Infrastructure work at the proposed site for a new hospital and Colorado Community Northwestern Community College campus shows the outline of where the new facilities could go.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Infrastructure work at the proposed site for a new hospital and Colorado Community Northwestern Community College campus shows the outline of where the new facilities could go.

Questions and answers

Two forums today to discuss hospital tax question

If you go

What: Forum to discuss The Memorial Hospital's mill levy proposal

Who: The Committee for a New Hospital

When: Noon and 6 p.m. today

Where: The Craig Fire Station, at Yampa Avenue and Fourth Street.

Other: The meeting is open to the public

Common questions about the hospital

Why has the infrastructure for the hospital been started at the Colorado Northwestern Community College's proposed site before it is known if The Memorial Hospital can build the new building?

"The answer to that question is two fold.

"Number one, CNCC agreed to deed the 15 acre parcel to the hospital in trade for completion of the infrastructure. So once the infrastructure is completed, then we will get the deed for the land. So we have it completed for that reason.

"Another big reason is we got a $1 million (Department of Local Affairs) grant and $750,000 in funding from CNCC for the infrastructure project, and we were required to use that DOLA money by 2007.

"The other important point for people to take out of that is that if the mill levy doesn't pass and we don't start building a new hospital, the infrastructure just won't sit out there and be wasted. It is still the same infrastructure that CNCC will use."

Is the new hospital's size really needed for the area?

"A common misperception that I find is people think we're building some monstrosity up there on the hill, that we're building a significantly larger than the current one and that's not true.

"We are building a replacement facility that is 9,000 square feet bigger than the current one. So it will be about 84,000 square feet and the current hospital 76,000 square feet, and the areas of growth are converting all of the semi private rooms into private rooms and building bigger operating rooms, and a couple of other things.

By the numbers

Referendum 1A on the Nov. 6 ballot is asking voters to help fund the construction of a new hospital on 15 acres of land west of Shadow Mountain.

$27.3 million - construction cost of the proposed hospital

$42.6 million - total cost, including initial financing, equipment, furnishings, among other costs.

76,000 square feet - the size of the current hospital

84,875 square feet - the size of the proposed hospital

$30.13 per year - the increase in taxes a homeowner with property valued at $145,579 would pay if the new hospital were approved.

$75.40 per year - the increase in taxes for a commercial property valued at $100,000

— Samantha Johnston dubs it "the single biggest question" she's faced in trying to garner voter approval in the November general election to build a new hospital facility.

"Why did (The Memorial Hospital) say that it wouldn't ask for taxes five years ago, and now they're asking for taxes?"

Johnston, TMH's service excellence officer, plans to answer such questions and any others that people raise about referendum 1A - a proposed mill levy that would help fund the construction of a new hospital on 15 acres located west of Shadow Mountain - during two open public forums today at the Craig Fire Station.

The forums are at noon and 6 p.m., and are sponsored by The Committee for a New Hospital.

"Unlike other forums we might have done in the past, we've left this forum open so that people don't feel compelled to tell us who they are or RSVP or anything," Johnston said. "Basically it allows anyone who has an interest in hearing the hospital presentation to come to the fire station."

Johnston, TMH Chief Executive Officer George Rohrich and other committee members will be on hand to conduct the forum.

A video and a PowerPoint presentation - which is estimated to take 30 minutes - will start the forum, followed by a question-and-answer session.

"We will stay there until people are done asking questions," Johnston said.

There also will be literature available.

Today's open forums are two of three planned - the third is Oct. 17, also at the fire station.

Johnston said the forums are just one part of the committee's marketing campaign, which includes "aggressive" door-to-door campaigns and mailings.

"We've got a lot of other channels to reach people, so if they don't come to a forum, we still think we can reach them with good info."

Still, Johnston is hoping to see 30 to 50 people at today's presentations.

"We want the gamut. Even if you have one small question, we want you to show up and ask," she added.

As to the answer for the "single biggest question," Johnston has an answer.

"Five years ago, the board did a number of efficiencies, thinking that they could improve revenue enough that they would be able to afford the hospital on their own," Johnston said. "So, they did the $1 million capital campaign, the foundation raised $1.2 million, and what happened is the hospital did a number of things: They laid off 12 full-time employees, they sold the old ambulance building, they ran the hospital as lean as they could, and they converted the critical access.

"Those were some of the types of things the hospital did to improve its revenue. And in the end, it did improve the bottom line, but not nearly enough to pay for a hospital on its own."

To read more questions and Johnston's responses, go to craigdailypress.com.

Jerry Raehal can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 204, or jraehal@craigdailypress.com.

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