Election day is Tuesday. We, the voters of Cloud County, have the chance to make a wise investment in the future of our community, a new hospital. The overall cost of 29.8 million dollars may seem staggering to any one of us as individuals, but given the current window of opportunity, if we tackle this project together, we can make it happen and see our county continue to prosper. Quality local health care benefits everyone, young and old alike.
Several are saying that the old hospital is good enough. In fact, a recent letter suggests that for a mere 5 million dollars we can bring the building up to current standards. The truth is, a 2008 cost estimate (now five years old) shows 5.9 million dollars for installing a sprinkler system and correcting a few other deficiencies. These “fixes” don’t even begin to address other more costly changes such as updating the heating and cooling, new operating rooms, and a ground level easy access emergency room. Not only will these items be more expensive, some require adding significant square footage on the ground floor as the existing structure cannot be adequately modified due to load bearing supports. Our old building is solid, but functionally obsolete as a modern hospital.
When comparing a total remodel cost (plus new addition) of the old hospital vs. new construction cost, the comparison shows a difference of about two million dollars. If someone says that savings is worth pursuing the remodel route, we will still be faced with greater ongoing costs and operating inefficiencies in the updated facility.
We have a history of attempting to save money and cut costs on our tax funded projects in Cloud County. Think back to the building addition at our college. More recently, the wind turbines ended up having to be lowered at a substantial additional cost. Possibly the most expensive and potentially dangerous cost cutting measures were those made to appease voters on the USD 333 elementary school. Back to the current hospital proposal, the current barrage of negative ads, letters and “scare” tactics quite honestly saddens me. But then, I realize, it’s just politics. It usually pays to do things right the first time, even if it costs a little more.
Considering the ever important bottom line, what will a YES vote cost? the 3/4 cent sales tax on goods and services subject to such tax equates to 75 cents on every $100 spent. The median income in Cloud County is somewhere around $32,000. Of that, housing expense (whether mortgage payment or rent) is not subject to sales tax, and neither is a car payment, insurance premiums, etc. Let’s guesstimate that $20,000 might be spent on expenditures subject to sales tax. Our hypothetical household would spend $150 per year for a new hospital spread out over twelve months usually in pennies at a time.
I have friends who for a variety of reasons choose to travel east, west, or north to utilize hospital care in neighboring counties. Each and every one of those counties has a property tax that supports their health care. Thanks to a century of health care provided and largely underwritten by the Sisters of St. Joseph, our county has never had a mill levy for health care. It is my opinion that this current proposal is the best chance we have of not having a property tax to support county health care in the future.
Finally, remember that as a sales tax, some of this project will be funded by those passing through our community. This method of taxation spreads the cost over the broadest possible base, and everyone, including some nonresidents, will help share the load. For additional information, please visit: www.cloudcountyletsmakeithappen.com.
Vote YES on February 26. I know I will.