Manner of hospital sale displeases Unicoi board; liquor stores ordinance approved

Brad Hicks • Jan 23, 2013 at 9:32 AM

UNICOI — The town of Unicoi’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen wants to send the message that it does not approve of the manner in which the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board of Control voted last year to sell the community hospital and its lack of input into the proposed sale.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution to object to and disapprove the process by which the hospital’s board undertook its action to sell the hospital to Mountain States Health Alliance.

“The Board of Mayor and Aldermen specifically disapproves of the proposed transaction and requires that any such proposal, sale or conveyance of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital or assets be brought to the town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen for consideration, vote and approval prior to being agreed to or carried out,” the resolution said.

When asked by Aldermen Mark Ramsey how the town has authority to require such action, Town Attorney Lois Shults-Davis said that while the town did have direct ownership interests when the hospital was formed as the town had not yet been incorporated, the town, as a governmental entity within the county “has the authority to express the town’s view.”

“It’s a strong statement, and I’m all for it because I disagree with how that happened, how it came about,” Ramsey said.

Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch said he, Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch and several county citizens intend to go to Nashville today to meet with the state attorney general and present information they have pertaining to the hospital’s sale and how the UCMH Board of Control handled it.

“This resolution, more than anything, shows support for our asking them to look into this,” Johnny Lynch said.

In late November, the UCMH board approved an acquisition proposal submitted by MSHA over a proposal submitted by Wellmont Health System. Following the decision, some citizens and officials voiced their dissatisfaction over the decision and manner in which it was reached as the Board of Control held several closed-door meetings leading up to the decision.

Upon receiving written notice of the transaction, the attorney general will review the transaction process and notify hospital of a decision to either object to the transaction or take no action.

Greg Lynch said the Unicoi County Commission will look to consider a similar resolution at its Monday’s meeting.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also unanimously approved the second and final reading of an ordinance to amend the town’s municipal code to allow the establishment of retail liquor stores within the town’s limits.

A referendum to allow package stores within the town’s limits passed by a majority vote in the Nov. 6 general election, and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first reading of the ordinance relating to package stores in December.

Following Tuesday’s approval of the ordinance’s second reading, the town’s certificate of compliance will take effect Feb. 4. At that time, those interested in opening package stores may apply for a license with the state. Town officials are unsure how long it would take after these applications are made before the town would see its first package store.

According to the ordinance, applicants must provide the town with a site plan of the proposed store and how it may impact its surroundings, as well as a business plan. The town’s Planning Commission will review applications before making a recommendation to the board.

The town’s ordinance states stores must be located at least 200 feet from locations such as schools, churches, parks and residences and must be a minimum of 1,800 square feet with only one entrance for use by the public. It also states that only alcoholic beverages can be sold at the retail liquor stores and that these sales can take place only during hours provided in state law.

Several ordinances pertaining to zoning of the retail liquor stores were also approved upon second reading. Three sub-district overlay zones in which liquor stores can be located have been set up. According to the town’s ordinance, only one store can be located in each of these zones and, unless the ordinance is modified, only two stores can be located within the town’s limits.

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