Oxford hospital site closer to official

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – It appears more and more likely that the new Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi will be built on the property known as the Franklin Estate, just west of the existing hospital.
Officials from Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. will meet with the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors and Oxford Board of Aldermen at 4 p.m. today at City Hall to discuss their selection of a site for the new facility.
Board of Supervisors attorney David O’Donnell expected the discussions to center on a site between Old Taylor Road and Lamar Boulevard. Both private citizens and public officials have speculated that a 160-acre block known as the Franklin Estate would be Baptist’s choice since its owners filed suit in Chancery Court to be included in the city.
The contract in which the city and county sold the jointly owned facility to Baptist last year stipulates that Baptist build a replacement worth at least $250 million within Oxford city limits. Trial for the case is set for June 4-7.
“One thing we are negotiating is infrastructure improvements,” O’Donnell said, noting that the four-laning of Old Taylor Road from Highway 6 to its intersection with Bickerstaff Drive or Whirlpool Road would be on the table. The Mississippi Department of Transportation is expected to four-lane the Old Taylor Road bridge across Highway 6 and to rebuild the interchange with double-lane roundabouts by 2015.
O’Donnell said Belk Drive, which runs along the existing hospital campus’ south side, might also be extended west from Lamar Boulevard to connect with Old Taylor Road.
Extension of County Road 300, which runs eastward from Old Taylor Road, is another possibility.
“That’s not part of the development proposal at this point, but it may be something we consider,” he said.
Some supervisors, while not displeased with the apparent choice of location, were curious about how the Franklin Estate has remained outside the city so long while being surrounded by it on three sides.
“Why has that property never been annexed?” District 1 Supervisor Mike Pickens asked.
County Road Manager Jerry Haynie noted the scant development on the half-mile-square tract.
“There wasn’t any tax base there,” he said.
errol.castens@journalinc.com