Council Questions HCA Land Swap 4-05-2011 - WSMV Channel 4

Council Questions HCA Land Swap 4-05-2011

Reported By Nancy Amons
NASHVILLE, Tenn.
A land swap being proposed by the Dean administration is generating a lot of questions from Metro Council members, who wonder if it’s the best deal for taxpayers.

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The swap involves the Lentz Health Center on 23rd Avenue North, which would be traded to Hospital Corporation of America for vacant land it owns at 2512 Charlotte Ave.
The Lentz Health Center is outdated and was scheduled to be renovated this year; however, under the proposal, it would be demolished and replaced by a new facility that HCA would build for the city on its Charlotte property.
Some in Metro Council, like Michael Craddock, questioned whether it’s a fair swap.
"What I disagree with is the sweetheart deal and the way it has come down the pike," Craddock said.
Craddock said it makes more sense for Metro to sell the Lentz Center land on the open market to the highest bidder. The land is expected to be valuable, since it sits in the middle of the Centennial Hospital complex.
During an appraisal two years ago, the Lentz land was said to be worth $1 million more than the HCA land.
Several council members want to know a lot more before the deal goes through -- for example, why HCA is getting tax breaks in addition to getting the best land in the swap.
Councilman Jim Gotto said he wants to know more about the facility HCA plans to build for Metro.
"I don't like voting for a pig in a poke when it’s the people I represent's money,” Gotto said.
Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling told Channel 4 News that no one is getting anything other than fair market value for their property.
“In the end, HCA is going to do us a favor by building a new health center for us, which they can do quicker and cheaper than we can do under our own procedures, and in the end, it will be a win-win for the city," Riebeling said.
The swap passed on second reading, with the expectation that before the third and final reading, more of the council members' questions will be answered.

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