HENRICO, Va. (WTVR) – Tempers flared Tuesday night inside a packed room at St. Mary’s hospital.
Around 100 residents from the Westhampton neighborhood were there to express anger about a deal between the City of Richmond and the hospital’s parent company, Bon Secours Health System.
The deal would bring the Washington Redskins training camp to Richmond next year, but it is the trade-off that angered the residents.
As part of the deal, the city would lease part of the historic Westhampton School property for $5,000 a year for 60 years. In return, Bon Secours would invest $25 million in the property, create more than 120 jobs, and improve and maintain the playing fields on the school’s property.
“The people in the Westhampton neighborhood were blindsided on this deal, and did not allow them to have input on what their neighborhood would be,” said Richmond City Council member Bruce Tyler.
“We do [nondisclosures] when we’re working on those deals,”Bon Secours spokeswoman said. “We worked with the representatives of the city. Those are the representatives we were asked to work with.”
Residents also wanted to know how Westhampton would benefit from the facility in their neighborhood. Perkins insisted it would help local businesses.
“I personally don’t shop where I live. I work here [at Bon Secours]. I shop here [in the neighborhood],” Perkins said.
Representatives from the city and from Bon Secours said the hospital group would pay more in taxes to the city than a retailer who would have bought the property.
Bon Secours said they would also welcome community input in the Westhampton renovation process.
Another issue residents have is that the property is to be leased and not sold. Had it been sold, the money would have gone straight to Richmond Public Schools. However, the city said a deal to sell the property would not have worked.
“The way the package is structured, there are three pieces to it, and all three pieces are equally important,” said the mayor’s chief of staff Suzette Denslaw.
The city said between 2004 – 2008, it invested $140 million to schools. But, Councilman Bruce Tyler argues there is $300 million worth of work needed at the schools and no funding to fix it.
He had preferred the city sell the entire property appraised at $7.5 million, rather than lease a portion of the property to Bon Secours.