Published in the Iola Register on Nov. 15, 2012.

New hospital dominates talks at intergovernmental meeting

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

A proposed new hospital dominated talks during Wednesday night's intergovernmental meeting in Clyde.
Last month, the Cloud County Health Center board passed a resolution requesting the Cloud County Public Building Commission issue revenue bonds to build and equip a new hospital at the south end of Concordia – between F&A Food Sales and the Blosser Municipal Airport.
At an election on Feb. 26, 2013, voters of Cloud County will be asked to approve a limited duration .75-percent sales tax increase to help fund the bond payments for the new hospital.
Cloud County Health Center board chairman Monte Wentz said the $26 million project has been well received by hospital staff. The next step, he said, is to kick off a fundraising campaign and educate the public on the project prior to next year's vote.
Board member Phil Gilliland said the current hospital was built in 1950, and is an aging facility.
"The facility issues aren't going to go away," he said. "It's a sturdy building, but not efficient. Something needs to be done either way."
He explained that the hospital is a critical care facility, meaning it is reimbursed by Medicare at 101 percent. The hospital makes one-percent profit, he said, but that is not enough to fund the construction of a new facility or continue maintaining the aging facility.
"We're faced with a dilemma," Gilliland said. "Do we continue to run the facility into the ground, or do we look for a better way?"
Gilliland said the board anticipates half of the $26 million construction costs to be paid through critical care reimbursement. Of the remaining $13 million cost, he said the board hopes to raise $2-3 million through local fundraising. There are also grants being pursued, such as a $1 million grant through the Kansas Department of Transportation for connecting the hospital to Highway 81.
"The goal has always been to reduce that (amount) as far as we possibly can," Gilliland said. "If we can close that gap so that the hospital is, in essence, paying for itself through the reimbursement program, then we can cut this down and hopefully get it paid off in 15 years instead of 22."
By locating the hospital near the airport, he said, the board hopes to have doctors and specialists who can fly into Concordia and see patients.
"We've already had doctors express interest in doing that," he said.
Gilliland said there is no guarantee the new hospital will be built, and the board will see how the public responds through the vote in February.
"Our goal is to build the best hospital we can for the least amount of money and pay it off as fast as we can," he said.
City of Clyde
Clyde City Council member Wendy Genereux reported that the streetlight project is nearly completed. The Clyde Beautification Committee, a group of nine individuals, have worked for the last three years to raise money to replace the streetlights. All that remains for the completion of the project is placing the bricks and pavers at the base of each pole, and the removal of the old poles. The lights were turned on Sunday evening.
"A group of community members saw a need for it, and just dug in," Genereux said.
USD 333
Beverly Mortimer, USD 333 superintendent, said the school board voted Monday evening to close the middle school in Concordia. The building will be closed in an effort to save the district money and better utilize space. The fifth and sixth grade students will be moved into the junior-senior high school building next school year.
The closing of the middle school is part of a three-phase plan. Another aspect of the plan is eventually building a new school.
"The only way we'd jump in and build a new facility is if the state continues paying state aid on new construction," Mortimer said. "The state would pay 40 percent of that cost. If that goes away, a $10 million building would cost the taxpayers $10 million."
City of Concordia
Commissioner Marsha Wentz reported the city continues to move forward with its flood control project. Dirtwork in the flood control area has been completed, and the search is on for commercial developers to purchase those lots.
Concordia City Manager Larry Uri said the city has a new fire chief in the recently hired Eric Voss. Voss was a fire captain with the Concordia Fire Department in the late 90s, and was previously the fire chief in Fairbury, Neb.
"Our fire captains actually called him when we had the vacancy," Uri said. "We were gearing up for a long advertising process when he walked in the door."
Cloud County Community College
Human Resources Director Chris Wilson said a ribbon cutting was held at the Geary County campus last week for the completion of a new science building. Gov. Sam Brownback helped cut the ribbon for the building, which will house the college's agri-biotechnology and science classes. Funds for the building will come from a TRAC-7 grant, and Geary County campus student fees.
City of Jamestown
Mayor Randy Smith reported his city had received a $300,000 grant for water line replacement, and bidding on the project is under way.  The fueling station in Jamestown saw $15,000 in sales last month.
City of Miltonvale
Mayor Jon Puckett said Miltonvale's water distribution system project is two-thirds complete. He said he will find out after the first of the year if the city will receive another grant to complete it.
Glasco will be host to the next intergovernmental meeting, which will be on Feb. 13, 2013.