Residents want hospital built for the future

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Now that requests for proposals of land where a new hospital for Moffat County might be built have been submitted, hospital board member Ron Danner said the building committee still has to discuss how to proceed.

Hospital board members and officials agreed to investigate other sites in a November meeting because of an outcry from residents about the chosen location, which was the site where The Memorial Hospital currently sits.

That group of residents, who showed up in packs at several public meetings in November and spurred a letter-writing campaign to the hospital and newspaper, say they are happy hospital officials have agreed to investigate other sites, but hope officials seriously pursue those sites.

"They need to act in good faith of what the people want and forget about the current location," said Saed Tayyara, an outspoken advocate of selecting another site for construction. "They have to work as a team with the people."

Tayyara said the $1.8 million spent in buying up property around the current site could be resold and that money could be put toward construction costs at a new site.

More property could be bought for less money on the outskirts of town, he said.

The proposed site, where the hospital currently sits, is less than 5 acres, he said.

"If they relocate they can have a minimum of 10 acres for less money," he said. "They can use that money to build at another location and still have money on hand."

Tayyara said he has confidence in The Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees.

"I feel comfortable," he said. "I believe most of the board members no longer believe in building at the current site."

LaVeta Martin said the hospital needs the community's support and she thinks building at another location would garner that support.

"We haven't brought the local people in and got the local support," she said.

She said the current location is not a good spot for a hospital for many reasons.

"I've happened to drive by there when school's out," she said. "It's scary."

She said she didn't think the current location allowed for expansion in the future.

"Why don't we build in an area where it can expand?" she said. "We're the bedroom to Steamboat and I can't see us getting any smaller."

Glenda Bellio, another resident who has followed the hospital's plans closely, said she believed most residents agree that there is a need for a new hospital.

"Most people have said if we need a new hospital, let's build one," she said. "We respect the board for going about it in a matter in which it won't take tax dollars to do it."

The hospital recently converted to critical access status, which increases its Medicare reimbursements from the federal government.

Officials say the increased funds can be used to pay for construction of a new facility.

Bellio said it's pointless to build a new hospital if the community support isn't there, which she said would be the case if the hospital was built at the same location.

"If they upset too many people there won't be anyone going there to pay for the new hospital," she said.

She also questioned the hospital's ongoing effort to acquire letters of support in the community.

"The board is still going after letters of support without going after any pieces of land," she said. "I have no problem supporting a new hospital but I don't want it built at the current site."

Both Tayyara and Bellio said that they would agree to sign a letter of support once a new piece of land is selected.

Bellio said there is not a need to have a hospital located near the business district.

"A hospital is not something where you're walking downtown, see it, and say, 'That's nice, let's go have an operation,'" she said.

Hospital Administrator Randy Phelps has said the hospital is undergoing its own process in building a new hospital, and said he cannot compare what it is doing with other local projects in the past.

But Bellio said the community is haunted by projects of the past.

She said she hopes officials take the opportunity to involve local contractors in the construction process.

"There's a lot of concerns about past projects," she said. "We need to do everything we possibly can to make sure our money stays here and do everything we can to make this a community project. We've seen a lot of projects in this community that weren't done right."

Resident Lolly Hathhorn, who still opposes construction of a new hospital, agreed that if a new hospital were built, she would like to see local companies involved.

"Wouldn't you rather have someone local who you know does quality work?" she said.

Hathhorn said she feels like the project has been shoved down her and other community members' throats.

"One of my biggest concerns is we've been told this is what they're going to do and we (the community) have never been asked what we want them to do," she said. "This is our money."

But after a meeting in November when hospital officials agreed to investigate other sites, board member Ron Danner had said the board had heard the community's concerns, and were taking appropriate steps to address those concerns.

"The bottom line is concerns that were raised tonight brought up questions to which there were no answers," he said after the meeting. "We will try to provide as much information and dedicate as many of the resources as we have available."

Resident Linda Booker said hospital officials still have many concerns to address, like the cost to destroy the homes that were bought if the decision is made to build at the current location.

It also concerns her, she said, that property was purchased before a firm plan was in place.

"I'm not as concerned about where it is as some people," she said. "I just feel like they have not done their homework and questions that have been asked have not been answered."

At it's meeting Monday, administrator Randy Phelps said he would show the site proposals to the project manager, and seek guidance on how to proceed with the issue.

The board members would likely narrow the site proposals down to a few finalists before they went public with them.

Board member Jack Bonaker reported that total assets for the hospital foundation equal about $250,000.

The hospital foundation has set a $2 million goal in funds for a new hospital through community donations.

Two significant contributors to the campaign so far have been First National Bank of the Rockies and Community First Bank in Craig, which have each pledged $25,000 to construction of a new hospital.

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