HUNTSVILLE — After months of struggling with on-again, off-again plans to reopen the Scott County Hospital, County Commission and Pioneer Health Systems, of Magee, Mississippi, appear to have found a feasible way to do it, judging from the tone of the update provided here Monday night.
Meeting in a regular monthly work session, County Mayor Jeff Tibbals and Community Development Chairman Paul Strunk, reported that all documents regarding the Asset Purchase Agreement could be in the hands of the State’s Attorney General by week’s end.
That will signal the start of a mandated 45-day review period by the Attorney General, after which (barring any obstacles) Pioneer will be free to gradually re-start the facility which has been closed since May 2012.
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[s2If current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]Mayor Tibbals said Scott County’s documents were delivered to the Attorney General’s Office last Friday, and Pioneer’s information packet is expected to be ready for review by week’s end.
“Ms. [Morgan] Dunn sent the bulk of their’s in today,” and indicated she could provide the rest as early as Wednesday, Mayor Tibbals stated.
Both he and Strunk informed the commissioners that eight representatives of Pioneer were here last week to tour the facility and seemed satisfied with the condition of the building.
“It was almost as if they had just left and came back the next day,” said Strunk, referring to a similar tour by Pioneer officials last summer.
A “couple of deficiencies” were noted, Strunk added, but, overall, “they seemed very pleased with the situation.”
Those participating in the tour were Pioneer’s Steve Fontaine and Jerry Howell, the company’s vice president and regional director of business operations, respectively, along with six other Pioneer representatives.
Representing the county on the tour were Mayor Tibbals, County Attorney John Beaty and Commissioners Strunk and June Jeffers.
Last week also saw Pioneer make its first hire on the road to reestablishing the local hospital.
Mayor Tibbals said that Morgan Dunn, the company’s vice president of business development, had hired a former Scott County Hospital staff member as a consultant, apparently to assist with future job openings in the near future.
At several different junctures during the course of Monday’s work session, Finance Director Brian Strunk reminded commissioners of severe budget problems due in part to the necessity of expenses related to the hospital, which is currently more than $200,000 above the $100,000 originally budget.
At one point, Strunk said: “We are absolutely, positively out of money.” Later, when the subject of an un-budgeted project was being discussed, he said, “We’re just out of cash.”
On yet another occasion, Strunk interjected: “We had to do what we did to get the hospital opened, but it has drained us.”
In other business:
• Community Development Chairman Paul Strunk annouunced that the annual county-wide litter pick up event has been scheduled for Saturday, April 13, and will include four $250 prizes to organizations with the most volunteers participating, as well as awards for school children who participated in the art contests;
• The Building & Grounds Committee discussed but failed to act on minimum funding to allow the South Scott County Book Station to move from its current location in the Robbins Post Office building to a county-owned facility no longer used by Mountain People’s Health Council in Elgin.
Commissioner Sam Lyles proposed providing around $700 a year to cover the cost of water and electricity, as well as an undetermined amount for liability insurance.
Mayor Tibbals suggested that the committee postpone action until next month’s work session to give Finance Director Brian Strunk an opportunity to determine the cost of the liability policy;
• Also during the Building and Grounds Committee meeting, Mayor Tibbals announced that the concrete pad for the new Farmers’ Market building near Scott High had been poured and work on the grant-funded facility should begin soon;
• Ambulance Service Director Jim Reed reported to the Emergency Service Committee that Medicare reimbursements would be cut by an additional 2% in the coming months, on top of a 10% cut which commences this month.
Also discussed, with input from the Finance Director, was the need to upgrade six or seven part-time employees of the Ambulance Service to full-time status, to come into full compliance with national labor laws;
• Mayor Tibbals reported to the Intergovernmental Committee that the annual State Litter Grant needed to be accepted at the upcoming commission meeting, adding that funds had been reduced by $5,900 from last year; and,
• The Intergovernmental Committee voted to approve and send on to the full commission a request for a fund-raising roadblock for South Scott County Fire Department to be held the May 4, and to consider renewal of a contract with Huntsville Utility District for billing county sewer service customers — a contract which is up 17% over last year’s rate.[/s2If]