- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 29, 2016

BELHAVEN, N.C. (AP) - A judge has issued a temporary restraining order to stop the demolition of the former Pungo District Hospital in Beaufort County.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal said that Judge Cy Grant issued a 10-day restraining order against Pantego Creek LLC, the current owner of the hospital.

Several members of the nonprofit that owns the building said that managers of the group misled them into voting for it to be torn down.

Attorney Geetz Kapur filed the complaint on behalf of seven members of Pantego Creek LLC. Kapur said a hearing is set next week on their complaint.

Kapur said her clients want a judge to force the managers of Pantego Creek LLC to reopen discussions about the disposition of the building so a new vote can be held on whether to demolish it or sell it to another nonprofit that wants to reopen it with an emergency room.

Vidant Health took over the hospital in 2011, promising to make improvements.

Vidant announced in 2013 that it would close the hospital, saying it could not be made financially viable. The hospital in rural Belhaven had many patients who were unable to pay for their care, and Medicaid and Medicare payments were not enough to cover the cost of operations.

Vidant Health closed the hospital in 2014.

Town and community groups have worked since then to buy the building and reopen it as a health facility.

The town’s board voted Friday to file a complaint against Pantego Creek LLC and Vidant Health.

Pantego Creek LLC said earlier this month it had rejected two officers to buy the property. Pantego Creek LLC said the offers were less than the property is worth.

Kapur said in the lawsuit filed Monday that her clients, who are all members of the LLC, think the group’s managers gave false information and withheld critical information in an effort to convince a majority of members to vote to destroy the building.

The destruction of the building is to be paid for with up to $800,000 from Vidant Health.

“My clients believe that from the time Vidant took over the hospital, the plan was to shut it down,” Kapur said.

An attorney for Pantego Creek LLC could not be reached for comment.

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