PLAQUEMINE — A new health clinic sought by Iberville Parish government to replace the old River West Medical Center came another step closer to reality Tuesday night with Parish Council agreement to buy 27.55 acres of land as a site for the proposed clinic.

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. on Monday signed the purchase agreement with the Edward G. Gay Planting and Manufacturing Co., Ltd., for the property at La. 1 and Senator Gay Boulevard in Plaquemine.

Although no architectural plans have been drawn up yet, the proposed Ochsner Health Systems clinic would include a 24-hour emergency room, radiology services, midwife services and a laboratory. The parish will pay for the land, building and equipment and then lease it back to Ochsner, Ourso said.

“This is a great day for Iberville Parish,” Ourso declared to the council in his president’s report Tuesday evening. The parish has until May to finalize the purchase of the property for $1,080,000, or $40,000 per acre, he said.

It was a complicated negotiation, Ourso said, because there are numerous drainage canals through the property that have to be maintained without affecting the clinic building’s location, a nearby subdivision and other properties in the vicinity.

Federal environmental and geotechnical assessments will take at least 90 days, Ourso said, then the state Office of Community Development must approve the property purchase and the clinic project.

Ourso said the parish received about $22 million in federal hurricane recovery funds and would use all of it for the medical facility.

Councilman Eugene P. Stevens objected to the purchase both during the public hearing and later during the regular council discussion.

He said he wants the River West Medical Center, which was closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Gustav in 2008, to be renovated.

“Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars that would cost?” Barry Marionneaux, an attorney working for the parish, asked Stevens. “It would take millions and millions of dollars to get that building back up to code and we can’t use Community Development Block Grant money to do that.”

Stevens replied, “With all due respect to Ochsner and the Gay family, I’m going to vote against this because we just heard about this deal at the last meeting and it’s a secret deal.”

Marionneaux disputed Stevens’ allegation: “Nothing was hidden from the public.”

When the votes were cast, Stevens was the lone dissenter.