Now that hospital will be built …
Plans for a new county-owned hospital may have gotten ‘out from behind the eight ball’ Monday night, but two main points ‘ size and cost ‘ have yet to be determined.
The Harrison County Board of Commissioners and the Harrison County Council, in a joint meeting, took separate action to proceed with the Harrison County Hospital project, following a report by the Hospital Study Committee. HCH wants to build a new 65-bed, hospital complex northwest of downtown Corydon.
Gary Davis, who chaired the study committee, summarized consultant Hans Tronnes Associates’ final report, which recommended the county move forward ‘to build a modern, integrated health care campus’ that should be funded by the county, the hospital foundation and the Harrison County Community Foundation, using revenue generated from Caesars Indiana.
Tronnes concurred with HCH not to rebuild on the existing site, which is small and landlocked, and not to make a ‘phased relocation’ to a new site. Tronnes said the project should be funded from three sources: the county, the Harrison County Community Foundation, and the Harrison County Hospital Foundation.
But the consulting firm from Minneapolis disagreed with the hospital’s proposed size. Instead, Tronnes recommended reducing the project 15 to 25 percent.
‘The only reason size is important to the council is it drives up the cost,’ Davis said.
The study committee’s recommended next step, Davis said, is to form a project oversight committee and consider a project management firm.
Davis said forming an oversight committee is up to the commissioners.
He said the hospital needs to update its borrowing capacity analysis and financing options. The proposed replacement hospital space plan also needs to be updated, and the comprehensive project cost estimate should be revised, Davis said.
Hospital executive director Steve Taylor, noting that hospital officers had started the planning process about three years ago, said the estimated cost has now increased by more than $5 million.
‘There are many different ways to (fund) the project,’ Taylor said. ‘We just need to get some conceptual opinion so we can move forward.’
The hospital has been added on to many times and is too small, according to hospital personnel and its board members.
‘It’s the (hospital) board’s position to build for the next 50 years,’ Taylor said.
Following his summary, Davis submitted a resolution for both boards to consider. In six points, the resolution addressed commitment to the project, including financial support, an oversight committee, obtaining professional assistance in updating HCH’s borrowing capacity, reviewing financing options, and updating space plans and construction cost estimates.
Stating that he didn’t want to see the project delayed any longer, Gordon Pendleton, a member of the study committee and chair of the Harrison County Community Foundation, asked if the proposed resolution recommended that HCCF contribute 25 percent of the project cost.
‘We’re not going to legislate’ to the Foundation how much it should contribute, Davis replied.
Political watchdog Andrew Best strongly encouraged assessing the needs of the county, along with those of neighboring counties, such as Floyd and Crawford, when determining the size of the new facility.
‘We may be under-building this hospital,’ he said. ‘We need to know this.
‘We need to know how much we need and over-build for the next five years, 10 years, 15 years,’ he said. ‘After that, it’s pretty hard to determine.’
During discussion, Councilman Alvin Brown asked the commissioners if they have plans for the present hospital building. ‘I don’t want to see an old Wenning Packing plant,’ he said, referring to the vacated building in Central Barren that was recently demolished.
J.R. Eckart, who chairs the commissioners, said, ‘We have a lot of possibilities.’ They include a small community college, or use by Harrison County Lifelong Learning and/or the South Harrison Community School Corp. He said timing of the project could determine future use of the building.
As both boards discussed their next steps, Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes said he was ready ‘to let these people get started on building a new hospital,’ now that he knew it wasn’t going to be financed through property taxes.
The council, acting on a motion by Carl Duley, voted to commit to the concept of building a new hospital and to assist in funding.
‘Everybody knows we’re going to build (a new hospital),’ said Councilman Alvin Brown, who seconded the motion.
Davis said he still wants the council to look at obtaining financial assistance and borrowing options.
With a few minor revisions, including eliminating a project oversight committee, the county commissioners adopted the resolution as offered by the Hospital Study Committee.
‘We’ve got to get us out from behind the eight ball,’ Goldman said.
‘I know some of the hospital board members feel we spent $80,000 to find out what the hospital board thought all along,’ Davis said. But, ‘ … the bulk of our constituents don’t want to pay for it.’
He said it will be the council’s decision to determine how the project will be financed.
‘We’re not going to opt into the 50-50 proposal as the hospital suggested,’ he said.
Taylor said yesterday he felt ‘pretty good’ about the decisions made Monday night, including the county commissioners’ ‘altered’ resolution, ‘which was pretty reasonable.’
Now the hospital and the Foundation needs to come up with a financing plan.