Chamber supports hospital, schools |

Chamber supports hospital, schools

Collin Smith

— The community “certainly” needs a new hospital and new schools, said Christina Currie, Craig Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Her comments came after the Chamber Board of Directors voted Thursday to publicly endorse tax initiatives from The Memorial Hospital and the Moffat County School District. The public will vote on both initiatives in the Nov. 6 general election.

Early voting begins Monday.

Neither ballot question should have a hard time passing, board treasurer Missy Bonaker said.

“They’re education and health, and those are important issues,” Bonaker said. “I think maybe our community has turned around a little bit. We see you get what you pay for.”

The county isn’t inherently anti-tax, Currie said.

“I think people are critical and need good information presented in a good way,” Currie said. “In this case, and in the fire district case and with the college, (the campaigns) showed there definitely is a need.”

Even more than a need, these projects are good for the community, board members said. Modern schools and hospitals are good for the residents here now.

The board acted in the membership’s interest, board member Lisa Balstad said. The taxes pay for projects that will benefit them.

“Our role is to look out for the membership and do what is best for the members,” Balstad said. “I think both initiatives are good for the membership.”

The Chamber has not had any feedback from member businesses, positive or negative, Currie said.

Though, in the video presentations given by hospital and school district representatives, there are several Chamber members featured, Balstad said.

Superintendent Pete Bergmann and former mayor Dave DeRose gave the school district’s presentation first.

The district has to balance its budget based on renovations and upkeep every year, DeRose said.

Instead of being able to throw money at teachers and instructional materials, the district has to repair leaky roofs, he added.

Both Bergmann and George Rohrich, TMH chief executive officer, made clear these are projects neither entity can afford without help from the public.

The school district sets aside money every year for building maintenance and similar expenditures, but it is nowhere near enough to cover the kind of modernization and repairs the schools need, Bergmann said.

“What we are asking for is the community to pay for the big ticket items we cannot afford on our own,” he said.

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, or JCAHO, has allowed TMH to run without construction to bring the facility to current codes, Rohrich said.

New codes require surgery patients have private rooms, but the space at TMH doesn’t allow for that, he added.

JCAHO allowed the extension to bring TMH into code because of the hospital’s age and its desire to save its money for the new hospital construction project.

“What the hospital can afford won’t replace what we need,” Rohrich said. “If this ballot question fails, my recommendation to the board will be to wait until next year and go back to the taxpayers.”

Rohrich does not want to wait on construction, he said. He estimated the same hospital construction plan going before voters in November would cost about $5 million more next year.

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