Novant letter of intent ‘not clear enough’ for one commissioner, questions linger

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County is moving forward with a partnership between Novant Health and New Hanover Regional Medical Center, but one County Commissioner voted against the pack Monday night.

Commissioner Rob Zapple says he likes what he’s heard from Novant, but the letter of intent last night just wasn’t clear enough for him. With so much money on the table in this deal, he says he wanted to see more questions answered in the letter.

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“Nothing is lost by stopping and taking a minute, or a day, or two weeks, or a month to look this over to make sure we’ve got it right,” Zapple said.

Throughout the year-long exploration process, Zapple has questioned the speed at which things were going.

“I just felt that rushing that decision through was unnecessary,” he said.



Zapple was the lone “no” vote Monday night and the Board of Commissioners meeting. The other four commissioners voted to move forward with a letter of intent from Novant for a multi-billion dollar deal with New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

“I thought it was important that we had a clear idea of what the letter of intent would be, and it just wasn’t there,” Zapple said.

As it is right now, Zapple says the letter of intent just isn’t clear enough, leaving him with questions lingering. One question he has is about the $50 million proposed for mental and behavioral health development.

“It says that money will go to the NHRMC Foundation,” he said. “Also in the letter of intent, in another section, it clearly state Novant is purchasing the NHRMC Foundation, so one way to interpret that is they would be giving a 450 million creative fund to themselves.”

Zapple adds, the letter allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to several other funds, and he wants to know exactly where that money is going.

“Also, the $1.25 billion dollars is going to be under the control of a board,” he said. “But what exactly are the buckets? What they can put the money towards. How much they’ll be dealing with. Certainly the investment strategy, so we know how much money is going to be generated by that $1.25 billion.”

Zapple says he thinks Novant will make a huge impact in the community, but he wants to see all the fine details on paper.

“They’re saying all the right words, but again, in a deal this big, I want to see it in writing,” he said.

Zapple says he would’ve liked to take a few extra weeks, or even days to iron out these details, but he hopes they’ll become clear over the next few months.

Commissioners vote on a final agreement with Novant in October.