School board denies TMH letter of support

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Supporting the construction of a new hospital is not school board business.

That was the reason given by school board members Monday on their decision not to write a letter of support to The Memorial Hospital for construction of a new hospital in Craig.

"I don't feel like it is our area," said school board member Gary Ellgen, who made the motion not to write a letter of support. "We were elected as a board of education, not as a hospital board."

At last month's Moffat County Board of Education meeting, TMH Administrator Randy Phelps, accompanied by other hospital officials and board members, approached the school board asking for a letter of support.

School Board President Phil Hastings told the hospital officials that board members would take the request under consideration.

Monday board members voted 5-2 not to provide a letter.

Board members Hastings, Ellgen, John Kinkaid, John Wellman and Jerry Magas all voted in favor of a motion not to write a letter.

Board members Steve Hafey and Rod Durham voted against the motion.

"The hospital is trying to get money together to build a new hospital and if the support of all the different agencies makes it easier I thought we should do it," Durham said of his support for writing a letter.

But those who were not in favor of a letter said the school board should just worry about school business.

"As a member of the school board, I don't see it as an issue for the board of education," Hastings said.

Magas agreed.

"I didn't feel qualified as a school board member to make that decision without researching it more," he said.

Magas also cited concerns about the hospital not hitting proposed construction costs.

He also said he worried about what would happen if the hospital were unable to repay the debt on the construction, and if it provided a letter of support, wondered if that could come back to haunt the school board in the future.

The school board is the first entity in Moffat County to deny the hospital a letter of support after being asked.

So far nine local agencies have agreed to provide TMH with letters of support.

The Craig City Council was asked to write a letter and was willing to do so, with the stipulation that wording was added that the city did support a new hospital, but not at the proposed location.

TMH officials had planned on building a new hospital at

the site where TMH currently

sits.

But TMH board members, listening to concerns expressed by local residents in public meetings, agreed to investigate other

sites.

Despite the new approach taken by TMH, the city council has yet to consider approving a letter of support in a public meeting.

Glenda Bellio, one of the concerned residents who took part in urging the hospital to investigate alternative locations, urged school board members Monday night not to write a "blanket" letter of support before a vote was taken.

"As a school board we ask you not to give them a letter of support," she said before a vote was taken. "You're giving them a free ticket

saying you don't care where

it's built.

"You're saying you approve having it right next door," she said in reference to the original proposed site, which is directly east of the school administration building.

But after the meeting, school board members interviewed made no reference to the site location, and simply stated that they did not think hospital business was school board business.

Hospital officials have said they need letters of support from local agencies to demonstrate to the federal Housing and Urban Development Committee, which will provide financial backing for construction of a new hospital, that the community is behind the construction of a new hospital.

At its Monday meeting, the Moffat County Board of Education:

  • Adopted the Dinosaur Elementary School Improvement Plan.
  • Approved first reading of the distribution of non-curricular materials in the public schools of Moffat County policy.
  • Approved first reading of the compensation guides and contracts policy.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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