| By Jason C. Mattox
More than one year after the Panola County Board of Supervisors and Sardis Board of Aldermen began procedures to repossess the North Panola Hospital, the owners received good news: the hospital is once again their property.
According to Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins and Sardis Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye, the two signed a new deed of trust on the property Friday, August 25.
The city and county’s attorney in the matter, Richard T. "Flip" Phillips, was hired in June 2004 to re-acquire the property from Partners in Action, a group who told officials they intended to open an assisted living facility for elderly persons not ready for full nursing home care.
Partners in Action made an initial annual payment of $130,000 but failed to make a second payment. Phillips’ pay came from that fund and was not to exceed $10,000.
As for the Sardis Community Nursing Home and the 4.2 acres it occupies adjacent to the hospital, the city and county did not regain ownership.
"The people that facility was leased to have been making their payments," Perkins said. "There is an option for us to get it back if they ever default on a payment."
Regarding the future of the facility, Perkins and Dye both said the owners are exploring the option of a geriatric healthcare/prison center.
Perkins said Sen. Thad Cochran has said funding will be appropriated to conduct a feasibility study for the hospital/prison.
"I have every intention of going to Washington to speak with Sen. Cochran about this," Dye said.
According to previously published reports, the facility would house ill and elderly inmates who have received life sentences.
"From what I understand," Perkins said, "the inmates they want to put in this facility will also be suffering from cancer, Alzheimer’s or other diseases. If the study shows it will fly, it will be the first of its kind in the United States."
Perkins explained that even though the inmates will be ill, they are still inmates.
"People need to keep in mind, just because they are ill, it doesn’t mean there won’t be murderers and rapists out there," he said.
Dye indicated the geriatric prison/hospital would employ approximately 200.
"This is a good program that will mean a lot of new jobs for the people in this community and the county," he said.
As for payment on the facility, Perkins said he expects the city and county would enter into a lease agreement with the federal government.
"It will be easier for the government to fund the facility if the city and county are still the owners of the North Panola Community Hospital," he said.
Neither Dye nor Perkins knew what the asking price would be for the hospital building.