TMH to release survey findings

Public meeting scheduled for Feb. 3

The Memorial Hospital soon will present the findings of a community survey that polled more than 400 Moffat County residents in mid-December. A representative from the firm that conducted the survey will be on hand to present the results at two community forums Feb. 3.

The focus of the survey was to find out how people feel about plans to build a new hospital. Specifically the questions sought to determine whether the new hospital should be built at the current Russell Street site or elsewhere.

The location has been a contentious issues since TMM began seriously considering a new facility. TMH pursued plans to build on its current property until some citizens urged TMH to consider other sites. What followed was nearly a year of discussions about where to build. TMH's consultants prepared reports that outlined construction costs on five proposed sites, along with a scenario that calls for phased construction at Russell Street.

After TMH's Board of Trustees considered the proposals, it became clear that a new off-site facility likely would require taxpayer support. A full replacement hospital constructed at TMH's current site also would require some new taxes. But a partial replacement facility built on Russell Street could be built without new taxes. If TMH builds a new hospital, in phases, at its current location, no tax support should be required.

The reason is that TMH intends to fund the project with municipal bonds that would be insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to hospital consultants, HUD most likely would guarantee bonds in the $20 million range, but not much higher. A full replacement hospital at any location would be outside the fundable range.

A new partial replacement hospital built at the current site could reuse some existing portions of the old hospital, such as administrative offices, material handling and laundry facilities. The hospital could be built in phases and the costs could fall in line with HUD's expectations.

In December, the board commissioned a survey by Dan Jones & Associates. The board hoped to find out if there was substantial support for an off-site facility that would require new taxes, or if residents preferred to see new construction on Russell Street. Surveyors randomly called residents in hopes of finding a representative sample of responses.

The board has indicated that it wants to know the wishes of the community, and will use the survey as a guide for the next steps in the project.

The results of the survey will be presented twice on Feb. 3. One meeting will be held at 3 p.m., the other will commence at 7 p.m.

"We wanted to make sure community members could make one or the other," said Pam Thompson, the hospital's community relations director.

Dianne Meppen, a project director for Dan Jones & Associates, will come to Craig to explain the results.

If her presentation is like the two she has conducted in the past, Meppen will explain the survey process, how the company achieved a random sample, how the questions were written and why the survey is scientifically valid.

She'll also explain the survey results in detail, Thompson said.

TMH will invite the Craig City Council and the Moffat County Board of Commissioners to attend the forums. Also, anyone who attended a community forum in the past will receive a telephone invitation to the forum.

"I'll be personally calling everyone who's been before," Thompson said.

Ideally, the community forum will be short and on point, Thompson said. "We're hoping to keep it right at an hour," Thompson said. "We don't want the meeting to be about the technicalities of the (survey) questions."

And the forum should not be considered an opportunity for diatribes about how individuals feel about the proposed sites. Ostensibly, the survey has already gathered that data, and the purpose of the meeting is to present the findings publicly, not to provide a forum for debate about the hospital construction, officials said.

Those who attend will get a chance to ask questions about the survey, however.

"There will be a Q&A, but we want to keep it real civil," Thompson said. "It's basically informative. We just want to present the findings."

One reason TMH anticipates comments outside the defined parameters of the meeting is that passionate citizens who oppose the way TMH has handled the project have spoken their minds at past meetings.

One such individual is Randy Kloos, who has poured over the construction analysis reports and attended board meetings and public forums to raise questions to the board. Kloos has an interest in the project because one of the proposed sites is property he owns. Kloos admits he has a personal interest in the project, but he says he's concerned about what's best for the community.

Kloos wonders why TMH can have a new working facility on the current site, but can't build elsewhere without needing tax dollars. He also has raised concerns that the hospital would box itself in by building on its current property, which is smaller than other proposed sites.

"It doesn't make sense to spend that much money and still be landlocked," Kloos said.

As far as the community forum, "I'm planning on being at both meetings," Kloos said.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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