Loudoun Healthcare Inc. has a contract pending with a developer to sell 200 acres of farmland it owns at Routes 709 and 726, just south of Hamilton, to raise cash in its continuing effort to overcome a financial crisis.
Meanwhile, Loudoun Healthcare officials decided Friday to form a committee within a month to select a new chief executive officer. Spokeswoman Linda Roberts said management consultants, who have been in charge since the resignation of G.T. Dunlop Ecker on Aug. 1, have interviewed about 30 candidates from among 200 applicants.
Roberts said the committee will include hospital board members, medical staff and community residents. She said the board hopes to name a CEO by the end of March.
The hospital's attorney, Woodrow W. Turner, would not identify the prospective buyer for the land or discuss the sale price. Other would-be buyers and longtime associates of the hospital familiar with the negotiations said that the sale price is about $1.55 million and that the land probably will be used for residential development.
In the last six months, the hospital has been trying to recover from a $27 million deficit over the last two years. "It didn't make sense to hold on to [the land] when the cash is needed to help ensure the success of the turnaround effort," Turner said.
William Penn Frazer, of Hamilton, donated the land to the hospital in 1992. The farm is bisected by Taylor Road (Route 726) south of Sands Road (Route 709). It is bordered to the west by Meadow View Farm, to the south by the Taylor-Canon Farm, to the south and east by a farm owned by Howard Rogers and to the northeast by a small subdivision.
Frazer's wife, who asked that her first name not be used, said that there were no conditions attached to the donation of the land and that the hospital was free to use it as it wished. The Frazers have continued to farm the land, growing hay and raising cattle.
"My husband always wanted to give the hospital something that would be worthwhile," she said. "We knew it was valuable, and if it brings them some money and they need it," so much the better. She said she and her husband would move their cattle to one of their other farms in the western end.
Real estate investors and landowners said that $7,500 an acre--the price per acre if the sale price is $1.5 million--is about average for farmland in the area. Some prices range as high as $10,000 near already developed areas in the west.
Rogers, who owns a 200-acre farm southeast of the Frazer property, said he made the hospital two offers for the property, including one for $1.1 million, a few months ago. But he said the hospital wanted $1.4 million.
The deal fell through after Rogers said he was unable to get what he considered an accurate appraisal of the property. Hospital officials said they then put the property on the market in November and received "several offers."
"I would have kept it as farmland," Rogers said. "This is the piece of ground that is key to the whole village of Lincoln."
Some residents of Lincoln, a few miles north of the property, said they are concerned about increased traffic along narrow, country roads and want to keep the area's history preserved. Already, there are perk test sites on much of the hospital's property.
"We're probably looking at a minimum of 70 houses and who knows how many more," said Carol Morris Dukes, a member of the Lincoln Community League who is working to form a group to protect the small village. "We're trying to maintain the character of our village. It's some of the most beautiful, green countryside you've seen."
As part of its turnaround effort, the hospital has hired an outside management firm, renegotiated some managed care contracts, cut legal and consulting fees and closed its urgent-care center in Purcellville. Hospital officials have said they are "approaching" a balanced budget and hope to have one in fiscal 2000.
On Thursday, the board received the consultants' report analyzing the structure of the board and recommending how Loudoun Healthcare should be governed in the future. The board also approved plans to ask the state for more hospital beds and expanded patient services.