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Commissioners wont go to DC meeting after all
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The Washington trip for an Effingham County commissioners’ delegation is now off.

Commissioners Bob Brantley and Verna Phillips, along with County Administrator David Crawley and County Attorney Eric Gotwalt, were scheduled to meet Housing and Urban Development officials next week. The meeting was set up to discuss the Effingham Hospital’s modernization and expansion plans, using HUD-backed loans.

But the commissioners were informed Wednesday they won’t need to go.

HUD notified the hospital they wanted to limit the number of attendees because of space issues. Hospital CEO Norma Jean Morgan said the traveling party will consist of her, hospital CFO Ed Brown and two hospital authority members.

“It’s really going to work out well for everybody,” Morgan said.

The meeting with HUD officials is for the pre-application process. Once HUD invites the hospital to apply for the bonds, Morgan said HUD officials have agreed to come to Effingham to meet with the county commissioners and the hospital authority.

“That will be great,” she said. “And that will increase the number of people from the hospital authority and the county commission to participate.”

A group representing the hospital — hospital authority members Rick Rafter, Tommy Exley and Sheila Bishop, along with Morgan and Brown — was scheduled to attend the meeting as well. The hospital was bringing attorney Rusty Ross, its legal counsel, and Mike Murphy, the modernization project manager.

The hospital may find out within a couple of months if they will be invited to submit a formal application for HUD backing of its plans. HUD officials have to conduct interviews with the parties involved and visit the site, Morgan said.

“I believe the county commission and the hospital authority will be successful in explaining the scope of the project and what we want to do,” she said. “We will have a very outstanding project for our community.”

County officials also asked for names and addresses of the HUD officials they were going to meet so they could forward written comments from commissioners who were unable to attend the summit. But commissioners said hospital officials were reluctant to provide that information and were taken aback by the late word of their meeting getting changed.

“It was unexpected, and it was very abrupt,” county commission Chairman Dusty Zeigler said of the notice commissioners received that their attendance wasn’t necessary.

Last November, commissioners agreed to consider a resolution guaranteeing the hospital authority 2 mills of property tax and conveying 5 acres for the hospital’s expansion and modernization plans.

The hospital is seeking to obtain $30 million in HUD Build America bonds for its expansion plans. The project will add 50,000 square feet to the hospital and if the hospital’s application for the bonds is approved, the projected completion date for the expansion is 2012.

R.J. Griffin and Company and Rives Worrell Company, both from Savannah, have been chosen by the hospital authority for the project. Hospital officials have said that HUD requires selection of a construction manager before the loan is approved so that HUD knows exactly what the construction costs will be.

“I know our medical staff is excited about this opportunity,” Morgan said.