Ballot question language examined

Commissioners look for limits, clarification on TMH proposal

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— The Moffat County Commission discussed language Tuesday that could be used on The Memorial Hospital's mill levy proposal in the November general election.

Hospital personnel and attorneys joined the commissioners for the discussion.

TMH will ask voters to approve a 3-mill total tax package that would provide about one-third of the funds necessary for a new, 84,475-square-foot, $42-million hospital on the west side of Craig.

Ballot initiatives must be approved by the commissioners and checked by county attorney Kathleen Taylor before being submitted for the upcoming election.

Commissioners had questions about installing a sunset clause that would end the mill levy's run once the public's share of the new building is paid for, as well as questions regarding tax monies being used for operation of the facility.

Hospital officials said an approved November question would translate into voters paying no more than $1.5 million per year for the duration of the hospital's financing, about 25 years.

Commissioner Saed Tayyara told TMH chief executive officer George Rohrich he didn't think a 3-mill levy would generate $1.5 million per year.

Commissioner Tom Gray thought the ballot question's language should contain a provision directing any money collected exceeding the $1.5 million amount be applied to paying down the loan for building the hospital.

Hospital attorney Dan Lynch said the commissioners have the ability to lower the mill levy if the debt is paid or more money is generated than needed for the project.

He also said that if the mill levy fails in November, the hospital's lender likely will not be interested in funding the project.

Commissioner Tom Mathers recommended the language in the ballot question be kept as simple as possible, as confused voters may vote it down simply because they don't understand the question.

A Sept. 7 deadline for ballot questions caused the commissioners to schedule a special meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday at the courthouse to complete language on the ballot question.

In other action, commissioners received a breakdown of costs for the expansion of the Public Safety Center garages from budget analyst Tinneal Gerber.

A request for a grant increase from the Department of Local Affairs will be made to cover increasing costs since the project was first approved, and commissioner Tayyara recommended proceeding with the project, as any delay will only increase costs for the expansion in the future.

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