Firm cost right move for bond vote on hospital

With the commissioners’ support, the board and administration can now move forward . . .

Hospital board members found themselves in a quandary recently when the county commissioners decided not to back them up on a $1.5 million design bill if the bond issue for a new facility doesn’t pass.
    The board has hired a pair of companies for a design-build approach to a new facility after studying facility needs for more than two years.
    To get a not-to-exceed cost for a new facility requires the architects and construction company to complete the design and then cost it out. The cost to do this is estimated at $1.5 million. If the bond issue is approved, this money will go towards the cost of the new facility.
    When the commissioners balked at covering the expense if a bond issue didn’t pass, it left the hospital board scrambling a bit on what to do.
    Do they put the bond issue on the May election ballot and hope the people approve it without any firm design or cost?
    Do they incur the $1.5 million cost and hope and pray the bond issue passes?
    What they decided to do was have the hospital save up the $1.5 million themselves, whether it took a year or three years.
    Hospital officials were already on the commissioners’ agenda to tell them they weren’t going to put the issue on the May ballot without any design or costs.  
    Commissioner Don Weiss noted how long the board has been working on this and how vital a hospital is to the long-term future of a community, and in this case, a county.  Commissioner Chuck Vette also said it’s time to bite the bullet and proceed with a new facility.
    So on a 2-1 vote, the commissioners voted to provide the needed backstop for the board to obtain a complete design and a guaranteed not-to-exceed cost in time for the November General Election.
    If for some reason the bond isn’t approved, Weiss said the county has the money in the inheritance tax fund to cover the cost, with the hospital paying the money back over a five-year period.     
    The board had already decided, that in good conscience, they couldn’t ask the voters to approve a May bond issue without a design or firm cost.
    With the commissioners’ support, the board and administration can now move forward and give the voters the information they deserve to decide whether Chase County needs a new hospital.
    Frankly, there’s no question in my mind we do need a new facility, versus trying to remodel the existing clinic and hospital and add on to it.
    In fact, the board already explored that possibility, comparing the costs of a new facility to a remodeled, expanded facility.
    The cost to remodel and expand was several million dollars more. Plus, you still have half a facility that is nearly 40 years old and has already served its purpose.
    Between now and November, let’s discuss the need for a new hospital and base a decision, not on emotion, but on fact.

The Imperial Republican

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