Gail Severson, left, The Memorial Hospital foundation member, hugs Corrie Ponikvar, who is on the TMH Board of Trustees, at the Moffat County Court House after finding out Referendum 1A passed in Tuesday's election. Referendum 1A - a $42.6 million tax question that would pay for the construction of a new hospital - earned 57 percent of the "yes" votes. Referendum 3A - a $29.5 million School District initiative to fund a new Craig Middle School and renovations to all district campuses - garnered 64 percent of the "yes" votes.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Gail Severson, left, The Memorial Hospital foundation member, hugs Corrie Ponikvar, who is on the TMH Board of Trustees, at the Moffat County Court House after finding out Referendum 1A passed in Tuesday's election. Referendum 1A - a $42.6 million tax question that would pay for the construction of a new hospital - earned 57 percent of the "yes" votes. Referendum 3A - a $29.5 million School District initiative to fund a new Craig Middle School and renovations to all district campuses - garnered 64 percent of the "yes" votes.

Election elation

Voters approve new $42.6 million hospital

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Referendum 1A results

• Craig: 737 in favor, 633 opposed

• Early/absentee: 1,016 in favor, 648 opposed

• Maybell: 25 in favor, 40 opposed

• Hamilton: 14 in favor, 16 opposed

• Dinosaur: 4 in favor, 35 opposed

Total: 1,796 in favor, 1,372 opposed

Total votes: 3,168

Source: Moffat County Clerk and Recorder's Office. The vote totals are unofficial until a canvass Wednesday, Nov. 14.

— Administrators, board members and supporters of The Memorial Hospital's proposed ballot question, 1A, got the news they were hoping for Tuesday night after the Moffat County Clerk and Recorder's Office posted election results.

Voters approved the hospital's 3-mill, $42.6 million new construction measure, an action that helps fund a new facility on 15 acres of ground in west Craig.

"The whole town should celebrate," said George Rohrich, TMH chief executive officer, while looking at the voting numbers posted on a chart outside the clerk's office.

"We are very thrilled that the voters of Moffat County have supported the new hospital project. Very rapidly, we will begin the next phases of development and design of a hospital. We cannot wait to share new hospital plans as they unfold."

The ballot measure passed by a 424-vote margin, 1,796 to 1,372. The vote totals are unofficial until a canvass, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 14, confirms the figures.

Two TMH board members - chairman Melton Sullivan and building committee chairwoman Corrie Ponikvar - said they were confident the hospital proposal would meet with voter approval.

"I just felt good about it," Sullivan said. "It's something the community wants, and that's evident. The community wants good health care, and this is a tool to receive it."

"Truly, I felt good about it the whole time," Ponikvar said. "We were doing everything we could to educate the public about this issue. : What else are you going to do? That's really all you can do.

"I'm so excited. I'm excited for the community, actually."

The tax package is the hospital's answer to upgrading an aging facility TMH officials contend is no longer adequate for operations. The new hospital will encompass 84,475 square feet, an increase of about 9,000 square feet from the current Russell Street building.

The hospital question failed in three of the four voting precincts - in Dinosaur, Maybell and Hamilton. In those three outlying communities, 1A lost by a 48-vote margin, 91 to 43.

However, the margin wasn't enough to override support in two key areas - the Craig precinct and on early/absentee ballots, which contained the bulk of overall vote. In Craig and on the early/absentee ballots, 1A passed 1,753 to 1,281.

Overall, about 39 percent of all registered Moffat County voters cast a ballot Tuesday.

TMH's success was partnered by another voter-approved measure for new construction: the Moffat County School District's victory in the campaign to approve 3A, a $29.5 million question for a new Craig Middle School and renovations to all district campuses.

Tuesday's two approved questions, coupled with two measures that passed in the November 2006 election, give Moffat County four approved tax packages in two years.

Last year, voters approved mill levy proposals from Colorado Northwestern Community College and the Craig Rural Fire Protection District.

But, compared to the 2006 questions, more money was at stake at the polls Tuesday.

Samantha Johnston, TMH service excellence officer and spokeswoman, said voters will be pleased with the new hospital.

"I cannot wait to begin the next phases of this new hospital project and to be a part of the team that sets into motion the plans that will make a new hospital facility a reality for Moffat County," Johnston said. "There couldn't be a more exciting time for health care in our community, and I'm appreciative of all of the voters who supported this vision.

"Moffat County won't be disappointed."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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