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County has questions for hospital
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Effingham Hospital officials are pressing county commissioners to approve a measure that would guarantee 2 mills in property tax. But commissioners still have questions about the hospital’s plans for expansion, questions they say aren’t getting answered.

The hospital is asking for about 5 acres of land from the county next to the hospital and also asked commissioners to pass a resolution guaranteeing 2 mills while the hospital finances its modernization.

“I am very uncomfortable with both of these items,” commission Chairman Dusty Zeigler said. “Our legal counsel has a need to better understand some of the smaller details.”

County attorney Eric Goswalt said he had several questions about the proposal for the land, including if it could be leased from the county and if the land would revert back to the county if it is not used for its intended purposes.

“I think it would be in our best interest to have another meeting with the hospital,” County Administrator David Crawley said.

Commissioners still had concerns about the hospital’s plan to expand and build doctors’ condos as it builds a new clinical area. Its questions

include whether the land will be transferred or leased and if a millage rate or set dollar amount for indigent care is required by Housing and Urban Development. The hospital is seeking HUD financing for its plans.

“We are still have questions that are not being properly answered,” Commissioner Myra Lewis said.

But when hospital attorney Marie Livingston said she wasn’t aware of any queries that were going unanswered, Zeigler replied swiftly and with apparent disbelief.

“Are you kidding me, Marie?” he said.

Hospital officials said there was still time to meet to discuss the commissioners’ concerns — but time was still of the essence.
Getting the resolution, which would be a good faith resolution until a formal agreement was approved, is needed as part of the HUD loan, attorney Rusty Ross said. The hospital is in the process of applying for a HUD loan in order to expand the hospital.

“We need to include something in the language that the county is willing to consider an agreement for the funding of indigent care,” Ross said.
Ross said the hospital could have an intergovernmental agreement for the millage ready for the commissioners by next week.

“We don’t need the agreement signed until we close the indebtedness,” he said.

The land for expansion and the millage rate — which would be dedicated to support indigent care — is needed to continue to make health care in the community viable, Ross said.

The Build America bond from HUD the hospital is seeking will save the hospital $14 million over the life of the loan, hospital attorney Marie Livingston said.

“We are on a fairly tight time frame,” she said. “We have to make a pre-application to HUD and then they invite us to apply for a mortgage. I can’t say two weeks will make or break it. But it is cutting it close.

The Build America bond is very advantageous for the hospital, but there is a time limitation on the program, County Administrator David Crawley said. The Build America program ends Dec. 31, 2010.

The hospital also is in the process of its certificate of need application with the state, which is expected to take five months.

Its expansion is planned to encompass 50,000 square feet. Hospital administrator Norma Jean Morgan said if the hospital stays on its schedule, it will submit its pre-application next month.