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Task force to recommend new hospital

The Harrison County Council’s hospital task force has endorsed the concept of a new facility and is expected to make that recommendation during a presentation to a joint meeting of the full council and the three commissioners later this month.
County officials will likely then be asked to work out the details.
‘I said a long time ago that the hospital needed a partner in this venture,’ said Harrison County Council and task force chair Gary Davis at Thursday night’s task force meeting. ‘At that point, I thought it would be another hospital, but now I think it needs to be the county.
‘They want help. We want to be a partner.’
Davis’ comments were in response to the final recommendations of an independent consulting firm hired to review the hospital’s two-year-old, hotly debated proposal to construct a 65-bed, $30 million hospital complex west of Corydon. The cost of construction has risen since those plans were made, with the latest estimates at $36 million and rising.
Retired banker Gordon Pendleton, the Harrison County Economic Development Committee’s representative on the task force, got to the heart of the matter. He said his group would likely go along with the recommendation of the consultants and leave the details of the county’s commitment to county officials.
‘It would be up to the council and commissioners to decide,’ he said. ‘I don’t see us going against that recommendation.
‘The issue then is, what do we do next? … I think we need to go forward and not worry about who is right or wrong. The question is, what can we do to go forward today?’
Davis said, ‘Gordon has made the right point.
‘We all want to build the facility; the question is, how do we get a spade in the dirt?’
Pendleton noted that the only part of the review by the consultant (Hans Tronnes Associates of Minneapolis) that conflicts with the hospital plan is the size of the new facility.
Hans Tronnes recommends a smaller hospital while the hospital board contends it’s building for the future and needs more space, not less, to meet the demands of federal and state requirements. New laws, such as those that mandate privacy and the space required by persons with disabilities, call for the added space, said HCH executive director Steve Taylor. He said Hans Tronnes’ recommendation is for 21,000 square feet less than the current hospital.
Task force and hospital board member Fred Owen said the hospital board, made up of members appointed by county officials, is the right entity to determine the scope of the project, while Hans Tronnes says an oversight committee including representatives from the council and commissioners would be best.
And then there’s the money issue. How much and how should the county invest in the project?
Davis said one option is to issue bonds to raise the money, but that would require the backing of a property tax. ‘As far as I can tell, that is not going to happen,’ Davis said. ‘There is no support on the council to obligate the citizens.’
Instead, he said the council might invest in the project up front. ‘We don’t want to sign up for a 20-year bond issue,’ Davis said.
Pendleton’s motion, seconded by Kenneth Saulman, to recommend the project to the commissioners and council passed 4-2, with Taylor and Owen objecting. Others voting in favor were Commissioner James Goldman and Councilman Carl Duley. As chairman, Davis was not required to vote.
The recommendation will be presented to the council and commissioners on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the commissioners’ room at the downtown courthouse.