Supes reduce hospital value

By BRENT MAZE,

The Newton County Board of Supervisors agreed to lower the property tax valuation of the former Pioneer Community Hospital of Newton by $443,390 due to the condition of the facility.

Tax Assessor May Bender said the request came from the City of Newton, who was wanting to help make the property more marketable. Currently, several liens of unpaid property taxes are already levied against the property.

A new property owner would have to pay those taxes in addition to the current taxes. Bender said the building has deteriorated since it closed in December 2015.

County Attorney Jason Mangum also added that the loss of a critical access hospital designation also contributed to the devaluation of the property since anyone who tried to reopen the hospital would receive a lower reimbursement amount from Medicaid.

“Those (old) taxes cannot be forgiven on the property,” Bender said. “This is legitimately what it’s worth.”

The hospital’s closure in 2015 came on the heels of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services changing its interpretation of critical access hospitals, saying that a critical access hospital cannot be located within 35 miles of another hospital by primary roads. Hospitals in Forest and Meridian are both within the window.

Instead of changing to a not-for-profit, prospective payment systems hospital, Magee-based Pioneer Health Services, which filed for bankruptcy in 2016, chose to close the hospital.

The property is still being held up in a bankruptcy case of Pioneer Health Systems. While any sales would have to be approved by U.S. District Court, Newton city officials are hoping to help make the property more marketable by reducing the tax burden.

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