Guest Editorial: Vote no on 6A and 6B; they’re wrong for Moffat County
We are asking for fiscal responsibility and accountability from Memorial Regional Health. They disrespected the Moffat County public’s right to participate in finding solutions to sustaining EMS. They want our money but not our input. MRH knew passing this tax would be an uphill battle, especially if the public knew their involvement. They made the choice of having the meetings be inaccessible. They controlled the information being made public and prepped task force members and hospital staff on responses to negative feedback.
MRH could have solved the EMS issue in Craig with a targeted ambulance district. Task Force emails show they consciously decided they wanted the added financial powers allowed health services district boards, specifically, to be able to levy and collect sales tax, and be eligible to receive tax revenue generated by future energy projects. The district board powers would not be restricted to EMS. Task Force leadership highlighted for members that a health services district “can own and operate and contract for the provision of ambulance services as well as other health care facilities.” The service plan states “the initial intention” will be to focus on ambulance. A task force member told me it was the hospital’s intent to totally remove the expense of providing ambulance services, and by creating a health services district, to make tax funds available for future projects unrelated to EMS.
The health services district board is what separates the funds from the hospital, but also what connects them.
Once the courts approved the election, the task force had 75-100 days to notify the public on how to apply for a district board position. Emails show Sam Radke had been soliciting potential board applicants for 45 days prior to the deadline, around the middle of July. There was a community meeting in Maybell on Aug. 17, 2021. There was no information given by Radke at this meeting on how community members could apply. There were a couple of posts on social media and it was posted in the Leadville, Colorado, paper, not locally. If you do not follow social media there was no way for you to get the information. Commissioner Villard called these tactics “indefensible.” We have email documentation that shows Sam Radke solicited interest from eight community members, interviewed all but one, and then staff, including hospital administration staff, selected five finalists and turned the names in to be placed on the ballot. This information alarmed non-hospital task force members. Commissioner Villard called out Radke for the board being appointed by the hospital, not elected by the public. He responded, “If anyone wants to run on their own they are welcome to do so as a write in name (after doing the proper paperwork).” The ballot, of five hospital-selected board members, includes three hospital employees, appearing to tip a majority in the hospital’s favor.
On Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, Andy Daniels, the hospital CEO, took the MRH board into an executive session to “ask the board for the teeth of our campaign.” Sunshine laws prohibit this kind of discussion without a vote, at a closed meeting, so the Board postponed the vote for how to provide the “teeth” until their meeting of March 25, 2021. At this March 25 meeting, the MRH board signed a resolution stating they would support the creation of a special EMS district and independent governing board, separate from MRH, and would no longer provide the management assistance and financial support of EMS in Moffat County, at a date to be determined.
The MRH board sanctioned the use of scare tactics to coerce the public into voting for the district. If approved, the proposed hospital-selected district board would then have the power to decide how to spend the tax funds and what agreements and arrangements to contract. As a county, we need to make it clear we do not approve of these tactics.
For all of you afraid EMS will go away if you do not vote yes: It is fair to point out that any tax campaign initiative has a 50/50 chance of passing the first time. It is not unthinkable to believe, even without all the controversy, this wouldn’t have passed anyway. It took the fire district three times to pass their initiative and they kept on trying while still fighting fires. We feel EMS should be under the direction of the Moffat County commissioners. They are responsible for the overall financial being of the county and not just a board that is looking at a small part of the big picture. The EMS board should be appointed by the duly elected board of county commissioners and should not be its own separate taxing entity. We are committed to finding fair and balanced solutions to sustaining EMS. We can do this with your support.
Vote no on proposition 6A and 6B.
Karen Burley, Darryl Steele and T. Wright Dickinson
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