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Public hearing set on new hospital financing

Meeting complies with federal tax law

POSTED: October 21, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Northeast Georgia Health System is moving forward with plans to finance construction of its new South Hall hospital.

To comply with federal tax law, the hospital has scheduled a public hearing for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Walters Auditorium on the hospital campus at 743 Spring St., Gainesville.

As the hospital system hopes to benefit from up to $200 million in tax-exempt debt through the Hospital Authority of Hall County and the City of Gainesville, the hospital must strive to get “public input and awareness” of the financing plan, said Tony Herdener, the health system’s chief financial officer.

“We will talk about the project and what the money will be spent on,” Herdener said.

In November 2011, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted to back $200 million in bond support for the hospital.

Hospital officials said the move, up from an earlier commitment of $100 million, enabled them to work toward getting a lower interest rate on construction loans. Herdener said at the time that the backing could translate to about $17 million to $19 million in savings over the 33-year life of the debt.

Herdener said the hospital system initially would pursue a short-term construction note, then a long-term loan for the project.

In the meantime, the health system is “wrapping up the schematic design phase” on the 100-bed hospital, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, said Anthony Williamson, health system vice president for Greater Braselton Development.

“We hope to get into design development in December,” he said.

The hospital will be located in what the health system is calling its River Place campus, off Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway and the planned new Ga. 347/Friendship Road.

The hospital driveway has been cut and construction trailers are in place, with site clearing expected at the end of this month, Williamson said.

“We anticipate beginning work on the foundation in February or March,” he added.

The hospital is still slated to open in spring 2015.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property,” Williamson said in a previous interview, adding that some 60 to 70 acres are developable. “We’ve walked it many, many times. ... The sustainability is something that’s really important to us in trying to be a good neighbor and also preserving a lot of the beauty on that site.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation has started work on widening Ga. 347/Friendship Road between Interstate 985 and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway, running by the hospital with six lanes.


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