Hospital applies for $1 million grant

TMH the only local body to go for DOLA funding this cycle

Other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 2-0, adopting a new county policy for maintaining certain county roads on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land.

Under federal law, historic roadways through public land should remain open to public travel.

Moffat County Land Use Board members approached the Commission to begin a permitting process for residents to repair damage to such roads from natural events, such as flooding and landslides.

Steve Hinkemeyer, Land Use Board member, said residents have been fixing roads in the past with no legal protection for their actions. The new permitting practice will allow them to fix damaged roads when problems occur.

Jean Stetson, also a Land Use Board member, said there has been some controversy with maintaining such roads because most are located in remote areas, many near wildlife habitat.

However, the county's new policy prohibits improving, upgrading or expanding roadways to maintain their undeveloped character, she said.

• Approved, 2-0, 11 supplemental budget requests for March.

The only request that decreased the county's contingency fund came from the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, which needed $2,567 to pay for repairs to its fire trucks. The expense was approved last year, but did not get billed until March.

The other supplemental requests were from departments needing to move their funds from one line item to another.

• Approved, 2-0, a $29,655 bid from Steamboat Springs-based Tuck Communication Services for new telephone lines, hardware and equipment for the County Courthouse and Extension Office. It was the lowest bid submitted.

• Approved, 2-0, a $13,500 bid from Denver-based Mountain States Recreation Inc. for a floating dock at the youth fishing pond behind the Public Safety Center on First Street. It was the lowest of three bids submitted. The dock is funded by a Fishing is Fun grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for $16,500.

• Approved, 2-0, a $10,499 bid from Planet Power Sports for a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle for the weed and pest management department. It was the lower of two submitted bids.

The board also approved, 2-0, $36,263 for herbicide, $1,094 for surfactant, $2,700 for rodenticide and $33,005 for insecticide. Snyder and Counts Feed & Seed provided the low bid for all chemicals.

• Approved, 2-0, filing a notice of intent with the state to explore for limestone mining pits off County Road 10 south of State Highway 318. Officials believe combining limestone gravel with magnesium chloride will make for longer-lasting roads in the future.

Note: Commissioner Tom Mathers was absent.

After no one stepped forward with a proposal for Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant dollars last week, The Memorial Hospital hopes to take advantage of an opportunity, potentially worth $1 million.

At a special workshop March 24 at Craig City Hall, officials from the city, county, Craig Fire/Rescue and Colorado Northwestern Community College all said they planned to submit grant applications in the future, but at the moment, they were OK.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said he'd never seen that happen before in his past five years as a public official.

Seeing opportunity, and encouraged by city and county officials, The Memorial Hospital staff stood up and said they might have something.

Gray said he's glad they did.

He and Commissioner Audrey Danner added they were happy to sign off on the hospital's $1 million DOLA grant request for new diagnostic imaging equipment at the Commission's regular Tuesday meeting.

"A lot of entities do have grants they're going to be going for in the coming months, and if Moffat County comes all at once, that's not going to be good for any of us," Gray said.

George Rohrich, hospital chief executive officer, said the unusual circumstance may be a boon for TMH.

"This really is an opportunity in timing for us," he said.

However, commission members said they were informed before the meeting that hospital officials planned to withdraw their application.

After some discussion, though, they agreed to follow through.

Corrie Ponikvar, TMH board vice chair and chair of the TMH Building Committee, appeared at an earlier portion of the commission meeting than Rohrich and said she had some concerns with the application.

The hospital will request $1 million, which it would match with $676,452 if the grant is approved, to purchase a new MRI machine, a new mammography machine and various radiology equipment.

Ponikvar said she was confused why hospital officials would seek money for an MRI machine when they had nearly $850,000 in other equipment cut from the initial construction budget for the new hospital building on the west side of Craig.

A new MRI machine - which accounts for about $909,000 of the total $1.7 million project - was never in TMH's plans for the immediate future, she said.

Ponikvar thought the other equipment in the grant application - which totals about $767,760 - were part of the cuts, but she said she couldn't be sure because the board only became aware of the grant application Monday and hadn't had time to research.

She told the Commission she was not involved in the hospital's decision to pull its grant application, but she wanted the commission to know the TMH board had "no input" on the application's content.

Ponikvar was unaware, though, that the DOLA process allows applications to be changed up until the formal hearing date, which would be in July for applications submitted in the current grant cycle.

Such a deal would let the TMH board vet the grant proposal at a future meeting and make changes.

Ponikvar agreed to make a few phone calls and possibly have hospital officials return to the meeting at a later time.

"By not approving it - by pulling it - it is a formal action," Danner said. "That's a concern of ours because of the community needs presented at the last meeting with the city and the school district and the college."

Gray said neither he nor Danner was putting a value judgment on the hospital's proposal; they just thought Moffat County as a whole should seek DOLA funding when it can.

"If someone can apply (for funding), they should," Gray said. "We definitely have not just a desire but a right to some of those energy impact funds."

Energy impact grants from DOLA are made up by severance tax revenue, charged on natural resources harvested in Colorado.

As they have done several times during the past few months, Gray and Danner cautioned the room that DOLA funding may disappear in the future if energy companies continue to reduce their regional activity and/or the state government continues to slice off portions of severance tax revenue to fill other areas of its budget.

At the same time, demand for assistance is not slowing down, they said.

In the most recent DOLA grant awards in January, the agency had about $22 million to fund $54 million in requests.

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