CarolinaEast plans to build a health care clinic in the Five Points area of New Bern

Site of proposed health care clinic at 727 Third Avenue in New Bern, NC. (NBN Photo)
Site of proposed health care clinic at 727 Third Avenue in New Bern, NC. (NBN Photo)

Plans are in the works for CarolinaEast Health System to build a health care facility in the Five Points area of New Bern, NC.

The site of the proposed clinic is 727 Third St., between the new Stanley White Recreation Center and the old one, next to Indigo Ridge apartments.

The New Bern Redevelopment Commission has been working on plans to bring a health and wellness center to residents of the greater Five Points area for five years. A working group was formed to create partnerships with healthcare and other agencies to explore opportunities.

The New Bern Board of Aldermen gave the property located at 908 Bloomfield St. to the commission in 2021.

The following year, the RDC obtained parcels at 910 and 914 Bloomfield St.

In June 2022, the board allocated $350,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds for a clinic.

The RDC approved transferring 908, 910 and 914 Bloomfield St. properties and the ARPA funds to the city to be used and operated “solely as a as health care, wellness, or community center” on June 28, 2023.

On Aug. 8, the Board of Aldermen accepted the transfer of the properties and funds from the RDC.

Zeb Hough, executive director, told that the Redevelopment Board discussed the plan several times in closed session. We asked for copies of the meeting minutes, and he said they were sealed until the board votes to release them.

NBN was able to obtain documents from CarolinaEast Health System. The hospital authority’s board is a public body, subject to open meetings law.

According to the Jan. 9, 2024 meeting minutes, Keith Bennert, chairman of CarolinaEast Medical Center Board of Directors, appointed Tahira Copland, W. Lou Cannon and Mary Beth Fennell to an ad-hoc committee to “evaluate a proposed enhancement to healthcare resources in the community.”

The committee recommended that the board move forward with the project.

There was also a discussion “regarding possible federal funding that may be available for the project.”

During the Feb. 13 meeting of the CEMC Board of Directors, Tye Frost, vice president of facilities and safety, asked the board to consider a request to allocate $240,383 for the construction of a health and wellness clinic.

The minutes note, “This request includes costs associated with site preparation, mobile technology pad/utilities, parking lots, and the installation of a 1,750-square foot, modular facility designed to support one medical provider and support staff.”

The RDC would contribute property for the facility’s site and donate $341,000 for construction.

The total cost would be $581,383.

It was also recorded that Jeffrey Odham, a CEMC BOD member, asked to be recused from voting.

According to the meeting minutes, the Board of Directors unanimously approved the request. BOD members Denny Bucher and Steve Tyson were absent.

On March 12, Hough presented a conceptual plan for the health and wellness center to the Board of Aldermen and said he would be bringing a formal request to them at the next meeting. He was accompanied by some members of the Redevelopment Commission and Judy Pierce, CEHS’s director of Mission Effectiveness.

Pierce and Hough returned on March 26. Zeb Hough asked the Board of Aldermen to convey the Third Avenue property to the RDC so they could give it to CarolinaEast Health System. He also asked the BOA to transfer $313,018 to CarolinaEast.

Judy Pierce said, “CarolinaEast will deliver comprehensive care to the residents of Craven County, specifically the greater Duffyfield community.” She said they planned on providing convenient care.

Mayor Jeffrey Odham was recused from voting because he was on the hospital board. He continued to participate in and lead the discussion.

Alderman Bob Brinson said, “I am for this clinic as long as it does not provide the same services as the county health department.”

Alderman Hazel Royal made a “motion to call for a public hearing and to come back at our next meeting in two weeks to give every citizen, who has a right as a taxpayer…an opportunity to hear what we heard in here tonight, what we have discussed in our meetings, what we have spoken in the greater Duffyfield residents meetings, that they would have an opportunity to hear once they receive that information once they are informed.” The motion failed.

Alderman Barbara Best said, “As a member of the community would you not want to be informed?” She continued, “Would you not want to be a part of a meeting so you can express your concerns if you live within that Community?”

After two and a half hours, Odham asked the board if anyone had an issue with hearing what RDC Commissioner Julius Parham had to say and then allowed him to talk.

Parham said, “I know you want some input from your citizens, but in the past month two months, you have had meetings with your residents…sometimes the board of the Redevelopment Commission has not been invited to the meeting. So, there were opportunities for us to share, but we weren’t invited. So, it’s not like we were trying to hide something.” He stated, “The discussion came up about the wellness center.”

Royal responded, “No it did not…that is not true.”

Best said, “Mr. Parham has just informed me that there have been meetings, so I have nothing else to say about a public engagement for the citizens to come together and voice their concerns and opinions about this health care center. So, I’m ready to just move forward with it.”

The board then allowed a handful of people to speak. Ethel Sampson, former Alderman Barbara Lee and Commissioner Leander Morgan, spoke in support of the project. Commissioner Jimmy Dillahunt said he supported a clinic, but voiced concerns with the location.

Before voting, Brinson said, “My biggest concern again, is duplicating services from the county health department. I’ve gotten reassurances from the county health department and from CarolinaEast that it does not.”

The board voted 5-0 to approve the request to transfer the property and funds to CarolinaEast.

The Redevelopment Commission met on April 9.

Referring to the proposed project, Jimmy Dillahunt said, “I want to make sure for the new members coming…on board, it should have been or needed to have been brought up before that. I think that would cut out a lot of controversy.”

Commissioners Sharon Bryant, Sarah Proctor, Steven Strickland, Kip Peregoy, Beth Walker and Jimmy Dillahunt voted to authorize Chairman Beth Walker to execute the agreement to transfer the funds and property to CarolinaEast Health System.

The agreement noted, CEHS “intends to operate the health care facility for no less than five (5) years.”

Video recordings of official city meetings are available on City 3 TV here.

By Wendy Card, Editor. Send an email with questions or comments.

Related article: RDC considering turning health and wellness center property over to city, asks for special called meeting; New Bern RDC votes to give health and wellness center property, funding back to city