Primary Healthcare buys old Hutcheson building in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

Primary Healthcare runs a clinic on Suggs Street in Rossville. There is a dispute over value on the property.

While Walker County, Ga., Commissioner Shannon Whitfield is demanding a steep rent hike for Primary Healthcare Centers' Rossville clinic, the group's leaders have already purchased a new building.

The nonprofit organization bought Hutcheson Medical Center's abandoned hospice building on Oct. 5 for $280,000, Catoosa County property records show. Built in 1992, the building is 14,000 square feet and located on Mitchell Road, behind what is now Cornerstone Medical Center.

Sandy Matheson, a community liaison for Primary Healthcare Centers, said Tuesday she could not answer questions about what the group plans to do with the new building because she was out of the office for the Thanksgiving holiday. But the nonprofit's leaders bought the building as Whitfield was demanding they pay more for their current Rossville clinic.

Located in a county-owned building off McFarland Avenue and Ellis Road, Primary Healthcare Centers had been paying $1 a year in rent to operate the building since 2007. The county also agreed to pay the building's utilities and major repairs, which Whitfield said cost the local government about $30,000 a year.

photo Shannon Whitfield
photo Catoosa County Manager Jim Walker

In May, Whitfield told the organization's CEO, Diana Allen, the group needed to pay a higher rent. He said an appraisal put the value of the building at $1.1 million, with a recommended monthly rent of $8,800.

Whitfield said last week he expected to hear an answer from Allen on the new rent offer by the first week of December, after Primary Healthcare Centers' board met. On Wednesday, he told the Times Free Press he did not know about the purchase of the hospice building.

The building is about 6,000 square feet bigger than the Rossville clinic. Primary Healthcare Centers also operates an administrative office in a county-owned building off North Duke Street in LaFayette. The nonprofit pays about $1,000 a month to the county for that building, which is about 4,600 square feet.

Whitfield told the Times Free Press last week that Primary Healthcare Centers' lease on that building runs out in January and the organization was looking at moving to a bigger location. Matheson declined to answer a question about whether the new purchase could house both the clinic and the new administrative office.

Regions Bank foreclosed on the hospice building in September 2016, two years after the former hospital filed for bankruptcy. At the time, the bank had loaned Hutcheson $26 million and could take some property as security for the loan.

Catoosa County Manager Jim Walker said he met with Allen last week about Primary Healthcare Centers' new purchase. He said he doesn't know exactly what the organization's leaders want to do with the space, though they are hoping to renovate the inside.

Primary Healthcare Centers wants to apply for a community development block grant, and the local government would need to be the fiscal agent for any sort of funding that comes in. Walker said he thinks workers need to renovate the building's plumbing, drywall and air conditioning, among other problems. He estimates the organization would need hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the issues.

"The outside looks like it's in halfway decent shape," he said. "... [Primary Healthcare Centers] can ask the board of commissioners to help, but I don't know what their stomach would be for that."

In 2016, Catoosa County paid $6.2 million to Erlanger Health System after backing a loan to Hutcheson Medical Center six years ago.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.