Archived Story

Vote in favor of tax for construction of new hospital

Published 10:28am Monday, June 2, 2014

The people of Chilton County will make a decision Tuesday about the county’s future.

A referendum about a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase to fund the construction of a new hospital will be included on the Primary Election ballot, and we encourage a “yes” vote.

Without a doubt, health care has been the most important issue facing Chilton County since Chilton Medical Center was shut down by the state Health Department in October 2012.

Since then, the Chilton County Healthcare Authority has worked to bring a hospital back to Chilton County. First, the group sought a way to re-open Chilton Medical Center. When it became clear that wasn’t an option, the Authority turned its focus to the construction of a new hospital.

 

With an agreement in place with St. Vincent’s Health System to operate the proposed facility, the Authority, along with other county leadership, decided the best approach would be a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase to fund the construction of a new hospital.

A few points are important for voters to understand before they head to the polls on Tuesday. First, the Health Care Authority stands to gain nothing from the construction of a new hospital. The group is made up of local people appointed by the Chilton County Commission with the task of furthering health care in the county. They aren’t doctors or hospital administrators—just residents trying to do something positive for Chilton County.

Second, the hospital would be owned by Chilton County. St. Vincent’s, a well-known and established healthcare organization based in Birmingham, would run the hospital; but the facility itself would continue to be owned by the county. Chilton Medical Center was originally built by Chilton County but has not been owned or operated by the county in more than 30 years.

Third, the 1-cent sales tax increase is temporary. The tax would be in effect only long enough to pay for the construction of the hospital, plus some extra time to build up a fund for the maintenance of the property. Once the hospital has been paid for and an account for maintenance established, the tax will expire.

No one likes taxes, but this temporary tax will be a reasonable price to pay to have a new hospital facility in Chilton County run by a company that has experience with such endeavors. An example is St. Vincent’s St. Clair facility, which was built with public funds and has experienced remarkable success.

A new hospital would bring with it new jobs to Chilton County and likely drive economic growth in the area.

More importantly, the hospital would offer the type of emergency care that has been lacking in the county since Chilton Medical Center closed. Many Chilton County residents have taken an ambulance ride to Alabaster or Prattville in that time—some of them didn’t make it.

We encourage residents to vote “yes” for the temporary sales tax increase to fund a new hospital.

It’s past time for Chilton County to have its own hospital again, and voters have an opportunity Tuesday to make it happen.

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