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Commission supports tax increase for construction of new hospital

Published 7:51pm Monday, April 22, 2013

The Chilton County Commission voted in favor of a plan presented Monday by the county’s Hospital Board to finance the construction of a new hospital.

The board’s request signifies a shift in officials’ focus away from re-opening Chilton Medical Center, which has been closed to patients since October 2012, leaving Chilton County without a hospital.

Board member Allen Payton said the final straw was the projected cost of upgrades, about $1 million, needed to bring the CMC facility into fire code compliance.

“It’s a never-ending battle with attorney’s fees and all the things that keep coming up,” Payton said. “We weren’t going to have enough money. We decided, if we’re going to have to find a funding source, we’d just go ahead and look at building a new hospital.”

The hospital board, a body appointed by the commission that has no funding source other than money left over from the original sale of CMC, had been willing to foot the bill for expenses related to re-opening the hospital—and to purchase the facility if an analysis determined it was financially viable. Payton said those expenses became too much.

The board has already paid out more than $300,000 in attorney’s fees, Payton said, and IRS recently tied a lien to the property in an effort to recoup payroll taxes unpaid by the hospital’s former operators.

So, hospital board officials requested the commission’s help with bringing up a 5 mill ad valorem tax increase for a vote by Chilton County residents. Commission members, at a regular meeting Monday, approved the measure, which now would have to pass the state Legislature before appearing on a ballot as a referendum.

State Sen. Cam Ward and Rep. Kurt Wallace have had conversations with hospital board members about getting the local tax increase passed through the state Legislature.

“We want to do whatever we can to help,” Ward said. “Chilton County cannot go long-term without having a health care facility.”

Ward and Wallace said, while they support in general the idea of building a new hospital in Chilton County, they would need to know more specifics before taking action and indicated they would want any tax increase to expire once construction was complete.

“I’m not for an open-ended tax,” Wallace said. “We would want a set number of years put on it. If you want a car bad enough, you’ll go finance it, but you don’t want to finance it indefinitely.”

The local tax increase could be introduced in the Legislature during its 2014 session. The earliest it could be included on a ballot in Chilton County would be June 2014, unless a costly special election was called for the referendum.

Based on Fiscal Year 2012 numbers, a 5-mill ad valorem tax increase dedicated to funding construction of a new hospital would bring in about $2 million per year, according to officials with the county tax assessor’s and tax collector’s offices.

An owner of a home in Chilton County appraised at $100,000, for example, would pay an additional $50 per year if a 5-mill ad valorem tax increase was passed. An owner of a $25,000 vehicle would pay an additional $18.75 per year in tag fees.

Payton said hospital board officials estimated the county would need $20 million for construction of a new hospital, including the purchase of land for the facility.

St. Vincent’s Health System, which is headquartered in Birmingham, plans to partner with local officials during the process of planning and constructing a new hospital, Payton said, and operate the facility once opened.

“They’ll build a model for a hospital that will be sustainable here,” he said. “They’re going to be holding hands with us.”

St. Vincent’s spokeswoman Liz Moore issued a statement about her company’s involvement:

“We have had discussions with the Chilton County Hospital Board about the hospital and what an appropriate model of care might be in the future. Neither [St. Vincent’s Health System] or the board have determined what role we might play, but we continue to be open to discussions and to supporting the board’s decision making process. It is exciting to engage with so many leaders committed to the health and growth of their county.”

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  • Katherine Reece

    I was in the ER of the hospital about two weeks before it closed. The only advantage to going there was that it was so close. Unless you have been there recently and you really can’t understand how sub-standard the building was.

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  • Taffine

    My mother volunteered thousands of hours as a pink lady there. She loved that hospital, staff and anything related. When she became ill in Dec 2011 and demanded we put her there for rehab I went there to get her room ready with homey touches and was devastated that I would be leaving my mom there. It was dark, dingy and had a smell that no type of cleaning and remodeling could fix. Now this is not a dismissal to the hard workers of the hospital because they were dedicated and maintained the cleanliness of this building but honestly the people of Chilton County deserve better than that building. They deserve a hospital they are comfortable staying and being treated and sending their loved ones too. Before closing many occasions when my mother would get ill I would say Clanton stabilizer her till you can get her to Birmingham, Shelby or Montgomery. She was not to spend one night in that facility.

    Chilton County has to better for its residence anytime something new comes up there is an uproar for it not to occur. A new hospital is a must. The community needs it not only because deserve medical treatment in the county but also need the jobs. I am from Chilton County and it makes me so move home and be a resource to my community because there are no jobs for a professional person and the county will not support new economic growth.

    Great job commission supporting this hopefully the people of Chilton County will also.

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  • rclgel1

    You have got to be kidding me. How does it make sense to spend $20 million to build a new hospital rather than spend $5 million to repair the one that’s already there. How does it make sense to wait a year before we can even vote on a tax increase, plus more years to buy a property, plan the building and build it rather than going full speed ahead with the repair, paying off the debt and be back in operation in a year.

    Of course, we must remember that Clanton needs another empty building to go with all the ones we already have (Ace Hardware, the grocery store on 31 at Blacksnake, the empty car dealerships, Beau’s, the Mexican Grocery, half of the strip mall with Farmer’s Furniture, half of the strip mall with Winn Dixie).

    How many Chilton County citizens will have inferior medical care while the politians talk instead of act, and spend four times more money then they need to. And if the voters show more sense than the politians, and say fix what you have instead of taxing us to build a new hospital, how much more time will they spend talking rather than doing.

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    • vhsalumni81

      Where will the 5 million come from right now the board only has right at 1 million and the 5 million does not include the liens that have been placed on the building and the land. It is more cost effective in the long run to have a new hospital and a fresh start. I am sure the board would love to build around the hospital we already have here and begin quality healthcare but the owners of this building and the land will not work with them. SunLink is the greedy ones not the board. This cannot be done without a tax increase and that is how it is sometimes the innocent have to pay for the wrongs of the prior owners. I do not want a tax increase, I do think there is waste all around but if we don’t get a hospital soon we will lose business. This county will dry up!

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  • vhsalumni81

    Please understand that the hospital is not standing up to code. It is far from it, It would cost over a million dollars to even bring it up to fire code for 2005 must less 2013. The people of Chilton County need to educate themselves on this tax before voting it down. I am the first to say that I hate taxes and I hardly ever vote for a tax increase unless it has to do with our children’s education. However, if we want a future in this county for our children we have no choice but to have a new hospital. SunLink who owns the hospital and the land it is on wants 1.6 million dollars for this building as is, wants our county to pay all the repairs and the liens that are against the building and the land that the crooks who SunLink leased the hospital to before The Cheeks who are crooks!!!Professional crooks! They never paid a bill, they never paid employees Healthcare premiums while steady taking it out of their checks, they never paid light bills, phone bills, they never paid vendors in our own county for repairs, now they are in jail but the damage was done, The irs has liens placed against this building. The county board cannot afford to buy this building no company will come in and run this building because of the risk involved so where does that leave our county? Without healthcare, without anyway to attract new business, without a FUTURE!!!Please Please educate yourself on this tax before knocking it down. You can contact any board member and I am sure they will talk to you about it. Some of them are Alan Payton, Ken Patterson, Johnny Mckinney, Sibley Reynolds and others.

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  • steve42

    I’m on record as being opposed to the majority of the tax increase proposals that are brought forth by the Commission as a solution to the woes of our community, but this one deserves at least some serious consideration.

    What is the big picture here? Every community should have a medical facility that is available 24/7 to meet the medical needs of the residents. CMC has been through it all in the years that I have been in the area. I’ve lost count of the number of owners and news articles in this publication where hopes have been expressed that this new owner/management team is going to be the one that can make CMC relevant once more.

    Spending a million dollars to bring the building up to compliance with fire code will do just that: bring it up to fire code. That million dollar expenditure would not do anything to solve the other problems the facility has currently.

    Any group operating the existing facility is going to have to deal with problems that have been caused by the previous owners; if they buy the facility, they buy the problems.

    A new facility, under new ownership and management, would be a fresh start. As I’ve said here before, perhaps a triage and transfer facility for critical care cases coupled with a 24-hour clinic qualified to handle non-critical patients would be better.

    The issue that is not being addressed is how the absence of a facility affects the local economy. Not only are most of the people who worked for the hospital out a position, but would CRH/Johnson Controls, KMA, Merchants Company or the Jeff State system choose to place a facility here today with no hospital in the community?

    In that light, I would like to see what commitment the local municipalities would be willing to make to funding the facility. They stand to lose more than the county government if this effort fails.

    (Report comment)

    • Katherine Reece

      I would add a testing facility as well. A lot of people in the community were sent to the CMC for sonars, x-rays, mammograms, etc… especially the elderly and disabled who don’t need to be forced to drive an hour for a medical test.

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  • evelynmh

    so the county officials want to raise our taxes on our property and our tags to build something that is already here because they do not want the hassel of having to get the hospital that is already standing up to code.You guys may can set on your buts and make enough to afford extra tax fees but what about the people that really have to work for a living.I mean come on really a another tax increase.Why not sale some of the surplus vehicles that our sheriffs department has but don’t need like the tank and some of the hammer do you really think we need a tank oh and lets not forget about the helicopter that we never use.

    (Report comment)

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