copper Basin communities that there still might be an opportunity to provide the two cities some type of healthcare services, at least an emergency  clinic.

Mitchell Hicks, Democratic Primary winner in the race for Polk County Executive replacing the retiring Firestone, attended the no-show foreclosure sale.

A member of the Hospital Foundation's Board for about 18 months, he is sympathetic of mountain residents who lost their jobs, and the community's loss of its medical facility.

The hospital was a mess, when I went on the board," he said of its extended indebtedness, and the fact it was facing foreclosure on the bank loan at the time, as well as federal (IRS) and state liens — which still exist.

Hicks also pointed out  that not only has the hospital closed in the community, but its only grocery store (a Piggly Wiggly) shuttered its doors just two months ago.

At Monday's sales, Brooks also read off the names of more than 30 hospital employees who are still owed paychecks.

To forego the bank's foreclosure on  the original $1 million-plus loan, Polk County purchased three-fourths of the approximately $800,000 remaining on the note. Ducktown assumed the  other quarter ($200,000).

The city of Copper Basin had signed off on another quarter, but was financially unable to purchase its share. Polk County took ownership  of that quarter, increasing its (approximate) debt of $400,000  to $600,000.

The commissioners' effort to set a low minimum bid on the hospital  property accentuated their feelings of hopefully recouping as many taxpayer dollars as possible.

Unfortunately, the two governments failed in Monday's disposition attempt, and Polk County and Ducktown citizens are now the "proud" owners of a defunct medical center.

Elected officials are hopeful the issue can be resolved in the near future, to the benefit of mountain-top residents. 

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