Craig Moffat County voters will be asked to decide Nov. 6 the immediate futures of the most important public institutions in our area - The Memorial Hospital and the Moffat County School District. With more than $70 million in public money at stake, representing one of the largest combined tax questions in county history, the decision each voter faces isn't one that should be approached lightly.
When asked for its endorsement Monday, the editorial board took a serious and critical look at the hospital's ballot question and discussed whether a $42.6 million hospital was the remedy - or at least part of one - that our local health care system needs.
TMH is asking voters to approve 3 mills for the construction of a new area hospital, which would be located on 15 acres near the proposed site of a new Colorado Northwestern Community College campus. On average, a Craig homeowner would pay an additional $34.76 with an approved hospital measure.
The board decided to endorse TMH's proposal.
Our endorsement does not come without some reservations, but overall, we believe the hospital's plan to be a sensible, reasonable, proactive approach to improving local health care, keeping up to date in technology and remaining competitive in physician recruitment, tasks that aren't so easy in today's rapidly-changing health care field.
Like anyone else, board members do not joyfully embrace the prospect of paying higher taxes. Like the public at large, we want our money to be saved or spent on our family's livelihood.
But, in this case, it's that livelihood we're trying to preserve.
A new hospital will allow TMH to offer more, improved services. It will allow the hospital a better chance of landing quality physicians and provide our health care professionals with the space and new equipment needed to better serve patients' health care needs, improve quality of life and, in some cases, save lives.
An approved ballot question also would be an investment in the community.
Without a new hospital, TMH most likely will lose more and more patients to facilities in Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction, jeopardizing the future of an entity that has shown signs of resurgence in the past year under new administration and leadership.
There was a time when a question like this coming from TMH would have been laughable. It wasn't long ago that the hospital was bogged down with internal strife and questioned, justifiably so, by a skeptical community concerned about the quality of services, leadership and staff.
However, the board believes that time to be past. We believe the hospital has implemented a structure, administration and agenda deserving of the community's support. The board believes TMH administrators and board members have earned the right to be trusted with such a project.
In short, the editorial board believes a new hospital breathes new life into a decaying local health care system, and a yes vote on Referendum 1A is exactly what some of the hospital's campaign literature says it is.
"The best decision for a healthy community."