Better Pray They Pay

Henry County taxpayers will be on the hook if a local private college fails to make payments on a $6.5 million loan for a new medical center, after county commissioners approved the deal earlier this week.

The county commission agreed to take over the project if Bethel University, a small religiously-affiliated campus in McKenzie, misses its payments and defaults, the Paris Post-Intelligencer reports. The school, together with the county-owned hospital, are building a new $8.5 million medical center in Paris.

The story notes that the loan will actually be in the city of Paris’ name, but doesn’t explain why, saying that “it will be up to Bethel to actually repay the loan.” The Post-Intelligencer also says that the item was not on the agenda, and commissioners had to suspend their rules to even consider it.

“I don’t like voting on six million dollars that our taxpayers might have to pay, on ten minutes’ notice,” one commissioner said. He voted for it anyway, according to the paper.

That sound you hear may be a collective groan from the taxpayers in Paris and Henry County, who in the past few years have learned about taxpayer-funded bailouts the hard way.