The lease agreement between Walker County and Primary Healthcare Services in Rossville still needs some work before the beginning of the new year.

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield gave an update regarding the current lease agreement between the county and Primary during his Thursday, Dec. 14, commissioner's meeting.

Whitfield addressed the matter during the public comment session following the meeting.

Whitfield said Primary's attorney contacted the county with an offer of $2,500 per month in rent.

This offer was rejected by Whitfield.

Primary has been leasing a county-owned building in Rossville for the past 10 years. The organization was paying a $1 per year rent to the county until August 2017. Since then, Whitfield raised the rent for the facility to $8,800.75 per month.Whitfield honored the lease until it expired in August.

Primary's Rossville clinic agreement under the former administration cost taxpayers $1.356 million: $$1,056,090 in rent, $190,000 in utilities, and $110,000 in insurance and building maintenance, Whitfield said in November.

Also, five years ago the county paid $400,000 to renovate the building, he said.

Whitfield said that according to the company's 2016 financial audit, Primary's total revenue that year was about $6.4 million ($6,480,861). The total in expenses was $6,148,274, leaving the company with a $332,587 profit.

In November, Whitfield said the county could no longer continue these $1 leases with the county in so much debt.

During the Dec. 14 meeting, Whitfield said, "I did receive communication from their attorney to our attorney where they counter-offered for $2,500 a month. Based off of the market study done, the appraisal was $8,800.75 per month — which is based off of $1.07 per square foot per month — which we have proved many times over is the market rate for medical space and so their offer of $2,500 per month was rejected."

Whitfield said Primary's offer is just shy of 31 cents per square foot.

"There's nothing around here that you are going to rent, retail or medical space, that's 31 cents a square foot. I don't even think you can rent warehouse space for 30 cents a square foot.

Whitfield said currently Primary is operating without a lease and has until Jan. 1 to make a decision. Primary will owe rent for October, November and December, the commissioner said.

Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at jobryant@npco.com.