Mt. Vernon strikes deal for MRC property

Posted on December 31, 2014 16:18 pm CST

Monett Times
By: Murray Bishoff

The city of Mt. Vernon, the Veterans Administration and the University of Missouri have penned agreements that will continue operations at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center.

The Mt. Vernon City Council on Monday approved a $2,298,167 annual lease with the VA to keep the Gene Taylor Veterans Clinic in operation. On Tuesday, the city closed on purchasing the approximately 120 acres of grounds, buildings and equipment making up the MRC complex.

"For now, we've retained services to 17,000 veterans a year, making 40,000 visits a year to the city," said Max Springer, city administrator for Mt. Vernon. "We've retained 180 jobs provided by the VA and those contracted through the city to support the clinic. The only reason the city got involved was for job retention and service to veterans."

In the deal, Mt. Vernon employs a small number of the staff, paid for with funds from the VA lease, who are needed to maintain the building and grounds, such as the central boiler for the complex's the heating and cooling.

According to Springer, parts of the deal hinged on each other, necessitating all the parts all in place together.

On Monday, an agreement with the VA came together about 90 minutes before the city council held a special session at 4 p.m. The meeting had been scheduled for Dec. 26, but the contract was not ready.

"The whole contention was, the city was willing to take on the property as long as the contract with the VA covered the costs," Springer said. "The city is not going to put any money into it."

Council members voted unanimously to approve the lease on a verbal basis. Because of the brief timetable involved, Springer said the VA agreed to a six-month standstill agreement on the terms discussed. A formal contract will be submitted to the city in June, at which time the city will review its own numbers and fine-tune the agreement.

The lease to the VA calls for payments of $2,298,167 annually for the three years that the Taylor clinic remains in Mt. Vernon, prior to moving to Springfield.

An agreement over the property had to be reached with the University of Missouri by the end of business on Dec. 31. In closing on the property at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the city paid $100 for the buildings and grounds, $1 for the remaining inventory of equipment, $336 in closing costs and a filing fee.

At the city council meeting on Monday, officials said the deal was an historic one.

"This is one of the biggest votes we will ever make," said Kathy Fairchild, alderwoman.

Springer said the move may also come with risks.

"It's a big step for Mt. Vernon," he said. "The unknown is what takes some of the excitement away. It's a huge risk for the city.

"It's rewarding in that we know what we're doing is right -- maintaining jobs and clinical service to veterans. History will say if it was the right thing to do in three years."

With the University of Missouri closing the MRC in October, the complex of buildings, some dating back more than a century, have no tenant.

The facility has always been used as a medical facility, but at one time had its own farm and separate utilities to operate as a stand-alone operation.

City officials have outlined no restrictions on the property's future use.

"Our next step is to hit the road in trying to get someone else up there, and to switch the supply contracts over to the city," Springer said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to find other partners to lease space to utilize the facility, whether they're local, national or international. We've got to get it filled over the next three years.

"It's satisfying to know we've been able to work out something. We have to look at it as an opportunity to grow having been presented to us. The Good Lord will help work it out. We have to give him a lot of credit."

Springer added U.S. Senator Roy Blunt's office, Congressman Billy Long's office, and State Representative Mike Moon provided significant assistance in working out arrangements.


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