No racism, just good sense in sale of hospital

Published 7:29 pm Thursday, July 15, 2021

We applaud Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson and the three members of the Natchez Board of Aldermen — Sarah Carter Smith, Valencia Hall and Dan Dillard — for voting on a series of motions that will allow the city to move forward with appraisals that most of Natchez hope will lead to the sale of the city-owned old General Hospital at 601 W. Oak St. to the owners of The Towers.

The Towers property, owned by James and Ginger Hyland, abuts the General Hospital property. The Hylands are the only ones to show any real interest in purchasing General Hospital. They have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating The Towers into one of the city’s most popular homes and attractions among tourists.

Selling the General Hospital property to the Hylands, who have demonstrated successful investment in Natchez, only makes sense. In fact, Natchez is fortunate to have someone like the Hylands interested in purchasing the facility.

During Darryl Grennell’s administration, the city took initial steps to donate the hospital to Magnolia Medical Foundation, a nonprofit group, who claimed to want to renovate it into apartments for seniors. That action caused discord in the neighborhood surrounding General Hospital that led to a lawsuit against the city and more than 50 residents signing petitions against the project.

In November 2020, the city, under Dan Gibson’s new administration, backed out of that deal because of the backlash from residents.

On Tuesday, Aldermen Billie Joe Frazier, Ben Davis and Felicia Irving voted against the moving forward with the motions that would allow the building to be sold to the Hylands. Frazier and Irving claim the move to sell the property to the Hylands is racist, saying the city rescinded its deal with Magnolia Medical because its founder is Black. They said the city is showing systemic racism and redlining.

That’s unfair, tired and simply not true.

Ward One is represented by Valencia Hall. It is a diverse ward, populated by Black and white families. It is residents in that Ward who have spoken out against that project and other projects to do similar with the building. 

The General Hospital building is old and becomes more dilapidated by the day. It served as a shelter for women for a time and that group had to move out in 2012 because of the condition of the building.

Senior citizens don’t need multi-story buildings. They need new, one-story facilities equipped for their needs.

We absolutely need a facility for our seniors to live safely and securely. The old General Hospital isn’t it.

Finally, having someone who is willing and able to purchase the facility is a very different thing from having someone who wants it donated.

The city should sell this albatross and get it back on the tax rolls while it has the opportunity to do so.