Trustees may partner with county

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Hospital board considers agreement to join C.R. 491 widening project and medical corridor

INVERNESS — The Citrus County Hospital Board trustees are considering an agreement with the county commission to join the County Road 491 widening project and medical corridor.


Under one plan being discussed, the hospital board would use tax dollars to pay for building roads in and surrounding its Allen Ridge medical complex, and then recoup its money in impact fees paid by companies that build commercial or medical businesses along the new roads.

The board voted 5-0 Wednesday to allow CCHB attorneys to begin negotiating an interlocal agreement with the county.

The board is expected to meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, to hear details of the plan.

County commissioners want to widen C.R. 491 between State Road 44 and C.R. 486. They also are considering a medical corridor that they believe would attract a regional medical center from the Universities of Florida, Central Florida or South Florida.

Unlike other road widening projects, commissioners are hoping to avoid buying right of way. Instead, they want to swap land with property owners to build large drainage basins that would accompany several parcels.

County Administrator Brad Thorpe told hospital trustees the county has about $9 million for the project, which could fund construction or buy right of way — but not both.

Attorney Fred Busack, with the Tampa firm of Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell and Dunbar, is the county’s consultant on the project.

CCHB attorney Bill Grant and trustee Mike Bays met earlier this week with Busack, Thorpe, County Attorney Richard Wesch and commission Chairman Joe Meek to discuss the board’s potential partnership with the county.

Grant said partnering with the county to offer improvements along the corridor could significantly increase the value of the hospital-owned property.

The hospital board earlier this month hired a Dallas-based company to conduct an appraisal of all properties owned by the board and Citrus Memorial Health Foundation. Trustees are expected to decide in late spring whether to consider a sale or merger of Citrus Memorial Health System, or keep the hospital publicly owned.

The foundation and trustees also are seeking companies that may be interested in buying or merging with the hospital. Members of both boards stress they have made no decision about the hospital’s future.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com. 

* An open house for the C.R. 491 widening project is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today in the Lecanto Government Building, Room 166.