The Jefferson Parish Council will hold a public hearing and then vote Feb. 23 on whether to approve a 45-year lease agreement authorizing LCMC Health to operate West Jefferson Medical Center in return for $225 million to the parish and $340 million in capital improvements.
The council set the meeting date after emerging from an executive session Wednesday during its regular meeting. Council Chairman Chris Roberts said the date was selected to avoid scheduling conflicts during the Carnival season.
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. on the second floor of the General Government Building in downtown Gretna.
Roberts said the final hurdle negotiators are working out is the language of a non-compete clause.
LCMC, which operates Children’s Hospital, Touro Infirmary and the Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans, wants to make sure the parish doesn’t put the proceeds from the lease behind any competing interests, while the parish wants to ensure that the agreement doesn’t limit its right to legitimate public health initiatives and responsibilities.
Roberts said there are no disagreements in principle in that regard, and both sides are just making sure the wording is correct. He noted it’s a long-term agreement and the parish doesn’t want to tie the hands of future councils.
Roberts said the council’s understanding of the 30-day deadline it imposed last month for concluding negotiations is Friday, and he said the agreement should be ready by then.
Meanwhile, the parish’s efforts to find a private operator for East Jefferson General Hospital continue.
The parish has been trying to find operators for both publicly owned hospitals since at least 2012.
The effort started with LCMC, HCA and Ochsner Health System each interested in taking over both hospitals. As the process dragged on, however, HCA and Ochsner dropped out, and the council began considering leasing the hospitals separately.
The agreement for the West Jefferson hospital is considerably further along than one for its sister hospital in Metairie, though HCA reportedly has come back to the negotiating table.
The council on Monday moved to hire merger and acquisition counsel to help it in those negotiations.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to ask the state Department of Natural Resources to study the effect of a proposed RAM Terminals coal export facility in Ironton in Plaquemines Parish on the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project planned nearby.
The resolution also asks DNR to hold public hearings on the environmental impact of the project, which opponents say would bring large trains of uncovered coal cars through West Jefferson communities, creating a public safety and health hazard.
Devin Martin of the Sierra Club, which is part of a coalition that opposes the terminal, said the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority “dropped the ball” in ignoring serious scientific and environmental concerns raised by its own study before signing off on the project in 2013.
Last month, a state district judge ruled DNR didn’t have sufficient information to justify awarding RAM the permit and said the department needs to reconsider it.
Martin was one of several speakers who thanked West Jefferson Councilman Ricky Templet and Parish President John Young for bringing the issue before the council.
The council deferred action on new regulations that would pave the way for ride-hailing services, such as Uber X and Lyft, to operate in the parish.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.