The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a budget work session on May 30, 2000 at the Social Services Building.
Chairman Watts called the work session to order at 6:32 p.m.
Commissioner Odom stated that Bud Chapman was in Alexander Community Hospital. He asked that everyone remember Mr. Chapman and his family in their prayers. Mr. Chapman has been very important to the fire departments. He has helped and donated his time in many ways and he is very much appreciated.
ALEXANDER COMMUNITY HOSPITAL/COUNTY INFORMATION
Chairman Watts stated that he, County Manager Rick French, Finance Officer Ken White, County Attorney Ed Hedrick, and Hospital Attorney Jerry Campbell had a conference call with Bond Attorney Peter Michel during the afternoon of Thursday, May 25, 2000. Mr. Michel reiterated that it is unconstitutional under North Carolina law for Alexander County to assume the indebtedness of the Hospital without a public referendum. Mr. Michel informed the group that it would be lawful for the County to retain the title to the Hospital if a general release is drawn up releasing the County from any debt incurred by the Hospital Board.
In the past, a bond referendum was discussed. This would allow the public to vote on the County ownership of the Hospital in return for an approved figure (i.e. $2.5 million). A referendum must be held no sooner than 90 days after the last primary which would be September. It was agreed that a bond referendum was not a good choice due to the fact that the Hospital is in a state of urgency and action needs to be taken now. Also, the Hospital Board felt that the bond referendum may not pass and would cause uncertainty among employees and creditors.
If the County retains the title, there will have to be an audit and an inventory of the Hospital assets. Charles McGinnis requested that the County and Hospital's audit firms meet together since the fiscal years are now the same. The Board requested that Rick French, County Manager, and Charles McGinnis speak to their respective audit firms about meeting with each other. Mr. French stated that this would need to be completed by June 30, 2000.
Commissioner Harbinson stated that if the Hospital doesn't make it, the property will belong to the County. The property could then be sold for approximately $8.7 million.
Ms. Clemmons stated that the Hospital is up for accreditation on July 6. The Hospital Board feels certain that the Hospital was be reaccredited.
As of June 30, 2000, the County will have appropriated a total of approximately $600,000 to the Hospital during the 1999-2000 budget year. The County has appropriated $500,000 to the Hospital during the 2000-2001 budget year for emergency services.
Chairman Watts gave each Commissioner a chance to speak directly to the Hospital Board and ask any specific questions. Commissioner Harbinson stated that the purpose of this work session/meeting was to make sure both parties were coming from the same wavelength. There has been some confusion in the past between the two boards. Commissioner Harbinson also stated that he wishes for the Hospital to succeed and he is in support of all their efforts.
Commissioner Bolick stated to the Hospital Board that he was interested in what steps were being taken to improve the bottom line of the Hospital and how they are planning to get out of debt. Commissioner Bolick stated that he felt the Hospital wants to grow and staff are trying to improve and add on instead of cutting back. Commissioner Bolick also inquired about the legality of having a hospital tax in districts.
Commissioner Odom asked if the County could lease the property to the Hospital Board without the debt showing up on County books. Jerry Campbell, Hospital Attorney, stated that it could be done. The County will not be liable for loans between the Hospital and creditors.
Commissioner Robertson asked if BB&T and Catawba would agree with the deal between the County and the Hospital. Commissioner Robertson also asked how the Hospital would benefit from the agreement for the County to retain the title; the Hospital would still be responsible for the debt. Commissioner Robertson asked if the property title will be transferred back to the Hospital after debts are paid and the Hospital is stabilized.
Commissioner Watts stated that he believed BB&T and Catawba would feel more comfortable about receiving money if the property belonged to the County. The County has the power to tax which allows them to borrow money and receive grants more easily than the Hospital Board. Creditors are more likely to trust counties. The Hospital would possibly have a greater chance of receiving grants and loans if the County retained the title to the Hospital property.
The Hospital Board began answering questions at this time. Lee Sharpe passed out an executive summary which explained steps being taken to improve Hospital functions. The Board of Commissioners were given an explanation of each item listed. The executive summary was presented as follows:
Projections for the Hospital total $933,000 revenues and $5,000 expenses.
Commissioner Harbinson stated that the Town of Taylorsville should contribute to the Hospital since it is located directly in the town limits. Mr. Sharpe stated that the Hospital Board is planning to request that the Town contribute to the major fundraising campaign effort.
Commissioner Robertson suggested that the Hospital's depreciation fund should be put off for 1 year. The depreciation fund is used for upgrades, equipment, etc.
Mr. Sharpe stated that the Hospital is willing to provide documented statements on patient flow and income, doctor referrals, etc. which will be delivered to the County office weekly.
The Board inquired about the Administrative Supervisor position. Ms. Clemmons is currently serving as Interim Administrator at the Hospital. Ray Warren, Sheriff, stated that Ms. Clemmons has done an excellent job and is recommended to serve as Administrator. Mr. Warren presented the Board with letters from several doctors, staff, and residents commending Ms. Clemmons as Interim Administrator.
Mr. Sharpe stated that the money appropriated from the County to the Hospital so far has been used for debt owed to Catawba Memorial, equipment debts, information systems, new lab equipment, and the BB&T note payment.
Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to adjourn at 8:40 p.m. and to reconvene in Closed Session. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
John F. Watts, Chairman Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board