County committees express concerns over Ballad Health and secure property acquisitions

Published 4:06 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023

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A group of Carter County committees approved motions Tuesday evening criticizing Ballad Health and acquiring the Herman Robinson campus from the state.
First, the Carter County Health & Welfare Committee met and approved a resolution regarding Ballad’s operations at Sycamore Shoals Hospital in Elizabethton.
Six commissioners voted in favor of the motion, which was made by Commissioner Angie Odom. The committee’s chairman, Nick Holder, abstained.
Last month, Odom and Commissioner Nancy Brown made a motion to have County Attorney Josh Hardin draft a resolution to send to Nashville regarding Ballad Health issues. Holder presented the draft resolution on Tuesday.
Several individuals, including former Ballad nurse Ashley Barnes, and Danielle Goodrich of Tennessee Stands, thanked the committee for considering the motion.
Barnes, who worked at Franklin Woods Hospital in Johnson City until 2021, said other county commissions might “take a stand.”
Another citizen, Dani Cook, who has spoken against the merger that ultimately created Ballad, shared statistics that show the company has not provided adequate health care for Carter County.
Cook said she once warned people about what the merger between Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance would create. Now, she says the numbers show how Ballad Health, which Cook described as a monopoly, has affected the region’s healthcare system.
If the full commission approves the resolution, Odom said she will present it to Nashville. She said she has many stories, letters and petition signatures that she will also share with leaders.
The commissioners, including Carter County Commission Chairwoman Ginger Holdren, said they “love” Sycamore Shoals Hospital and its staff, but are disappointed and concerned with Ballad Health and its leadership.
The Building & Grounds Committee also met Tuesday evening and discussed the acquisition of two separate properties.
Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby said she is waiting to hear from the Dashiel Masonic Lodge about its building near downtown Elizabethton. Woodby said an appraisal has been completed and valued the property at $529,000.
The county can’t pay more than the appraised amount and Woodby said she made an initial offer of $490,000 for the property, which county officials hope to use as an archives facility.
Woodby said lodge leaders have been planning to move from the building. The lodge must decide whether to accept the county’s offer.
The county has $800,000 set aside for the archives project. If the county acquires the lodge, it will need some renovations, including new walls and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
The committee unanimously approved a motion to acquire the Herman Robinson campus from the Tennessee Board of Regents. The state has offered to give the property to the county at no cost. The only cost for the county would be $517 for legal fees.
The state is moving from the campus to the Workforce Development property, where the state is planning to construct a new higher education facility.
Woodby told commissioners that she expects the county to close on the Workforce Development property in the next week or so. The state is acquiring the property along State Route 91 from Carter County.

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