Ragland council discusses future of old clinic building

By GARY HANNER, Home staff writer Annistonstar.com

RAGLAND – The old clinic building was a topic of discussion last week at a Town Council work session, and the talk centered around whether or not the municipality will sell the building or continue to lease or rent it.

The building houses the only pharmacy in town. The pharmacist is Dr. Kaylee St. John-Bean.

At a called meeting in March, the council agreed to proceed with the renovation of the building to house a doctor’s office.

Ragland Pharmacy has called a portion of the clinic home for the past two years.

Dr. Barry Collins and Dr. Rick Jotani are planning to open an office in Ragland. Their practice is Pell City Internal & Family Medicine.

Collins is a Pell City High School graduate, and Jotani is from Talladega. Both doctors are graduates of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School.

Mayor Lanis White said town officials do not want to do anything that will disrupt St. John-Bean’s business.

“I worked two years to get this pharmacy here in Ragland,” White said. “I wouldn’t do anything to hurt it,”

St. John-Bean said she has a five-year lease, but after that, then what?

“A lot of doctors are getting into the pharmacy business today,” St. John-Bean said. “Doctors pressure their patients to use their pharmacies. That’s what concerns me the most.”

Lea Ann Howard, practice manager for Pell City Internal & Family Medicine, represented the two doctors at the work session.

“We were approached to open an office here,” Howard said. “We have a lot of patients from the Ragland area. It would be a great service to the community if we opened an office here in Ragland. This community could benefit from it.”

All three parties agree there has been a lack of communication. There was some renovation done to the building, and then it just stopped.

White said if the town loses this chance to get a doctor’s office, it would really be losing something.

Town attorney James Hill III was at the work session and said there were various options beyond a five-year lease that could be pleasing to all parties involved.

“With regard to leasing of property from a municipality, there is a significant liability here,” Hill said. “That is a risk that governments are not built to generally take on. We do not factor that in when we handle revenues, expenses and budget items.

“To be honest, this leasing business makes me nervous. I’ve spent about 90 percent of my life trying to keep my clients out of lawsuits. These are my genuine concerns about us being in the landlord business if we don’t have to be, and that is my opinion.

“We have been for quite a while now, and for the most part, it has worked out very well. But if there is fair market value that we can receive from the property and do away with that liability, that needs to be looked at.”

Nothing was settled at the work session.

Councilman Tim McKinney said it did not bother him to be in the rental business.

“I know two close municipalities right now who have properties they rent out,” McKinney said. “We rent this municipality building here out, and we rent the old school building out.

“From what I see, whether it is 5, 10 or 20 years, it’s income for the town. What I see at the clinic building is not one tenant, but two tenants. Once we sale, that’s it. Within 10 years, we could make that in rent.”

Councilwoman Amanda Parsons asked if the town could rent out the building to the doctors, and if St. John-Bean would continue to be the pharmacist, if everyone would be happy.

The next scheduled council meeting is Monday, Sept. 14. The old clinic building is scheduled to be on the agenda.

Contact Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.

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