Archived Story

Important first step taken

Published 1:32pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

When faced with a decision as important as how to bring back a hospital to Chilton County, predictably, there are many opinions about the best course of action.

Some residents think Chilton Medical Center should be re-opened to save time and money; others want to be able to use a new hospital and are willing to pay and wait. Some are OK with a property tax increase to fund the construction of a new facility; others think a sales tax hike would be more fair.

If the issue ever appears on a ballot in Chilton County, as leaders plan, there will inevitably be many who vote “no” on the measure, however it appears. But whether those no’s are outnumbered by yes’s will hinge on whether the county’s leadership agrees on a course of action and are willing to convince residents that it’s the best option.

A meeting of the Chilton County Hospital Board on May 14 was a significant first step in that direction. The board invited state Sen. Cam Ward, state Rep. Kurt Wallace, mayors from all local municipalities and other officials to attend the meeting.

The fact that such a diverse group of folks could leave the room at Peoples Southern Bank apparently on the same page speaks to the great need Chilton County has for a hospital.

The board originally sought and received approval for a 5-mill increase in ad valorem taxes from the Chilton County Commission, but last week the focus turned to a 1-cent sales tax hike. The sales tax increase would be more fair, it was argued, because more residents would pay it. And the sales tax could raise a projected $3 million a year compared to $2 million annually from the millage increase.

Many more hurdles stand between Chilton County and a new hospital. The board will have to study how many years the tax increase would need to be in effect before expiring and continue to work with health care experts on a location and model facility, the commission would have to give its approval to an updated proposal from the board, legislators would have to pass a bill through, voters would have to approve the measure and the construction would have to be completed.

There was no official action taken at last week’s meeting, but make no mistake: the step taken was a significant one down the path to a new hospital. Local leaders taking that step together, in the same direction, should give residents the confidence to

follow.

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